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Videogames

What is a JRPG

JRPG stands for “Japanese Role Playing Game”.

Fans disagree over the exact boundaries of the genre, but a typical definition might sound something like this: a story driven game, with character stats that can be substantially improved, that was made in Japan or is inspired by earlier Japanese examples of the genre.

A wide range of games might be called JRPGs, including action games and grid-based tactical games. The traditional JRPG is one with an adventure-style structure and turn-based battles, in the style of Dragon Quest (sometimes seen as the first JRPG). 

Who this article is for

This article is written to help those unfamiliar with the genre get a basic, intuitive understanding quickly. This will help them to explore the genre themselves if they are interested, and start to understand conversions about them.

As such, this is a surface-level view of things, and doesn’t get into the weeds.

Features of a JRPG

If you see a game that looks like some of the following screenshots, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a traditional JRPG.

All screenshots are from Xenosaga Episode I.

1. A party of characters with individual levels, stats and equipment

In these screenshots we can see menu screens, where the stats of characters (such as HP, Strength and Dexterity) can be examined, and an option to access the equipment screen where weapons and armour can be changed.

Note that all characters have a level (Lv) by their names. This character level is increased by fighting battles and gaining experience (EXP). The presence of a character level is a telltale sign of an RPG.

2. A significant focus on dialogue, story and cutscenes

There is a famous quote from the creators of JRPG giant, Final Fantasy:

I don’t think I have what it takes to make a good action game. I think I’m better at telling a story.

Hironobu Sakaguchi

That party of characters are not just battle units in a JRPG, but are players in a predefined narrative. To fans, this story will be as important as the mechanics, if not moreso, and there is likely to be a lot of it: a tenth or more of the playtime will be spent reading dialogue or watching cutscenes.

At times, a JRPG might feel like an interactive anime season.

It’s also worth noting that JRPGs are usually quite long experiences. It might take 20 to 100 hours to see the end of the story.

3. Repeatable (grindable) battles that give experience and/or money when you beat the enemies

The level of your characters can determine if you win or lose in a JRPG battle, so JRPGs always give players an unlimited supply of fights to use to level up. 

The basic gameplay loop is this: fight monsters, gain experience and money, get stronger, fight stronger monsters and progress in new areas.

Repeating fights for experience points and gold is called grinding. It isn’t always necessary, but it’s an option.

4. World Travel

A JRPG is usually a globe-trotting adventure. Many of them give you access to a literal “world map”, on which you can walk around the game’s planet, though this is less common these days. 

Other JRPGs might only give you access to a continent, even just a city, but the adventure will take place across many locations that you can explore at your will. You will find non-combat areas (eg. towns, shops) as well as travel routes and dungeons.

Vehicles may be acquired during the adventure to make access to new areas possible, or simply to make your journey faster. An iconic JRPG mode of transport is an airship.

5. Battle screens

When you fight in a JRPG — either a sudden random encounter, or meeting an enemy in the field — you are likely to find yourself whisked to a separate battle screen. This is because, in battle, you control your party differently to when you are exploring the world

The genre is strongly associated with turn-based, menu-driven combat. Though this isn’t essential, if you see a menu of combat commands that allow a character to “Fight”, use “Magic” or an “Item”, you’re probably looking at a JRPG.

Best-known JRPGs

Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy are the two biggest traditional JRPG franchises, and also the two longest running, both having roots going back to the Famicom/NES console.

Here’s Dragon Quest, released in Japan in 1986:

Now I think that is unironically beautiful, but of course the series, and JRPGs as a whole, have progressed a long way since then.

Read Next: The First JRPGs | How RRGs Reached Japan

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Videogames

What was the last PS1 JRPG?

The last adventure-style JRPG released for the Playstation was One Piece: Oceans of Dreams! from Bandai in May 2003. This was over two and a half years after the Playstation 2 had been released. 

You might think a licensed game is an unremarkable swan song for the genre on the PS1, and you’d be right. However, this game’s story did, at least, have an impact on the One Piece franchise, as it was adapted as a filler arc for the anime in 2005.

If you want to go even later than that, there was a tactical RPG called Black/Matrix OO released on the PS1 by Flight-Plan a year later, in May 2004.

It was in fact the last original game released for the PS1 in Japan. Here’s some footage:

Gameplay recorded by RoxasFIN.

Other late additions to the PS1 JRPG library include Digimon World 3 in July 2002. 

However, the last year for major new releases for the PS1 was 2000, a year that saw the release of Breath of Fire IV, Dragon Quest VII and Final Fantasy IX. Quite a year!

Read Next: The First JRPGs | How RRGs Reached Japan

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Videogames

What was the first PS1 JRPG?

Most people will say Beyond the Beyond, released in November 1995, was the first JRPG for Sony’s Playstation. However, there other contenders for the title, depending on what definition is used for JRPG.

The first PS1 RPGs

In December 1994, two quick-off-the-mark Japanese developers released Crime Crackers (from Media.Vision), and, about two weeks later, King’s Field (from Fromsoft). 

Both developers would become well known for their RPGs: Media.Vision for Wild Arms, and Fromsoft for Dark Souls.

However, both of their early PS1 releases were dungeon-crawling RPGs, and not the story-driven, adventure-style game most people think of when we say JRPG. You can see this from a video of Crime Crackers:

The first PS1 traditional JRPG

It was almost a full year later we would see the first typical JRPG on the PS1, with Beyond the Beyond from Camelot released November 1995. Historical but not historic, words like “formulaic” are used to describe its mechanics and generic fantasy world.

Beyond the Beyond may not have left a strong imprint on the collective memory of gamers, but it’s developer would go on to create the much loved Golden Sun series.

Other early PS1 JRPGs

Beyond the Beyond was followed very shortly by Suikoden from Konami, released in December 1995. Some other early PS1 JRPGs include Persona and Wild ARMs (link: my review), both released in 1996. 

We can see that though the first years of the Playstation were somewhat slow for JRPG releases, some of the franchises introduced at this time would go on to have strong legacies and a lasting impact.

Here is a video walkthrough of Beyond the Beyond:

Read Next: The First JRPGs | How RRGs Reached Japan

Categories
Horror Collection

Alan Wake: An Action Game (Video Review)

On the Summer Game Fest 2023 stage, Sam Lake said that Alan Wake II will be Remedy Entertainment’s “first survival horror”. So what is the first Alan Wake?

Video script

It’s best not to think of Alan Wake as a horror game or as a cinematic game, two categories it is closely associated with. It makes use of horror stylings and, as expected of a game by the creators of Max Payne, it has an effective, character driven story. But ultimately it is a linear action game, and will probably be best enjoyed by people who go into it with that expectation. 

Alan Wake can’t be a horror game because it is too predictable. This is best demonstrated in the build up to each battle. It certainly looks like a horror game: the air gets hazy and dark, there is a hiss with a rising tone, elevating the tension, and dark figures emerge (sometimes from behind you, though the camera always reveals where they are coming from). This happens every time. Almost every encounter is telegraphed in the same way, giving you a comforting warning of what is coming. Its consistency is antithetical to horror.

Alan Wake can’t be a cinematic game because it is too devoted to its combat encounters.  Though there are cutscenes at the start and end of each episode, and the occasional non-combat scenario, massive stretches of this game consist of only encounter after encounter with few unique actions or story driven sequences to break up the action.

But despite these apparent shortcomings, it’s okay: when you take Alan Wake for what it is, a linear action game, it comes out alright. The important thing in combat here is crowd control. I didn’t get that at first. Don’t keep the flashlight focused on enemies. Just focus quickly, with a button tap, to stagger them, then do the same to another enemy, and let your passive flashlight beam do most of the de-darking work. The game is pretty damn easy if you play like this.

The mistake I made was thinking I should focus light on one enemy until it was dead, but this drains your flashlight way too quickly, and meanwhile other enemies decide to flank you and throw knives and Alan just doesn’t have the moves to deal with that. I was tearing my hair out in the early fights until I realised I was playing it wrong. 

Now I think the combat is pretty fun, if simple. 

  • You can stagger any enemy with a trigger press.
  • A rising pitch signifies your light is weakening the enemy, until their shield vanishes in a flash of light.
  • When enemies die, they sizzle like the vampires in Blade. 
  • A flashbang bypasses the need to drain the enemy of their darkness, and has a wide range, but doesn’t harm you, making it one of the most effective grenades in the history of games.
  • The dodge has a huge timing window, and the game slows dramatically when you use it to avoid an attack.
  • When the last enemy dies, the game slows and brightens momentarily and you hear a rush of sound like metaphorical deflation of tension. It reminds me of getting the last hit in Kingdom Hearts. 

And these actions felt good from the start of the game to the end. Even if the frequency of encounters is a little high, and the variety a little low, the game feel is top notch. And you can add that to the exceptional environment design, and exceptional lighting effects, for a pretty damn fun experience even in 2023. As long as you have the right expectations.

Categories
Videogames JRPG Collection

How to get back into FFXIV after a break

Sounds like it would be tricky, right? Final Fantasy XIV is a big, complex, multiplayer game. Since you last played, they might have added an expansion with 100+ hours of new content. They might have added two or three expansions! Where do you even start. 

Actually, playing FFXIV after a break is easy. There are so many options to help you to get back into the flow of things. 

  • Training dummies
  • Low-level duties
  • Continuing the story
  • Asking for help

Let’s explain these in a bit more detail, with images.

Smack around a striking dummy

There is a reason these things are dotted around cities. Everyone needs to brush up on their rotations every now and again. Just be aware that the more advanced areas have higher-level training dummies, and you might end up missing attacks against those. There’s no other risk from them, but if in doubt return to La Noscea, Thanalan, or The Shroud to find an unintimidating, Lvl 1 wooden sparring partner.

A player about to hit a striking dummy in a free company house, Final Fantasy XIV
Image from Steam Community (link to user)

Play some familiar, easier duties

You could even start with the easiest dungeons (Sastasha, The Tam-Tara Deepcroft) and trials (Ifrit in The Bowl of Embers, Titan in The Navel) and work your way up. Your level will be scaled down to something appropriate to the duty, but if you’ve played before these activities will still be a breeze, even if you don’t remember all the mechanics. After you’ve done a few, you’ll definitely be in the flow again.

Party completing the Tam-Tara Deepcroft duty in Final Fantasy XIV
Image from Steam Community (link to user)

Just a quick reminder, you find duties with the duty finder:

The duty finder window in Final Fantasy XIV
Image from Steam Community (link to user)

Join a group or ask a stranger

FFXIV is notoriously friendly as MMOs go. There are lots of methods of connecting with other players. Shouting for help in public is one way to go (use the command /shout in the chat box and nearby players will hear you) but don’t be too discouraged if you don’t get a response. Instead, try joining a friendly linkshell or a free company. Use the official Final Fantasy XIV community finder and find some new gaming friends to give you a confidence boost.

A group of friends sitting around a bench in Final Fantasy XIV
Image from Steam Community (link to user)

Continue with the story

However long you have been absent from the Eorzea, you will always be greeted by a big main quest indicator at the top left of your screen (unless you’ve changed your UI) to tell you what you need to do to continue the story. Do a few of these quests to get your hotkey fingers warmed up.

A cutscene with Garduda flying above players, Final Fantasy XIV
Image from Steam Community (link to user)

This is what you’re looking for:

The Current Main Scenario Quest indicator in Final Fantasy XIV

Get on with it!

It’s all about building up momentum. Once you’ve done a bit of exploring, practiced with your keyboard, and crossed paths with a few other adventures, you’ll feel like you never left. 

All you need is the confidence to hit Play!

Online resources

Official guides:
https://eu.finalfantasyxiv.com/lodestone/playguide/
https://eu.finalfantasyxiv.com/jobguide/battle/

Wikis (player created):
https://ffxiv.consolegameswiki.com/wiki/FF14_Wiki
https://ffxiv.gamerescape.com/wiki/Main_Page

Patch notes:
https://eu.finalfantasyxiv.com/lodestone/special/patchnote_log/

How to get into other Final Fantasy games

If you’re already in love with XIV, maybe the other games in the series will also delight you. But if getting into XIV, which is only one game, is hard, where do you even start when it comes to the entire series?! We’ve written a guide to help with that exact question: how to start the Final Fantasy series.

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JRPG Collection

Persona 3 Screenshots

This is a collection of 50 high-quality, (hopefully) exciting screenshots from the Playstation 2 game Persona 3 FES.

They were taken in PCSX2.

This is not a comprehensive tour of Persona 3, but it does feature a variety of areas including some from late in the game.

Feel free to use these screenshots on your own website or in your own project. If you do, we would greatly appreciate a link back to Great Adventures Review.

Categories
Movies Marvel Collection

MCU Phase 4 Complete List (Combined Series, Films and Specials)

In Phase 4 of the MCU, for the first time, Marvel Studios made television series (streamed on Disney+) that were tied to the stories of the films as much as the films had been with each other. They set up storylines for the movies and even shared actors.

Most lists of Marvel Cinematic Universe stories are broken into separate lists for the cinematic releases, Disney+ series, and the special short films. I think it is more useful to see the full combined list arranged only in order of release date. This shows us the order that dedicated fans will have watched all of the stories of Phase 4, and potentially the order Marvel Studios intended them to be watched.

This also helps give a different perspective on the phase than seeing only a list of movies. For example, the first movie in the phase, Black Widow, does not reveal anything about the broader storyline of the universe. However, the first Disney+ series of the phase, WandaVision, did.

The last story in the list, Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special, is described the the director James Gunn as “the epilogue of Phase 4”. Maybe you will agree that it does a better job of this than the last film in the phase, Wakanda Forever.

Some have argued that Phase 4 was weaker than the previous three phases, but this arguement is always based on the cinema releases. When all the stories are considered, you could come to a different conclusion.

Categories
Videogames

Prioritising Games

Fun fact: each of us is going to die before we get to play all the games that we want to! Here’s my way of dealing with that:

People talk about their “backlog” of 20,000 games and sometimes ask the internet the best way to “get through” them all.

Wait, what?

The sad fact is, you’ll never finish your backlog. Even if it only had three games on it, just while (and as a result of) playing these three you’ll discover new games that excite you and you just need to add to the list. And so on.

I hate the idea of a backlog and have always advised against thinking about games that way. However, I have started prioritising games.

Games I haven’t played that I think about regularly, or games that I might regret never getting around to, they go at the top of my list. When I’m choosing what to play next, I’ll ask myself which of those “High Priority” games I’m most excited to play. I have a chronological preference, so I tend to play an older game before a newer one, but I won’t let age supercede priority or excitement.

Yes, I have a spreadsheet.

I’ll never finish the whole list, but I feel satisfied that I’ll at least get to the games that feel most important to me because I’ve put them in order.

After all, if I was hit by a truck tomorrow, I would hate my last thought to be “But I never played Valkyria Chroni—” 💀