Simularity in RPGs

If you talk to someone who hates JRPGs, or RPGs (pen and paper or video game style ones,) they tend to bring up simularity or a lack of innovation.  You can find, for example, tons of D&D clones and there’s even the term “fantasy heartbreaker.”  This basically is used to cover games which claim to be someone’s better than Game X game.  Unfortunately, it’s the same flaws as Game X, and often the new elements are poorly planned or utterly unnoticeable.  In console / computer RPGs, there’s a pretty consistent complaint about novelty / innovation / sameyness between game series / games / etc.

So, here’s the odd thing.  In my mind, yeah, innovation can be amazing.  I really do enjoy, for example, the Hex battle system in Wild ARMs 4 and 5.  If you haven’t seen the games, it amounts to a battlefield with spaces.  Your party can group together, can change elemental affinities (or status effects) on the spaces, and the enemies can move around in a similar manner.  It’s a really noticeable change from the earlier games which had a more typical Dragon Quest style row of fighters.  I don’t necessarily enjoy playing SaGa games, but I’m fascinated by the sheer variety of new systems that are introduced in the various games.

Silva Saga II isn't an amazingly beautiful game, but it's definitely not a NES game in scope or appearence.

However, I think my main reaction to people’s complaints about novelty is that it’s not really good criticism some of the time.  It could be bad criticism due to ignorance.  For example, on a certain forum, someone talked about the new Silva Saga II translation.  Someone’s response was “Well, it’s a SNES game and you can’t expect that much, but it looks like Final Fantasy, and I can’t stand such a samey ugly game like that.”  Silva Saga II doesn’t have the best graphics on the SNES, but it’s almost laughable to me to call it identical to Final Fantasy.

The first town in Final Fantasy pops up almost anywhere when you talk about the game. It looks nothing like Silva Saga II.

Some games are very similar between games in the series.  Let’s look at Dynasty Warriors / Samurai Warriors / Warriors Orochi.  All of the games from these series play fairly similarly.   If you hate Dynasty Warriors, you’ll probably hate Warriors Orochi.  On the other hand, if you’re neutral toward one of the games, you may find the subtle changes in another one to be to your taste.  For example, I’m quite fond of Warriors Orochi.  The game doesn’t cover the sequence of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, so I’m not dealing with another Yellow Turban revolt.  The goofy voice acting and drama is actually pretty fun to experience.  I enjoy the layered objectives.  For example, you have ability objectives (kill three officers to unlock the ability to run faster, say,) the mission objectives (lure the enemies to the east for an ambush,) and the occasional secret objective (succeed with the luring to get a new character.)

For some people, Warriors Orochi is too similar to other games in the series.  The little changes, however, are enough to make it interesting to me.  I suppose my main complaint with saying “It’s too similar” is that sometimes there’s a lack of thought and consideration.  For example, saying that a game plays the same, and ignoring the interesting plot isn’t considering that the plot may be a selling point.  Or, in the case of Dynasty Warriors, a game that plays similarly and it is a selling point that you’ll get a similar experience.  Another lack of thought could be sheer ignorance.  Complaining that, say, a game is too samey when it’s not samey at all, or a game has nothing interesting for anyone when it’s really just boring for that person.

So, all in all, novelty to me isn’t a selling point.  It’s potentially good or bad, but it’s not why I play games.

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