Every once in a while, someone must stand up and ask the Essential Question Of Our Time: are JRPGs dead? Today it's PBS, asking in their regular video series -- which is usually quite good -- the most trite question imaginable: "Are JRPGs making a comeback?"
Their thesis is twofold:
1) JRPGs are dead (as host Jamin Warren says: "Over time, the unthinkable happened: the JRPG kinda died.").
2) The "JRPG" is now being revived through turn-based role-playing games made outside of Japan, like South Park: The Stick of Truth and Child of Light. So yes, JRPGs are making a comeback -- they're just not coming from Japan.
But this isn't the first time this conversation has been raised -- the question has become something of a tradition in the world of video game websites both big and small. Let's go back in time a little bit:
Stealthybox.com - April 15, 2014: Are Turn-Based RPGs on Consoles Making a Comeback?
GameMoir.com - January 7, 2014: Fallen From Grace: Can the JRPG Make a Comeback?
Unigamesity.com - August 19, 2013: Are JRPGs Making a Comeback?
VG247 - January 30, 2013: Are JRPGs about to explode?
Venturebeat - December 28, 2011: The JRPG Comeback
DualShockers.com - September 24, 2011: JRPGs: Why They Are Making a Comeback in the West
Examiner - September 18, 2011: Are JRPGs Making a Comeback?
So there are two possibilities here:
1) The entire JRPG genre has spent the past four years in a constant state of comeback, bulging and expanding like a cell in mitosis.
2) This whole damn premise is faulty in the first place, because JRPGs have never actually needed a comeback, as evidenced by the fact that pundits look around and asked questions like "are JRPGs making a comeback?" every single year.
In 2011, games like Radiant Historia, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, Tactics Ogre, and even Dark Souls left people wondering "are JRPGs making a comeback?"
In 2012, games like Xenoblade, The Last Story, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Persona 4 Golden, and a whole bunch of Ys titles left people wondering, "are JRPGs making a comeback?"
In 2013, games like Ni no Kuni, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Shin Megami Tensei IV, and Tales of Xillia left people wondering, "are JRPGs making a comeback?"
When is everyone going to realise that JRPGs are and have always been doing just fine?
Yes, it's fair for PBS to look at turn-based RPGs like Stick of Truth and Child of Light and wonder whether it's OK to consider them JRPGs, as boring as a question that might be. It's also fair to wonder why so many Japanese developers have switched focus from big-budget console development to mobile and handheld gaming. But it's just silly to ignore the successful slate of Japanese role-playing games released well after the PlayStation took its final polygonified breath, and it's silly to act as if the genre is dead, dying, stale, obsolete, archaic, or in need of a comeback.
No, JRPGs aren't making a comeback. Stop asking.
Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.