Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

May 18, 2013

Let’s discuss some (more) good JRPGs.

Welcome back.  Ready for another round (finally)?  Cool.  Let’s start with a test of will.

Before I say anything else on some old JRPGs, I want to make one thing in particular clear: personally, I don’t JRPGs are doing so poorly this generation.  That’s not to say that the genre as a whole has been without problems today or yesterday (it hasn’t), or that they’ve been immune to the changes of the industry (they haven’t).  If you’ll let me be a little bold -- or let me repeat something I’ve said in passing before -- I think we have the current-gen misadventures of Final Fantasy to blame for JRPGs falling out of favor.  Whether or not the franchise has been good for years is and always will be up for debate, but there’s denying that it’s the biggest name and face of the genre.  If it falters, everyone else falters -- it’s the engraved assumption that if “the best in the genre” can’t put out a good product, none of them can.  Granted other titles have made their failures apparent as well, but when you consider which company’s name is on the label of those boxes…well, pattern recognition is unavoidable.

But make no mistake, we have gotten, are getting, and will keep getting good JRPGs.  A little while ago, Ni no Kuni came out -- and while I haven’t gotten around to playing it in depth just yet, from what I gather it’s a solid (if not great) game that’s not just a rise to glory for the genre, but maybe one of the best JRPGs in years.  This, of course, is the same slot that Xenoblade Chronicles occupied not too long ago.  And before that, there was still Lost Odyssey.  And let’s not forget the release of a handful of Atlus/Shin Megami Tensei titles, each one deserving of its own sort of praise.

Speaking of which, I’d say it’s about time to give one of those games its due.  So let’s get in deep with some good JRPGs…with the Fair Lady Hendricks -- and later in the post, the TRUE face of beauty -- guiding us. 

How do you like your carrots?  Dangled on a stick, or past a ring of fire?

Part 2: PlayStation 2 Edition!

Yikesy mikesy.  The PS2 sure had a lot of games. 

I mean, seriously.  There are nearly two thousand games out there -- two thousand games, good or bad, original, sequel, or based on  a license…and I don’t even want to try imagining how many of those are JRPGs.  As I understand it, the PS2 was THE system of choice for JRPG enthusiasts (a holdover from the PS1 days, no doubt), if only in comparison to the GameCube or the original Xbox.  Just thinking about the sheer multitude of JRPGs that I haven’t even touched makes me queasy. At least one Tales game.  At least one Kingdom Hearts game.  Two Xenosaga games (which would retroactively cripple my understanding of the third game).  And how many Atlus games are there?  Digital Devil Saga, at a bare-ass minimum?

Well, whatever.  What’s important is that I have played a fair number of JRPGs, and I’m here to offer my report.  By no means is it a complete list of either the games I’ve played or some of the system’s finest offerings -- I’m only one guy, after all -- but I’ll do what I can to enlighten and entertain.  So here’s a nice little list for all of you.

…Alternatively, you can try and find a copy of Devil Summoner 2.  See if you can nab the package that gets you a Jack Frost wearing Raidou’s signature costume.

Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy!
(Or: Surf’s Up…School’s Out!)

Oooh, what’s this one? 
This is one of those games that I went into blind, at least from a canonical context.  I might have heard of the original (or the franchise in general) in passing, but never put much stock in it.  It certainly didn’t help that I kept confusing Mana Khemia with the Ar Tonelico series…a mistake I likely won’t make again, given that I played the third in the series, but I’ll get to that.  What’s important to note is that you don’t need to have any knowledge of the first game to play or enjoy the sequel -- there are some call backs and returning characters, but that doesn’t detract at all.

So, the story.  What is it?  Basically, there’s a school of witchcraft and wizardry alchemy that’s designed to get the most out of a dying art and potentially arm the next generation with enough combat knowledge, rather than alchemy knowledge, to keep funds flowing into the school.  Also the school used to be floating in the sky, but there wasn’t enough mana to keep it afloat and it fell to the ground.  In the grand scheme of things, that…doesn’t really matter.  What’s important is that this is more of a “Daily Lives of Magic Warrior Children” story instead of your typical save-the-world plot.  Whether or not that’s a good thing, I’ll get into later, but for now you’re probably wondering…

So what’s so good about it?
I didn’t know a damn thing about this game going into it (besides the fact that it came with a free soundtrack), but you can consider it as an incredibly pleasant surprise.  From the outset it’s obvious that there’s going to be some serious replay value, considering that you can choose between playing as one of two characters.  In my case, I opted for the hot-blooded country girl, Ulrika, and was justly rewarded.  Gameplay takes place over the course of several in-game weeks, letting you live out the life of Ulrika and friends throughout the school year.  Inevitably, this means you’ll be attending classes and tending to your grades -- but instead of sifting through loads of text, you’ll be sent off on missions (story-wise or not) that pit you against bosses, has you gathering materials, or more often than not putting your alchemy skills to good use.

It’s interesting to see such a focus put on the item-crafting aspect of a JRPG, but an appreciable one nonetheless.  You gather the materials and recipes, take them to your workshop, and engage in a quick minigames to not only construct an item, but raise its quality to give it added offensive, defensive, or healing bonuses.  You do so by adding the proper elemental attributes from a roulette wheel, making use of materials, the innate elemental attributes, and the special abilities of your teammates.  It all sounds complicated as hell, I know, but I guarantee you that it works.  It’s possible to screw up and make a dud item, but once you’ve cracked the system it’s just as easy to make some fantastic items -- in other words, you, the player, have been successfully schooled.

But where MK2 excels is in its battle system, fusing strategy, speed, and even spectacle into a more-than-competent package.  If you’ve played a JRPG before, you may be like me and have wondered, “If I’m travelling in a group of seven, where does everybody else go when I’m in a battle?  Why are there only three people on-screen at a time?”  MK2 answers that question uniquely; you have three characters on the field, but the remaining two are reserve units who can be called in at any time.  Moreover, the reserve units can be called in while you’re using an attack to tack on more damage and switch them out with other party members; in general, it works on the same principle as DHCs from Marvel vs. Capcom 3

But you can use your reserve units to step in and defend for your party as well as attack -- and as they level up, characters gain unique offensive and defensive abilities to dish out damage or defend and buff the party.  The downside to the system is that you always have to be mindful of your whole party’s status, not just the three on the frontlines -- and like MvC3, you can only call out your other party members when their gauges are full.  The upside to this system, however, is that by making good use of it, you gain access to -- you guessed it -- bitchin’ damn super moves.  And that’s on top of the bitchin’ damn super moves your party already has access to.

So yes, I would argue that the combat system -- or the gameplay in general -- is the game’s strong suit.

Okay, so what’s wrong with it?
The story pretty much evaporates after the opening.

Don’t get me wrong; there is stuff that happens during the game.  Main characters Ulrika and Raze both have story arcs over the course of their branches, and both of them get their conclusions.  The problem is that for way too long, it feels like the plot at large is completely missing.  The focus is on daily school life and going on wacky adventures with friends…the problem is, there’s an element of tension and activity that’s missing as a result.  Even in the context of each character’s story arc, it takes a looooooooooooong time for them to get anything in the way of actual developments -- and when you do get them, it’s not exactly filling.  So if the school hijinks angle isn’t enough to sway you and you want a meatier story (world-saving or otherwise), this is not the game for you.

To be fair, I think you can unlock a final story arc by finishing both Ulrika’s story and Raze’s story…but that’s a problem in itself.  I admit that I couldn’t bring myself to finish the game, and that’s because of two major problems.  First off, there IS an overarching plot, but it’s obvious that it’s utterly inconsequential as you play through dozens of hours of gameplay.  You’ll get cutscenes alluding to some bigger struggle, and a contest between the forces of light and darkness, but they’re so fleeting and so far-removed from the rest of the plot (or what there is of it) that you can pretty much ignore them.  The second problem is that in my opinion, Ulrika’s story dramatically outclasses Raze’s.  Now, in terms of the plots of their arcs it’s possible -- maybe even probable -- that Raze has the superior tale.  But the problem is the character archetypes at play here.  I’ll give you a quick rundown of one party.

Team Ulrika
Ulrika -- hot-blooded country girl.  Belligerent, but has a soft spot for a furry animal she adopts as her child.
Chloe -- Black magician girl with a severe disregard for the well-being of others.  A true misanthrope whose near-murderous experiments are held in check only by her laziness.
Peppermint -- Horrifically effeminate mountain of muscle.  Claims to be a fairy in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but dutifully loyal to/terrified into serving Ulrika.
Enna -- Preteen mechanical genius.  The voice of reason that gets nothing but ridicule and torture for trying to act smart.  Largely unloved by all but his sister, but also has a crush on a girl who can only say one word.
Goto -- Who knows?  He’s a guy wearing a cat suit whose true face isn’t revealed in the main storyline.  In spite of that, he’s a ladies’ man, scoring droves of women in spite of wearing a goofy cat suit.  Probably the best character ever created.

Team Raze
Raze -- Level-headed swordsman/butler.  Bit of a sourpuss.
Lily -- Tsundere. 
Et -- Raze’s super-strong old friend.  Is an idiot.  Also improbably buxom.
Yun -- Cool guy.  Has a daughter, I guess…?
Puniyo -- Magic girl that rides on sentient slimeballs called Punis.  Can only (?) say variations of “Puni”.
Whim -- Lily’s maid.  Is a maid.  Still probably cooler than Lily herself, if only because she swings around a halberd and puts on armor that would make Poseidon nervous.

It’s entirely possible that I’m being a little unfair here, in the sense that there could be plenty of moments where these characters go beyond their archetypes and entertain regardless.  But I highly doubt it -- and even if they did, I’d still have to spend a load of time with a bunch of characters pulled straight from any anime in the past decade or so.  They could have been a hell of a lot worse, but compared to Team Ulrika, they could have been a hell of a lot better. 

So is it any good?
Well, sure.  I wouldn’t be putting it on this list if it wasn’t.

I didn't finish Raze’s story, but that doesn’t mean I never will; maybe someday I’ll go back and clear it and get the full ending.  Even then, I don’t feel like my time was wasted in the slightest; I had plenty of fun and felt like the battle system put my skills and strategies to the test.  The school backdrop adds an interesting framework to the game, and if you play well enough you can get through most of the curriculum-required ttasks with time to spare (and as a result gain time to engage with your party members).  Overall, it’s a remarkably solid game.  It’s absurd at times, but then again, I’d expect no less when its opening theme is called “My Silly Days.”

Rogue Galaxy!
(Or: Cosmos Rockin’)

Oooh, what’s this one?
…It’s pretty much just Star Wars.

Well, no, that’s not quite true.  It’s pretty much just Star Wars: The JRPG Edition.  A young lad on a desert planet has his wishes of abandoning his constrained (and sandy) hamlet behind when a pair of quirky characters -- one of whom is a remarkably-polite robot -- involve him in their problems, thereby allowing our her to hop onto a ship owned and used by some less-than-savory characters as they travel across the universe to engage with an evil empire (business-oriented this time, natch) and conduct a search for the greatest treasures in the universe.  Hero discovers he has a hidden power, there’s a princess among you, the rough-edged mercenary’s got a shady past and a semi-tragic story, and victory is obtained by drawing upon the power of each party members’ hopes and dreams.

I know that plot doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but…well, I really don’t have a problem with it.  It’s clichéd, yes, but it’s handled fairly competently.  It’s a meal you’ve had before, but it’s still a tasty meal.  The story is good enough to keep you entertained and motivated, and while it’s more than easy enough to pare it down to its basest components, it’s the stuff throughout that will leave you walking away with a nice little smile each time you turn your PS2 off.  There’s a reason why it’s been received as a success in spite of being a then-new IP. 

So what’s so good about it?
If you start getting into this game, you’ll probably start considering cancelling all your previous arrangements.  This game is robust.

If memory serves me right, clearing the game will take about sixty hours.  That’s a pretty hefty length right there, but even then I’d bet there’s a LOT more to do.  There are sidequests in this game that could have potentially -- maybe easily -- become their own games with a bit more fleshing out; I got in deep with the “Factory Mode”, for example, which takes item crafting to a whole new level.  It’s exactly what it sounds like: after a certain point in the game, you get access to your own empty warehouse, and in order to create some high-end items you have to build interlocking machines that sprawl across dozens of square feet.  It’s less of a tedious time-waster and more of a puzzle game; components require certain amounts of time to prepare and have to go through certain unique processes to make them ready for the final product, so it becomes a matter of balancing out what goes where and when, how you lay out your machines, and spatial awareness.  There’s a level of thought required that I can’t help but appreciate.

I’ll gladly admit that I’ve probably been suckered into liking the mode by way of addiction, but that’s all right with me; I wouldn’t play it if I didn’t THINK it was good, and it just goes to show the power of illusion that a good game packs.  I’m guessing that most of the effort put into RG was for the sake of creating these little diversions -- a bug-battling game, an item fusion mechanic, a skill-learning system that depended on you finding resources and putting them into your characters’ grids -- and I’d say that looking back, they’re diversions that worked well.  Stuff like that stands as proof of player progression, which is as vital to any game as much as the story (though the story should provide that as well, obviously). 

So, how’s the combat?  Well, it’s been a while since I’ve played the game, but based on recollection alone I’d say it does more than its fair share of the work.  If you’re the type who scoffs at the idea of turn-based combat, then you’re in luck; RG uses real-time combat with a few notable twists.  You’ll take three party members with you onto the battlefield as usual, and you’ll string together attacks from your character of choice’s main and sub-weapons.  Again, it’s a simple system, but there are enough tweaks to it to make for a strong product.  First off, your AI partners will regularly bring up prompts as to what they should do in a fight, and it’s up to you to decide who does what and when.

It’s a mechanic that saves the player the trouble of constantly stopping the action to access abilities, but more importantly you can exert some control over when a character uses an item (take notes, Squeenix).  Really, though, the main element is that you not only have to manage your obvious resources -- items and MP -- but how furiously you go on the attack; mash haphazardly, and you’ll be drained of stamina and unable to attack OR use your skills.  You get back in fighting form quickly enough (and instantly if you block an attack), but it’s an incentive to make sure you don’t just mindlessly wail away at enemies without impunity.  Couple that with the ability -- and regularly the need -- to exploit enemy weaknesses, and you’ve got yourself a tight little number. 

Okay, so what’s wrong with it?
I can’t remember anything distinct about the cast.

I’m debating whether or not this game or Mana Khemia has it worse, but for now it’s safe to say they both make some big flubs when it comes to their characters.  To be fair, RG has entire sections of its plot dedicated to exploring these characters; dog soldier Deego gets a hefty amount of time in the spotlight when you first encounter him, and you explore his grim past full of lost friends, the wounds of a soldier, and the payback old allies are out for.  It’s interesting stuff, to be sure…it’s just a shame that after that sequence, Deego doesn’t really get to do much else.  I’m not even sure if he has lines after that anymore, barring the occasional suggestion of what the party should do next. 

Now, you COULD chalk this up to me not remembering any of the conversations that followed, but then again isn’t that an indicator in itself?  Shouldn’t I be able to remember more than one or two lines muttered after the fact, especially since they’re coming from a dog-man the size of Andre the Giant with a bionic arm and a massive axe?  It’s especially jarring when you consider that saving the world comes down to characters that haven’t had a meaningful line in a good dozen hours suddenly getting last-minute character development. 

It certainly doesn’t help that in battle, the characters feel almost interchangeable without much thought.  True, they all have different weapons, but their abilities all tend to get muddled into some unimpressive sludge.  An area-of-effect attack with the occasional status effect, a self-power-up, and a full-party buff -- those are pretty much the only three abilities you’ll get outside of a couple of dual- and triple-techs a la Chrono Trigger.  They all have different animations, yes, but considering that you’ll be skipping them a whole lot to get back to the action, it diminishes the effect.  And as long as we’re on the subject of battles, I’ll willingly admit that some of the mechanics are EXTREMELY situational; you get a freeze gun, but you’ll mostly end up using it on bosses.  There’s a gun that breaks through barriers, but again, it’s not something you’ll use too often.  And whose idea was it to make a platform gun?

So is it any good?
Yeah, it is.  Like any game out there, it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.  More than good enough, in this case.

This game kind of reminds me of Star Ocean 3, for obvious reasons -- but it’s the differences between the two of them that set RG a step above.  I was under the impression that SO3 (and its sequel, by extension) would have included, you know, actual planets to explore; alas, you spend huge percentages of it on a generic fantasy world…at least before the plot goes bonkers.  At least in RG’s case, it creates the illusion that you really are travelling across the universe -- going from one planet to the next in search of wild adventures, wilder friends, and the wildest treasures you could imagine.  It’s quite expansive for a PS2 title, and the variations from one area to the next really help sell the adventure…as does the music.

All in all, I’d definitely give it a recommendation.  Hell, I feel like playing it again someday soon.

Persona 4!
(Or: Say It’s Not True)

Oooh, what’s this one?
…You’re serious?  Tell me you’re not serious.  All right, whatever.

I was about to put Dragon Quest VIII or Devil Summoner 2 up here, and while I gladly recognize that those are good-ass games you should give a look, I don’t think I’ve played enough of them to say anything substantial about them.  And had I played through Tales of Legendia again, I’d probably be listing that one too…though I don’t remember enough about it to decide if it’s deserving of its controversial, black-sheep status.  So I thought to myself, “All right, what JRPG can I recommend, regardless of how long it’s been since I played it?”  And the answer to that is obvious: Persona 4.  If you’ve heard the hype before, I’ll go ahead and tell you that it’s not hyperbole; it’s earned whatever praise its garnered.

If you know Scooby-Doo, you pretty much know this game’s story.  New kid moves to rural town for a year, gets thrown into a murder mystery, has to find the culprit with an eclectic bunch of high school kids, regularly ventures into an alternate dimension wherein the innermost thoughts and desires of its intruders are given form and strength…you know, the usual stuff.

So what’s so good about it?
There’s a pretty strong argument to be made that, like The Walking Dead or Smallville, this isn’t a game about the thrust of its plot; instead, it’s about the myriad themes and side adventures that run parallel.  If that’s the case, then it would explain why there’s only so much focus on finding out whodunit at any given moment.  That’s a key element, yes, BUT what’s more important is digging into and even deconstructing what makes these characters tick.  It’s a surefire way to ensure that nobody walks away from the game thinking “Wow, these characters are sooooooooooooooo cliché.”  Granted that might require an extreme time investment to prove, but even at a glance there’s satisfaction to be had.

Now, you could chalk this up to personal preference, but I think that P4’s length (among other things, but I’ll get to that in a bit) is a strength.  I have a hunch that video games -- especially recent ones -- have a problem with overly-rushed pacing; we’re not allowed to soak in anything unless we check it out on a wiki hours later.  It’s railroading, it’s needless, and it’s detrimental; we can’t enjoy the game to its fullest as long as we’re constantly running from one skirmish to the next, and said skirmishes can get mashed together with ease. 

P4 gives the player time to breathe and absorb what’s going on, thanks to the centralization on a single town as well as events both in the storyline and out of it.  Time management is a vital aspect of the game (in that you only have a certain amount of in-game time across several days to save a victim before an automatic game over), and while clearing out a dungeon is always a multi-day endeavor, I’d guess that a bigger focus is placed on building relationships with NPCs -- as stupid as that sounds -- so you can reap benefits both in terms of battle bonuses and in terms of player satisfaction.  I can just imagine Xzibit going “Yo dawg, I heard you like stories…”

As for the actual gameplay, it’s also quite good.  Very good.  I’d come off of Persona 3 FES not long before P4 came out, and while I did enjoy the combat in that game as well, the improvements are immediately observable.  Direct control over all four party members lessens the chance of, say, Mitsuru using Marin Karin on a boss; every turn can get its full impact thanks to the player’s deft hand.  There’s now an option to defend yourself so you can protect your party from their weaknesses or big whompin’ attacks.  Party members get a lot more active as well; scoring critical hits on one enemy might let a comrade knock another enemy down with a special move, or cure a party member from a status ailment.  Couple that with their ability to absorb game-ending attacks for the MC, and the battles become more about using skill and strategy and less about bad luck.  That’s not always the case, but in general when you die, it’s your fault.  The game will make you a hardened vet before you even reach the last dungeon, and for that I’m more than thankful.

Take notes, Squeenix.

Okay, so what’s wrong with it?
Looking back, its greatest strengths may also be its greatest failings.

Resource/time management is important in the game, yes, but I’m fairly confident that such management is forced instead of implied.  Using a characters SP for spells is usually the best way to strike weaknesses and make battles easier on you, but even at low levels your spells seriously eat into your reserves.  Items to restore them are in short supply, meaning that if you’re in a dungeon and you run low, your best bet is to get out of there and try another day…especially when you know there’s a miniboss around the corner.  It’s a way to make sure you take every skill usage into account, but it has the side effect of making battles -- especially boss battles where you’re already locked and loaded -- tougher than they already are.  So if you’re the type that wants to plow through a dungeon in a single day and never look back, you’re in for a rough time.   (Bear in mind that this is coming from someone that hasn’t played through the updated -- and likely superior -- version on Vita, so how well this holds up is beyond me.)

It’s also worth noting that, while this is an Atlus game, this is also unfortunately an Atlus game -- meaning that if you’re on the lookout for some high-end graphics, you’d better look elsewhere.  Admittedly it could be because the game was released when the “next-gen consoles” had firmly taken root, but even then I don’t feel like the hardware has been fully tapped.  It’s got stylish presentation, yes (and some great tracks), but in terms of technical prowess you might end up walking away disappointed.  Character models are good enough, the dungeons aren’t particularly impressive (style aside), and the camera is generally pretty static; dynamic camera angles that could make a good scene great are all but missing outside of a few instances.  I’m definitely assuming that the Vita version has the PS2 game beat in the visuals department.

But what could be THE deathblow for the uninitiated is that P4 has a very specific -- for lack of a better word -- “route” in mind.  It’s a story that, very frequently, is not about the thrust of its plot (i.e. solving the mystery of the Inaba killer).  If you want a tense, suspenseful, pulse-pounding pursuit of justice, this is not the game for you.  Even if it isn’t, I can see why people might take issue, or even hate it.  The opening sequence -- before you get full reign to explore Inaba and the dungeons in the TV world -- might take you about two hours…and that’s a generous estimate.  Having a buddy nearby might make the opening slog a bit more tolerable.

Bonding with NPCs is a pretty notable distraction from the main plot, to the point where the side stories threaten to overwhelm the main one.  And there’s a shitload of unskippable hijinks between the MC and the other party members -- with even more in the Vita version, I hear -- that make the threat of death pretty much evaporate.  And not all the party members are present for every scene, so that’s another can of worms…and the game just kind of stops after a certain point, even though there are months left on the calendar…and sorting out the problems of my (future) party members takes up a whole lot of time…and then I have to adjust my schedule to see how their arcs fully resolve…and then there’s --

So is it any good?
There’s not a doubt in my mind.  If you haven’t played it, go.  Just go.

Nothing I’ve listed here should even be remotely considered as a deal-breaker.  They’re things that might ensure that P4 isn’t exactly the perfect game, sure, but they’re also things that lend the game an unmistakable character.  You get a cast of well-developed, highly-likable characters.  You get a main story that intrigues and entices, and at least a dozen side stories to enhance the experience. 

You get a stylish product that offers visible progression and relief bred from overcoming the absurd challenges you face -- and on top of that, a world that feels fleshed out AND is more than willing to crack a good joke.  Whether or not you enjoy it may come down to a matter of preferences, but I’d say you can’t go wrong with P4 -- and even with its flaws in mind, I can’t let this list go without naming one of my favorite games ever.

And that’ll do it for now.  See you guys…oh wait, I think that I still owe you all something, don’t I?  Well, let’s see what ol’ Uncle Voltech has in his goodies bag…maybe a nice carrot for you.  Aha!  Here we are!

Whoops, wrong one.  Let's give this another shot...and...

Oh, Alyson Hannigan.  I just can’t quit you, madam.  I just can’t quit you.

…But you didn’t hear that from me. 

…Let’s talk about Xbox 360 JRPGs next time.  I’m sure there are some out there.


  1. Cheap Boss AttackMay 18, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    Awww, damn dude, I actually loved Infinite Undiscovery. It's a slow burn of the slowest types, taking about 10 hours to get to the meat of it, but man, I couldn't stop playing after that point. Last Remnant, however, was a steaming pile of hobbit crap. The PS2 was the defining JRPG console, IMO.

  2. Truth be told, I kind of like Infinite Undiscovery as well. I know I shouldn't, because even though I did ultimately enjoy it, I feel like there are a lot of issues that would make a straight recommendation hard (if not impossible). I'll probably end up talking about it at a later date, because it's seriously intriguing in spite of its flaws.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, I couldn't spend more than an hour with Last Remnant. And Star Ocean: The Last Hope is...well, I'll get to that someday.

    But yes, I'm in 100% agreement with you -- the PS2 was THE home of JRPGs. Maybe the genre would be better off in the eyes of the common folk if there was a substitute in the spotlight; the DS and the other handhelds offer plenty of quality titles, but I guess the idea is "no console, no point." And that's really just a shame.

  3. Just out of curiosity, are you familiar with the first Ar tonelico game? I've been enjoying it, and you seem acquainted with the bullshit third game...

  4. I'm gonna go ahead and set a couple of things straight about the Vita version of P4. The graphics are about the same as the PS2 version, but with prettier textures and a "cleaner" look from the higher resolution. Also, most of the "unskippable hijinks" is now skippable, via a VHS-esque fast-forward button for the cutscenes. Add to the fact that it's a portable Persona 4, and you have the definitive version of the game. Too bad no one actually HAS a Vita... apparently. >_>
    And I'll go ahead and vouch for the first Ar Tonelico, but it's been a while since I've played it. I remember some of the innuendo being really juvenile at times, and the main character is kind of bland. But I don't remember it being particularly terrible playing it concurrently with Persona 4. Granted, it wasn't AS good, but it certainly wasn't too bad either. The music is really good in spots (especially in surround sound), and the setting is pretty interesting too. I've really got to get back to it to confirm my thoughts, though.
    Personally, I'd like to see a DS JRPG list, especially considering the sorta-renaissance the genre's enjoying on handhelds lately (alongside J-adventure/visual novel games, strangely enough). I'd also like to hear your thoughts on Etrian Odyssey III, considering you've somehow beat that...

  5. Aha, aha, I see. 1Up suggested that The Golden was the version of choice, and I can see why. Well then, maybe I'll add a little addendum saying that if people have the means, they should go for the Vita version. And by extension, get a Vita. You know, show Sony a bit of love.

    And don't worry, I'll get a DS-based list up eventually; I just need to sort through which ones I absolutely HAVE to recommend. Etrian Odyssey might not be on there, though; I've been thinking about giving it a separate post, so I can talk about both it and Injustice: Gods Among Us. I'll mull it over for a bit, I guess; I need to spend some more time with Injustice anyway so I can decide if I like the gameplay or not. (I'm REALLY biased against Mortal Kombat, you see...but I'll gladly admit Injustice is the best showing yet.)

  6. Sad to say, but my first and only experience with the franchise so far has been Qoga. From what I can gather, that's a real shame -- I know it's not the most popular series, but it wouldn't have made it to the third installment if it didn't have SOME quality and SOME fans.

    Ah, Qoga...ever adept at breeding confusion and despair...if only you could be like your elder kin. Or good. I'm okay with good.