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Where Is The Western DS RPG Experience?
I've started playing on my DS again, which has been left on a shelf not being used for some time. The unfortunate side effect of this gap is I've built up some psychic distance between myself and Final Fantasy IV, which was the game I was playing. I've tried to get back into it but it wasn't working. So, I decided a full reboot was in order and I've started playing Final Fantasy III. I'll have to cross my fingers I don't end up doing the same thing and stop playing it for a long period.
I'm enjoying it at the moment, though I have to admit I don't really understand the Japanese mindset. The Japanese love these games, but in many ways they exhibit a lot of the negative play experiences that western games have tried to avoid. I acknowledge that Final Fantasy III is an old game, but since the Final Fantasy series has kept a core of the experiences until Final Fantasy XIII, and then didn't seem to know what to replace them with, I'll hold on to my belief they are still pretty confused. At the moment, the strange design choices aren't causing me a problem, but the potential exists they might.
Why do they love grinding? Final Fantasy III has no scaling. If you enter an area that is too high a level for you then you get pasted. This in itself isn't such a bad thing, after all, most MMO games use this method, albeit they often clearly label the level ranges of zones. What makes it slightly frustrating for Japanese role-playing games is invariably the available content, that is the elements specifically linked to the narrative, often don't provide enough experience to level you to the next content experience. This forces you to wonder the landscape killing monsters, grinding out levels so you can move on. This was one of the main reasons I didn't finish Final Fantasy VII, though I loved the game. I'd effectively finished only for the run at the final elements but I seemed to need to grind like a demon in order to realistically challenge it. Final Fantasy III has some grinding, but it hasn't become a chore so far. Yet.
What is it with making the experience system a potential grinding hell? This may be more a function of the older games, but in Final Fantasy III you can have a multitude of jobs, the trouble is you have to level each job up from the level 1. You also have a character level, but having a job at a low level is a major problem. Now, this can only result in two effects: you pick a job for each character based on party composition and stick with it, or you level multiple jobs and face significant amounts of grinding. If you choose the latter, depending on how experience works, you may face jobs chosen later never reaching their full potential. Either way, it pretty much makes the multitude of jobs pointless. In the worst case scenario, they put design elements in the game that needs certain spells or abilities thus forcing you to spread out job grinding to pass content barriers. I'm not sure if Final Fantasy III falls into this trap yet, though it could do based on needing the Mini spell to complete some of the connections I've already encountered. I have already caused myself some grinding by going from two warriors, a monk and a red wizard to two warriors, a monk and a white wizard. I'm hoping this combination will now see me through the game. I have a slight concern the lack of a black wizard (major magical DPS) will do me in later. We shall see.
All this has left me with the question: where is the Mass Effect II of the DS? I don't mean in terms of the exact same scale, graphics and narrative awesome. The DS is a different platform with its own unique combination of capabilities. What I do mean is the DS RPG with a more western approach to things? A DS RPG that focuses on narrative flow and designs the levelling process to be less complex, intuitive and also matches the experience curve to the narrative experience. Does such a game exist or is the Japanese approach dominant? Do later Japanese RPG games like, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinals of the Starry Skies, change their approach to be more like western games? It's possible they do, as Dragon Quest IX has been advertised to the non-typical RPG gamer and I doubt they'd put up with grinding out jobs as part of the experience. If such a game does exist I'd be interesting in playing it and someone should certainly start developing them if they don't.
Anyway, I'm playing Final Fantasy III and I'll see how it goes. One of the advantages is it can be played in short bursts and saved at a moments notice. Not a bad thing during periods of intense time pressure. At the moment I'm a bit lost as to what I'm supposed to be doing next but I'm sure that'll resolve itself.
|Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 27/11/2010|