Category Archives: Swords and Zippers

From the Archives: Let’s Go Round Again

What do you think of lengthy games such as JRPGs (or indeed Western RPGs) having multiple endings?

I remember having this discussion with a friend a while back, and he commented that he hated it when there was more than one possible outcome to the story, because he 1) hated having to repeat things and 2) hated feeling like he was “missing out” on part of the game that was “locked off” to him when he started down a particular route.

Obviously this applies more to games where your actions throughout the whole story determine which ending you get rather than a Mass Effect 3-style “which ending would you like?” decision point, but it’s a valid concern that I completely understand in this day and age. Gamers on the whole are getting older and consequently tend to have less time on their hands for lengthy games anyway – so to expect them to play through one game several times in an attempt to see different endings is perhaps unrealistic on the part of developers.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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From the Archives: Drawing the Line

Any dedicated JRPG fan will know what an uphill struggle it is to get people who have found themselves drifting away from the genre to actually play one of your favorite games.

All too often, people are keen to dismiss the whole genre as “Japanese bullshit” at best, depraved disgusting sexist paedophilic misogynist nonsense at worst.

Ever-determined and ever-optimistic, I took to a Google+ community (Editor’s Note: I know, I know, this ages this article a bit) I’m a member of that represents a small but diverse cross-section of gamers from all across the world, covering a broad spectrum of ages, experience levels and tastes, and I posed them a question. You can read an archive of the whole thread here if you like, but I’ll summarize my findings below.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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From the Archives: Shaking Up the Formula

One of the most common criticisms levelled at the JRPG genre — usually by those who don’t play them much — is that they are bland, formulaic and predictable.

And while in some cases developers do fall back on the same conventions we’ve been using for over twenty years now — often with good reason: they work! — there are just as many titles out there that buck the trend and do something completely original.

Even the Final Fantasy series, regarded by many as the poster child of Japanese gaming’s stagnation, has reinvented itself with every single installment over its entire lifetime, as we discussed a while ago.

This week I wanted to talk a bit about a game from the PS1 era that I remember enormously fondly. It subsequently spawned a whole series of successors — none of which I’ve played at the time of writing, regrettably — but it was striking from the get-go for me, largely because it refused to follow the trends of the time and instead provided its players with a highly distinctive experience.

That game was Wild Arms from Media.Vision and Contrail.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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From the Archives: Shadow Hearts – A Classic Series from the PS2 Era

Back in the PS1 and PS2 eras we were very much enjoying a Golden Age across a variety of different game genres, but many people regard this as a very special time for the JRPG in particular.

This period in gaming history gave birth to some truly “timeless” and gloriously experimental titles which remain immensely entertaining today, despite their obvious technical limitations.

Several such examples can be found in the Shadow Hearts series, a collection of games that sound completely batshit crazy on paper, but which actually turn out to be some of the finest role-playing games I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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From the Archives: Battle Systems I Have Loved

Given the amount of time you spend kicking the crap out of everything from small woodland creatures to skyscraper-sized giant robots in JRPGs, it’s fair to say that the battle system is one of the most important aspects of the game.

It’s also one of the most commonly-cited reasons for the genre’s supposed stagnation, as many assume that modern JRPGs still make use of the old Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest-style “Attack, Magic, Item” menu systems rather than doing something a bit more interesting.

While many JRPGs certainly do still make use of simple turn-based menu systems, there are just as many out there that either put an interesting twist on this basic formula or mix things up entirely with something completely wild.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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From the Archives: Secret of the Elemental Stone

I’m a big fan of unconventional JRPGs that buck the trends of the genre.

That’s not to say I don’t have any love for good old “ATTACK, MAGIC, ITEM” — quite the opposite, in fact — but when something combines the strengths of the JRPG genre (strong characters, heavy focus on narrative, over-the-top drama, colorfulness) with some fun mechanics from another type of game altogether, I sit up and pay special attention.

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone, then.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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From the Archives: Capitalism, Ho!

It’s strange to think that just a few years ago, Japanese games on PC were a very unusual sight, being largely limited to adults-only visual novels and occasional localisations of doujin (indie) titles.

One game that really brought Japanese gaming to the PC-gaming masses was EasyGameStation’s Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, an early project for then-fledgling localisation outfit Carpe Fulgur, and a frequent recipient of generously deep discounts in Steam sales over the course of each and every year.

Recettear remains a wonderful game even today, some seven years after it first charmed Western players, and a full ten years after its original Japanese release. So let’s take a closer look at it today!

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

Continue reading From the Archives: Capitalism, Ho!