There’s a time in most jRPGs where you reach the end. I don’t mean the last battle with the final boss. I’m talking about the part of the game in which you have free reign to explore the entire world, clean up any remaining side quests, battle rare monsters, and search for those legendary treasures that will make your party nearly invincible. This usually happens near to the final battle, oftentimes right before it, where the player has a location to which going means sealing off the rest of the open world and engaging in the last bits of the main story. You, as the player, spend time before the final confrontation completing all of these exploratory quests and missions and after some time lose sight of the main story and perhaps lose the desire to finish the game all together. I first experienced this in the Final Fantasy series which is why I’ve coined the above title and phrase, but I’d imagine it could really be applied to most jRPGs.
I most recently encountered it in Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. I’d spent a solid chunk of time, some 50+ hours, just plowing through the main story with the occasional stop for a side quest. Upon making it to the classic point in which you are faced with the question, normally posed by one of the “mentor” or “sage” type party members, “Are you sure you want to continue? You cannot go back after this point,” I froze. Every time I am faced with this in a game my mind wanders back to the world I’m about to leave behind, frantically thinking of all the things I’ll no longer be able to do, should I answer yes to this question.
So, of course, I choose “no” and go back into the world, my freedom restored from the precipice of eternal disappearance, and open up my quest log to see all of the side missions I’ve yet to start. I begin completing them, many of which having their own little story or specific reward, nonessential to the main story, and slowly the endgoal toward which I’ve been moving the last 50 hours begins to find its place of importance diminishing.
Worse than that, the side missions slowly lose their draw too and in a few weeks I find myself hardly playing Xenoblade at all, when only a month ago I was engaged in a meaningful story with characters about whom I cared, and enamored with world whose fate mattered to me. Some of my roommates had even been watching me play through the main game and encouraged me to finish it, dropping little one liners or text messages throughout the day reminding me how much time I’d spent playing it and that finishing it was an important accomplishment.
I’m thankful for that because it’s partially what spawned this blog post. I’ve realized that this has become a habit of mine: not finishing games. So made a cup of coffee, sat down one night, answered “yes” to the question. 3 hours later I witnessed the ending to what I think is one of the best jRPGs of the last 10 years.
This all happened about 3 months ago. Fastforward to right now. I am currently in what I believe to be the final dungeon of Persona 4 Golden ( I do not look up cheats nor do I consult walkthroughs for games until I have beaten them in their entirety at least once.) Since reaching this point I’ve started playing League of Legends and I’ve picked up both Fire Emblem: Awakening and Ni No Kuni. And I’ve started files in the latter two.
After having written this post, and being given some not-so-subtle encouragement from my little brother and fellow gamer, I am going to set aside those two stellar titles until I can finish Persona 4.
Hopefully that will be this coming week.
Wish me luck and I will keep you updated.