As you know, I’ve been playing and recording Tales of Zestiria, the latest in what is apparently a very long series, though I had never before played any of them. Another game I’m still playing and which you might know of is Xenoblade Chronicles X, of which I’ve written in the past, particularly how much I loved the world and the gameplay elements.
Now that I’m playing another major JRPG for a review in the coming days, I keep thinking back to those games and the convenient mechanics they brought into my gaming life. And while it may seem unfair, I keep waiting for those mechanics to show up in this new JRPG, and I will admit I’ll be partly disappointed if they never pop up.
You could say Xenoblade Chronicles X and Tales f Zestiria have spoiled me. But once I tell you about these features, you will probably understand why they’re so good and how game changing they are in JRPGs—not so much in western RPGs were at least one of them has been around for a while.
- Fast Running/Speed Boost: JRPGs often have expansive worlds for you to explore and more often than not put you in situations where you have to get from one point of a relatively large continent to another, so the ability to run faster than normal is something I absolutely adore in the two games I mentioned.
Xenoblade Chronicles X has the fastest running speed I’ve ever seen in a video game, period, and you can get to distant places very quickly, and that’s even before you get vehicles.
Tales of Zestiria on the other hand gives you a stacking boost of speed once you get your Wind Seraph in the party, with the bonus increasing or refreshing with every conversation you overhear or every enemy you fight. This video below will show you what I mean by this:
- Fast Travel: A staple in most western RPGs but still fairly uncommon in their Japanese counterparts. This is simply the ability to instantly transport to different places on the world map. Be it through unlockable landmarks or save points, fast travel is a must when you have tons of quests in widely different places, to save time and avoid the annoyance of extensive and constant backtracking.
- Unrestricted movement: This is one that only Xenoblade Chronicles X has but I wish every game included. In the game not only can you run like a madman, dashing about with inhuman speed, but you can also jump in the same way, reaching further distances and heights, allowing you to explore every corner of the world. There aren’t any invisible barriers preventing you from reaching higher ground or to drop from them to lower ground. I adore this, and in games with tons of exploration, it’s an ability I feel should be there. Tales of Zestiria sadly does have the invisible barrier, even around shallow pools of water, something that disappointed me greatly. I want to be free to explore the world without any limitations.
- Fast-paced Action: When I got into JRPGs it was with the traditional turn-based fighting system and while I still dig that, particularly when it comes to Square-Enix games such as Final Fantasy and Bravely Default, I admit I enjoy the button mashing style of gameplay that Tales of Zestiria has is greatly appealing to me. It makes battles feel much more intense as everything is happening at a faster pace and just as you can mash those buttons, so can your enemies mash their own.
Xenoblade Chronicles X on the other hand feels much closer to MMOs, where your attack speed determines how fast or slow the combat is, with special skills and their cooldown complementing that. You can even create a rotation of skills so you’re never just waiting for the next attack. And even if you are, enemies won’t leave you alone so you’re always on the move and fights always end up feeling frantic.
- Party Tactics: It’s not just fast battles or highly interactive ones that I like now, but I want my party to work together, I want one member to break enemy defenses so that the rest of us can unleash our most powerful attacks against them. I want it so that as long as one of us stands, not only is the fight far from over but fallen allies can return to life with enhanced abilities.
Tales of Zestiria is the king of the latter, with the Armatization mechanic, which helps in bringing back dead characters and turns two of them into fighting machines. The decision of which Seraph to pair with is also important, as it has a direct effect on the flow of battle.
But it’s Xenoblade Chronicles X that has the best gameplay when it comes to party mechanics. You can time your party’s attacks, using their pretty nice AI to unleash a set of skills in sequence that result in stunned enemies, toppled giants and a completely healed and revived party.
But most importantly, all of these aren’t just about mashing buttons, but careful study of the situation and the use of the right skills at the appropriate times.
- Elite Enemies: This might seem weird, but I love finding incredibly strong enemies in the field, and not just the ‘ecosystem’ arrangement of enemies that Xenoblade Chronicles X has where lower level enemies coexist with amazingly strong ones, but true elites, those with unique names and superior fighting skills. Both games have them and they both work in a similar way, one that I like a lot. These enemies are incredibly tough and make you use all your fighting skills to survive, but if you do make it through the harrowing encounter, then you get a big boost in XP and money gained and either receive some spectacular loot or get a permanent boost to your stats!
- No Grinding: I’ve mentioned in the past how much I dislike grinding in JRPGs and neither Xenoblade Chronicles X nor Tales of Zestiria have any grinding, at least not in the traditional sense of going into multiple battles to scrape bits of experience at a time.
In Xenoblade Chronicles X, you’ll spend your time completing hundreds of interesting quests, most of them without a single fight, and you level up just by turning them in. I very often realised after a play session that I had gone up five levels without even noticing, just by completing quests, which is something I love to do in any game.
Tales of Zestiria on the other hand is very relaxed on the level requirements for major story bosses and I found that as long as I levelled up once in each new zone, I was golden for the next major story encounters. And I could level up just by fighting a few enemies on my path to the next main quest point. I only had to grind near the end, and it’s because of the massive and I mean MASSIVE difficulty spike with the last boss…though I mainly grinded for money, not experience.
So what do you think? Am I exaggerating? Or am I right in that we need more JRPGs, hell, more RPGs in general to adopt them? Let me know in the comments…and no, I can’t tell you which game I’m reviewing right now, you’ll have to find out when I publish the thing!