I am a JRPG Fan, and I’m not entirely embarrassed about that fact. What little embarrassment there is often stems from games that slip past judgement and become hallmarks of the industry.
I’m often frustrated by the way the video game reviews industry has tried to work with the JRPG fan-base. It’s becoming more necessary to compare opinions. Some people prattle on about the combat system (often the least interesting part) and some get hung up on singular story elements. While all we, the fans, want is a complete and concise evaluation, similar to those found for almost any FPS, Racer, or Western RPG.
We Must Set Fandom and Prejudice Aside
To be perfectly honest I can’t endorse every rendition of Final Fantasy because some of them have very big flaws that need analyzing from an objective standpoint.
Being considered a niche genre JRPGs are mostly supported and reviewed by fan-boys or by people who are seemingly instructed not to offend. This does one of the worst things you can do to a genre or peace of art, as it makes them relatively immune to real criticism. Because of the lack of critical attention, we see people being lead to believe that Final Fantasy X is representative of all JRPG’s which is toxic to the genre.
Finding quality in a genre is important to a genre’s progression and I feel that we aren’t doing anyone a favor by failing to point out how silly or flawed some games are. For example, the romance in Final Fantasy VIII is at best silly and the Children’s Arc doesn’t serve much purpose (or entertainment value) for Tales of Graces f. The games aren’t entirely horrible but they have flaws that need pointing out.
I blame Final Fantasy XIII on the ever sliding goals of SquareEnix, which place more importance on the primary plot and related drama and not the world they exist in. Conversely, Final Fantasy IX revels in the world it has created. FFIX lovingly paid attention to the world it existed in, with sub plots and side quests answering questions, so the player isn’t confused and the world is more rigid as a result. In FFXIII the world is practically built on the fly and has almost no absolute up or down for major chunks of the game. FFXIII never really gains its footing (even after the 20 hour mark) which is caustic to the overall story telling.
I don’t want to condemn fans of games I don’t like, but I also don’t want to see JRPGs go the way of Transformers. We need to raise the bar, and it helps when critics are also working towards the same goal.