Category Archives: Swords and Zippers

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!

From the Archives: Bonds of People are the True Power

One of my favorite things about Japanese role-playing games is their focus on camaraderie and friendship.

In fact, you can extend this outwards to a large amount of Japanese media in general — take a look at manga and anime and you’ll find a very similar situation.

The concept of nakama, or the trope of “true companions”, is very commonly seen — party members don’t necessarily always get along with one another, but they can count on one another and trust each other to do the right thing in a pinch.

The Persona series takes this concept considerably further than most other JRPGs by emphasizing not only the bonds between party members, but also the bonds between the protagonist and the people whose lives he passes through fleetingly.

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: Bonds of People are the True Power

From the Archives: Pandora’s Tower, and Why You Should Care

Of the three “Operation Rainfall” Wii RPGs that an Internet pressure group (now turned full-on news and reviews site and beloved friend of MoeGamer) helped bring to Europe and North America, the title that seems to get least attention is Ganbarion’s Pandora’s Tower.

This is sad, because Pandora’s Tower is brilliant and you absolutely should care about it. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The three Operation Rainfall games are wildly divergent experiences from one another but they have one key thing in common: all of them shake up the player’s understanding of what the term “JRPG” really means. Xenoblade Chronicles provides quest-heavy open-world exploration; The Last Story provides a highly linear, tightly-scripted and fast-paced experience.

Neither of them follow the traditional “walk five steps on field screen, cut to separate battle screen” model, instead each deciding to try something different. The lower development overheads of working on the Wii, rather than holding these games back, allows the developers to take bigger risks with more adventurous concepts, mechanics and narrative arcs — and these risks have paid off bigtime.

But what of Pandora’s Tower?

Continue reading From the Archives: Pandora’s Tower, and Why You Should Care

From the Archives: The Last Story and the Art of Encounter Design

Although computer and console role-playing games share a lot of common ground with their tabletop predecessors, over time the two media have diverged significantly.

Western role-playing games arguably remain the truest to tabletop role-playing, which remains very freeform, flexible and sometimes even completely free of violent conflict. Titles such as Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls series allow the experience of living in a virtual world, exploring as you see fit and seeing what happens as you interact with it in various ways.

Japanese (and Japanese-inspired) role-playing games, meanwhile, are typically (though not exclusively) handled almost as “interactive storybooks” punctuated by regular, predictable and abstract battle sequences. This isn’t a criticism, mind; as any JRPG fan will tell you, this approach allows the games to focus on strong storytelling and characterisation at the expense of allowing you to steal every spoon in someone’s house.

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: The Last Story and the Art of Encounter Design

From the Archives: Birds Suddenly Appear Every Time You Are Nier

Nier is possibly one of Square Enix’s most misunderstood games.

Released to a rather lukewarm critical response back in 2010, this Cavia-developed PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 action RPG, directed by Taro Yoko, is actually a fascinating game that is well worth your time and attention — so long as you have a bit of patience to deal with its idiosyncrasies.

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: Birds Suddenly Appear Every Time You Are Nier