The Japanese RPG is truly an icon. It is odd that it gets differentiated so greatly from western RPGs because both feature stat crunching, crafting and plucky adventurers striving to save the world. But JRPGs are clearly a particular niche that emphasize mature themes and narrative, as told through coming of age stories. Random encounters, separate battle systems and sweeping cutscenes are all part of the JRPG mystique, and something that I have come to love as a gamer.
The JRPG is clearly more than just Final Fantasy, who itself is a textbook definition of the mechanics that make up a JRPG. While I love the Final Fantasy franchise, Japan has much more to offer for this incredibly varied genre.
To a certain degree, Xenosaga needs to be recognized for its own merits. After all, it succeeded in creating a bonafide icon in KOS-MOS, the calculating female android that is a central figure throughout the entire franchise. While a decade of age has not been terribly kind to the slow battle system of Xenosaga, it will forever be known as the JRPG saga that strove to make cutscenes a theatrical experience (over 8 hours in the first game alone). It was a chore, yes, but the spiritual successor to the revered Xenogears gets the nod for its sweeping nature and never wavering from a ludicrous goal. Continue reading