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No More Potions! – Modernizing the RPG

So I recently started playing The World Ends With You, a DS game by Square Enix. In recent years, Square Enix has been trying to address some of the age-old gripes that traditional role-playing games have been plagued with. Today, we’ll look at some of these classic issues and see how they are addressed.

I Wish I Bought More Potions…

In most classic RPGs, as you march towards your goal (the end-boss of the level), you’re getting weaker and weaker. Little minions pick at your HP until you’re about half left or worse, nearly dead. Then you have no power to fight the boss. You grind, you go back and manage to get though with a good portion of your health in-tact, and then you annihalate the boss because of your grinding. That’s no fun. So they balance the boss and make him tougher. Next time, you stock up on health restoring items, and drink potions after every battle. That kind of maintenance is tedious at times. Is an RPG really about constantly healing up? Perhaps, if you’re the hardcore RPGer.

Whatever the case may be, you’ll usually want to go into a fight in tip-top condition. You never know when the next thing is going to kill you, and it would suck if your party was destroyed simply because you weren’t prepared for it. This is especially the case before a boss battle. Sometimes, these battles sneak up on you as soon as you enter the next area. A story sequence takes place, and then you’re saying “No, wait wait! I didn’t save! I didn’t heal up before this fight!” So why not eliminate that diminishing health, and the need to prepare altogether? The World Ends With You simply resets your health after combat. Since the player can pick his own fights anyway, it makes sense. And since this is a portable game that lets the player save anywhere, it loses the advantageous warning of providing a save-point before a boss fight.

Of course, some would argue that gamers nowadays are being held by the hand, and that RPGs back in the day were hardcore and difficult. Sure. I don’t disagree with you. I grew up in that era. However, the face of gaming is changing. Games are all about having fun. What point is a video game if it’s not fun? Back in the days when video games were a new thing, and arcades were like the slot machines in Vegas, it was all about taking quarters – making a game as challenging as possible, limiting lives, all to get you to put in more quarters. Those elements worked well in that era of gaming, and was almost a requirement. But with home consoles, that type of frustrating game design is not necessary at all. Many games are becoming more like interactive movies. A lot of old-school gamers feel jaded and are against this type of movement. Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, you name it. But like I said before, the face of gaming is changing. There’s no denying it. Developers wouldn’t make movie-like games if there was no demand for it.

Likewise, the classic RPG formula is becoming just that : Classic. It’s becoming stale. That’s different from demand though. The demand for RPGs are increasing on an unfathomable scale. You see more and more RPGs out in the market now than 10 years ago. So it’s there. People want it. Developers just have to hear what the gamers want and do it right. Most importantly, make it fun.

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