This is a long-term project of mine about JRPGs in the seventh console generation. As part of it, I’ve been recording exploratory Let’s Plays of the games I’m studying. You can read a longer introduction to the project here, an occasionally-up-to-date game list is here, and this page collects the videos.
After leaving Squaresoft, Hironobu Sakaguchi founded Mistwalker in 2004. This was their first offering, a charming, engaging children’s adventure backed by a robust iteration on core JRPG mechanics.
Tri-Crescendo, a spinoff from TriAce (themselves a spinoff from Namco Bandai’s Tales Team) released this hopeless mess of a game in 2007. I made the mistake of playing the PS3 version, which compounds the monotony and awkwardness of the combat with absurd difficulty. Eternal Sonata is superficially pretty, but aesthetically incoherent and thematically actually pretty gross.
This 2006 offering from FromSoft – who were three years away from delivering Demon’s Souls – is great at the core competencies of the JRPG. It’s formulaic, but has a surprising amount of heart and an elegant, streamlined combat system. While the graphics are technologically rough, some of the hallmarks of Souls-era From’s world-leading environmental design are in evidence.
Mistwalker’s second offering, from 2007, is a game ashamed of itself. The core mechanics and progression are finely-tuned and clever, but buried under gimmicky bossfights and constricting environments. Sometimes beautiful and occasionally moving, the narrative nevertheless sprawls across three different central ideas, none of which it really delivers on. As such, it’s a perfect example of a JRPG spoiled by ill-thought-out efforts to conform to western expectations of modernity.
Resonance of Fate
We also covered this as a podcast game. Released in 2009, between Final Fantasy XIII and Nier, this is one of the oddest JRPGs of its era. It looks fantastic, and about a third of the game is deeply compelling, but there’s a lot of filler – combat takes ages and the dungeons are huge.
Developed by Tri-Ace and published by Square Enix, Infinite Undiscovery is a game whose sidequests live up to the ambitious title, but whose core story is mercifully short. While the characters grew on me, the game is visually bland and the dialogue writing abysmal. Mechanically, the game is almost more a musou than an RPG, but retains the environmental dynamics of the latter.
The Last Remnant
We also covered this as a podcast game. The first game Square Enix developed for gen 7 hardware, released in 2008, is almost unbelievably messy. There are moments of brilliance, especially visually, but overall this is an awkward and frustrating stepping stone between FFXII and FFXIII.