Posted by Yaw Amanquah @yawoada
freelance game designer | |
Yaw Amanquah

"I wish this wasn't a turn-based RPG." After the release of the new Persona 5 trailer, this was a sentiment that many people had. Which doesn't surprise me because as far as video game genres go turn-based RPGs have to be one of the most antiquated ones. However, I don't think it's a genre that is completely obsolete and I do believe it has had its share of improvements over the years.

For those that wish all turn-based RPGs were action-based, did you ever consider that having solitary control over a party would be very difficult without turns? Most action RPGs if they do have party members don't let you take complete control and instead party members are controlled by an AI. Now, I'm not saying this is a bad way of making an RPG but it is very different from the kind of strategy turn-based RPGs offer.

Bravely Default

However, these same criticisms are rarely levied at Bravely Default. Rather than criticisms, Bravely Default is praised for being a turn-based RPG that lifts the genre out of the dark ages while staying true to its RPG roots. I disagree. Sure the strategy of turn-based RPGs remains in Bravely Default but it doesn't do much to modernize the genre. Bravely Default instead settles for making some of the most annoying tropes of turn-based RPGs more bearable.

Bravely Default allows players to fast-forward through battles and set their own encounter rate. Both of these features are ways for the player to avoid battles that wouldn't be necessary if the battles were always engaging. The Brave and Default system in Bravely Default doesn't do much to modernize the genre either but it at least gives the player more choices in combat.

Chrono Trigger

As old as it is I consider Chrono Trigger to be a modern turn-based RPG because of its Active Time Battle system. The Active Time Battle system is an RPG battle system that originated in Final Fantasy IV which uses gauges that build up at varying speeds instead of an arbitrary order to determine turns. Chrono Trigger took the ATB system further by adding team attacks (Double and Triple Techs) that can only be selected if the party members needed for the attack have an active turn.

Also, despite the fact that combat in Chrono Trigger is turn-based enemies are able to move in and out of the range of your attacks between turns. Both of these features give the player many things to consider during their turn and not much time to make a decision. Chrono Trigger also fixed tedious random encounters by making battle transitions completely seamless and allowing players to avoid enemies on the overworld.

Square Enix And Action RPGs

The point I'm trying to make here is that turn-based RPGs do not need to disappear but they do need to change to be relevant today. I'll admit that I wasn't too happy when Final Fantasy VII Remake was revealed to be an action RPG. With Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV both in development did Square Enix really need to make Final Fantasy VII Remake an action RPG too?

I don't think Final Fantasy VII Remake should have had the same battle system as the original but I do think it should have been modernized not replaced. Square Enix is still developing turn-based RPGs like the previously mentioned Bravely Default and I Am Setsuna but those are both low budget portable titles. This is why I salute Atlus for having enough confidence in the Persona series to let it remain a high budget turn-based RPG.