Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Experience Points: 02 Japan 90-93

Experience Points: 02 Meanwhile in Japan 1990-1993
(Experience Points: Prime 90-93 post here)

One of the things you have to realize when we talk about RPG's from Japan is that their release schedules are extremely fast in their homeland.  While we have to have translations and deals made with publishers and sometimes marketing and store shelf negotiations, Japan is still making the games.  During these years, a new Final Fantasy was a once in a 3-4 year event, something that was celebrated by the gaming community as a milestone.  In Japan, they were getting them almost yearly.  In this era, a few new big franchises would get their start, but we would not see them for a decade, and in some cases 2.

Speaking of Final Fantasy games, Japan had 3 titles get released during this time.  I already talked about Final Fantasy IV(2) in the American section, but Japan also got Final Fantasy 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and before the era was over they also got Final Fantasy 5.  These games were actually sort of similar.  In the pre-7 days, the odd Final Fantasy games were their own sort of sub-genre, using classes changes and the ability to customize your parties.  Final Fantasy 1, 3 and 5 all follow this trend of having a small cast that you keep through most of the game, and allowing you to choose how the cast fights by changing or choosing their "class".  Final Fantasy 2, 4, and 6 all had a very large cast of characters, and their abilities were set so that to change how your party fought, you changed the characters that made up your group.  There are a couple of reasons we never did not get a quick translation and import of the games here in the West.  First, the class change systems were thought too complex for our little Western minds, second, Final Fantasy 3 in particular was seen as a ripoff of Dragon Warrior 3, and Final Fantasy 5 was not seen as a large enough "leap" in style and content; they assumed we would be bored of the "same old same old".

Other JRPG's of the era include those in the Megami Tensei franchise.  This series is known for its multiple releases and spinoffs a year.  Many times the spinoffs propel the franchise to even greater fame, one of the few franchises that actually thrives off spinoffs.   The original, Digtial Devil Story: Megami Tensei, got its sequel in this era.  The spinoff Shin Megami Tensei started its run, and grew more popular than the original series.  On the Gameboy, Megami Tensei: Last Bible parts 1 AND 2 were released.  Dragon Quest became a culture phenom in Japan with part 3, but that ended a trilogy.  So the new trilogy got started with Dragon Warrior 4 AND 5 getting releases in this span of 3 years.  While we got 4, we never got 5 till WAY later, which is a shame because many consider it the best.  As you can tell by the box art, the beloved of Japan Akira Toriyama, and animator of Dragon Ball Z, did the art for the series.

On the strategy RPG side of things, Langrisser was very popular, as you could read in the "Prime" post earlier.  Shining Force got parts 1, 2 and its game gear versions released well before we got them here.  Albert Odyssey was released, which we would only see a Saturn installment, but never the first 2 from the SNES.  Two notable Tactical RPG's that would take a while for the West to get were Fire Emblem and Super Robot Wars.  Fire Emblem became a Nintendo hallmark series in Japan, but it would take over half a dozen titles before we would get one.  It is sort of a Langrisser-lite, being a bit less complex.  Like Shining Force though, they focused on party members having personality and inter-personal drama as well as the political intrigue of other tactical games.  Super Robot Wars was the start of a franchise that pitted popular mecha anime from television and movies in tactical battles.  The copyright concerns in North America are the reason we would never see any of these original titles, it would not be until they made completely original games for the Gameboy Advance that we would get any of the titles.  The series received one title per Nintendo Console in these 3 years; one for gameboy, one for the NES, and one for the SNES.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg for RPG's in Japan.  These are just the ones that are more relevant to Western audiences.  There are dozens whose franchises we still have never seen; and even a Record of Lodoss War series of games.  Some say we did not miss out on much, as the word "churned" is used to describe the glut of average and non-quality RPG's left in Japan in this era, still, there is a lot there that is still stuck that would be worth having.  With Megami Tensei replacing Final Fantasy as the "can't wait for the great sequel", it would serve to have the series' "missing" parts brought to us.

Next up for Experience points we take a look at the kind of RPG's that were popular and made by Western developers.

No comments:

Post a Comment