Podcast: What Makes A Classic JRPG?

Just what makes games like Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger so special? What sort of attributes would a game like I Am Setsuna need in order to live up to JRPG classics? Let's discuss! Today on Kotaku Splitscreen, Kirk and I dig into all the elements that comprise a classic JRPG: Music, abstractions, diversity of locations. We break down some Japanese classics and compare them to Tokyo RPG Factory's debut game, I Am Setsuna, which tries to live up to those beloved old games.

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Also: Some Pokemon GO talk, because hey it's the biggest phenomenon in video game history so why not?

You can listen to this week's episode on iTunes or Google Play, or directly on Simplecast right here. (Direct MP3 download here.)


    The biggest part of FFVII for me was prob timing, the last RPG I played was Phantasy Star on the Master System and there was actual marketing on TV in NZ for the release of VII.
    The whole four disk thing was fascinating and the scale of the story and world blew me away, especially once you left Midgar and the game suddenly ballooned in scale.

    There was no access to the internet back then, we didn't have it and the school computers were rubbish, so there were no walkthroughs or easily accessible communities (We were asl'g on IRC) so the experience was uniquely personal and involved.

    - The story must involve a goal to save the world, however, the details are somewhat ambiguous and become clearer at the end, usually turning into a twist of some sort.
    - In a short span of time (Usually a few months or two years, storywise) the puny main characters can go from, "I can barely fight a jelly monster" to "I can take on god in a fight".
    - Easy puzzles during story progression, and harder puzzles to unlock rare equipment.
    - Music that will be with you long after you've finished the game.

    For me, memorable characters, memorable locations, side events, side quests, interesting character development, a fun battle system, a little strategy in your equipment management and great music and sound design are the key factors in ensuring a JRPG is memorable years after it is released. I am Setsuna is a little disappointing in that like the studio's name it's a JRPG that's been assembled on a factory line from pieces of Square/Squaresoft JRPGs but doesn't bring enough of its own identity to the table.

    There's a great casual JRPG in there but so far (I'm about 9-10 hours in) I haven't really seen anything memorable (aside from Kir) that makes me think people will be talking about it in a year or two the same way they do Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 7 or any other classic JRPG. I'm hopeful that Tokyo RPG Factory's next effort will start to break away from mimicking Squaresoft JRPGs and begin relying on its own strengths though.

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