As I'm still in the limbo between console generations I'm continuing my exploration of retro games by steering away from the PC for now and rediscovering my immense enjoyment of turn-based JRPGs.
It started with me digging out some Final Fantasy games for my recent gaming live-stream, and eventually led to me being fully immersed once again in quite possibly my favorite JRPG of all time, Shadow Hearts. I'm over halfway through the game and loving it, even with the dated jaggy polygons. I also just got my copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne in the mail today, the first PS2 installment of the 3rd biggest RPG franchise in Japan (trailing only behind Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest).
I've never played through a Megami Tensei game before, but gave an hour or so to Nocturne tonight and was very interested. I've heard the game is thick with philosophical/religious exploration, much of which was controversial when it first released. Spiritual themes run strong through Shadow Hearts as well. It's interesting to see how JRPGs treat spiritual/religious themes compared to western developed games like The Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age.
But really what I'm loving most is what defines the genre. The TURNS!!!
Yes, action RPGs like Diablo clones and Elder Scrolls etc. have more constant player choices being made. But I find those types of RPGs to be either about quick thinking/reacting or immersion into the game world. On the other hand, turn-based RPGs involve deep and careful thinking. And JRPGs specifically add a sense of the cinema to combat, beginning in the PS1/PS2 era, as the camera sweeps around the action while heroes and enemies carry out their dramatic attack/spell animations.
True, these animations CAN become boring, but if done well, and if the types of attacks used change frequently enough, they remain interesting and fun to watch, as I am experiencing with Shadow Hearts. Other good JRPGs solve the potential "slowness" of this type of combat by making the animations eye-catching yet brief. (I've found this to be true of Dragon Quest 8 and so far in "Nocturne".)
Any fans of the genre have some favorites? When was the last time you played a JRPG and how did the experience hold up for you?