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The Wired Fish

Opinions from a gamer's perspective

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JRPGs: Are they Easier to Handle on a Handheld?
To any reader out there, whether in grade, middle, or highschool, or college, how long does it usually take to finish a Japanese RPG? How long has it taken you to finally see the end credits to such a game? For many, the average time it takes to finish a JRPG is 40-60 hours. Compare that to other genres of gaming, which take an average of 4-20 hours to complete, JRPGs take the longest to finish. I the previous generation, a lot of JRPGs were released on consoles. However, there's one thing I noticed in my college life: I managed to finish 3 JRPGs on a handheld and only 1 on a console. Those three JRPGs are Final Fantasy III, IV, and Tactics A2 on the DS. The one on the console was the original Final Fantasy. This weekend, I'm expected to beat Persona 3 Portable on the PSP. As you can see, I'm more capable of beating a JRPG on a handheld than I am on a console. If you look at my Videogame Completion Log, a lot of those games I have to beat are JRPGs on consoles.

Guess which game I logged 85+ hours on and about to finish?

Being a college student, it's hard for me to be committed to sitting on a TV and hammer down 5 hours of gaming on a weekday. If I get a job (hopefully since this is my final college year), this activity is certain to continue. But for handheld JRPGs, nothing's gonna change. Overall, I think it's the accessibility of dropping in and out of handheld games in general that makes me prefer to play JRPGs on a handheld. How accessible is it? Well, today I have around 85 hours logged into Persona 3 Portable. Not only is that a record for me with any game (first being FF Tactics Advance), I can't even fathom playing a game that long on a console. In between gameplay, I was able to do other things like do artwork, run errands, and even wait for one of my classes to begin. Hell, I was so much on a roll with Persona I actually had a pattern with playing it.

Before I started planning this entry, I looked around to see if there were others that shared my opinion. One result that stuck out is an article from Destructoid editor Jim Sterling entitled, "NEW RULE: Every JRPG shall be portable." He pretty much outlines almost anything I'd say. But what do I mean by "Easier to handle?" To sum it up, it's the difficulty and the grind of JRPGs that are easier to handle. Jim says that JRPGs on handhelds are easier. To me, the difficulty is more or less the same on handhelds when compared to their console brethren. It's the perception of this difficulty that makes this different. If anything, console RPGs have to lighten up on the difficulty and not be so grind heavy. On a console, you're more than likely to try and get to the next boss as quickly as possible. As a result, you're more likely to run away from most battles, thus being severely underleveled when you face the next boss. Also, you may be eager to see what happens next if you're really into the story and try to get there as quickly as possible. On a handheld, the perception changes as you are more willing to fight the many enemies you encounter. When it comes boss time, you beat it no problem (unless it's an Atlus Boss). In this case, you're not in so much of a rush when playing a game since you can put the handheld into sleep mode. If you get to exhausted, you can take a break with a simple flip of the switched or closing of the lid. You can't do that with a console RPG. I mean, sure you can leave the console on and change the channel, but the hours are still being counted by the game. Plus, you're tempted to keep playing if you leave the console on, even if you can't game anymore. That and you may also overheat the console.

It's a helluva lot easier on a DS/PSP

Another thing that Jim points out is that you can play these games in short bursts, which alleviates the grinding even more. For those that are into the stories of JRPGs, you might wait until you get home to advance the story. Until then, you can spend you're lunch break (or even your bathroom breaks) grinding before you continue your everyday activity.

There is one subgenre of JRPG that I prefer on handhelds: the Strategy JRPG. As many of you may know all too well, battles in these games take a very long time to end, most of them taking 25 minutes to a half hour to finish. This is for just one battle mind you. While Jim prefers all of his JRPGs to become portable, I prefer that all Strategy JRPGs to go portable. To plead my case, let's look at Valkyria Chronicles. This game is a unique blend of action and strategy. Nevertheless, it is a Strategy JRPG. The battles in this game take a hefty amount of time to finish. Sure, you can save in the middle of a battle and restart from that save as many times as you want. But since it's on a console, it not as easy to simply drop in and out of the battle. So in comes the sequel, Valkyria Chronicles II, which is on the PSP rather than the PS3. There were some fans that were unhappy with the series going handheld. But me, I gave SEGA the Citizen Kane Slow Clap. I commended their decision. If I finish the first game, I will gladly buy the second game knowing that I can probably beat the game faster on a PSP than on PS3.

F you grind-heavy sack of shit!

To use another example, let's talk about La Pucelle Tactics. I have all but given up on that game. Heck, I don't even list it in my Videogame Completion log as a game to finish. It's a good game too, but what this game demands from me I simply don't have the time to do. I didn't even have time for it when I was in high school. To put it simply, this game demands that you grind until your hands become one with your controller to become Voltron! It's pretty much like this for any Strategy RPG game that Nippon Ichi makes, hence why I didn't give Disgaea a chance. But if I do get the money, I could plop it down for Disgaea on either the DS or PSP.

So to wrap things up, I think JRPGs are easier to handle on a handheld. The grinding is not so bad, you can play the game anytime and anywhere, and you can drop in and out of the game. While it's okay for JRPGs to get a console release, I'd like to see the more grind-heavy games on handhelds. If you want to get a better picture of what I'm trying to say (I'm still sleepy this early in the morning), go read Jim Sterling's article.

New rule: Every JRPG shall be portable. [Destructoid]

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