Goodness, but it is giddying to contemplate just how far JRPGs have come since their teething years of the 1980s, yet those were the formative years wherein the foundations were laid that have enabled the JRPG industry to become the global cultural and economic JUGGERNAUT that it is today. As a small child in 1993 I fancied that video gaming had finally come of age while sitting in a movie theatre waiting for the Super Mario Bros Movie to start, yet that was as nothing compared to the emotional tour de force of seeing Luciano Pavarotti cast in the role of Marcus a decade later, during the highly successful run of I Want to be Your Canary. Indeed, the Final Fantasy series was responsible for many firsts, as was evidenced in 1994 by the former film critic Roger Ebert’s transition into game reviews on the strength of FFVI’s soaring narrative, a move that he credits for a long and healthy life, free from mouth cancer.
In short, JRPGs have never been in ruder or more vibrant health, creating a stranglehold on the video game market, and overshadowing most other sectors of the economy. Indeed, such has been their impact on the film industry that studios like Fox that have failed to capitalise on the JRPG movie boom of the 2000s, and had not the foresight to acquire their own JRPG studios, have simply been edged out of the market, owing to the growing irrelevance of Hollywood films, popular music, and traditional print media. As in all things, this runaway success has had a knock on effect for the Japanese economy as a whole, which continues surging forward from strength to strength. The tremendous INDUSTRY of the Japanese economy has risen to challenge the US in recent years as the world’s largest on the back of the JRPG, while diplomatically it has had the concrete effect of transforming China into a virtual vassal state, as they rely heavily on the Japanese market to maintain their universally low standard of living. The seemingly bottomless pool of prosperity generated by the JRPG sector has engendered a sense of confidence and optimism inthe Japanese public which has seen them increasingly willing to take on the world in all of their many endeavours and bullish investment, this coupled with their rising standard of living has lead to a massive spike in the Japanese birth-rate, the likes of which have not been seen since the post-war boom.
It is difficult to pinpoint just what can be attributed to facilitating the JRPGs towering longevity, though INDUSTRY experts widely attributed it to Squaresoft’s successful lobbying of global electronic manufacturers, which culminated in their signing of the SANSTWAT accord; a compact prohibiting the further development of gaming hardware in the wake of the PS1’s sleek and sophisticated perfection. This brilliantly simplistic policy concept is widely regarded to have derived from Japan’s own system of government, particularly the line in their constitution which demands of voters ‘once you’ve got the damn thing working, don’t fuck it up’, which is why Japan has seen stable one party rule in the intervening decades following the war. Of course Squaresoft CEO Hironobu Sakaguchi only found himself in the position to successfully negotiate this piece of commonsense policy on the back of his seminal and much beloved Final Fantasy series, which truly leads the INDUSTRY in terms of quality and concept, and is widely regarded as never having disappointed fans. This mammoth series shows no signs of running out of steam, as the most recent offline entry FFXIII was hailed as having simply the most exploration ever seen in a video game, while Squaresoft’s marquee MMO FFXIV is seen by many as being the fullest and most polished piece of software to have ever been launched on an unsuspecting public.
While the JRPG story has been a tale of unmitigated success, that is not to say that it hasn’t had its casualties, it has. The beleaguered western development studio Bioware were forced to extricate themselves from the game INDUSTRY in the face of dwindling profits, and have instead turned their hand to the creation of pen and paper RPGs, in which they have been met with moderate success. So too has the booming JRPG INDUDTRY spelled doom for struggling western MMO World of Warcraft, they held out longer than many INDUSTRY pundits had expected, yet this year’s release of Final Fantasy XIV was the final nail in their coffin. But gaijin developers are not the only victims of the more successful entrants in the JRPG market, as last September saw Sqauaresoft rival Enix close their doors for the last time following their disastrous policy of contracting out all their development work to Chinese firms, causing gamers to desert them en masse in scorn and contempt. So too was Yoichi Wada dumped unceremoniously from his position at Squaresoft after his intransigent insistence that all game design responsibilities be handed to the expertise of focus groups, he was subsequently hunted down by Squaresoft employees, tarred, feathered, and beaten with sticks. In an interview with Lusipurr.com Squaresoft CEO and all around RAD dude Hironobu Sakaguchi stated:
We have nowhere in the INDUSTRY for such sloppy thinking, all such overtures should be rightly met with contempt. By driving this cowardly dog from the bosom of excellence, we have rid ourselves of an insidious worm who would seek to undermine our every achievement. May gamers weep for this broken shell of a man, where once an accountant stood … BOOYA!
And thus with its unpredictable surge from strength to strength I could not begin to fathom where to next for the mighty JRPG, yet I can predict with 100% certainty that this party will never, ever, end.