There are a lot of RPGs I want to play but I might prioritize this one to be my next one. Something about these games works for me... they're like simple and familiar but still interesting and challenging at times.
Well, it's fantastic so far. Just what I wanted, a classic-style JRPG with modern amenities! Granted, most of my time has been in the demo, but I did manage to play it for a few hours today and I'm having a blast. The 2D mode is rather thorough and it's kind of crazy that it's included; it's basically an entire separate "game," a de-make akin to a lost SNES title.
Everyone please buy this game if you have a passing interest in JRPGs! Not only is it the highest-rated Switch game of the year thus far, but it'll also help support the series in the US! And it deserves support because it's so charming and polished and fun.
Everyone who remotely likes JRPGs should play this. I haven't been able to put it down! The story takes its time but really knows how to land the big moments, and the gameplay and progression are extremely polished. 37 hours in and I love this game.
No one else playing? C'mon, it shouldn't take that long to beat Link's Awakening!
Well if no one else is gonna post, I'm gonna use this thread to keep track of my progress!
Most recently, I've finished the Octogonia section and moved onto Puerto Valor. Octogonia was initially my favorite section of the game up to that point. The DQIV references with the tournament and the music were really fun, but it had enough of a twist to feel different from that section. If anything, it reminded me a lot of Glitzville from Paper Mario: TTYD, especially with the ending moments of the chapter involving the competitors' power being drained. But Rab and Jade's mysterious behavior really added to the intrigue as well, and I greatly enjoyed the whole setting. The American accents were fun, and having a full city be "indoors" like that gave me a real Disney World vibe. In fact, many of the locations in this game give me that vibe.
Like in Gallopolis, I appreciate how there seems to be a recurring theme of redemption and forgiveness; both Prince Faris and Vince are, in a way, antagonists, but they also are sympathetic and you leave them on good terms. I look forward to seeing what else the game does with this idea; I'm starting to get a Jean Valjean/Javert feel from the Luminary's run from the law and the Helidorian guards' relentless pursuit.
Speaking of which, the Dundrasil sequence immediately after was a fantastic introduction to Rab and Jade. The use of DQV's music was on-point, particularly since it is very heavily associated with the loss of a parent. A couple moments got me a bit emotional--Rab's grief and survivor's guilt and Jade holding the Luminary close at the end of the action sequence. The storytelling is capable of some pretty powerful scenes, and it helps that the cutscenes are so well-produced.
So now I'm getting out into the open sea, ready for more adventures. Sounds like Lonalulu is next on my destination list.
The world's opened up a bit more now, but before going exploring, I did the next main chapter of the game: Lonalulu. Wow! This was a sad one, folks. I appreciate that despite these games' inherent silly fun at most moments, they know how to hit home with the emotion as well. This seemed to be based off the original Hans Christian Anderson short story, The Little Mermaid. It was a pretty upsetting scenario all-around, and I'm not sure who I feel worst for. I'm hoping the town can turn around its silly superstitious fears now, and particularly for Kai's mother to learn the truth since she's constantly dumping on the man that saved her life.
So, the thing I didn't like about this story: it seemingly glorifies suicide. Kai is sort of dumbstruck in the moment which is understandable, but I don't like how my party all didn't intervene at all when Michelle was heading back to the ocean (everyone with full knowledge that this would kill her). Serena and Sylvando (and Erik, who's trying to hide it) are noticeably choked up about it in party chat afterwards, but Veronica outright says it wasn't our place to intervene.
What? Like heck it wasn't! If your friend lost her boyfriend and subsequently put a gun to her own head, you wouldn't stop her?
It's a bothersome moment in an otherwise touching and sad tale. I wish they would've just had Michelle do some magical whatever to keep the party from intervening for a moment or something, so at least they don't come across as heartless.
From what I played of the demo, I feel the same way about this game as dunkey: its genericness is actually pretty charming, because there's something to be said for having the definitive version of a prototypical RPG. No need to play Dragon Quest III and deal with old graphics when you have DQXI and its beautiful presentation! The characters are wonderful and the enemy design is just hilarious.
But if you've fought an enemy once, you've fought it a million times, and you actually do have to fight them millions have times in order to level up enough to beat the bosses, which is totally arbitrary and not fun. I suppose I can see the appeal of being in the same situation multiple times since it lets you explore different possibilities in the combat system, but at least in the early game, the combat wasn't nearly complex enough for that to be worth doing. I do hear this game's combat is amazing, does it really get that much more interesting as the game goes on, or can you just blast your enemies with high-level fire spells and get the job done?
Dunkey's review (mild spoilers from all over the place?):
It's a funny review that's tongue-in-cheek as usual, but I will disagree with Dunkey on one major thing: losing to a boss doesn't mean you have to grind. In most RPGs, you simply have to regroup and adjust your strategy to win. Grinding is a last resort that's meant to be a way out for those that aren't as good at the game.
I played with Stronger Monsters on because I hear the game is largely too easy otherwise, and it's been a great level of difficulty for me. The combat definitely gets more interesting as you get more characters and skills. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, your mage can cast the big party-clearing nuke spells, but it also weighs on her resources and she's the most fragile member of the group by far (mages are always glass cannons in DQ for this reason). You can also pick how you want your characters to grow. For instance, I gave my cleric spears so she'd have a decent attack option when nobody needs a heal or buff, and it comes at the expense of some of her healing power. Other players give her a wand so attacking is pretty much off the table, but you've got a much better defense and heal ability with her.
The grinding thing is exaggerated though, unless he's telling the truth about skipping almost all the enemies when going through the field and dungeons. You're supposed to fight SOME of them, after all! I've pretty much just been fighting when I feel like it and I'm playing with Stronger Monsters haven't once felt the need (after 64 hours) to go build some levels for level-buildings' sake.
The grinding thing is exaggerated though, unless he's telling the truth about skipping almost all the enemies when going through the field and dungeons. You're supposed to fight SOME of them, after all!
This is a good point, and it's something I try to remind myself when playing games with random battles: if the battle system is the point of playing the game, then... what's the problem with getting into a battle!? Now, I do think there might be some weird thing going on where the exploration part of the game feels disjointed from the battle part of the game, and that this creates a kind of internal conflict where you feel like your overarching progression is being halted (Jonathan Blow once brought up how being fed story cutscenes in between battles in FPSes either makes you devalue the shooting or the story, because they keep interrupting each other), but lets hand-wave that away and say we're overthinking it. RPG battles can be pretty fun when they're done right.
I really enjoyed the random battles in Octopath Traveler! Having to uncover the enemies' weaknesses did add this cool dynamic where the first time you encounter them is a fun challenge, and then you get the meta challenge of refining your strategy as you go on.
But I still feel like the main loop of most battles I'm in when I play a JRPG ends up being "warrior uses strongest attack, black mage uses strongest spell, white mage heals entire party, bard (or whatever) uses their MP-restoring ability" for every turn. Again, Octopath Traveler's weakness system put a cool twist on this where, if a boss is weak to staff attacks, then your mage is gonna have to take a break from the spells and use some physical attacks on them, which never happens in other RPGs.
I also remember there was a boss towards the end of Xenoblade Chronicles where the only realistic way to defeat her was to use Riki's weird magic system that I still don't understand. This was a really cool idea! But I also hadn't used Riki at all throughout the entire game up to that point, so I had no idea what I was doing. I have yet to play an RPG that really does a great job of teaching you the subtleties of its more advanced mechanics.
A common rebuttal to this would be that RPGs are about customization and letting players choose their own playstyle, so forcing players to use specific strategies would be against the spirit of character building! But... does every RPG need to be about customization? Because my playstyle is to see a massive skill tree, get cold feet, and put the game down. That's what happened to me with Three Houses! (The battles in that game are so looong too... moving units across the map... takes forever... 😴)
My taste in games is to have a small set of actions that I can apply to a wide variety of situations. That set of actions can expand as time goes on, but it's gotta happen slowly! MGSV did an excellent job of this; you spend the first five minutes of the game lying in a bed moving the camera around. Then you spend five minutes crawling across the floor. Then you spend an hour just walking, and occasionally crawling and running... by the time you're managing platoons of soldiers and deploying air strikes, you're 30 hours in! Breath of the Wild did an awesome job of this too. I didn't even know you could shield surf until about 20 hours in, and now after mastering the controls 200 hours in I feel like the biggest badass in the world, and it's so satisfying. I can't learn all that stuff just by looking at a menu screen! I've been playing Smash for nearly two decades and I only just learned a few months ago that tilt attacks are a thing!
Most importantly though, we've gotta abolish experience points. Heck, this would be necessary in a game that's designed to properly teach you its complexities! I don't want to get more powerful by seeing a number go up; I want to get more powerful by developing a deep understanding of when and how to use my sleep spell. I still think that EXP systems are exploitative because they make players addicted and give a false sense of progression, but fine, if we want to defend them because grinding helps people who don't want to learn the mechanics "win" anyway, that's not the hill I'll choose to die on. But again: does every RPG need to have a leveling system? We can't have just one that puts that effort into teaching the player its combat system and then testing their knowledge? Am I the only person who wants this!?
Now, I do think there might be some weird thing going on where the exploration part of the game feels disjointed from the battle part of the game
Not referring to this game specifically because I forget how it works but when RPGs only let you save at save points I often avoid battles and exploration as much as possible until I get to the next save point, and then backtrack to explore. Maybe fight a bit while exploring if I have a clear idea what all I need to do before getting back to the save point, maybe just fight right around the save point so I can rush back when needed. I highly doubt this is what developers intended but it seems to me to be the best way to avoid something I hate so much, which is when I spend a bunch of time exploring and leveling up but the next save point ends up being further away than expected or whatever and I die and lose an hour of work and have to do it all over again. So it feels like the smart way to play. But it's not entirely rewarding either. I mean, who actually likes backtracking?
Actually this isn't just RPGs, it is for any type of game, but with the way battles work in RPGs they tend to be the types you can spend a lot of time in between checkpoints in.
There are some ways around this. Letting the player save anywhere. Or making it so even if they die they keep their progress.
As "brutal" as Dark Souls supposedly is I actually found it very forgiving about death in some ways. You don't lose anything except your raw souls and even those you have a decent chance of getting back. But all items / etc. you get, you keep. So you can explore a bit and not feel super bad if you die.
The Xenoblade series is pretty good about this. Fairly regular checkpoints and you keep all XP / items when you die. Maybe you lose some money or something I forget how it works but the loss is minimal. Makes me much more willing to just explore organically or fight whatever enemies I feel like without worrying too much about whether I'm going to regret it. But still a bit of penalty for death so it doesn't all feel meaningless either.
Interesting thoughts. Prepare for me rambling on a variety of JRPG-related subjects!
I think one of the reasons some people dislike random battles is because they don't like being interrupted with what they were doing. When you're exploring, you get invested in where you're going, keeping track of where you've been, heading towards a treasure chest or new door, etc, and being whisked out of that for a battle can admittedly be jarring. I like how DQXI has its battles take place right on the spot where you engaged the enemy; I just wish they could cut out the fade to black and make it more seamless like Chrono Trigger (which admittedly would be quite a feat in 3D).
You know, Octopath may have my favorite RPG battle system of all. It's strategic in all the right ways and also has a bit of wiggle room for customization without being overwhelming.
DQ isn't the place to go for challenging the conventions of JRPGs though. Its whole claim to fame is that it's pretty much the one series you can reliably go to FOR that JRPG gameplay. Final Fantasy tries something different every game and IMO they've lost their way since the PS2 days. I think the games have a good balance of guidance and customization with the characters. The skill tree essentially lets you pick between two weapons for each character (three for a few), and then choose between stronger attacks and abilities, and more latent stat boosts and bonuses.
A lot of devs seem to think RPGs need more action, like an action-RPG is inherently a better game. But as I get older, I'm going the opposite way--more and more I find myself impatient with action-RPGs. I don't like the auto-battling elements, I don't like how sloppy some of them feel, I don't like the feeling of mashing buttons and seeing what sticks. For my money, turn-based is where it's at, and when I want action, I prefer it in non-RPG form, like Mega Man 11, Metal Slug, and to an extent, Zelda.
In fact, I struggle to think of an ARPG that I really like. Xenoblade Chronicles, Tales of Symphonia, and Ys VIII probably come closest. Meanwhile, I could probably list you 20 turn-based JRPGs I enjoy more than those.
The Dragon Quest games (and games based off them, like EarthBound) don't return you to the title screen upon death. They bring you to your latest save point, but you keep all your progress, items, exp etc that you had when you died. The penalty is that you drop half your gold on-hand, but you can mitigate this a bit by depositing some of it in a bank. So you don't have to worry THAT much about making it to the next checkpoint since you don't really lose progress so much as some of your coins. I'm not a fan of saving anywhere because I think it takes away a bit too much of the challenge, and DQXI already softens up some of the edge of the series a bit too much already IMO (like HP/MP restore on level-up, checkpoints/healing spots in dungeons, and reviving the Hero after battle).