I still remember the year I wrote off JRPGs completely and the game that caused it. It was 1997 and I was 11 at the time. I had gotten a PlayStation a few months ago for Christmas and at that time I was playing Tomb Raider, Resident Evil and other PlayStation classics. I also remember playing a lot of that demo disk that came with the system.
THE MULTI-DISK DISASTER
Then I heard of a game that was taking the world by storm. I read about it in magazines, heard about it at school, and I decided to rent it. That game was Final Fantasy VII, a game that is considered as one of the greatest of all time. The game that introduced most people to the JRPG genre, many of them becoming fans– I was the complete opposite. It’s not like I played for an hour and stopped, the furthest I went with the game was halfway through disk one.
The two things that turned me off completely were its random battles and its turn based combat. I didn’t like the fact that I had to stand there and get hit. I wasn’t alone in this, my dad didn’t like it either. To add insult to injury, the story didn’t grab me as it did other players. It was then that I thought I would not play another JRPG again.
Whenever I saw a demo of a Final Fantasy game, I would try it out to see if it’s something I could get into. As with Final Fantasy VII I just did not like it. It went back to what made me not like Final Fantasy VII to begin with. Random battles and the turn-based nature of combat.
Despite that, I did play through all of The Lord of The Rings: The Third Age when that came out. Did I like it and did it turn my disdain for JRPGs for something I would like? No, in fact it furthered my dislike of JRPGs. The combat was boring, the story wasn’t good and the final boss was a complete joke. When my elf learned to heal everyone, it was over and the game became too easy.
I WILL BECOME MORE POWERFUL
Therefore, I wrote off the JRPG genre completely and saw the rise of RPG elements of games. The first game I played that had such elements was the first God of War for PlayStation 2. I thought it was interesting that Kratos got more powerful as time went on.
The same character progression happened with Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 4. When I first played Resident Evil 4 for the GameCube, I thought it was only the weapons that could be upgraded and not Leon. Once I was near the final boss was when I realized that Leon’s health can be upgraded. I spent 98% of Resident Evil 4 on Leon’s starting health. If you want a challenge, play it like that.
Then I started playing actual RPGs like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Mass Effect, and Fallout 3. Western RPGs became a genre I liked with its game mechanics and stories. While games like Mass Effect are more action based, some still call it an RPG. Then, a few years ago, I played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I’ve always tried to play this game on the Xbox 360 (this was because the Xbox 360 I had was backward compatible with a few games and KOTOR was one of them). I found myself owning a PC version of the game and I came to realize that I was playing it on the wrong system. Knights of the Old Republic was a much better game on the PC than on console.
One of the games I wanted to play on PC, but couldn’t because of a weak computer was Dragon Age: Origins. Dragon Age: Origins took what was best about Knights of the Old Republic and set it in a dark high fantasy world. There was even some aspects in Dragon Age: Origins that was better than the Mass Effect series like dialog and story choices. The decisions I made with both Dragon Age: Origins and Knights of the Old Republic felt more dynamic.
THE PATH OF THE UNKNOWN
Then, two years ago, something changed. I have a friend who is a fan of the Persona series and I read what she liked about it. I didn’t give it much thought because I knew the Persona series was a JRPG. Because I trusted her, I decided to see if Persona 3 FES was in the PlayStation Store. (At this point, after two failing Xbox 360s, I decided to get a PlayStation 3 instead). When I saw that it was ten bucks, and I decided to get it. This was when my notion of JRPGs changed and the way the game played grabbed me instantly. It took what I didn’t like about Final Fantasy and flipped it on its head. No random battles and while the turn-based was still there, strategy and exploiting the enemies weakness kept the battles fresh and exciting. The way you summon your personas, demons that fights for you, was intriguing as well. It was a game that I was hoping it wasn’t a fluke on liking Persona 3 FES. The bad thing about it was that I got the chance to play Borderlands 2 and it would have been two years before I finished Persona 3 FES. Another reason was because of a mid-game mini-boss, I gave up on it for a while.
After beating Dark Souls this year, I wanted to play another game. I thought about on what to play and I decided to finish Persona 3. I did manage to beat that Table mini-boss finally and this rejuvenated my desire to play more of it. After a couple of weeks, I finally did and I loved it. It was the first JRPG that I can say that I actually enjoyed. The story, the characters, the settings, everything about Persona 3 I love every second of it.
I wanted more of Persona. As luck would have it, during this time Persona 4 had just released on the PlayStation Store. I was going to PAX East this year, but due to events I couldn’t control I saved up on getting a PlayStation 4. While saving up for PlayStation 4, I decided to watch Persona 4: Animation. I figured that I wouldn’t get the game now as I was saving it. Much like Persona 3 FES before it, I loved Persona 4: Animation. So much so, I bought Persona 4 from the PSN store. Unlike Persona 3 FES, it didn’t take me 2 years to complete it. It took me 2 weeks of non-stop playing. Then when I found out that the core series, Persona was a spin-off, Shin Megami Tensei had the same press turn system, I got a little crazy. I ended up getting Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1, and then, while it was on sale, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. I have yet to complete these games, but I have every intention to.
YOU REALLY DON’T KNOW WHY
My Persona obsession didn’t stop there. I was listening to the Persona 3 and Persona 4 soundtrack a lot and I couldn’t stop praising it. When I first got here, some of my early news story was about Persona. Then I found out about Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. I was already thinking about getting the Wild Card Edition to save for collective reasons. I decided that I wanted a Nintendo 3DS, so I ended up selling a few things. I didn’t sell both the PlayStation 3 or the PlayStation 4. I got the PlayStation 4 a few weeks after I beaten Persona 4. I even got lucky and got a 3DS on a sale. I got a 3DS now and the game I’m playing on it now is Shin Megami Tensei IV. Yep, one of the first games I bought was a Shin Megami Tensei game. I even got the Persona Q Wild Card Edition all paid up and ready to be picked up when it’s released in a couple of weeks. I didn’t even buy a 3DS case because I knew the Wild Card Edition will have one.
With all my time with Persona, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Final Fantasy games isn’t for me. Since getting my 3DS, I’ve downloaded demos to Bravely Default and Fire Emblem: Awakening. I’ve only played the demos once and need to go back to them to see if it’s something I would want to buy. With Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem coming (don’t know when that will be) for the Wii U, I need to familiarize myself with the Fire Emblem games. If I find myself with a Wii U, I would be able to buy the game in confidence instead of getting it because of the Shin Megami Tensei name.
2014 is the year of the JRPGs for me. Despite playing the PlayStation 4 games, the one game that came out this year that is still my game of the year is South Park: The Stick of Truth. A western game with JRPG elements that is funny as well. While I may never play a Final Fantasy game again, I like the fact that the Personaserieshasbroaden my horizons into other games I would simply ignore because of its gameplay elements. Instead, I would see what it’s like and hope there is a demo for it. I don’t mind JRPGs as much as I used to.
Jesse Webster is a Senior Writer at MONG and I didn’t even mention Persona 5. You can find him on Twitter.