THE EPIC YARN OF A GOOD J-RPG!

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Final Fantasy Valkyrie Being in my 30s, I imagine that I share a plight that a lot of gamers have: an ever-increasing library of titles and a ever-diminishing time to play them in. Part of this is thanks to the myriad of Steam sales, bundled deals through Bundle Stars and Humble, or just, you know, seeing something that looks way too awesome to pass up, and totally buying it with the intention of playing it on a “rainy day”, only to discover that said rainy day will never arrive. Who knew that as adults we’d actually like those rainy days that kept us indoors as kids?





Anyway, a while back I caught an awesome J-RPG on sale from Nihon-Falcom and XSeed (who put together one of my favorite action-RPG series, Ys). The game, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, is one of these massive Japanese RPG epics that takes 100+ hours to get through. And, if that isn’t enough play time for your money (because, yeah, we all have hundreds of hours to play), there are two more main “chapters” in the saga that each rank in at around that playtime (plus additional stories that are loosely related, too).

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Back in the 1990s, as I was getting a little older and my tastes in RPGs had matured a bit, I used to eat big-time RPGs like this up on the Super Nintendo and the original PlayStation. Honestly, I think the period from around 1987 to 2001 was kind of a golden age for these types of titles. One of the comments on Steam said that this game rivaled the likes of Chrono Trigger, and considering how many hours I sunk into that RPG way back when, that evoked a strong sense of nostalgia to read.

So far I’ve enjoyed the time I put into Trails in the Sky, and it’s led me to think about the massive amount of storytelling that has gone into games of this style over the years. I kind of like to think of RPGs as if they were books, but rather than spanning a few solid evenings of reading, many of these titles take over a hundred hours to get through, so the designers have to create a living-breathing-world that not only draws you in with its detail, but also benefits from strong gameplay. That’s always the kicker -- some games may have a rich story but lackluster play, and others may have great gameplay mechanics but a rather rote and trope-filled story-line.

Final Fantasy IV
Although I played other games when I was smaller, I still think Final Fantasy IV was the first really big RPG I got very deeply into, playing it until the end, and getting sucked in by the flying ships, kings and castles, big boss battles, as well as the army of characters. I was genuinely sad when one of them would get killed off, either in senseless violence or in an act of sacrifice, and when the game finally wrapped up with that huge battle on the moon (yes, the MOON of all places!), I was left sad that it had all finally ended. I remember spending hours grinding out extra levels of experience on the moon, partly because I just didn’t want the journey to end. I also recall that when the save battery on the cartridge died out, I didn't care, I was still willing to play all the way back through the whole game again just to get back to the final boss to see the ending once and for all.

Experiences like that for me are fairly rare. A lot of developers make faster-paced games that are over in just a few hours (if you're lucky, as many are shorter than that!), and this might be the product of a perceived age when people are looking for fast-paced entertainment to keep their attention. Thankfully, there are games like Trails in the Sky that come along and don’t shy away from drawing you into an epic yarn.

Naturally, there are also “Western RPGs” that can do the same thing. I know I’ve already talked a bit about the world of The Witcher series of games, and of course there are others like Assassin’s Creed, The Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, Dark Souls, and more to keep you entertained. Personally, I know these types of games are a major commitment to get into. But for me, if I find the time and get into it, the pay off is more than worthwhile.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
In fact, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen came to the PC via Steam on January the 26th, 2016, and I pretty much picked up a copy upon its release, and am very excited to dig into it.

If only I can find the time! Sigh!

Maybe in an upcoming column I’ll offer some good recommendations on some narrative games with a big, open world, that I think you’ll enjoy. But the next time we meet, I think I’ll talk about some video games that would make for great movies, the ones that were terrible, and movies that have been ported over to the gaming world. Which ones of those were any good?


Anyway, those are my thoughts on the topic. Stay tuned for more crafty content coming your way! This installment of Jessica's Journey was written by Jessica “Allahweh” Brown from GamingGoddess.Net.

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