The turn-based has always been part of the DNA of the JRPGs. And yet, for a few years now, it seems that the biggest representatives of the genre are mainly inclined towards hard action. Does the turn-based still have a future in the genre?

Turn-based is a game mechanic that divides, especially among the community of JRPG enthusiasts. For some, it is a dated gameplay, testimony to the impossibility for certain licenses to renew themselves in an increasingly competitive field and focused on pure and simple action. For others, turn-based combat remains one of the most interesting modes of combat, even today, in particular thanks to the strategic dimension that it allows. Despite the debates, which are ultimately up to public opinion, one thing seems fairly certain: turn-based turns are not necessarily popular at the moment.. Apart from a few resistance fighters (Bravely Default, Persona, etc.), most recent JRPG releases are based almost exclusively on outright action. So, does turn-based still have a future in the JRPG?

Glorious beginnings

Impressive beginnings
Impressive beginnings

Everyone agrees that the very first Dragon Quest was one of the pioneers of the Japanese-style RPG, followed closely by the first Final Fantasy. A style of play largely inspired by role-playing games on the table, thus offering the player to face his enemies by taking his time in order to gauge all his options: this is how turn-based play began. And for many years, the best JRPGs in the world used this game mechanic: Final Fantasy VI, VII, X, Dragon Quest VIII, Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Suikoden, Pokémon, Fire Emblem, etc …

The appearance of new types of gameplay

Tales of, always in pure action
Tales of, always in pure action

However, at the same time, various licenses are launching new ways of staging fights, mostly based on pure action.. This is how the Tales of or Mana series (Secret of Mana in particular) were born, offering players new ways to understand clashes in role-playing games. In reality, a certain weariness began to be felt about turn-based in the late 90s, as many developers worked on ways to make these clashes more dynamic.. For example, we can talk about ATB gauges from Final Fantasy VII, or even Chrono Trigger fights, which are also based on a gauge that fills up over time. In short, the too classic turn-based turn was to be avoided for a certain period because it was considered too basic. But then, what about today?

What about turn-based JRPGs today?

It seems pretty clear that turn-based is less crowded these days, even in licenses typically associated with this game mechanic. Final Fantasy games have been around for a long time now. (Final Fantasy XV and soon FF XVI) and even the remake of Final Fantasy VII moves away from this gameplay to offer a kind of hybrid between action and turn-based (with the possibility of launching abilities by putting screen paused). Just look at the most important JRPGs of the year so far: NieR Replicant, Ys IX, Scarlet Nexus, Tales of Arise, Neo The World Ends With You … None of these games employ turn-based .

Persona, one of the turn-based resistance fighters
Persona, one of the turn-based resistance fighters

Fortunately for amateurs, some licenses are resisting and remain attached to their roots: Shin Megami Tensei (and by extension Persona), Pokémon, Dragon Quest, Bravely Default, the Atelier series or the Trails of still offer old-fashioned fights, with more modern twists.. Some studios also offer excellent games inspired by game mechanics from the past, with a lot of new additions: this is particularly the case of Persona 5 Royal and Yakuza Like a Dragon. One thing seems pretty certain: Despite how old this type of gameplay is, it doesn’t look like it’s about to crumble, as fans still seem to be so plentiful.

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