We won: On The Last Story and American release
A scant two days before its European release, us Western RPG players got the best news we could hope for: The Last Story is getting an American release. The forces of good have prevailed.
We’ve now gone full circle on the saga of Xenoblade and The Last Story, having moved from full on depression at the idea that Nintendo of America would throw away the most critically acclaimed JRPGs of this generation to cautious, restrained optimism at the idea that Xenoblade would release as a Gamestop exclusive to now, finally, acceptance thanks to Nintendo and XSeed coming together to bring The Last Story to America.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that the JRPG has been at best mediocre across the board, at worst utterly decrepit on modern consoles. Sure, it’s experienced a renaissance on handhelds, with brilliant, top five JRPG of all time caliber games like Radiant Historia, but these games did nothing but reinforce the trope that the JRPG was a relic of the past. The “best” console JRPG of the generation, Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey, felt like a good title lost at sea trying to find relevance in a market that didn’t desire it. By way of comparison, it felt like Jade Empire or Knights of the Old Republic stripped of its Star Wars trappings: Lost Odyssey was a good game that wasn’t quite sure how to conquer the realities of the modern HD generation.
By this metaphor, Xenoblade and The Last Story appear to be JRPG’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age, where the genre finally figured out how to take bold new steps into the future. They take classic JRPG ideas and meld them with novel strategies, something which has to be exciting for any fan of the genre except the most hardened traditionalist. Because here’s the thing: while the last two generations were defined by JRPGs (the Playstation by Final Fantasy VII, the Playstation 2 by Final Fantasy X and, in the minds of its rabid fans, Persona), in this one they’ve barely been a footnote.
Which is what made it so strange that Nintendo would reject these two titles. Sure, lots of gamers express scorn at JRPGs, but it’s a pretty beloved genre for a large portion of the internet. And here were two games that, apparently, do everything right: they hit all the high notes of the JRPG and enough new ones to be revolutionary experiences. On a console as dead as the Wii is right now, I’m still amazed these games were plotted for quicker releases.
Then again, now they’ll come out in the relatively dead summer months (JRPG fans are laughing knowingly, because the summer has always been Atlus time, when Atlus releases their new games to avoid the holiday rush), where they might make some more mainstream noise. JRPG fans are no doubt even more thrilled, especially with titles like Gungnir and Growlanser: Wayfarers of Time holding down the traditional JRPG fort on the PSP. And as a fan of the genre, it’s hard not to go through today and think that we won. Operation Rainfall did it.
The JRPG isn’t dead; long live the JRPG.