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Dearest Japanese role-playing game,
I have met someone whom I think the world of. I think the only way out is for us to get a divorce.
Breakups are never easy. My recent fling with Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together rekindled my passion for you. But it also reminded me why I dumped you in the first place.
Do you remember the times we shared? It was the summer of ’69…actually, scratch that. It was 1995, and I was in love. The temptress? A seductive young lass by the name of Chrono Trigger. The Hironobu Sakaguchi JRPG was my first foray into the world of spiky-haired amnesiac orphans, random battles, and grinding (in order to level-up, you perv).
Chrono Trigger taught me many lessons, and chief among them was that monsters will stand still while you hack them to death (provided your Active Time Battle gauge was full). When I got older, these early lessons proved false; why did those feisty Reapers from the Mass Effect series hop around? And what’s up with those Redeads from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time trying to hump me? They’re supposed to mind the ATB rules!
Eventually, I moved on…that is, after seeing all 12 endings and getting all the “experience” that I could. My love for you knew no bounds: Secret of Evermore, Final Fantasy 7, Xenogears, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and even Pokemon competed for my attention.
I experienced turn-based, ATB, hybrids of the two, and real-time battle systems. Each taught me something different about the genre and about myself. Along the way, I even went through an experimental phase: the tactical RPG.
Final Fantasy Tactics was like the fairy-tale lover: gallant, dashing, and a hell of a challenge. I fell in love immediately. I had over a dozen flings with this queen of all tactical RPGs. When she got some plastic surgery for the PSP, I paid her a visit again (and five more times). I even looked her up for her iOS release this year (even though her peculiar interaction with iOS 5 caused constant crashing). It doesn't matter…the old girl's got some miles left. At any age, she’s a hottie.
This year, I had a fling with Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together that reminded me of old romances and past loves. For 50+ hours, the game transported me back to my childhood, and the sleepless nights, endless grinding, and androgynous heroes endemic to that period of my life.
But my passion for you has waned. You knew about this, JRPG, and you clung to your old ways. Sure, you made cosmetic changes to your battle systems. Sure, your plots got more intricate (read: indecipherable). But you never grew up. In the end, you’re the same genre you always were.
I can no longer relate to angsty teen heroes and whimsical plots about doe-eyed anime chicks and kooky old men. I’m a different person, but you haven’t changed. You can’t tell personal stories; you prefer cliched epics pitting bands of adventurers against evil empires bent on world domination. Yawn. How can I empathize with that? Where’s the originality?
You know me. I’m a writer, and I can appreciate good writing. Did you ever pass the sixth grade, JRPG? Your narratives and dialogue are the stuff of prepubescent fantasy — hardly fodder for adults. Why can’t you be more like Portal, Heavy Rain, and Uncharted?
I know what you’re thinking: The Japanese still love you. And isn’t your shitty dialogue just a by-product of lousy translations? These are poor excuses, JRPG. Video games are a multibillion-dollar business. You’ve had plenty of time to become bilingual, or at least to hire a competent translator.
You’re incapable of changing, and I got tired of waiting. My new flame eschews random battles and grinding in favor of mature storytelling and older protagonists. She knows the difference between good dialogue and a Jill Sandwich. Sorry JRPG. It was fun while it lasted.