Turn-based combat in JRPGs, which features a player’s party (typically a group of three or more main characters) restrained to selecting their enemies’ route of decimation through a list of various actions like Attack and Magic, is dead. Even the series that essentially gave birth to the immense popularity of turn-based combat in Japanese roleplaying games, Final Fantasy, has left only smidges of its comfortable battle setup in the latest reiterations of the series in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. And it’s worth mentioning that Final Fantasy’s home company Square Enix’s E3 trailer of Final Fantasy XV seems to have given up entirely on keeping traditional turn-based combat in the future of the series.
I’ve heard fans of JRPGs, and especially fans of the Final Fantasy series, complain about the death of this classic JRPG fare in forums and article comment sections across the interwebs. They say it’s the reason why Final Fantasy seems to be getting worse and worse (and, c’mon, we know it’s more than just the battle systems…) and some go as far as retracting their fanboy or fangirl status. But is foregoing turn-based combat really worth all the tumultuous grumbling? I don’t think so.
Turn-based comment worked for its time, especially during the days of past generations. Just some of many JRPG titles — such as the Final Fantasy series, Brave Story, Suikoden, and Xenosaga – truly made strictly menu-based combat something spectacular and not boring. But combat being confined to a menu placed many limitations on my imagination, and I can only imagine that it was purely just a reflection of the many limitations on the hardware of past systems. In turn-based JRPGs, characters usually stand idly waiting for their turn and that’s not very realistic. I’m sure that in the minds of JRPG developers (and probably many players), a truly fantastical battle would involve a slew of combatants engaged in surreal boss fights, environments changing and exploding as battles progress, and I’m sure their mighty champions are not standing still like puppets waiting for their master to navigate some complicated menu. In other words, today most turn-based combat is really just a sub-par alternative to what JRPG developers can now really do. But times are changing and technology is getting better and better. It’s time to try something new.
Turn-based combat works great in strategy games, just like it played wonderfully in the recent Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS. As consoles become more and more advanced, I don’t see a problem with foregoing turn-based combat for something with a little more action. It wouldn’t detract from my experience with a series like Final Fantasy—as long as all of the elements like world lore, captivating and emotional stories, and obviously some nostalgic references are all wrapped up together in the magic. It shouldn’t be seen as the “westernization” of JRPGs either. It’s merely a shift in a better, more realistic visualization of a world that is probably truer to the creator’s imagination than, say, random text-based interfaces popping up in front of our heroes’ eyes whenever they draw their weapons.