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长文:从量化分析的角度观察第五代JRPG玩法要素

发布时间:2019-11-18 09:07:15 Tags:,

长文:从量化分析的角度观察第五代JRPG玩法要素

原作者:Radek Koncewicz 译者:Vivian Xue

导言

在上一篇文章中,我分析了十款著名的16位回合制JRPG。我计算了在每款游戏中,玩家接触到12个常见玩法要素所花的时间。我的目标是量化玩家真正“进入”这些游戏并从某种程度上适应游戏机制所需的时间。

另一个目标是看看这些指标如何随时间变化,下面我们将通过与第五世代主机游戏进行对比来观察这些变化。

虽然CD-ROM在上一代就已经存在,但在第五世代中它成为了普遍的游戏存储方式。它所带来的更大存储空间不仅使游戏基本内容得以扩大,还能附带动画和配音等新元素。这些额外元素导致战斗加载时间过长,但大多数游戏还是采用了这种形式,特别是重视剧情的游戏。

第五世代出现的记忆卡是另一个模糊游戏类型界限的因素。永久升级和保存进度不再是JRPG的特色。这使《合金装备》和《生化危机》这类游戏能更好地安排节奏,给玩家喘息的空间,不再需要依靠密码系统或内置电池备份进度(早期游戏卡带分为带电池和不带电池两种,电池用于给存档提供能源,电池卡带多为RPG。出于成本考虑,一般像格斗、动作、益智类游戏不设存档或使用密码记录, 游戏邦注)。

JRPG也开始变得更具即时性(相对于回合制),不仅体现在迷你游戏中。一些JRPG,如《深渊传说》和《星之海洋》更加注重战斗过程的动作自由度,并最终打入了欧美市场。事实上,几乎所有JRPG在欧美市场的发展都颇为艰难,包括一些更标新立异的作品,如《修道院之谜》、《浪漫沙加》、《女神异闻录》。

第五世代期间我迷上了经典的CRPG,如《创世纪7》和《克朗多叛变》,还有一些更“现代”的游戏,如《辐射》和《异域镇魂曲》。不过,我仍然是JRPG死忠粉,下面这些游戏基本上刚发行我就玩了。

1. 《最终幻想7》——1997年1月31日

第一部是大名鼎鼎的《最终幻想7》。许多人认为《最终幻想7》奠定了JRPG在西方市场的主流地位。

与任天堂戏剧“分手”后,SquareSoft (目前与Enix合并为SquareEnix)采用CD-ROM存储形式,创作出了该系列最畅销、并且可以说是最受欢迎的作品。这是一部大制作——也是我记忆中第一款在电视黄金时段打广告的游戏。它衍生出了很多游戏,还有一部构思拙劣的CG电影(指《最终幻想:灵魂深处》)。

细看制作,《最终幻想7》其实不够精致。人物缺乏纹理,CG动画不够连贯,游戏各个部分运行帧率不同,所有程序块为独立编码,通过主引擎分别执行(我曾与一名参与游戏PC版移植的朋友工作,他哀叹到自己试图从被命名为“a”、“aa”、“aaa”……的迷你游戏中回溯程序集变量。)

尽管存在这些技术缺陷,粉丝社区仍在通过MOD不断改进游戏,SquareEnix最近也宣布要做一个重制版。

《最终幻想7》的开场是一段非常祥和的46秒星夜动画,之后节奏全面加速。游戏通过推远镜头呈现米德加城全貌,接着玩家很快获得自由控制权,主角克劳德和其它雪崩组织成员打入魔晄炉。

第一批敌人在过场动画中被打倒,掉落了一件物品,紧接着是遭遇战。打败对手后,克劳德获得升级,与同伴一起进入地牢内部。第一个存档点大约在流程的2/3处,在15分钟内,第一场Boss战就开始了。

开头节奏如闪电一般,当游戏终于放缓让玩家进行角色升级时,它提供了一个休息点(恢复血量)和武器店。增强属性能力的魔石也被解锁,但游戏节奏和规模在降低,玩家被迫参与一个拳击小游戏获得金色假发——和众多普通的道具——这样克劳德就能假扮成三陪接近当地犯罪头目。

然而游戏随后再次加速,玩家要摧毁另一个魔晄炉,闯入神罗大厦解救同伴,但进入主世界地图花了相当长时间。

FTC:无法计算

final-fantasy-7(from tinktink.org)

final-fantasy-7(from tinktink.org)

2。 《龙战士3》——1997年9月11日

我跳过了该系列的前两部,因为第三部的总体评分最高。

《龙战士3》采取与《最终幻想7》相反的做法,使用完全3D化的场景,主角和敌人是2D精灵图。与第四代主机游戏相比这是一个很大的进步,角色更大,细节更多,也更生动,并且与鲜艳的环境纹理搭配效果非常棒——特别是鉴于当时许多PSX游戏像素低、人物建模也很无趣。

《龙战士3》从未获得过任何重大奖项,但它巩固了该系列在Capcom旗舰JRPG中的地位。

《龙战士3》是第一款以战斗作为开端的游戏,但战斗难度不大。玩家控制一条刚从巨型水晶中诞生的幼龙,喷火来消灭沿路遇到的矿工,但最终被击昏抓获。

幼龙被关进铁笼,装上囚车从矿洞里运了出来,但他在笼子里挣扎,最后摔下了悬崖,醒来时变成了一个赤身裸体的小男孩!这是一个伟大的背景介绍,埋下了一个有趣的谜题,但故事到这里就断了,转向了日常片段。

主角被两名流浪汉收留,他们试图偷一些食物,但失败了,再次尝试,再次失败,然后受到了惩罚,三人戏剧性地分开前往边缘地区执行迷你任务。

对话文本的显示方式拖长了游戏时间。

即便以最快速度播放,文本的出现速度仍然很慢,并且不能加速或跳过。此外对话框还有一个退出动画,各个角色说话时,对话框不停地弹出消失。不仅速度慢的头疼,对话内容也很平常,至少在游戏早期。

从游戏机制的角度来看,《龙战士3》的水平在大多数第五代游戏里排中等偏下,并且有些机制被不必要地延长了。玩家从床上醒来后不能立刻再次休息,除非达到一个剧情点。Boss战很早就开始了,但战斗结算非常程式化,像花里胡哨的过场动画。玩家在序章部分就获得了第一件装备,但不能穿戴它,因为直到游戏开始20分钟后才能访问菜单!

令人遗憾的是,以新一代JRPG为定位的《龙战士3》引入了各种游戏元素,但给人感觉重复性很高。

FTC: 1小时42分14秒

3。 《异度装甲》——1998年2月11日

《异度装甲》似乎是SquareSoft为了对冲赌注而制作的游戏。它的开发方式与同样是该公司出品的《最终幻想7》完全不同。《最终幻想7》的背景是预渲染的,《异度装甲》用的是3D多边形;《最终幻想7》的所有角色使用3D模型,《异度装甲》使用2D精灵图。《最终幻想7》充满了CG动画场景,《异度装甲》使用2D剪辑动画。

最终,两款游戏都经历了一个坎坷的开发过程。《异度装甲》的后半部分大幅缩水,单纯叙述玩家本应该经历的事情。

然而,游戏与广受欢迎的动画《新世纪福音战士》的相似之处(游戏邦注重甲兵、充斥宗教、哲学意象)引发了粉丝的共鸣。《异度装甲》大获成功,还衍生了一部精神续作《异度传说》。

《异度装甲》有着极长的序章,但还是在10分钟内开放了控制权。紧接着玩家很快能休息恢复和获取物品,但探索城镇的过程很漫长。

与《龙战士3》很像,游戏的文本对话显示速度极慢且无法加速,这一点遭到许多人的抱怨,一些玩家试图通过修改代码解决了这个问题。

文本框通常有4行高,在允许的情况下包含说话角色的肖像,和《时空之轮》一样,玩家可通过远离角色来结束对话。然而,抱着100%完成游戏的目标,我没有跳过任何对话,NPC的讲话内容很长。与上一代相比,第五代JRPG的对话更长、更有关联性,并且NPC讲完话后通常会有第二段对话。

最唠叨的是卢卡·卡米奥(Lucca Cameo),她用了23个大文本框(每个超过4行)解释如何保存游戏,这些内容可概括成一句话“你可以在世界地图或特殊标记点处保存游戏。”

完整地探索城镇花了大概35分钟,推迟了许多其它玩法要素的出现。进入第一个地牢后,随机战斗的频率非常高,玩家很快就进行了第一次升级。经过一些过场动画后,第一场程式化的重甲兵战斗开始。战斗结算后玩家获得了第一个特殊能力,接着被踢出地牢,进入了世界地图。

第二个地牢随后不久出现,玩家遇到了第一位同伴,发现第一件装备,两个小时内第一场真正意义上的boss战开始。

FTC: 1小时42分16秒

4。 《雷盖亚传说》——1998年10月29日

在第五代游戏中,《雷盖亚传说》可以说是最受崇拜的经典之作。它也是与第四代游戏最类似的作品,尽管游戏角色和环境完全3D化。

人们经常称它为“被低估 PSX宝藏游戏”,虽然它在PS2上发行了一部续作,索尼后来还是放弃了该系列。

游戏的背景设定使人联想到《迷雾之子》,主角从一个迷雾环绕,怪兽四伏的镇子出发。序章结束后,玩家可以保存游戏,获得一件物品,进入战斗教程并获得一个新能力,这一切只花了不到10分钟。

接下来是一系列的剧情动画,但都相当短,并且动画间隔中玩家能够充分自由地探索。动画清楚介绍了游戏世界和人物,只要按下按钮就可以立即跳过文字。NPC对话只有一两行,再次遇到时也只是重复对话。

最终,玩家遇到了第一个对手,主角获得升级和新装备,世界地图开启。接着再花15分钟玩家可以到达第一个休息点和地牢。

战斗频率相当高,需要一点加载时间,战斗过程相当长。尽管队列里只有2-3人,玩家耗费了很多时间查找组合技,选择攻击方式,观看角色和敌人上前互相攻击对方。

玩家通过第一个地牢后,遇到了一个新的PoV角色(Point-of-view character,拥有一条独立故事线的角色,游戏邦注)。由于这些角色最终会加入队伍,我记录了他们加入队伍的时间。接下来是更多的剧情动画和地牢探索,以两场boss战结束。

FTC: 1小时46分56秒

5. 《幻想水浒传2》——1998年12月17日

比起其他9款游戏,《幻想水浒传2》是最能激发我对JRPG怀念之情的游戏。我在第六代时才第一次接触它,但很快就上头了。

从某种程度上看,《幻想水浒传2》可以说是从16位JRPG直接发展而来的。精灵图更大,有更多定制动画,人物和物体的影子效果为石板地图增添了额外的感觉,剧情围绕一个政治阴谋而不是古老的邪恶传说,大量SRPG战斗充分展现了史诗般的矛盾纷争。

《幻想水浒传2》被广泛认为是该系列的巅峰之作,为后来的几部带来了很大启发。我对这款游戏有滤镜,因此我很想看看它的节奏把控与同时代的游戏相比如何。

《幻想水浒传2》的开头很快,一群年轻士兵遭到了突袭,而该突袭却是由他们的长官暗地策划的,目的是挑起与邻国的战争。

前10分钟介绍了动机、道具、战斗和升级。对话显示速度很快,NPC话也不多,尽管他们的对话经常改变剧情走向。战斗过程也很迅速,因为全体队员以交错、半同步的方式进行攻击。

玩家选择完指令后,游戏开始播放攻击动画并计算攻击顺序、命中率和伤害点数。这里存在一些延迟,为了展示敌人攻击和大规模伤害法术,但战斗的节奏非常快,最多允许12名队员参加战斗——与这一代游戏6-7人的设定相比是一个大幅提升。

序章结束后,主角被敌国成员抓获并囚禁。这部分比我记忆中要长得多,持续了大约30分钟,因为主角被迫做各种琐事。然而,与《龙战士3》序章结束后相比,这些任务并不是漫无目的的,它们与序章中介绍的政治冲突直接联系在一起,构建起游戏的世界观。

主角被俘期间,游戏介绍了许多新玩法要素,第一批同伴加入队伍,开放装备升级、世界地图,以及休息保存的地点。

最后这位英雄逃了出来,一路穿越地牢,与Boss搏斗,回到家乡。在这个过程中唯一缺失的玩法要素是新技能,它在约1个小时后才在纹章商店开放。但真正的体验感不是这样,因为玩家一路遇到的新同伴有各自的技能,随着队友加入,新的组合攻击方式会自动解锁。

FTC:1小时45分钟7秒

6. 《最终幻想8》——1999年2月11日

《最终幻想8》的特色是人物造型升级,以及贯穿整个游戏的“融合系统”(junction system,通过抽取魔法,配合“守护之力”提升能力,游戏邦注)。类似《最终幻想2》,游戏采用让玩家“边玩边学”的方式,融合系统使该游戏的玩法显著区别于前作,然而该系统在自身重量下有点失衡。

游戏本身似乎继承了SquareSoft以往作品的特点,注重动画和流行文化趋势,给科幻世界抹上了一层中世纪色彩,体现在专为青少年设立的军事学校,海滩场景,以及偶像文化的暗示。

多年来,《最终幻想8》以其独特的玩法受到人们的喜爱。但SquareEnix似乎不太重视它,甚至忘了发文庆祝它的纪念日。(尽管等来了复刻版,但和《最终幻想7》重制版比起来差远了。)

《最终幻想8》序章为5分钟,接下来的内容对于完成主义者来说更加漫长重复。除了各种过场动画外,开放地图相当大,需要玩家多次返回。如果玩家在获得操控权后想要仔细阅读文字说明,他们的探索过程将被极大延长。

游戏提供的百科全书不仅包含了大量教程,包括整个规则说明和卡牌的变体(游戏中有个卡牌迷你游戏),还包含大量特色文本,如学校历史、学生行为守则和留言板(上面有个同伴对缺乏热狗感到绝望)等等。

尽管《最终幻想8》是十款游戏中系统最繁多的,这些文本却没有逐步解锁过程,对玩家完全开放。更糟糕的是,这些教程没有任何标记已读的机制——即便我已经读过甚至完成了它们——即便我已经触发了融合系统,我还是得耐着性子看完教程。

玩家到达巴蓝姆学园后,可以保存和休息,接着是一些可选择的战斗。这里的设计有个奇怪的地方,玩家可能会遇到秒杀主角的敌人,或是一群可以反复让主角入睡的敌人。由于我没有任何可治疗状态的同伴,敌人的血量又很高,这导致第一场战斗持续了大约5分钟。

战斗区域可以获得一些物品和咒语,因此探索它们是值得的。

当玩家继续前进时,一个同伴加入了队伍,世界地图开启,玩家进行第一次升级,到达第一个地牢,并在大约15分钟内迎战第一个Boss。

唯一没在前两个小时内开放的玩法要素是装备升级。《最终幻想8》中没有防具——防御属性增益都通过融合系统实现。并且玩家也无法直接获得新武器,要在原有武器的基础上,通过杀敌获得部件来“精炼”新武器,而解锁“精炼”功能需要一些时间。

FTC:无法计算

7. 《超时空之轮2》(Chrono Cross)——1999年11月18日

《超时空之轮2》并不是《盗不走的宝石》(Radical Dreamers)这种离经叛道的作品,但也不是一部正统续作。《异度装甲》本应紧接着《超时空之轮1》(Chrono Trigger)发行,但是这个新项目后来朝着自己的方向发展,原计划就取消了。

《超时空之轮2》也想这么做。

它的角色数量规模几乎达到了《幻想水浒传》的水平(前作只有一小群时空冒险者),角色分布在两个空间维度。剧情和玩法有点《超时空之轮1》的影子,但感觉更像拼接上去的,没能融为游戏体验的核心。最终产品总体获得了好评,但也因与前作存在差距受到严厉批评。

一分多钟的序章动画后出现了游戏标题界面。队伍从地牢出发,敌人是可见的,但避开它们并不容易,至少得触发一场战斗。与《最终幻想》系列很相似,战斗加载界面使用一个扫视镜头模糊界面,接着展示敌方和队伍的阵容。

游戏8分钟后,主角从序章的梦中醒来,打开房间的百叶窗,这是一个对前作的致敬。附近有一个隐藏的物品,床提供了免费的休息点。探索村庄大约需要20分钟,可以做的事相当多。

除战斗教程外,玩家还可以解锁新装备、新技能,招募一个秘密的同伴,完成一个支线任务。文本显示速度很快,村民们的话通常很简短,不过有几个NPC不停地唠叨他们的生活——这是第五代游戏出现的新对话主题。

在不到半小时内,游戏开放了世界地图和保存功能,玩家进入了第一个地牢。再花15分钟左右完成它,遇到第一个Boss,进行第一次升级。

FTC:44分钟51秒

8。 《龙骑士传说》——1999年12月2日

《最终幻想7》在PS平台大获成功后,索尼希望通过“克隆”打造自己的RPG。

《龙骑士传说》就是这样诞生的,它由索尼内部的一个大型工作室开发,其制作预算和规模能够与任何《最终幻想》游戏匹敌。游戏发行时的销售表现十分强劲,特别是在北美市场,但很快销声匿迹,也没有续作。

和《雷盖亚传奇》一样,《龙骑士传说》也有一群狂热的追随者,但这款游戏从来没有达到过《最终幻想7》的高度。

《龙骑士传说》的序章介绍长达7分钟。然而,玩家获得控制权后,游戏节奏变得相当快速。

玩家很快就找到了包含物品的宝箱和第一个保存点,经过一系列随机战斗后,获得了第一次升级和第一个技能——5分钟内开放了5个玩法要素。

和《最终幻想》一样,战斗加载界面进行了模糊处理,文字出现速度非常慢,但是起始地城镇规模不是很大。城镇布有一些隐藏物品,但大部分时间都花在观看可选择的战斗教程上。完成教程后,世界地图开启,并立刻把玩家引导至第一个地牢,这一切只花了20多分钟。

主角的下一个目的地,黑尔莱纳监狱,它与玩家沿途经过的森林小径很不一样。这是一座巨大的地牢,包含许多互相交错的地图和台阶,无数巡逻兵,电梯和缆车,还有许多可供玩家发现的宝藏。

探索地牢的过程中,播放了几个剧情动画。主角最终遇到了两名同伴,其中一名同伴可以装备先前获得的高级武器。Boss试图阻挠,玩家击败Boss后,世界地图开放了一个新地点,里面有一个休息的地方。

FTC: 1小时12分40秒

9. 《最终幻想9》——2000年7月7日

作为PSX平台上的最后一部系列作品,《最终幻想9》在主题和美学设计上回归了第四代游戏。它保留了《最终幻想7》和《最终幻想8》的引擎,但采用了欧洲中世纪风格设计,大头卡通形象,围绕着一个更接地气的故事。

该游戏获得了众多奖项,也是坂口久信信最爱的一部,但它的销量不如前两作。

《最终幻想9》的序章动画被分割成好几个:一个在标题界面出现前,一个在游戏开始前,一个在战斗教程后。游戏过程中穿插了许多这样的简短动画,从来不会剥夺玩家的操控权过长时间。

第一场战斗结束后,一件物品被偷了,游戏很快切换到另一个新同伴的视角。然而,游戏在接下来的一个小时内只开放了保存功能。

尽管如此,《最终幻想9》的节奏感觉并不慢。

游戏开头通过不同角色的视角呈现,每位角色拥有各自的目标,伴随着一些迷你游戏和其他挑战,但没有开放其它玩法要素。成员聚集后,队伍进行了第一次升级,然后发生第一场真正的boss战。

最终这群人试图乘坐飞艇逃跑,但飞艇遭袭击坠毁在森林里。这是玩家首次装备武器、休息和探索地牢的机会。玩家在探索丛林后获得了第一个永久能力,接着世界地图开启。

FTC: 1小时44分51秒

10. 《女神侧身像》——2000年8月29日

《女神侧身像》是JRPG中的异类,避开了典型的第三人称镜头,采用横向卷轴的移动方式,游戏场景非常写实,2D角色动态丰富。

这种舞台式的呈现有效地刻画了剧情,在一个小范围、单一的空间内呈现人物的性格发展。剧情本身也很另类,关于收集并护送最强战士的灵魂到神界进行末日之战。

《女神侧身像》后来经历了重制、移植还启发了许多衍生游戏,经常排在第五代JRPG前列。

游戏标题界面的菜单中有一个开场动画/序章选项,玩家可自由选择是否观看这个模糊的背景介绍。

进入游戏后,玩家立刻能感受到配音的卓越。所有重大事件都由人工配音,配合缓慢打出的字幕气泡。二者同步得非常好,但每节文字出现后会停顿一会儿,似乎为了给玩家充足的时间阅读所有文字。

这带来的问题是,玩家阅读文字的速度比音频播放速度快得多,但由于该游戏音频和文字同步,并且配音结束前没有任何跳过按钮,反而使人感觉到不必要的停顿。

早在开场动画阶段,玩家就获得了移动权,但是马上又进入了程式化的场景,第一场战斗也在这个期间发生。直到游戏开始40分钟后,玩家才能真正自由地控制角色。

世界地图开启后,玩家可随时保存和进入教程地牢。到达地牢后,序章动画中出现的所有主要角色加入了队伍,玩家能够开启游戏菜单。该菜单还有一个购买道具装备的商店功能,并且能够升级角色。游戏在一分钟内就开启了这7个玩法要素。

约20分钟的地牢探索后,玩家第一次升级,再过20分钟,遇到第一个boss。又10分钟后退出地牢,解锁休息功能。

FTC:1小时28分36秒

结语:

毫不意外的是,从第四代到第五代,中位数在逐步增长。然而,我没想到所有玩法要素的开放时间都增长了,并且增长了这么多:大多数玩法要素的开放时间是四代的2-5倍。这不怪开场动画,也不怪TTF(通常由“移动”要素决定),它只有2分多钟。

开启时间增长最多的要素是“休息”和“保存”,我本预计它们会很早出现。随着记忆卡的流行和用户友好趋势,我认为大多数游戏会因此为玩家提供一个安全区域,进行必要的试验和保存。但它们的实现方式是安排不堪一击的敌人,并把休息恢复的责任转移给道具、技能和转场动画。由于开场过程较长,保存功能被推迟了。

世界地图和地牢的开启时间也大幅增加,分别是四代的4倍和3倍。主要原因似乎是希望让玩家以更线性的方式移动,从而更好地介绍剧情和新的玩法要素。

战斗是第五代游戏唯一更快开放的玩法要素。然而,Boss战的开放时间比四代晚了足足45分钟——单一玩法要素中增长最多的。可能是由于战斗机制提升了广度和深度,这也影响了升级和获得新技能的时间,因为增加经验不再是升级角色的唯一途径。

总体来看,移动、道具、升级和Boss要素开放顺序与四代一致,而战斗、同伴、技能和装备要素被移前,而保存、休息、世界地图和地牢要素被进一步推后。

玩法要素的分布间隔也在缩小,最短间隔时间进一步缩短,这是由于开头部分越来越精细,从而挤压时间造成的。技能和同伴要素开启时间缩短,而世界地图和升级要素的开启时间上升,这表明了一种趋势,即第五代JRPG先介绍游戏机制(队伍作战,独特能力),同时更加注重叙事元素,接着才把玩家放到一个更开放、不那么线性的世界。

令人有些惊讶的是,一些最具开创性的作品出现在第五代早期:拥有史诗般CG动画和愤世嫉俗语言的《最终幻想7》,2D精灵图和丰富的3D环境结为一体的《龙战士3》,采用电影式镜头并受动画启发的《异度装甲》。后来的游戏——包括不在本文名单上的游戏——基本上都在试图达到这些成功作品设下的标准。

游戏美学设计的发展也不是一帆风顺的。内存管理不当和战斗加载过程导致原本就高频率的随机战斗进一步延迟,加重了玩家的负担。配音放在剧情动画中很好,但当它成为角色每次战斗前的口号时,却是令人讨厌的重复。

文本数量似乎没有急剧增长,至少没达到视觉小说的水平,但却呈现出倒退趋势。大多数对话不可跳过,并且令人费解的是,许多开发者为了防止玩家跳过对话坚持减慢文本的显示速度。

在游戏玩法方面,战斗机制的变化是最大的。游戏不再谨遵《勇者斗恶龙》或《最终幻想》的公式。本文提到的一半游戏都在一轮中多次基本攻击命中,有点像格斗游戏的“连击”。此外,每款游戏都推出了自己的独特机制:《异度装甲》的燃料管理,《雷盖亚传奇》中攻击不同的身体部位伤害不同,《超时空之轮2》的元素系统,《女神侧身像》中的“guard breaking”(一种机制,敌人对普通攻击免疫,玩家需使用特定攻击才能对其造成伤害,游戏邦注)。

战斗的考虑因素也不再仅限于血量/魔法值/状态。例如,《幻想水浒传2》严格限制纹章组合和数量,《最终幻想8》基于其复杂的融合系统,《超时空之轮2》允许玩家任意组合元素,并且在战斗结束后提升元素等级和补充所有法术。

这些系统大大提高了灵活性,使玩家能够进行更有意义的试验。然而,增加复杂性的代价是游戏门槛的升高。尽管我对这些游戏都比较熟悉,我必须努力回忆并仔细阅读游戏教程才能很好地掌握游戏机制。玩JRPG的过程不再是简单地进入游戏,然后寻找哪种法术在什么情况下最有效。

另一个不幸的趋势是JRPG为了促进攻略本的销售而故意模糊游戏元素。无论是《龙战士3》的主升策略(min-maxing,一种角色培养策略,把对角色有利的技能升级到最强,同时会导致角色其它能力很弱,游戏邦注),还是《女神侧身像》中如何最大程度地升级队伍从而得到主神的欣赏,都不是玩家能通过游戏自己摸清的。

最后值得注意的是,除了我谈到的12个玩法要素外,JRPG开始引入其它的玩法要素,它们分散在游戏体验中。《幻想水浒传2》就是一个很好的例子,1v1战斗、大规模SRPG战役、据点维护、赌场迷你游戏、理查德的调查情报等都分布在游戏的不同阶段,游戏开始2个小时后。

我希望在下一代游戏中看到更多这样的节奏控制,少一些老式JRPG的影子(如战斗场景加载、世界地图、回合制战斗等)。我大致明白哪些作品仍符合我最初的标准,不过请大家随意评论和留言,告诉我你想看到我分析哪些游戏!

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Introduction

In the previous entry, I analyzed ten notable turn-based JRPGs from the 16-bit era. Each title was measured on how long it took to reach 12 different milestones common to the genre. My goal was to help quantify the amount of time required to “get into” these games by obtaining a certain level of comfort with their mechanics.

An additional goal was to measure how these metrics changed over time, which we can now observe with the 5th generation of consoles.

CD-ROM extensions existed in the previous generation, but this was the first time the medium became the prevalent storage format。 This resulted in much more space for base assets as well as new elements such as prerecorded movies and voice overs。 The extra production values sometimes came at the cost of loading times, but most games embraced the approach, especially for narrative purposes。

Another aspect of the 5th console generation that helped blur genre-lines was the memory card. Obtaining permanent upgrades and saving one’s progress was no longer the sole domain of JRPGs. This provided titles such as Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil room to breathe and pace out their experiences without relying on password systems or built-in battery backups.

JRPGs also started to include more real-time elements, and not just in their minigames. Series such as the Tales and Star Ocean showcased a more action oriented approach to combat and finally got Western releases. In fact, pretty much everything made it out to the West, including more offbeat JRPGs such as Koudelka, the SaGa games, and the Persona series.

During the 5th console generation I was catching up on classic CRPGs like Ultima VII and Betrayal at Krondor, and enjoying more contemporary PC releases like Fallout and Planescape: Torment. However, I was still firmly entrenched in the JRPG genre and checked out most of these titles upon release.

1. Final Fantasy VII – January 31, 1997

Starting off with a bang, Final Fantasy VII is largely credited with making JRPGs a mainstream genre in the west.

Following a dramatic split with Nintendo, SquareSoft embraced the CD-ROM and created the best selling and arguably the most beloved entry in the series. It was a huge production — and the first JRPG I recall seeing ads for on prime time TV — that ended up spawning a slew of side-games and leading to an ill-conceived CG movie.

Behind the scenes, FF VII was a bit of a rickety mess. Characters lacked texturing, FMVs were inconsistent, various parts of the game ran at a different FPS rate, and entire chunks were coded in isolation becoming separate executables launched by the main engine (I once worked with someone involved in the PC port, and he lamented trying to backtrace assembly variables from the minigames named “a”, “aa”, “aaa”, and so on).

Despite these technical issues, the fan community is still modding the game, and SqaureEnix itself has recently announced a full blown remake.

FF VII starts off with a vary patient 46-second view of a starry night before the FMV kicks into full swing. The famous sweep over Midgard city quickly transitions to full player control as Cloud and the rest of Avalanche make their way to a Mako reactor.

The first enemies are felled in a cutscene and yield an item, and a scripted combat encounter follows right after。 When the opponents are dispatched, Cloud levels-up and joins his companions as the party enters the dungeon-proper。 The first save spot is encountered about 2/3 of the way through, and in just over 15 minutes the first boss battle takes place。

It’s a blistering pace, and when it finally slows down for some character development, it does so while providing a rest spot and an equipment store。 The first ability-granting materia is eventually “unlocked” as well, but the quick pace and grandiose scale sputter as the player is forced to do a squats minigame to obtain a blonde wig — among various banal objectives — so that Cloud can crossdress as an escort for a local crime boss。

The game picks up yet again with another Mako reactor sabotage and a storming of the excellent Shin-Ra Tower, but it takes significantly more time to enter the overworld map。

FTC: NA

2。 Breath of Fire III – September 11, 1997

I snubbed the first two Breath of Fire games on the SNES as the third entry proved to be highest ranked overall。

Taking the opposite approach of FF VII, BoF III uses fully 3D backgrounds with sprites representing characters and enemies. These are a big step up from the 4th console generation, appearing larger, more detailed, and fully animated. They also work really well with the colourful, cartoony environment textures — something that’s an issue for many PSX titles that relied on low-res CG environments and bland 3D models.

Breath of Fire III never won any major awards, but it cemented the series as Capcom’s flagship JRPG property.

Breath of Fire III is the first game to start off in the middle of a battle, but it’s not a challenging one。 The player takes control of a baby dragon newly excavated from a giant crystal。 The little drake proceeds to char all the miners he encounters, but is eventually knocked out and captured。

Following his imprisonment, the baby is shipped out of the mines in a little prison cart, but he shuffles around in the cage and eventually topples down a cliff… where he awakens as a naked little baby boy! It’s a great intro that sets up an interesting mystery, but the narrative immediately abandons it for unfocused, slice-of-life vignettes.

The protagonist is adopted by a small group of vagrants and the group attempts to steal some food, fails, tries again, fails again, gets punished with minigame-chores, then splits up to explore a side-area in a somewhat contrived fashion.

The meandering progression feels all the longer due to how text is handled in the game。

Even at the fastest speed, the text prints out slowly and can’t be sped up/skipped with button presses。 It also has an animation for exiting out, and the whole text window animates in and out as different speakers say their lines。 It’s painfully slow and is used to tell a rather mundane story, at least in the early parts of the game。

Mechanically BoF III comes in below the median for most 5th-gen gameplay milestones, but even there it comes across as unnecessarily prolonged. The player wakes up in a bed, but can’t rest there again until an arbitrary narrative point is reached. Boss encounters take place early on, but their conclusions are scripted and play out as gimmicky cutscenes. The first piece of gear is actually obtained in the intro segment, but can’t be equipped as the player doesn’t gain access to the entire in-game menu until roughly twenty minutes into the game!

It’s a bit of shame that BoF III felt like such a grind as it introduced various gameplay elements that firmly positioned it as a next-gen JRPG。

FTC: 1:42:14

3. Xenogears – February 11, 1998

It seems SquareSoft was hedging its bets with Xenogears by taking a completely different development approach from Final Fantasy VII. FF VII had pre-rendered backgrounds, Xenogears was fully 3D; FF VII used 3D models for all characters, Xenogears used sprites; FF VII was filled with CG cutscenes, Xenogears relied on 2D anime clips.

In the end, both games had a bumpy development process. The latter parts of Xenogears were largely skipped over, replaced with simple sequences that narrated what should have been experienced by the player.

However, the game’s parallels to the hugely popular Neon Genesis Evangelion (the mechs, waxing philosophy, religious overtones, etc。) greatly resonated with fans。 Xenogears became hugely successful, and even launched a spiritual successor in Xenosaga。

Xenogears has the first somewhat lengthy intro, but it still relinquishes control less than 10 minutes into the game. Resting and item acquisition happen right after, but exploring the town is a lengthy process.

Much like BoF III, text prints out at a painfully slow rate, and there’s no way to speed it up. It’s a common complaint that fans tried to address through a bit of hacking.

Text boxes are typically 4 lines tall, accommodate portraits where applicable, and can often be walked away from to terminate the dialogue à la Chrono Trigger. However, playing in a completionist fashion prevents this, and the NPCs have a lot to say. Their dialogue sequences are longer and more involved than in the last generation, and they often have secondary dialogues once the initial one is processed.

The biggest offender of this is a Lucca cameo where she takes a whopping 23 large text boxes (more than 4 lines), to explain game saving。 Her diatribe could’ve easily been summarized as “You can save your game on the overworld map or at special markers。”

Fully exploring the starting town takes about 35 minutes, delaying various other milestones。 Once the game finally proceeds to the first dungeon, random battles happen at a fairly high rate。 The first level-up doesn’t take long to reach, and after some cutscenes a scripted mech fight takes place。 The first special ability is awarded at its conclusion, and the player proceeds to get kicked out to the overworld map。

A second dungeon follows soon after wherein the first companion joins the party, the first piece of gear is found, and the first true boss is fought at just under 2 hours.

FTC: 1:42:16

4. Legend of Legaia – October 29, 1998

Out of the 5th generation list, Legend of Legaia is a game that best exemplifies a cult-classic。 It’s also the one that most resembles a 4th generation JRPG, albeit upgraded to full 3D for both characters and environments。

It’s often brought up as an underrated PSX gem, and although it did get a PS2 sequel, Sony did not continue with the series afterwards.

In a setup reminiscent of the Mistborn series, the protagonist starts off in a small town isolated by dangerous mists and the monsters that come with them. Once the intro finishes, the player can save their game, get an item, participate in a combat tutorial, and gain a new ability all within 10 minutes.

A slew of narrative cutscenes follow, but these are quite short and spread out with plenty of freedom in between. The narrative does a good job of introducing the gameworld and its characters, and the text can be skipped instantly with a button press. NPCs also say only one or two lines, and simply repeat the same text upon subsequent conversations.

Eventually a scripted encounter with the antagonist takes place, the protagonist levels up and gains some new equipment, and the overworld map opens up. It takes another 15 minutes or so to reach the first resting spot and the first dungeon.

Combat itself is quite frequent, takes a while to load, and lasts a fairly long time. Despite the battles often involving only two or three combatants, a lot of effort is spent on looking up combos, selecting attack inputs, and watching characters run up to each other and attack.

When the initial dungeon is conquered, a new PoV character is introduced. Since they eventually join the party, I noted this as the point at which they’re obtained. More narrative scenes and dungeon exploration follows, capped off by the first two boss battle.

FTC: 1:46:56

5。 Suikoden II – December 17, 1998

More so than any other game on the list, Suikoden II managed to recaptured my nostalgic love of JRPGs. I first played it well into the 6th generation, but Konami’s flagship series instantly clicked with me.

In a way it makes perfect sense as Suikoden II feels most like a direct evolution of 16-bit era JRPGs. The sprites are bigger, there are tons more custom animations, proper shading gives the tile maps an extra visual touch, the storyline focuses on political intrigue rather than an ancient evil, and the epic conflict is well represented with heavily scripted SRPG battles.

Suikoden II is widely considered the best of the series, and it was a big inspiration for this series of posts. My memories of it were certainly rose-tinted, so I definitely wanted to see how it stacked up against its contemporaries.

Suikoden II starts off very quickly, setting off international strife with an ambush on a young group of military recruits. The event is a sham orchestrated by the boys’ senior officers in order to provoke a war with the neighbouring nation.

The first 10 minutes bring mobility, items, combat, and a level-up。 Text prints out almost instantly and NPCs don’t have a whole lot to say, although their dialogue often changes when new story beats are reached。 Combat is also blistering-fast as all actions are queued up ahead of time and executed in a staggered, semi-simultaneous fashion。

Attack order, successful hits, damage amounts, etc., seem to be calculated when the player finishes their inputs, with the actual combat round simply playing the calculated animations. There are some delays here to show enemy strikes and mass-damage spells, but there’s a very quick flow to the battles and they allow for a maximum of 12 combatants — a huge increase over the typical 6-7 participants common to this generation.

When the opening finishes, the protagonist is captured by members of the enemy state and imprisoned。 This section proved a lot longer than I remembered, lasting around 30 minutes as the protagonist is forced to perform various menial chores。 However, none of it felt as aimless as BoF III’s post-opening as it was used for worldbuilding that directly tied into the political conflict of the intro。

There’s also plenty of new gameplay while serving the captors, with the first companions joining the party, gear upgrades being made available, the overworld map opening up, and the player finding a place to rest and save.

The hero eventually breaks out and journeys to his hometown through a dungeon, battling a boss along the way。 The only milestone that is missing at this point is a new ability, but it takes another hour or so to start slotting runes in magic shops。 It doesn’t feel that way, though, as plenty of new companions come packaged with unique abilities, and new combination attacks are automatically unlocked based on who’s in the party。

FTC: 1:45:07

6。 Final Fantasy VIII – February 11, 1999

The second Final Fantasy entry on the PSX featured upgraded character models and a divisive junctioning system that permeated all aspects of the game. Much like FF II’s learn-by-doing approach, the junctions were a drastic gameplay departure from the previous titles and the system buckled a bit under its own weight.

The game itself seemed to follow SquareSoft’s focus on anime and pop-culture trends, leaving all traces of medieval Europe for a sci-fi setting that included a military school for teenagers, beach imagery, and overtones of idol culture.

Over the years, FF VIII has garnered something of a darling status for its unabashedly unique gameplay conventions, but SquareEnix has not been quick to celebrate it (although it does look like the remaster is at least getting some voice-overs, if not a full remake like FF VII).

FF VIII’s intro takes 5 minutes, and is then an even slower grind for a completionist playthrough. In addition to various cutscenes, the opening area is quite big and requires plenty of backtracking. The exploration is also severely slowed down if the player wants to peruse the in-game lexicon that’s unlocked soon after gaining control.

This in-game encyclopedia contains not only a plethora of tutorials, including the entire ruleset and all variations for the card-battling minigame, but tons of extra flavour text, e。g。, a history of the school, student conduct guidelines, a message board where a companion despairs about the lack of hot dogs, etc。

There is no gradual unlocking of all this text; its entirety is available right away despite FF VIII being by far the most systems-heavy game on the list. What’s worse, going through these tutorials doesn’t seem to flag them as having been viewed and completed — I was still forced to sit through the junctioning tutorial once I reached its trigger in the narrative even though I had already read it.

Once exploration of Balamb Garden kicks off, save and rest points are reached, followed by some optional combat. A strange design choice here is the potential to encounter a very powerful enemy that can easily defeat the protagonist, or a group of weak enemies that can repeatedly put him to sleep. This caused the first battle to last 5 minutes as I had no companions that could cure the status effect, and the enemies themselves had plenty of HP.

The combat area contains some items and spells, though, so exploring it is worth it.

When the player is ready to proceed, a companion joins up, the overworld map is unlocked, the first level-up takes place, the first dungeon is reached, and the first boss is fought all within roughly 15 minutes.

The only milestone that is not obtained in the first 2 hours is a gear upgrade。 There is no armour in FF VIII — all external stat boosts are done via junctioning — and new weapons are slowly crafted by obtaining the necessary parts from enemies and various “refining” mechanics that take a while to unlock。

FTC: NA

7。 Chrono Cross – November 18, 1999

While not quite the departure of Radical Dreamers, Chrono Cross was a very indirect sequel. Xenogears was initially supposed to be the follow up to Chrono Trigger, but those plans were scrapped once the new project diverted in its own direction.

Chrono Cross felt like it wanted to do the same.

It swapped a small party of time-traveling adventurers for an almost Suikoden-in-size cast spread across two different dimensions. The narrative and gameplay had shades of Chrono Trigger, but those felt more tacked on rather than the core of the experience. The end product was well received overall, but heavily criticized for this disparity.

 

An intro FMV plays before the title screen, making the opening cutscene just over a minute long. The party starts off in dungeon with visible enemies, but it’s tricky not getting into at least one fight. Much like the FF games, combat loading is masked with a sweeping camera and summary screens, but plays out fairly quickly.

At the 8 minutes mark, the protagonist wakes up from the intro-dream and opens the blinds in his room; a clear homage to Chrono Trigger。 There’s a hidden item close by and the bed provides a free rest point。 Exploring the village itself takes about 20 minutes as there’s quite a bit to do。

In addition to a proper combat tutorial, there’s new gear and abilities to uncover, a secret companion to recruit, and even a side quest. Text prints out quite quickly and the villagers typically only have a few short things to say. However, a few do drone on and on about their lives using way more text than necessary — an emerging theme in this generation.

At just under the half-hour mark, the world map and saving is made available, and the first dungeon is entered. It takes another 15 minutes or so to complete it, encounter the first boss, and achieve the first level up.

FTC: 44:51

8. The Legend of the Dragoon – December 2, 1999

Wanting to capitalize on the success of the FF VII, Sony commissioned its own “clone” of the game.

Developed internally by a large studio, The Legend of the Dragoon had the budget and scope to rival any Final Fantasy title. Its sales were quite strong upon release, especially in North America, but they quickly petered out and the game never got a sequel.

Much like Legend of Legaia, The Legend of the Dragoon has a cult following that remembers it fondly, but the game never attained the same status as the series that inspired it。

Despite another pre-title cinematic, The Legend of Dragoon has a lengthy 7-minute introduction. However, when the player gains control, the game takes a rather blistering pace.

Chests containing items and the first save spot are found right away, and a series of scripted fights result in the first level-up and new ability — 5 milestones in 5 minutes.

Combat has the same load-masking as Final Fantasy and the text prints out very slowly, but the starting town isn’t overly large. There are some hidden items, but most of the time is taken up with an optional combat tutorial. Once it’s completed, the overworld map opens up leading immediately to the first dungeon in just over 20 minutes.

The protagonist’s next destination, Hellena Prison, is a much different beast from the forest path leading up to it. It’s a positively huge dungeon, composed of many interlocking maps that contain different elevation paths, numerous patrolling enemies, interactive elevators and cable cars, and lots of optional treasure.

Various narrative cutscenes play while exploring the dungeon, and the protagonist is eventually joined by two companions, one of whom can equip a superior piece of gear found earlier on. A boss tries to stop the party, but once dispatched, a new location on the overworld map opens up that contains a rest spot.

FTC: 1:12:40

9. Final Fantasy IX – July 7, 2000

SquareSoft’s final PSX JRPG was a thematic and aesthetic return to the titles of the 4th console generation. It kept the engine of FF VII and FF VIII, but embraced the medieval Europe look, used cartoony character designs, and centred on a more grounded narrative.

It won various awards and remains Sakaguchi’s favourite entry in the series, but it didn’t sell quite as well as its two predecessors.

FF IX’s intro is split into multiple FMVs: one before the title screen, one as soon as the game starts, and one after a clever mock-battle where the party rehearses for a play。 This interspersing of short FMVs continues throughout the game, never taking control away from the player for too long。

An item is stolen in the first battle, and the game quickly transitions to a new companion via a point-of-view character switch. However, the only other milestone to come in the next hour is a save point.

Despite this, FF IX doesn’t feel slow.

The POV oscillates as the opening is presented through the eyes of various party members. Each character has their own goals, and these are accompanied by minigames and other challenges not captured by the milestones. When the party comes together, a level-up and first real boss battle take place.

Eventually the group attempts to escape via an airship, but it’s damaged and crash-lands in a forest。 This is the first chance to equip new gear, rest, and delve into a dungeon。 While exploring the dense woods, the first permanent ability is obtained before opening up to the overworld map。

FTC: 1:44:51

10。 Valkyrie Profile – August 29, 2000

One of the larger departures from JRPG conventions, Valkyrie Profile eschewed the typical 3rd person camera for a side-scrolling adventure filled with giant, photo realistic props and well animated character sprites。

This stage-like presentation applied to the narrative as well, focusing on extended character-development segments that took place in small, singular areas. The nature of the storyline itself was also a departure, revolving around a macabre, non-linear quest to shepherd the souls of great warriors to fight in the apocalyptic Ragnarok.

Valkyrie Profile received a remake, a handful of ports, a sequel, and some side games, and is a constant presence on most top 5th generation JRPG lists.

An option for the opening movie/prologue is present on the title menu, making the vague backstory entirely optional。

Once in the game proper, the prevalence of voice acting instantly makes itself apparent。 All the cinematic events are fully voiced, accompanied by slowly printing text bubbles。 The two are synced fairly well, but there’s a delay after each segment as if to make sure the player has enough time to read all the text。

The problem with this approach is that it’s much faster to read text rather than listen to the full VO, and since there’s no skipping of text until the voice clip finishes, all the scenes are filled with unnecessary pauses.

Early on in the opening cutscene the player obtains mobility, but the scripted sequence resumes immediately in the next room。 The first battle takes place further into the segment, but it’s not until the 40 minutes mark that the player is no longer strictly railroaded。

When the overworld map opens up, the player can instantly save and travel to a tutorial dungeon. Upon arrival, all of the intro’s main characters become companions and the player gains access to the in-game menu. The menu doubles as a store for items and gear, and allows the player to upgrade their characters. That’s seven milestones all within a minute of each other.

About 20 minutes into the dungeon the first level-up occurs, and the boss is encountered 20 minutes later. It takes another 10 minutes or so to exit the dungeon and obtain the final resting milestone.

FTC: 1:28:36

Conclusion

Unsurprisingly, the median times generally increased from 4th to 5th generation。 However, I wasn’t expecting all but one to grow, and by so much: the majority of the milestones took 2-5 times longer to reach。 This wasn’t the fault of the opening cinematics either as TTF (usually dictated by the mobility milestone), took only 2 minutes longer to reach。

The biggest relative jumps came with resting and saving, which I actually expected to take place sooner rather than later。 With the proliferation of memory cards and a trend toward user-friendliness, I thought most titles would provide a safe area to experiment in and reload as required。 This was still achieved with laughably easy encounters and the shifting party-recuperation to items, abilities, and cutscene transitions。 Saving on the other hand was simply delayed due to longer opening segments。

Travel and dungeon milestones also increased dramatically, by a factor of 4 and 3 respectively. The main reason for this seemed to be a desire to constrain the player in more linear locations while building the narrative and doling out new gameplay elements.

Combat was the only milestone that took place earlier in the 5th generation than in the 4th。 However, the boss battle milestone came in at a significant 45 minutes later — the single largest time-increase among all the milestones。 This was possibly due to the greater breadth and depth of combat mechanics, which also impacted leveling up and obtaining new abilities as XP-gain was no longer the only way to upgrade characters。

Overall the mobility, item, level-up, and boss milestones stayed in the same order, while the combat, companion, ability, and gear milestones occurred earlier, with the save, rest, travel, and dungeon milestones being pushed further into the timeline.

The milestone spreads generally increased as well, with the shortest times being pushed up as the opening segments got more and more elaborate. The most interesting takeaway, though, was which of the longest milestones changed. These actually decreased for ability and companion while increasing for travel and level-up. This indicated a general trend of focusing more on narrative elements while introducing specialized game mechanics (party-based combat, unique abilities) before tackling an open, less linear world with more difficult challenges.

Somewhat surprisingly, some of the most groundbreaking entries in the genre came early on in the 5th generation: the epic CG-based presentation and cynical tone of FF VII, the marriage of huge sprites and colourful 3D in Breath of Fire III, the cinematic cameras and anime inspirations of Xenogears。 Later titles — including ones not on this list — largely attempted to live up to the standards set by these first success stories。

Not all aesthetic upgrades had a smooth transition either. Memory management and loading times introduced delays to the still-prevalent random encounters, exacerbating the combat grind. Voice overs worked fine in FMVs, but were annoyingly repetitive when used as combat barks and ground against dialogue timing in text boxes.

The quantity of text didn’t seem to increase drastically, at least not to visual-novel levels, but was nonetheless a painful step back. Most dialogue remained modal, and many developers bizarrely insisted on slowing down the speed of text and preventing the player from skipping it.

Gameplay-wise, combat saw the biggest changes。 Titles were no longer content with closely mimicking the Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy template。 Half the games on this list allowed multiple hits with basic attacks in a single round, mimicking the combo dynamics of fighting games。 Furthermore, each title seemed to introduce its own unique wrinkles to combat: fuel-management in Xenogears, body-part targeting in Legend of Legaia, elemental field-effects in Chrono Cross, guard-breaking Valyrie Profile, etc。

Combat considerations spread out beyond the standard HP/MP/status management as well。 For example, Suikoden II severely limited rune customization and raw amount of spell options, FF VIII relied on its complex junctioning system, Chrono Cross allowed the player full magic customization while scaling spell-power and refilling all spells after combat, etc。

These systems provided a lot of extra flexibility and allowed more meaningful progression and experimentation. However, the added complexity came at the cost of a higher barrier of entry. Despite being relatively familiar with these titles, I had to refresh my memory with manuals and carefully read in-game tutorials to get a good grip on the mechanics. Exploring a JRPG was no longer jumping in and simply figuring out which spells worked best in which situations.

An unfortunate trend that also emerged was the obfuscation of game elements for the purpose of selling strategy guides. Min-maxing the hidden bonuses awarded by the masters in Breath of Fire III or getting the most out of upgrading party members to Odin’s liking in Valkyrie Profile was not something the player could figure out just by playing the game.

Finally, it’s worth noting that as JRPGS began to implement elements outside the 12 milestones I captured, they spread them out throughout the overall experience. Suikoden II is a great example of this as its duels, large-scale SRPG battles, stronghold maintenance, gambling minigames, Richard’s detective investigations, etc., all took place at different parts of the game after the 2 hour limit.

I expect to see more of this type of pacing in the next generation, as well as a smaller reliance on old-school abstractions, e.g., separate battle arenas, overworld maps, turn-based combat, etc. I have a rough idea of which titles to cover that still fit my original criteria, but feel free to comment and mention which titles you’d like to see included! (source:)

 


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