It’s been a quiet new year on the blog and for that I do apologize. I’ve been silent because I’ve been busy playing games, specifically JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games). I’ve been playing on the Nintendo Switch primarily and there’s no shortage of this genre: Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Tales of Vesperia, Collection of Mana, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age, I Am Setsuna, Octopath Traveler, Valkyria Chronicles 4, Disgaea 5, and many more.
I’ve been spending most of my time going back and forth between Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. While they both fall into the JRPG genre, their gameplay is pretty different. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactical role-playing game, think of a kind of chess game combined with rock/paper/scissors set in a fantasy setting.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a bit more of a straight-forward JRPG, navigation takes place both in the third-person perspective with 3D-rendered environments and a 2D overhead overworld map while battles take place from a first-person perspective. TMS#FE has story elements from two other long-standing JRPG franchises: Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei.
What can I say about these games except that they’re ANIME AS FUCK! There’s something lovely about how they both lean into the best parts of themselves.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is basically a tactical RPG set in Hogwarts. You have three ‘Great Houses’ (nations) to choose from, you have a class of students/soldiers that you teach/level up. These students will engage in combat & battle for you on a grid based map as you play through a convoluted story involving a maybe evil church and nation-states that are all vying for power and land ownership.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a game where by day you are a jpop (Japanese pop star) idol, and by night you battle demons who have mind-controlled humans for some evil and nefarious purpose. You have personas, I mean performas, spirits from another dimension (and franchise) who act as your fighters and enter arenas to battle these demons. These performas are in the guise of characters from the Fire Emblem universe. I have no idea why, nor does it really matter. What matters is that it is one of the most beautiful JRPGs I’ve ever played.
So the reason I’m not posting is because I’m too busy grinding up my levels so I can venture deeper into battle. 😀
Returning to a game you haven’t picked up in months can be a frustrating experience. Outside of feeling disconnected from the narrative of whatever game you’re attempting to hop back inside of, you have also likely forgotten a number of other aspects of the game: controls, attack patterns of bosses, and where you are in the game (literally, somewhere on a giant map unsure of your next step).
I wish more video games took a page from television serials and provided a “Previously on…” kind of recap. Dragon Quest XI, which I’m currently playing does just this and it’s a brilliant addition to an already stand-out game. I am glad the developers recognized that in a game that is potentially 120+ hours long, that it might be useful to have a short recap while your game is loading, explaining that your character was last on this island battling this evil demon and your next goal is to find maguffin A so you can restore order to the blah blah blah.
What often happens to me when I return to an older game is that I start a brand new save, so that I can re-familiarize myself with the game’s narrative/controls and then once I feel like I’ve recalled enough of the game, I will hop back into my older save which has more progress.
I do also wish that outside of a “Previously on…” type of feature, that more games would allow you to replay the introduction/tutorial because that would basically solve the problem of not knowing how to play the game after so many months (or even years) of inactivity.
And just like that, I’m back into a 200+ hour japaense role-playing game (JRPG). The irony of this is not lost on me when I was waxing poetic about not having time for games like this just last week and how I had settled on Roguelikes as my preferred gaming genre. And while that still holds true for the most part (just last night I took a break from DQXI to complete a few BoI challenges), there’s something about this genre that finds a way into my heart and soul.
DQXI is one of the most traditional JRPGs ever made. The Dragon Quest series is more popular than Final Fantasy in Japan. I tend to lean more towards DQ than I do FF. And this isn’t shade at the FF series, I’m a big fan. It’s just that I think DQ feels more like my kind of game. I like that the stories are a bit more reliant on fairy tale conventions and Dungeons & Dragons style party members. It just satisfies a different itch.
I’m about 15 hours into DQXI and I cannot recommend this game highly enough. I don’t feel like I could write a proper review, so I’m going to just recommend you read this one by Tim Rogers of Kotaku. He says everything I want to say, only better:
Dragon Quest XI is hugely long and chill as heck. It took me about 80 chill as heck hours to finish the main quest my first time. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes chill characters, colorful aesthetics, Akira Toriyama’s art, extremely old-school role-playing games, fairy tale stories, or ridiculously detailed video game towns.