In response to “Homeward (Earth)Bound” from The Escapist Forum: I owe my love of Earthbound to Ness’ cameo in Smash Bros. He was the only character I didn’t recognise, and as I loved him so much I sought out the game. Earthbound is one of the few JRPGs I’ve ever completed and loved.
The ending was especially moving. The power of praying and faith winning over aggression (may I add before someone berates me, NOT faith in religion or God, I won’t spoil who they’re praying to), the wonderful walk with Paula back to Twoson, then home to Onett as you talk with everyone you’ve saved. Then that wonderful end credits sequence where you finally find out what that strange spinning cameraman was doing, completely with a beautiful theme tune that’s making me teary-eyed just typing this and remembering it.
A wonderful experience. If you have to get it on an emulator do so, that’s the only way you can and it’s fine. I did and I love it.
Never ever got into Earthbound and have never really understood it’s appeal. To me it’s sort of like a popular sitcom (I’d name one, but there are so many of them) that everyone thinks is so clever and funny but that I just think completely fails for trying too hard. I know that Earthbound is supposed to be cute and clever as it pokes fun at itself and the genre as a whole.. but it just comes across to me as not funny or pleasing in any way.
Now that I think about it, Earthbound reminds me of that Matt Hazard game that was released not too long ago. The main thrust of the game was how it made fun of various game archetypes and tropes in the context of a standard 3rd person shooter, but the jokes were too obvious to be funny and the gameplay too run of the mill to be enjoyable so all you were left with was a shoddy version of what it was trying to imitate.
In response to “What a Long, Strange Journey It’s Been” from The Escapist Forum: That augmented reality thing reminded me of an anime series called Dennou Coil, which basically let people access a holographic 3D version of the internet by wearing special glasses. Maybe that’s what he was thinking…? Interesting.
Anyway, I’m glad that you guys did a JRPG week, and I’m even more happy that you took the time to write a four-page SMT article. Atlus as a whole is just a damn fine game developer, and I couldn’t be happier to be a fan of theirs. My only gripe is that some of their games crank the encounter rate up way too much to enjoy the story to its fullest. (I’m looking at you, Digital Devil Saga!)
Anyway, great article.
Excellent interview. This is by far my favorite video game series. Persona 3 (FES) still stands as my favorite video game of all time.
It has storylines that are full of suspense, moral choice, symbolism, and pretty much everything else you could ask for. Plus, I like the fact that they almost always take place in modern or sci-fi settings.
As long as they keep making SMT games, I’ll keep buying them.
In response to “United We Stand” from The Escapist Forum: Interesting, but the article ignores the western RPGs out there that also rely on strong supporting characters. BioWare games in particular are defined by their companions. Dragon Age was very memorable because of Alistair, Morrigan, Zevran, and the others. Many companions–Zevran, Sten, Leliana, and Shale–were completely missable or killable. Seeking them out, fulfilling their personal quests, and getting to know them in general provided new insights into the world of Thedas and their own backgrounds. They are well-written, well-rounded, dynamic characters.
The article also makes the mistake of comparing the player character Shepard with supporting characters like Yuffie. In a WRPG, the PC will always be less-defined. That’s because WRPGs have their roots in D&D, where role-playing is about customization and the main character can be played anyway the player wants. This is the greatest strength of WRPGs, because it allows for a story that can unfold in several ways. Look at Alpha Protocol. For as buggy as the game was, it allowed the protagonist to reflect several different personalities. And the choices he made affected the game in wildly different ways. This isn’t something you see in JRPGs, which play more like squad-based action games IMO.
I just don’t think you can say that the difference between JRPGs and WRPGs lies in an “I” versus “We” mentality, not when plenty of WRPGs also emphasize companions and group-dynamics. I do agree that WRPGs place more importance on the PC, though. And perhaps this lies with the Western emphasis on the individual, or maybe it’s just a way of tapping into wish fulfillment. Since on some level we’re supposed to be badass Commander Shepard, wouldn’t it be awesome if we’re the coolest, toughest, most important person in the galaxy?
think the difference is in part in the main character, but not so much the supporting casts. In a good WRPG, the supporting cast will be fleshed out characters who react to the PC and the world around them just like in a JRPG. The big difference is really that WRPGs are D&D-style “you are in this game” and JRPGs are “you are playing these characters in this game”. Neither is better than the other, it’s just a matter of which experience you want. A WRPG will have more variation in story potential, and more replay value, because your choices change things. A JPRG can often have a more complicated plotline (sometimes to the point of stupidly overcomplicated, although that’s hardly limited to the JRPG) because they don’t need to worry about coding in all the different responses to different choices presented to the main character.
Done well, a WRPG has a varied cast of interesting characters and a fun world to explore, where your choices have meaning and you feel like you are really a part of the world you’re playing in. Done badly, there are shallow characters, shallow, flat choices, and it’s like you’re just piloting Generic Fantasy Hero around a world that doesn’t change based on your choices, which is the point of a WRPG.
Done well, a JRPG has a varied cast and an interesting plot, with linearity being excused because you just really need to see how this plot ends, with sidequests to explore to draw out more information, complete your bestiary, or race giant yellow birds around the world. Done badly, you’re being railroaded on a boring plot with flat, cliche characters and nothing to do but press a button every now and then to get through combat.
So it’s really all in what experience you’re looking for, and it’s hard to compare the two because the experiences being looked for are different.
In response to “Wussy RPG Girls” from The Escapist Forum: I like the article, it was informative and I agree with most of the stuff I already knew, but I have to have a geeky moment here and call out your use of Rosa as an example.
Sure, she got kidnapped, once, but that only happen after the bad guy flattened all the guys in your party with a single wave of the hand. One can hardly blame her for going along with him after that. Other than that, she had exactly zero moments of weakness or self-doubt throughout the entire game, and in fact near the end the guys all have a stupid macho sexist moment and try to convince the girls to stay behind, she and Rydia sneak along and demand to be included. Sure she only did it to be with her love and all that mushy crap, but it still basically amounted to her taking a direct stand against being “wussy” as you so eloquently put it.
Certainly there wasn’t a lot of character development in that game, and I don’t doubt for a second that if Rosa had more character development she would have turned into a standard Wussy RPG Girl, but it seems pretty obvious to me that throughout the game self-doubt was plaguing the guys, not the gals, and all the ridiculous self-sacrificing was done by old men and little children. The women just did what needed to be done.
It’s hard to find good writing in general, and even harder to find good writing about women. I just read Emma by Jane Austen and it’s probably the best that I’ve come across so far. It’s an interesting book. The story, the actual plot, is kind of like the background story of any Socratic dialog. Stuff happens and it’s almost like noise. Then Emma has a side conversation with another character about the stuff that happened, and that’s the part where thoughts and philosophies are revealed.
Whose responsibility is it to write good female characters for RPGs? When there’s such a dearth of good writing in the rest of life, is it even reasonable to demand that it appear out of nowhere in an RPG?
Maybe this is an offshoot of what really angers traditional feminists: New Feminism. A growing number of self-identified feminists today don’t care as much about absolute equality between the sexes. Equal opportunity is more important than equal outcome, for instance. They accept that men and women have gender-based roles. They cherish traditional feminine qualities and don’t care to see women who are as tough and strong as men and who fight like men.