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Dear Japanese Games: Stop Having Boring Butt Openings

Let’s start JRPG’s with less of this:

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And more of this:

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Maybe I’m just spoiled, maybe I just have a short attention span, but I have lost all patience for “humble beginnings in a sleepy village” openings. Guess what? I don’t care. I don’t care about the villagers. I don’t care about my quiet life. I don’t care about collecting five herbs for Grandma Whosit or getting little Jenny’s cat out of a tree.

Grandma can pick her own herbs and I hope that cat stays in that tree forever.

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I just started Tales of Berseria. The game began promising enough. Right from the start it becomes pretty clear that Velvet is not a hero. This may be the first Tales game where we’re essentially playing the part of the villain for the first half of the story. I don’t consider that a spoiler; the fact that Velvet has been tortured into nigh demonic insanity is a point that anyone who has ever looked at anything for this game knows.

So we get an opening setting the stage for her trauma in childhood flashback form, then a glimpse of the terrifying being that Velvet has become in her adult life. The stakes are high and I want to embark on this dark quest and see if Velvet finds any modicum of redemption for the sins that were abused into her.

But of course before I could do that guess what I have to do first?

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Thaaaat’s right! I’ve gotta go hunt boars in a happy go lucky flashback with a super happy super eager Velvet who is an optimistic sunshiny flower, the perfect big sister, beloved role model of the young women of her village and all around amazeballs Mary Sue!

I got bored and stopped playing twenty minutes later.

Listen, I’ve been playing JRPG’s since diaper school. I won’t agree with you that Chrono Trigger is the best RPG ever made (it’s great don’t get me wrong, but, not the be all end all), but I’ve beaten that numerous times. I’ve played everything from Final Fantasy to Dragon Quest to most Tales Of to Trails in the Sky to Eternal Eyes (bet you don’t even know what that one is!) to Riviera to Legend of Dragoon to…if it’s a JRPG that doesn’t hate my religion I’ve probably played it (it might be faster to list what I haven’t played).

Thing of it is, I just don’t have the patience for this humble beginnings look how pleasant this village is before we either destroy it or have them shun the hero crap. Listen, I already know how the story in Berseria is going to go, not because I’ve read spoilers but because I’ve played a Tales game before (kinda like if you’ve ever played Castlevania even once in your life you know your best friend is gonna be the second to last boss and the girl you like is gonna get abducted). Let’s be honest, they’ve told literally the same story since Eternia (which is also my favorite).

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Something something I’m too dumb to know this girl likes me something something racism is wrong something something the off worlders are smarter than us something something vague rumblings drawing from Christianity and Shintoism something something let’s stop being jerks to each other something something we stabbed the anti-christ in the face.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Eternia, and mad props to it for tackling racism, interracial couples and ethnic cleansing when no one wanted to. That being said, it’s kinda like how every Persona is also the same game (don’t get mad, I like Persona but they are).

And, I own every tales game so obviously I enjoy them a great deal. What I don’t enjoy however is the fact that most Japanese studios not only can’t see their way past a sleepy village opening, they also apparently forgot that Eternia got me out of said village in like eight minutes flat (Oh my gosh I just realized that Reid in Eternia begins the game hunting boars just like Velvet begins Berseria…)

In many ways I give Berseria props for almost being the Anti-Tales Of game:

Female lead instead of male lead? Check.
You’re basically playing as the villain at first? Check.
A story about motherhood and sacrifice instead of meet cute and cultural differences? Check.
A “hero” with no regard for human life? Check.

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And I’m very curious about this story, and about Velvet struggling against her madness and her history of being abused, but…

I have Yakuza 0 which begins engaging and stays engaging. I have Dynasty Warriors Eiketsuden which does the same. I have Dragon Quest 8 which at least shoved me out of the “village” quickly. And, I’ve been spoiled by games with far better openings.

I mean say what you will about Arc Rise Fantasia, but I got to begin that game fighting a dragon on an airship. In Xenoblade Chronicles I got to fight a war against a machine army and then watch two giant robots fight and then fight some more robots and then wander a field fighting monsters before I got to the village, which was living and breathing and full of interesting things.

In World of Final Fantasy I got introduced to my heroes and then thrown onto my quest before I had to spend time in a town. In Final Fantasy 15 I got to fight some manner of fire demon before getting to the drivey part and even then I got to have fun doing that. In Exist Archive I got hurled into a mystery, hurled into a dungeon, hurled into more mystery and hurled into tragedy before long cutscenes happened. Heck, even Code:Realize, a visual novel, began with an army trying to kill me.

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Velvet, stop writing this article for me! But yeah, pretty much sums up the opening.

And then there’s Berseria, which starts very promising, and then expects me to wade through a sleepy village playing Leave It to Velvet for God knows how long. And, I just don’t have the patience for that crap right now.

I’m sure there’s a lovely game in there somewhere, but with such an awfully boring opening sequence I don’t know when I’ll take the time to find it.

Xeawn, out.

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One comment on “Dear Japanese Games: Stop Having Boring Butt Openings

  1. I do agree, I get a bit tired of the standard ‘starting in the sleepy village’ opening, but I do believe context helps. When I played Lunar, I actually liked how there wasn’t a giant problem that needed to be fixed. You start in a small town because that’s just where the character is from and dreams of doing more, but yeah, quickly it’s explore this and check out that and the world is built as you travel.

    If however you talk about death and destruction and hint at something insane happening (Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World for the Wii…I’m looking at you) and THEN start off in the sleepy village, yeah, that is annoying as heck. I actually thought back and had a difficult time thinking of a japanese game that didn’t start in a sleepy village, I instead had to think of games that at least contextually were OK starting in a sleepy village. Chronotrigger, Lunar, and …well I’ll have to think of a few more.

    Final Fantasy 2 and 3 (4 and 6) for the snes started out with castles and kingdoms and intrigue so at least that is something for them. I do look back and wonder why as much as I loved Lufia, why I haven’t played it in a while and remember that it starts with this amazing final boss battle and a tragic win, only to go to the sleepy town, have dark evil resurrected, and then spend most of the game tottering from one quiet town to the next. I mean, I LOVE the interaction and the depth of the characters, but it might have been nice to instead either give us a ton of awesome first and keep it going, or start without all the insanity and build up to the awesome later through flashbacks and what not.

    It’s that joke I remember discussing, the simpsons vs futurama. Simpsons started out deep and meaningful with grounded reality and then descended into deranged and silly where anything can happen making it a pointless humor show (sorry if anyone still likes it but it doesn’t seem to have a soul anymore). Futurama started out deranged and silly where anything can happen with meaningful people, and kept it that way. Perhaps it’s ok to change things, as long as the basic narrative of what you are doing stays coherent. There’s a reason we call it jumping the shark. LOL

    I’m out like the gout. 😀

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