Man, I just read the new Random Encounters column and I found that list wanting. The games there are all the same! There's so much more to JRPGs than Jason represents. This began as a comment under that story, but spiraled WAY out of control. So instead I want to put my suggestions for changes here where we can also get the input of the community for further changes. The original list that I'm altering can be referenced here: http://kotaku.com/the-20-jrpgs-y…
Without further ado:
Out: Ni no Kuni
Because: For all that it's pretty, the pacing is UNBEARABLY slow the combat not terribly satisfying and the monster hunting aspect not integrated into the rest of the game very well. It's like a party based Dragon Quest game with some unfortunate monster stuff grafted on, and the end product is suffers for being not the best at either thing.
In: Pokemon Heart Gold
Because: Not only is Pokemon the most successful JRPG franchise in the world, but it does multiplayer, creature collecting, and appeals to an age group that most JRPGs simply don't reach out to. And it's supremely well crafted and balanced. This goes in for being great and filling HUGE representative gaps on this list.
Out: Final Fantasy VII
Because: You know what? I like FF VII, I like it a lot for the things it tried to do and it's ambition. But the best part of the game was the tertiary card game and that's never a good sign. Some basic game systems just did not work well. Their combat could be incredibly infuriating and impossible AND incredibly broken and easy. It's actually kinda interesting now that the internet's broken it down for years but... there's a reason this game isn't as big as other installments. If a basic system causes frustration, confusion, and ALSO can break game balance... well then that's not good enough to go in top 20 JRPGs.
In: Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey
Because: Old school dungeon crawling is another entire class of JRPG not represented on this list. SMT Strange Journey is an old school dungeon crawler with a sci-fi/military theme (such a relief from JRPG fantasy), extremely well designed systems, difficulty that's hard but only once or twice prohibitively so, and those loathsome "moral choice" moments except without a clear right answer. SMT Strange Journey gets in for the old school representation, for aesthetic uniqueness, and plain old quality.
Out: Super Mario RPG
Because: Super Mario RPG has been iterated upon and improved upon wildly. There are two whole franchises that took this template in different directions, and even though it's nice to look back on this because it came first, I cannot FATHOM an argument that neither Paper Mario nor Mario and Luigi RPG have done better yet.
In: Mario and Luigi Bowser's Inside Story
Because: It's like Super Mario RPG except funnier, with better level design and more ways to interact with the obstacles in the world, better use of the mushroom kingdom setting for callbacks and gags, and combat that keeps the player needing to pay closer attention to patterns and tells than the basic attack boost/block boost inputs in Mario RPG SNES. For the difference between these two, just look at how Mario RPG used Bowser, and how Mario and Luigi used Bowser. AlphaDream does right by the classic Mario characters in a way Mario RPG never did.
Out: Radiant Historia
Because: It's pretty good, but Chrono Trigger is already on this list and Chrono Trigger does most of the same things but better. Radiant Historia doesn't quite have the same music quality, the setpieces are a little less exciting, the characters have more flesh on their bones... but not all that flesh is delicious. There's some unfortunate writing in there. Props for how they laid out their time travel, but that's not enough. They're out!
In: Final Fantasy XII
Because: Because JRPGs CAN be more than the genre rut they've fallen into. They can be as ambitious and modern and impressive as any other genre of game. This gets in for being the last great JRPG that actually TRIED to push the medium. The story is politics, not anime. The combat is integrated into the world, not SNES style battle zones. The exploration is free roaming and MASSIVE, well beyond anything else being done on the PS2 hardware. The amount and quality of optional content is mind boggling. FF XII is a game that wasn't satisfied being just "a JRPG" and should be shown to anyone who thinks they know what JRPGs are and can be.
Because: Okay, even in Jason's own writeup he acknowledges that this is a deeply flawed product. Tons of text to read and super slow text scroll. Semi-nonsense narrative. Subpar dungeon design. Sure the game has giant robots and fighting god and all that, but that's like JRPG 101. Xenoblade had that, and you didn't like that one did you Jason? But you know what? I think there's a place on this list for imperfect games that deserve credit for doing something remarkable even if it comes with warts. That's why I'm replacing this with...
In: The World Ends with You
Because: TWEWY is also deeply flawed. There are way too many gameplay systems and they don't synergize well and you can ignore most of them because they aren't that crucial anyway and the game is SUPER hard to play and it can make holding the DS super uncomfortable. So that's a lot of bad. But here's why it's worth it: The writing is the best out of Square Enix in the last decade, actually having a cast of teenagers act like a cast of TEENAGERS. It's a game actually about teenagers, and unlike 95% of JRPGs the game actually revolves around a theme. Most JRPGs have awful pretend teenagers that don't act like people. This game has a setting where teenagers hang out, shops where teenagers shop, the art is in a graffiti-esque style as one would associate with the age group, the music is tailored to the theme (and is totally unique and fantastic), even the flaw of having too much going on kinda accidentally works with the idea of being a teenager transitioning into the adult world in modern society and just being bombarded from all sides. For all it's flaws, TWEWY is maybe the most thematically cohesive JRPG ever made and it's also super unique. It belongs on the list.
Out: Kingdom Hearts 2
Because: Jason's right, hack and slashing your way through Disney worlds in Kingdom Hearts IS kinda fun. And Kingdom Hearts is better than it's first impression lets on. But why pick Kingdom Hearts 2?? That's the installment where the nonsense awful Kingdom Hearts narrative gets MOST in the way, even beyond that awful awful GOD AWFUL introduction. There are plenty of other options in the franchise that have more of the good parts of KH and less of the bad.
In: KH 3D/JK BbS
Because: These are the two most recent installments and they're pretty similar. Play very similarly, look about as good as one another, have similarly unfortunate cameras, etc. BbS does a better job of handling multiple protagonists and balancing that part of it's design, but 3D has the best Disney worlds in the entire franchise. Both of them have evolved and play better than KH 2 now that they use the command deck system. Take your pick, I don't care which. They're both pretty fun :)
That's my input. Which of my ideas are rotten? And which of your ideas should be added?