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The Action/TurnBased JRPG Dilemma


I present to you my thesis, my loveletter to the 90s JRPGs


(The gameplay of) Action and Turn Based JRPGs

Both Suck


I now proceed to elaborate



First of all, my declaratory statement isn't bait, It is something I fully and firmly believe, that doesn't mean, however, that I will stop playing any of those two styles of jrpgs anytime soon, both because, well, its pretty much the only 2 flavors of RPG we get aside from uhh "tactical jrpgs" I guess? (those kinda suck too), and I really f*cking love JRPGs.

What are my favorite RPGs you ask? you may be thinking "nah, you just have played ones with bad combat instead of "_____"", well, to give you a short list:

Dragon Quest (1,4,5,7,8,9,11), Final Fantasy (4,6,7,8,9,10,12,15), Persona (4,5), Shin megami tensei(SJ,4,5), Pokemon (all of them??), Kingdom Hearts(1,2,Days), Mana (Adventure, Secret, trials), Xenoblade(1,2,X), Chrono Trigger, Parasite Eve, Xenogears, Xenosaga(1,3), Bravely Default AND Second, Shadow Hearts, Vagrant Story, Baten Kaitos, Ni no Kuni, Tales of(Vesperia, Berseria), Romancing Saga 3, Etrian Odyssey 4, etc.

Chances are that if you clicked on this blogpost you are hopelessly in love with at least 1 of the above mentioned games, realistically speaking more than 5 or something, I really do believe most of them don't have particularly good gameplay or combat, some more than others of course, but still not very good nonetheless.



This blogpost was originally going to be about how I came around my disdain of the action RPGs, which i've always favored less than the turn based ones which i grew up with, but I decided to take a look at the greater whole that this genre offers in its different styles first, and why it the gameplay tends to ends up sucking anyway, and why do I like the regardless of that (and why you do too).

Dragon quest to this day plays like a 1980 game game and most of the games in the turn based style play like it, you take turns between pressing the "attack" button over and over and over again, maybe using some magic if you feeling spicy, posibly hitting a very obvious elemental weakness and abusing whatever the stupid gimmick of the game is.

Turn based games also tend to be extremely broken, the strongest strategies often need looking outside the box in ways that the devs never intended their boring spreadsheet system to be used, nothing about what you're really doing in these battles is tactical, it's always mundane number crunching chores and reacting to what's happening accordingly...as planned.

So why do these games work? Well, for at least 2 reasons.

  1. Strategy, unlike the tactics, is fun, the setup is fun, equipping armor, skills, weapons, checking the synergies of your characters, managing your money, all of that is often more fun than whatever your character will do with them, because all they are doing is executing the plan, watching your numbers go up, watching the enemy's go down.
  2. Gestalt, or the "whole" that comprises something, videogames are not gameplay alone, and while "gameplay is king" in the sense that you can have a "successful" game of ONLY gameplay and pretty much nothing else, it is not a real rule that matters, and JRPGs tend to have emotionally captivating stories, fun characters and great music, an "eh" battle system can be survives if everything else really gets you in the mood, to the point of even liking grinding to spend more time in the game.

What does this mean in the long term? that it really doesn't matter if jrpgs (or most rpgs in general) are turn or action based, because the strategy element and the entirety of the experience are what matter, that's pretty much it.


Nonetheless, let's move into the Action rpgs, and why I disliked them more.

The true reason that i tend to like turn based over action is, aside from blind nostalgia, is that "turn based games" are not as broad as a thing as action, and jrpgs tend to be pretty decent "turn based games", if you want to consider that a genre, they are competent (even with the metric tons of grinding).

Action RPGs are terrible action games.

It took me like 10 years to warm up to secret of mana, I love it now, but my first impression of it was "why does it play like sh*t???", and rightfully so, Zelda alttp is right there and its 10 times a better action game, it controls better, the enemies have more variety, you have more distinct tools for different situations.

Secret of Mana's true nature is not of an action game, it is of a turn based game in real time in a very flawed manner, for a good example of a similar combat system, see dark souls.

Dark souls is a fantastic action/adventure game, is it a JRPG? idk! I don't think of it when the "jrpg" moniker is mentioned, Are JRPGs only from japan or "japan styled"? Can the Japanese make rpgs of the  NOT J variety? i don't care!, you know what tends to be called an action jrpg a lot? the YS franchise, and those have great combat! because they are great action games, and usually give very little thought to the stats over whatever the hell is going on with the level design and enemies, the leveling system in YS Origin is an absolute lie, this is a hack and slash.

For the life of me I dont get how the hell Tales Of combat works, it's like what if smash bros was unfun to play, but you can smack enemies in the face, and the numbers still go up, so it works!

Gamer want ACTION at all costs, so a lot of games that dont need action combat resort to as a sort of crowd pleasing, it is what is normal, what is expected, but The witcher can't even lick bayonetta's heels, Sora doesn't deserve to grace Dante's presence, on a purely gameplay standpoint, action rpgs are completely outclassed.

So why do they still work? because again, numbers go up, and because as whole experiences they are very well constructed. 

I could write an essay about why KH's combat is awful, but that's too boring and overdone, I had fun with it, even more with 2, it's just a really good time, getting to the world that never was just listening to that battle track is more than enough to elicit more words of love than of hate.



I just love these games, I really do.

But I find this very interesting, I really understand why some people can't touch rpgs with a ten foot pole, more in modern times where even good action games don't slack at all on any aspect of the games.

This is also the reason why I don't tend to replay jrpgs or do too much of the post games, once the story is spent, the music has been all digested, the sights consumed, you're only left with combat and numbers that have well run their course (or more time in a wonderful world, it really depends on the person).

JRPGs were, once upon a time, the true AAA experiences, Chrono trigger and seiken densetsu 3 are peak super nintendo art, god SD3 is absolutely gorgeous, an audiovisual FEAST, and the ps1 final fantasies had full motion video cutscenes and animated pre-rendered backgrounds, and lasted 5 times as long as the resident evil games, that's a lot of time to get great sights, listen to great music, and meet lots of characters in detail, more time to fall in love.

these games also tend to have truly experimental stuff on their completely deranged battle systems, be it on turns or action, and that for me is always something exciting to look forward to, and as long as you can have fun with it, that is all that matters, only you can have the final word on that, no matter if anybody else thinks they suck

- Umbasa

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About Necrowondoone of us since 6:51 PM on 08.17.2020

where Wondo's remains rattle

I pester my friends about the games I play, and also I draw sometimes.