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#1 mystborn

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Posted 08 February 2016 - 02:08 AM

So I just refinished playing Chrono Trigger again, which is my all time favorite game, and I've been thinking a lot about it. This has led me to really think about JRPG's in general. There are a lot of dedicated fans to the genre and a lot of people who absolutely despise it.

 

What seems to be the main divider is the combat (the next being the time investment). Obviously it has some obvious flaws: It tends to set up a system that relies heavily on grinding. This can be incredibly boring, and is generally unsatisfactory as a result. Then once you either get to a certain power level or you just learn the patterns it gets even more grindy. I mean as soon as I unlocked Luminaire on Crono and especially Flare on Lucca, I pretty much just used it against every enemy that allowed it.  (If you've never played the game, those are the two most powerful magic abilities those characters can learn.) #LuccaBestCharacter

 

What's worse, to me at least, CT feels a whole lot less grindy than plenty of other games (A mixture of only having to fight most enemies once and personally enjoying the combat system itself).

 

Of course there are some possible positives, as long as the game is designed well. There is the opportunity for great set-piece fights (such as bosses). There can be in depth tactical combat, as seen in Pokemon competitions, though it's rare to see an ai that's amazing at this. To me there are also some mechanical advantages, such as it being easy to implement new skills and stuff once you've got a baseline working, but the consumer rarely sees things like that.

 

So what are your thoughts on the matter? What are some ways to make it less grindy? Even better, how could you improve the combat so it feels more engaging? Am I missing any big pros/cons?


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#2 Neon Jackal

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Posted 08 February 2016 - 12:03 PM

I think my problem with most JRPGS is eventually I get to a point where I'm so powerful that battles consist of just mashing the attack command for all characters. The issues I can see there are 1. Being forced to fight weak enemies(Mostly in games with random encounters), 2. Levelling systems lead to all problems being solvable with grinding.

The first thing is easy, I've seen a couple of games fix this. In Paper Mario you can find a badge that let's you instantly kill weak enemies without initiating a battle. In Aiden Chronicles on N64, weaker enemies would run and avoid fights with you.

I think you need to find ways to make the fights more interesting, and figure out a better progression system than player levels.

In Final Fantasy 4: The After Years, they added a moon phase system which affected the stats of you and your enemies. For example, on Full Moons, black magic powers were doubled but physical attacks were weakened, so the general strategy of "Just keep attacking" often didn't work on those days. In the end I found battles to be more interesting because I had to keep switching up my tactics based on the moon phase.


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#3 Yal

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Posted 08 February 2016 - 01:01 PM

Pokémon combat gets deep mainly because of everything being based on the elemental system. Many RPGs just throw in an elemental system without any real reason, making some enemies weak to a certain spell to promote its use, but generally fail to telegraph this, or fail to have enough spells of each element to make use of it worthwhile (Tales Of Phantasia, I'm looking at you). And as a result, you just keep spamming the most powerful thing in your possession anyway because that strategy works. Pokémon, on the other hand, has double or quadruple damage when you strike a target with their weak element, you get a clear indication whether the target is weak (It's super effective!) or resistant to an element, and most importantly, the playable characters also have their elemental resistances and weaknesses - a lot of RPGs don't consider that. So not only do you need to be prepared to strike as many types as possible for increased damage, you also need to be ready to mitigate damage from as many types as possible. Also, Pokémon has no such thing as a basic attack command, which means there's no easy cop-out for even very easy battles. Even if you do have a good go-to move, it has limited power points, so you need to restock in the nearest town eventually to be able to keep using it.

 

Also, another important thing is technical balance - your enemies consist of the very same characters you have at your disposal and abide by the same rules, so while enemies cannot be too overpowered, you also have no distinct advantage in numbers over them. You are evenly matched against your opponents, especially in level-limited battle facilities, and this outright require you to have the better strategy in order to win.


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#4 Merlin

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 04:12 PM

I think that the grind, while boring, is somehow satisfying.  personally I think that just because rpg haters don't like the grind. That doesn't mean you should try to remove it if your making an rpg because those ppl wont play an rpg anyway. 

 

ps. chrono trigger was aewsome. Check out phantassy star 2 on Sega Genisis aswell.


Edited by Merlin, 09 February 2016 - 04:16 PM.

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#5 Yal

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 12:17 AM

I wouldn't bundle together jRPGs and wRPGs, though. I've played Skyrim for a bit, and it's vastly different from, say, Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth. You level up extremely slow, making grinding pointless IMO - you need to do tons of stuff to get another level, and that is too long to be practically feasible. On the other hand, you can solve most problems by just don't getting outnumbered, and then run around in circles launching magic on your enemies one at a time. The game also features almost no narrative or even directions - I managed to get lost in the first part of the tutorial because it wasn't clear where to go to find the entrance to the linear path you'd follow out of the first area; everything being on fire also didn't help in making it clear where to go next because of how chaotic things were. The game itself sort of is like GTA with magic and without cops, where your interactions with people are limited to talking with them or killing them, and you can go anywhere at any time - I just kept going past the goal in a dungeon just to see where it ended, and eventually got out on the other side of the mountain.

 

wRPGs have a sense of freedom you don't get in jRPGs, but I feel the loss of narrative isn't the best tradeoff for it. I really couldn't get immersed in the really chunky storytelling enough to care about the game world, and sort of set my mind on being this genocidal ugly old witch with a heavy iron shield. I guess the point of wRPGs really is to play your own role and don't give a dang about the world you're in, but IMO that kinda misses the point of making the game world in the first place. I think that's a reason why randomly generated roguelikes is such a popular genre right now - you can churn them out quickly without building too much world content, players get the freedom and lack of tutorials and sluggish narrative they want, and to boot they get a new experience each time they play as well.


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#6 mystborn

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 03:06 AM

Thanks for the insight! I created this topic more as a point of discussion because I've been seeing a lot of hate for the genre lately, and even among my friends, I'm pretty much the only person who likes it. So I was curious if there was a way to maybe make it a more satisfying experience for everyone while keeping fairly close ties to it's root.

 

It's nice to see that it's not really the genre itself, but improper implementation of it's mechanics that drag the genre down to it's current standing. It definitely gives me some inspiration so maybe I will work on one.

 

Out of curiosity Yal (and everyone else), how do you feel about games like Baldur's Gate and Pillars of Eternity that take a middle ground between the two genres?


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#7 GameGoblin

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 05:28 AM

I agree with Yal on the topic of elemental attributes. (She has made a RPG that depends on elemental attributes during combat too. It's called Shattered World that she made in less than 3 months.)

Another thing that I would like to point out is that jRPGs with a huge variety of character classes are usually successful and fun to play. It makes combat a lot harder if your character(s) is weaker a specific class. (As in, spell casters are weaker than fighters.) But that's not the main point. A huge variety of character classes is what matters more IMO.

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#8 Yal

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 12:07 PM

Out of curiosity Yal (and everyone else), how do you feel about games like Baldur's Gate and Pillars of Eternity that take a middle ground between the two genres?

 

Haven't played them, I'm mostly a sucker for japanese stuff (I have no less than 18 Steam games labelled as 'Kawaii', and I have separate folders for 'Danmaku' and 'Shooter' :P) and I've only played wRPGs on the recommendation of friends - Neverwinter Nights, Knights Of The Old Republic, and Skyrim to be precise, and I've had a look at Dark Souls II; they're not kawaii enough to interest me. Seriously, when I played Skyrim, I tried to make a cute female teenager to play as, but I ended up with something looking more like Kreia and eventually gave up  and went with that. I'm currently fangirling series I like just because I know I'll like them (such as Disgaea, Fire Emblem, Etrian Odyssey, Shin Megami Tensei and to some extent Pokémon even though ORAS felt like a slap in the face) rather than trying anything new I might not like ending up like feeling I wasted money.

 

Though, given that some of the game I like are a middle ground between j and w, here's my opinion on them:

  • I prefer clearly defined classes with some sort of customization/subclassing over completely clean-slate characters where you have to figure out which of the 200 abilities to get them in order to make them useful in a particular role. If you need to read a guide to figure out what to do, the game doesn't really cater to me; the in-game info should be clear and accessible enough.
  • I also prefer customizable characters over completely locked-in characters. For instance, in Tales Of Phantasia, Mint will only ever be a healer and the most powerful offense she ever gets is stunning enemies with a spell; you cannot randomly change your party setup to anything else than swordsman-healer-summoner-witch to adapt to the current enemies or change your strategy because Cress will only ever be a swordsman, Mint will only ever be a healer... and so on. Compare that to, say, Etrian Odyssey Untold 2's story mode where the main protagonist is locked into his class (because his class is based on his ability to transform into a wolf) but everyone else can be reclassed at will; the game mostly plays the same but if you feel someone has mostly useless abilities you can change them into something that sounds more useful. (For instance, I changed the team's Princess, who exclusively had buff spells, into a Ronin, the game's high offense/low defense class, and the team's Red Mage into a Gunner so she could attack without having to spend MP every time, since MP is a precious commodity in EO games; once I did those changes I felt like my team was balanced and that I'd never need to reclass them again to suit my playstyle).
  • really prefer RPGs where you control a party over RPGs where you control a single person. That's one of the things I found boring with Skyrim from an RPG perspective; not only do you lose the group dynamics, you also force the player to become a jack of all trades in order to experience the most content during their playthrough rather than playing a role. Neverwinter Nights on the other hand gave you a witch, a ranger and a thief (two childhood friends and a kid looking for adventure) as party members during the tutorial that ended up sticking with you, so you both got a party filling up basic RPG roles (meaning you didn't have to) as well as having the option to play those characters in those classes if you were more into jRPGs and storytelling; just hitting the 'auto' option at levelup would make them more witchy, rangery and thiefy in jRPG style, but if you felt like molding them to your liking and spend every skill point as you saw fit, you could do that as well. The caveat here is that you only had two extremes to choose from, no control or total control at atomic level... not quite fond of that.
  • One of my favourite jRPGs ever was Final Fantasy V, and lately its spiritual sequel Bravely Default that improved on the systems even more. The main gimmick to the battle system in both of them is that you can change your character's classes at any time, affecting their stats, equipment and abilities. As they battle, they earn Job Points, which unlocks advanced abilities that can be equipped in customization slots; these abilities can be used in ANY job. BD improves on this system by splitting up active and passive abilities into different slots, balancing it a bit in the process since you can only equip one sub-job at a time and making passive abilities less OP while allowing you to have more of them active at a time. Jobs themselves are easy to grasp since they have one very clear use, and the fun part becomes finding ability combinations that boost the job's main purpose's functionality. For instance, one of the Thief's abilities gives you a free turn when you dodge an attack, and equipping that as a passive ability when you change to the Ninja job - that has a ninjutsu technique that lets you dodge the next physical single-target attack that would hit you - effectively means you can use said ninjutsu without wasting a turn, drastically improving its usefulness. Another useful ability is the Magic Knight's Spirit Weapon ability, which adds your weapon's ATK stat to magic spell power calculations instead of its INT stat; it can be used on any class to let them use magic somewhat competently, even if they use a broadsword or such instead of a magic rod. They won't get as good as a pure magic class since their base INT is low, but it's a good passive ability for classes such as the Magic Knight, Arcanist, Vampire and Red Mage that already specialize in combining magic and physical skills.

I guess my general point is that I like seeing...

  • Clear roles. I should be able to figure out what each party member does at a glance without reading their character sheets.
  • Easily accessed and assessed customizability. I want to be able to change my characters to suit my playstyle and my taste for roleplaying, but I don't want to need a PhD and an 800-page guidebook to figure out HOW to do it.
  • Having multiple characters to choose from means each can be customized less while the general customization complexity says high.

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#9 Zuurix

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 01:12 PM

Like you fight fire with water, you fight grinding with randomness and variety.

Grinding is when you do same thing over and over.

With some effort, you can make that it is impossible to do same thing twice.

 

Create 20 monsters. Create 20 spells.

Make monsters have 25% of having one of those 20 spells.

Make monsters have 1% to have triple health.

Make 5 monsters appear less often that other 15.

Etc.

 

Everything can be randomly generated.

 

And don't talk about Skyrim.

Skyrim is a bad game.

 

I'm sure it's possible to have good story AND freedom...

The problem is that developers don't care about story, because they know that most of players won't care about.

And players don't care about story, because developers don't care about story...


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#10 Yal

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 05:42 PM

One caveat I have with Disgaea's random dungeons is that it can be too random; sometimes the floor exit is on top of a 1x1 platform as tall as a ten-storey building so it's practically impossible to get there, enemies frequently spawn on isolated islands with no connection to the main platform, sometimes out of the maximal spell range so you can't kill them, you sometimes run into Healers or Witches with axes, which means neither their spells nor their physical attacks are a real threat (since your equipment is important for your end stats, and witches and healers are TERRIBLE with physical weapons)...

 

Randomness is good, but it's even better if you add in some sanity checks to make sure you don't spawn unfair situations or make enemies needlessly weak or strong.


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#11 11clock

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 10:41 PM

As someone who HEAVILY dislikes most jRPGs (too grindy and time consuming, feels like a second job), here is how to make them better.

 

1. Easier fast traveling options. I have seen non-RPGs like An Untitled Story and A Link Between Worlds allow you to teleport to any save point you want at almost any time. Fast movement speed is also appreciated.

 

2. Auto-win easy enemies, or somehow make them easily avoidable (or have them avoid you). It's annoying to fight them. Earthbound does this well, or at least from what I have heard.

 

3. No random encounters. Place the monsters directly on the field for you to initiate battle by touching them. Random encounters are one of my biggest pet peeves in jRPGs.

 

4. Minimize grinding. If you kill every enemy on your path to the next destination and stay on the expected level, you're doing it right. Also make sure there aren't an absurd amount of enemies, and that you can level up relatively quickly. If it's too easy to overlevel, re-balance it or set a cap per area. Paper Mario games are really good at grind elimination.

 

5. Action commands. It automatically makes fighting more engaging, although it can lengthen battles.

 

6. Less dialogue. Or at least spread it out better. Save lengthy cutscenes for gameplay breaks. For example, after bosses. I don't buy games to read novels.

 

7. No Cleric or Healer class. It turns the game into "attack, heal, attack, heal." A battle system more revolved around trying to minimize damage to your party through strategy would be a lot better and more interesting.

 

And I think that is about it. Follow these rules and you'll avoid pretty much 95% of the tropes I despise in jRPGs.


Edited by 11clock, 11 February 2016 - 10:53 PM.

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#12 Yal

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 08:47 PM

7. No Cleric or Healer class. It turns the game into "attack, heal, attack, heal." A battle system more revolved around trying to minimize damage to your party through strategy would be a lot better and more interesting.

 

Or add in automatic healing. In many dungeon crawlers (Megami Tensei 3, Etrian Odyssey 4/Untold 2) you generally want to patch yourself up after every battle, and doing that easily gets annoying (as well as burning your MP to the point where you need to abandon the current foray to restock it eventually). I've sometimes forgotten that and gotten into battles with half HP. Also not fun. x3

 

What I really like is an ability called Patch Up in EO4: it basically gives you free healing after each battle. Put some levels into that and you basically can forget about the whole 'heal post-battle' deal completely. Healers also deal average damage with maces and has enough TEC to become decent spellcasters (not to mention subclassing them as runemasters also gives them 4 more possible levels in MP Up, which benefits them even if you don't mainly let them spellcast). When they reach Master tier, they can even learn Auto-Heal and Auto-Revive, letting them heal and revive without you even having to order them to. Really useful stuff that lets them - and you - focus less on healing.

 

EOU2 is different in that the healer class sucks, but a LOT of the other classes get healing skills. Survivalists (archer/scouts) can bandage you up between battles and even revive people, gunners can shoot medical projectiles at their allies or even themselves, Beasts can lick people's wounds, Fortresses can cover someone and simultaneously heal them... healers get more versatile healing, but you can get healing everywhere even with a very offensive setup. You can even auto-heal by getting grimoires from Vampire Bats to learn their Blood Suck skill.


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#13 11clock

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 02:21 PM

 

7. No Cleric or Healer class. It turns the game into "attack, heal, attack, heal." A battle system more revolved around trying to minimize damage to your party through strategy would be a lot better and more interesting.

 

Or add in automatic healing. In many dungeon crawlers (Megami Tensei 3, Etrian Odyssey 4/Untold 2) you generally want to patch yourself up after every battle, and doing that easily gets annoying (as well as burning your MP to the point where you need to abandon the current foray to restock it eventually). I've sometimes forgotten that and gotten into battles with half HP. Also not fun. x3

 

What I really like is an ability called Patch Up in EO4: it basically gives you free healing after each battle. Put some levels into that and you basically can forget about the whole 'heal post-battle' deal completely. Healers also deal average damage with maces and has enough TEC to become decent spellcasters (not to mention subclassing them as runemasters also gives them 4 more possible levels in MP Up, which benefits them even if you don't mainly let them spellcast). When they reach Master tier, they can even learn Auto-Heal and Auto-Revive, letting them heal and revive without you even having to order them to. Really useful stuff that lets them - and you - focus less on healing.

 

EOU2 is different in that the healer class sucks, but a LOT of the other classes get healing skills. Survivalists (archer/scouts) can bandage you up between battles and even revive people, gunners can shoot medical projectiles at their allies or even themselves, Beasts can lick people's wounds, Fortresses can cover someone and simultaneously heal them... healers get more versatile healing, but you can get healing everywhere even with a very offensive setup. You can even auto-heal by getting grimoires from Vampire Bats to learn their Blood Suck skill.

 

 

My team's game will be having a support character who can heal party members, but it's a delayed heal. It activates at the end of the following turn that it's used. You basically have to heal in advance. This way you have to use healing as part of the strategy.


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#14 Yal

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 10:26 PM

How about life draining, by the way?

 

 

This reminds me about another cool feature of Shin Megami Tensei IV: MP Drain is actually viable. It's Almighty-elemental, so enemies can never resist or block it (both of which causes you to forfeit turns), and you can actually suck up MP from more or less any enemy, including bosses. Bosses have inflated MP reserves, but normal enemies have not, so you can even cripple enemies considerably just by using MP drain on them a couple times, apart from refilling your own party's MP.

 

HP Drain... not as useful in my opinion. Healing spells can be used out of battle, and elemental attacks can hit weak points for Press Turns, and HP Drain being relatively weak doesn't help either. Draining 20-40 MP is a lot, while 20-40 HP is... negligible before you even leave Naraku.


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#15 Skye Veran

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 05:21 PM

It's an awkward situation because sometimes grinding is really fun and kinda the point of the game. Even though it's not a JRPG exactly, the Monster Hunter series is a good example of this; a big part of the game is fighting monsters repeatedly to get the materials for your fancy new armor set.

 

If you want to lessen grinding though, one of the ways is to simply make it not worth it. In the PS1 game Legend of Dragoon, normal battles give you a pitiful amount of experience, so grinding never feels worthwhile. At the same time, you still level up your attacks ( called Additions ) by using them, so it doesn't feel like a complete waste of time to fight battles. But grinding out Additions is almost always pointless as the levelups from these skills won't make a huge difference if you're up against a tough boss at the end of the dungeon. The game can get away with this because it's long, though ( 4 discs! ), so I don't know if this is the right approach for mosts JRPGs.

 

But loading the XP values onto bosses seems like a decent way to alleviate grinding. In fact, loading your power gains onto things other than XP in general usually feels better. In Shin Megami Tensei IV, your main battle power comes from your party composition, so the best you can do is usually recruiting the right enemies to fuse together, which takes less time than grinding out levels and gives you a straightforward goal other than "smash the A button until the battle ends."

 

In short, give the player something other than stat numbers to give them an advantage in battle, and make acquiring strengths fun and unique. Maybe that's a good starting goal?


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#16 Neon Jackal

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Posted 16 February 2016 - 03:00 AM

Well expanding on using Monster Hunter as an example, the reason it doesn't feel like grinding is probably due to multiple things:

-Combat is skill based and fun

-Even the weaker monsters can still mess you up if you aren't careful

-There's no real levels or experience, just better equipment.

jRPGS could probably learn a bit from that, if the bulk of your game is fighting, you need to make fighting exciting for as long as possible.

 

I think a good example of a jRPG that made fighting less of a chore was Blue Dragon, with the turn order and ability charging it made even the weakest battles interesting(how do I end this fight effeciently in one turn?)


Edited by Neon Jackal, 16 February 2016 - 03:02 AM.

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#17 Zeddy

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 12:44 AM

JRPG battles are popcorn.

I got a popcorn machine for last Christmas. After hunting down the well-hidden, non-microwave unpopped popcorn bags I learnt something that I'd never thought about: Popcorn by itself doesn't taste like anything. They're completely bland, but could still scarf them down quote easily because of the texture.

So it is with JRPG battles: Numerous, easily digestible, only as tasteful as its additives.

In Final Fantasy 7, those additives are about 30% customising abilities and gear beforehand, and seeing the payoff off your planning, 70% special effects. No need to pull off complicated inputs like in Tekken or Street Fighter, you just have to select an item on the menu and Cloud will pull off a cool combo or throw fire at the enemy.

It'a a great snack for people who don't have the knack for action games. You can get all the empowerment feeling videogames can provide for you without needing pinpoint accuracy, hair-trigger reaction times or mechanical timing.

I don't mean this in a derogatory sense, either. It is what it is. JRPG battles are there because the story says your team is big damn heroes and big damn heroes need to fight a lot of bad guys, but maybe some people just want to enjoy an interactive story without having to work for it.

Another advantage of it is that JRPG battles don't demand the player's full focus. The player is free to keep playing while eating a meal, talking with friends, or reading the guide to find the obnoxiously well-hidden secrets in the game. Before mobile games, JRPGs were about the only games that could be like unto background music.

So how do you make JRPG battles interesting? Butter and salt. Cram them full of other, more interesting things: Special effects, minigames, skill and gear customisation, inventory managment, dialogues. Anything at all, really.

And try to limit healing. An end-game secret boss where the player is expected to have 4 half-heal potions for a 3-man party is usually more interesting than one where they'll have 99 X-potions and 5 Invincibility MacGuffins.

Edited by Zeddy, 27 February 2016 - 01:09 AM.

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#18 RangerX

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Posted 28 February 2016 - 04:05 PM

In matter of JRPGs there are games that already pulled off "almost perfect" battles in my opinion. And for reference :

 

Suikoden and Suikoden 2

- Fast paced

- Great abilities engaging all characters (united attacks)

- XP gained depending on your level vs mob's levels (reduces useless grinding ALOT)

 

I think its my favorite battle of all time. And this all the while staying turn based --- which is a style I love. 

 

 

 

Final Fantasy 7

- Best version of the ATB style battle this series had for a long time. 

- Materia system was allowing deep customisation and let the player create some incredible strategies against powerful mobs

- Fast, simple commands, great abilities and systems that feels rewarding but never become complicated (limit breaks, overkills, etc) 


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----------------------------------------- Always need testers! -------------------------------------------------------

The Life Ruby (Metroidvania platformer / Skills platformer)

(alpha section)

http://gmc.yoyogames...opic=658670&hl=

 


#19 gadgetmawombo

gadgetmawombo

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 06:25 AM

In my opinion Grandia III has the best menu battles of any JRPG I've ever played, and I've run the gamut: Almost all the final fantasy titles, Persona 3/4, Dragon Quest VIII, Chrono Trigger/Cross, etc. Bravely Default would also be high up there for me, and it's a system that's probably a lot easier to execute than Grandia.


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