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.
Continue reading From the Archives: Drawing the Line
Writing for The Atlantic, academic and media commentator Ian Bogost put forth the rather bold claim that “video games are better without stories” and asked “film, television and literature all tell them better, so why are games still obsessed with narrative?”
This is an interesting question to ponder in light of any discussion of video games, but it’s a particularly pertinent discussion to have when we’re considering something as ambitious and audacious as Nier: Automata — a game which not only tells a compelling story, it tells it in an incredibly fascinating way.
Bogost’s article meanders around the point somewhat, but ultimately seems to come to the conclusion that purely environmental storytelling — be it through the use of audiologs, a la BioShock, or less explicitly through the environment itself, as in “walking simulators” such as Gone Home — is not a particularly effective approach to presenting an interactive narrative, though it can provide an interesting playground for a player to explore.
And he’s not really wrong in this regard… apart from the fact that it’s only in relatively rare cases that a game exclusively relies on this approach.
Continue reading Nier Automata: A Game Better With — And Because Of — Its Narrative
Nier creator Taro Yoko is particularly fascinated with death: not only the concept itself, but also how different people respond to it.
Yoko’s interest in the subject, as we’ve previously discussed, stems from a traumatic experience in his youth when he witnessed the accidental, easily avoidable death of a friend and discovered, to his surprise, that there was something oddly humorous in the moment as well as it being horrifying. Someone’s existence had come to a premature end, yes, but there was something fundamentally ridiculous about how it had happened; how sudden it was; and how everyone was powerless in the moment to prevent it from happening.
The inherent ridiculousness of death — particularly accidental death — is something that gamers have been familiar with for many years. And so what better medium through which to explore the concept itself — and what better characters to do so with than those that can’t die through conventional means?
Continue reading Nier Automata: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation
Nier: Automata is a fascinating game in its own right, but it becomes even more of an interesting story when you take it in context of everything that led to its creation.
In order to understand Nier: Automata and its predecessors, it is particularly important to understand creator Taro Yoko, one of the most distinctive “auteurs” in all of video game making — albeit one who, until the release of Automata, had largely flown under the radar in stark contrast to his contemporaries such as Hideo Kojima.
Yoko is a creator who, it’s fair to say, has consistently pushed back against the boundaries of what is “accepted practice” in video game development — both in terms of subject matter and mechanical considerations. And the results of his resistance to conventions and norms are some of the most distinctive and interesting — albeit sometimes flawed — creations in all of gaming.
Continue reading Nier Automata: Introduction and History
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
In this episode of the GameCast, we talk about the prevalence of “auteurs” in Japanese game development, NepNep in VR and one of the bleakest anime series I’ve ever seen.
Music, as ever, is the work of MusMus, and the awesome retro font is by Style64. Other music in this episode remains the copyright of its respective owners — though Kaiji fans may be interested to know that the complete soundtrack is available via archive.org: CD1 and CD2.
If you’re having trouble running the browser version, take a look at the TyranoBuilder FAQ, which explains how to run browser games locally — though be aware there can be some security risks involved, so only follow its recommendations when you want to run a browser-based episode of the GameCast.
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If you’re new to the GameCast, start from the beginning to find out more about the characters and what this is all about!
As we saw recently, there are those among us who believe that the Japanese role-playing game has been in consistent decline since Final Fantasy VII, and that only now are we starting to see a “comeback”.
We’ve already talked about how this is a load of old nonsense, and that in fact the role-playing game genre has been healthy for a good few years — just a little different to its mainstream status back in its PlayStation heyday, instead preferring to cater to a niche audience of passionate fans rather than attempting to be everything to everyone; the latter option is now the domain of the triple-A sector.
So with that in mind, what better time to contemplate a selection of great role-playing games from the last few generations of console hardware, all of which have been released since the Squaresoft classic first wowed everyone back in 1997?
Note: As with any list, this isn’t intended to be an exhaustive or authoritative selection. These are my personal picks for games that I’ve found noteworthy and particularly enjoyable from the PS1 era and beyond; I’d love to hear some of your favourites in the comments, too.
Continue reading Ten Great RPGs That Came Out After Final Fantasy VII