In a discussion with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, “Final Fantasy” creator Hinorobu Sakaguchi stated that Japanese RPGs (role playing games) must change to be successful worldwide. And it only took about 14 “Final Fantasy” games, several spin-offs, a few remakes, a “dress me up” sequel, and word of another sequel to come to that conclusion.
I don’t always play Japanese RPGs. But when I do, I prefer “Final Fantasy.” Well, prefer is not really the right word. “Final Fantasy” has been the bench mark of Japanese RPGs among gaming and anime communities. So to avoid being out of the loop, I have to keep tabs on the games so I can spot the costumes present at an anime convention. At least Japanese RPGs mange to keep variety in the costume department that each character goes through during game development-even if it feels that each character’s outfit looks like he/she picked out clothes from a dark closet before standing too close to a bomb blast in a clown supply store. And I avoid looking confused when people talk of the games.
Luckily it is easy to keep tabs on the Japanese RPG thanks to “Final Fantasy” since Japanese RPGs have hardly changed since the graphics turned the RPGs into really long DVD movies. And I have to randomly press buttons on the DVD remote to continue the movie. Controllers and graphics aside, Japanese RPGs just tend to be very similar in terms of characters, game play, and story. When I say that I am looking for the Japanese RPG where you play as an character with a flawed past that matches his stupid hair who forms a ragtag team consisting of at least one kooky characters I will never actually use while wandering a vast open world looking for ultimate items for each character before battling a really nasty villain of an established government or big business through a poorly developed menu system that is as much fun as an Excel spreadsheet, the game store clerk usually asks for a more specific detail such as whether the game begins on a train or in space.
So while Sakaguchi brings up the point that Japanese RPGs need to change, he does not really explain what changes are needed to give the genre international appeal. Perhaps his upcoming game “The Last Story” will show off the new things Japanese RPGs can do.
Wait a minute, another word for “Last” is “Final.” And a story is based on fantasy. Somehow I doubt that hitting a thesaurus is enough to count as a change.