I’m old enough to remember when the fandom “wars” between Japanese console RPGs (JRPGs) and Western computer RPGs (WRPGs) were the big thing in video game fandom, and while I certainly had strong opinions at the time, in retrospect I can hardly recall why - both genres were objectively pretty terrible.
Let’s do a little retrospective comparison, shall we?
JRPGs: A single pregenerated character, or maybe a choice of two if you’re very lucky.
WRPGs: Hundreds of possible builds, exactly three of which are actually viable in the endgame. No, we won’t tell you which ones - figuring it out through pure trial and error is part of the “exploration”.
JRPGs: Fixed or semi-randomised stat gains on leveling.
WRPGs: Flexible point allocation, affording numerous opportunities to screw yourself when the main questline assumes you’ve mastered a skill you never bothered to level up.
JRPGs: Press the A button to hear one of two stock lines.
WRPGs: Aggro the starting town’s entire population with a single seemingly innocuous dialogue choice.
JRPGs: Journey with a motley collection of princesses, robots and talking cats, all of whom inexplicably have daddy issues.
WRPGs: Realise you can’t actually recruit anyone because you dump-statted Charisma; upon restarting, bring along your choice of Guy With Sword, Other Guy With Sword, Guy With Axe, and Girl With Bow.
JRPGs: Press A to win!
WRPGs: Press enter to miss (because a starting character has like a 20% hit chance), then promptly get critted by a rat, bleed out and die.
JRPGs: Visit a series of towns in fixed order, each with level-appropriate gear in the shops and level-appropriate random encounters outside.
WRPGs: You only have enough hit points to survive one fight between rests; even the most trivial journey is a game of Russian Roulette with the random encounter table.
JRPGs: A linear series of cutscene triggers.
WRPGs: Theoretically nonlinear, except the devs never bothered to test anything other than the “recommended” sequence. If you’re lucky, going off the rails results in puzzling conversations that refer to stuff that hasn’t happened yet; if you’re not, you just broke the main questline. Again.
JRPGs: You get a badly translated 16-page pamphlet, and a poster map with a drawing of a busty lady on the back.
WRPGs: You get a 100-page coil-bound tome that purports to explain everything, except the text is dry and over-technical and assumes familiarity with other, similar games, and 80% of it is inaccurate anyway because it’s based on an earlier build.
About the only thing you can say for all this is that JRPGs tended to be a heck of a lot more accessible on a gameplay level than their Western counterparts - their inherent flaws were usually more facepalm-worthy than actively frustrating. Which probably explains why they were so much more popular during most of the 1990s; there’s something to be said for games that aren’t actively hostile to the learning processes of new players.
Natsume didn’t anticipate this much demand for River City Tokyo Rumble. But I guess after people read my review, every single reader went straight to Amazon to buy the game (and the included keychain, which mannnnn I want). It’s gone. You can get it on eShop and some other retailers (“such as Crunchyroll.com, Gamefly.com, and GameQuestDirect.com. It is also available in Canada with Videogameplus.ca.”) But Amazon done run out.
“However, we’re working on restocking the physical version, right now,” Natsume community manager CeeCee reports. “While we don’t have an estimate when these will arrive and go on sale yet, they will go directly to Amazon so they can be up for sale as quickly as possible. These copies will also have the Kunio keychain!”