What Happened To Turn-Based JRPGs?
Words by Jason Sewald
A couple of days ago I was just scrolling through Twitter, bored out of my mind, and I came across an interesting tweet which essentially stated that JRPGs (Japanese role-playing game) is going through a renaissance phase; and I couldn’t agree more. Over the last 2 years, we in the west got an overwhelming amount of JRPGs, which not only enjoyed critical success but also commercial, like Nier Automata, Final Fantasy XV and Ni No Kuni 2, just to name a few. However, there’s been one major trend that the games I have mentioned before have in common and that is that they are not turn-based. Now I’m not saying that they are bad, but I do miss the theme of turn-based games which brings me to this question, what happened to turn-based JRPGs?
Firstly, one of the things that have contributed to this shift from turn-based battles is the shift in culture and time. We live in a time where Final Fantasy XV switched it’s 30-year tradition of turn-based fighting to a free-flowing for of combat seen in more western rpgs such as The Witcher. Now the only reason I can think off Square Enix going with that decision is that they want to expand the brand to more people by using more conventional control mechanics, “it worked with Kingdom Hearts so why not here” is what i imagine they thought in the meeting sessions.
However even though i say all this there are still some great turn-based JRPGs around such as Persona 5, which I have previously covered and the recently released Dragon Quest XI, so that style of games isn’t dead, however it has changed but I will cover that in a moment. For now, I’m going to list one more game that should grab your attention if you are a fan or have an interest in turn based JRPGs and that is Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler for the switch. The game is reminiscent of the very old and very popular Final Fantasy VI in terms of the visual style and turn-based battle however it has a few little neat tweaks to it which make the fighting system seem fresh and of course a brilliant story, although I personally half a problem with the visual aspect the other two mentioned components make the game definitely worth playing.
Now I mentioned that Persona’s and Dragon Quests battle system has slightly changed and to explain that we have to go back to the beginning of the genre itself. So with past releases in the genre, the battles used to occur randomly (except bosses). Now what this meant was there was never a chance for you to see your enemy and plan your attack accordingly, however, with the two I have just mentioned, the battles don’t occur randomly any more. Meaning that on your screen you can see who you are going to face and then act accordingly but as soon as you engage them it will go to the respective rules of turn based battles. Seeing as this type of system is prominent in the big releases of JRPGs it is safe to assume that future titles of this genre will most likely adopt this style and probably will become the norm of turn based battles.
All in all, I think the only thing we can say that definitely contributed to the disappearance of the classic system is a change of time and gamers, a lot of us don’t have the time to think strategically, we just want to jump straight in and finish the enemy, however, we got to respect and salute to the games who are still loyal to the system and don’t want to change up anytime soon so to Persona, Dragon Quest, Octopath and the like we salute you.