77/365 – Meditation Games #77 – JRPG Group Solo

Developer: Marina Kittaka

Launcher Quote: “Remember that you can be a vibrant soul, surrounded by friends. Not today…those days are gone…but one day they’ll return again.”

If there’s one genre that I keep coming back to that I consistently enjoy, it’s the classic JRPG. Turn-based combat, story-focused plotlines, convoluted yet interesting  villains, impossibly attractive protagonists – I love every trope and gameplay element of JRPGs, and even though the genre itself has taken a slight tumble over the years, there’s still enough of them being produced to show that it still has legs.

I was reminded of this for today’s entry, which runs through a bunch of classic top-down, random battle-inducing JRPG tropes while you travel the land with your party of totally not-similar-looking pixel swapped characters and lay the smackdown on random monsters that look like they came out of a Picasso painting. While it only lasted a few minutes, I was pleasantly surprised at how much the game looked like some of the recent JRPGs I’ve been playing (hello Octopath Traveler) and how it still felt like I was playing one even though the mechanics were definitely simplified.

The curious thing about this presentation does show up in the form of the launcher quote, which talks about how we can be surrounded by friends, but not necessarily on today’s foray into the game. It’s an interesting take because to me, JRPGs are some of the most ultimate solo player games, which has a bit of irony in the fact that the characters within and the genre itself emphasizes group-based play. There’s a fun little juxtaposition in this – yes, your heroes are typically in a plucky, determined group that oftentimes leans on and depends on one another to win out over the bad guys, but as the one behind the controller, you’re typically the only one driving them forward, alone and in a solo endeavor. These days, the advent of livestreaming seems to show that this isn’t something you have to engage in by yourself for a game session, but even then, for the most part you’re setting off on your own, ironically surrounded by a digital-based group of heroes that work best when they work together instead of by themselves. On days when you are alone, JRPGs can still make you feel like you’re a part of a group – which is likely why I attached myself to the genre during my formative years when I didn’t have as many friends to share my gaming hobby with.

 

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