Editor's Note: I feel your pain, Garret. I love RPGs, and I hate that more haven't found their way to the HD consoles. Garret writes about how he's dying for traditional Japanese RPGs, where's he's found them, and what he sees as the RPG trend of this generation. -Jason
It seems to me that the classic Japanese role-playing game has taken a detour this generation. The rise of casual games on the Wii has nearly extinguished what's a smoldering but dying fire — Fire Emblem and the Tales series still find refuge on Nintendo's age-friendly system, but Nintendo consoles have been pretty quiet when it comes to RPGs since the Super Nintendo. The Xbox 360 and PS3 are often touted as platforms dedicated to the hardcore gamer, but given the content put out for these systems, all that the core gamer is apparently interested in are adventure games, shooters, and sandboxes that involve adventuring and shooting.
Yeah, that's an overstatement, but as a generalization it's true enough. It feels like the 360 and PS3 are trying to compete with a platform that isn't even considered in the race anymore — the PC. Fallout 3 and Mass Effect are both tremendous games (or so I've heard; I've only just begun playing Mass Effect, but I love it so far), but they're both Western RPGs and games that you would find only on the PC not too long ago. I want some good old-fashioned turn-based Japanese RPGs with spiky-hair dudes and characters with big eyes. Where are they?
The answer occurred to me this past Christmas when my girlfriend got me a Nintendo DS. I had never taken a serious look at what the DS library had to offer until I got one, and holy crap, it's got a lot of RPGs. It's an interesting trend — and it seems to indicate that the "true" gamer who enjoys games across all genres isn't going to be content with one system anymore. What's more, they aren't going to be content with just playing games on their HDTVs with surround sound. I've found that having a DS and a 360 makes for a good one-two punch. The 360 is good for shooters and adventure games, and the DS is great for what I initially got into videogames for in the first place: platformers, puzzle games, and yes, RPGs. It wasn't too long ago that the N64 or PSX could keep up with all of these genres pretty well.
It makes perfect sense, really. PS3 and 360 development costs are notoriously expensive, and the DS is a great platform for porting over old RPGs with some updated graphics and features as well as developing some new titles.
However, I'm not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, I love my DS, and I typically don't mind needing to own one to get my RPG fix. On the other hand, it saddens me that more developers are opting out of making great role-playing games for the 360 and PS3, because I still feel a desire for some beautiful-looking RPGs on my HDTV. You'd be amazed at how nice I want my turn-based battles to look.
If this trend in videogames continues, you can expect to see even fewer RPGs for consoles. Even Square Enix President Yoichi Wada admits that it's taking them too long to produce games nowadays to realistically turn a profit. The DS is too tempting an option for a good profit at a much less expensive development cost. For now I'm content, whittling away at the huge pile of games that I have yet to play on my handheld and hoping that in the future, as development costs for the current generation start to become reasonable, the RPG writes its own comeback story.