YIIK’s demo probably has everything you love about 1990s JRPGs

To say the Japanese role-playing game is a prominent genre is an understatement—it has influenced videogames tremendously over the years. From Final Fantasy VII (1997) to Earthbound (1994), Dragon’s Quest (1986) to Persona (1996), JRPGs introduced expansive stories and memorable characters that still live on in popularity today. Not to mention, the JRPG is a genre that’s constantly reinventing itself, exploring new problems, themes, and design styles. You can look at the overlapping cartoon realities of Kingdom Hearts and the World War II narrative of the Valkyria Chronicles series for a taste. Ackk Studios’s upcoming game YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is not only interested in…

i am setsuna1

I Am Setsuna is cold at heart

I grew up with JRPGs, but not in the sense that most people grow up with them. My mom always played them, and I always sat perched, cross-legged in our quaint apartment, happily petting our cat and watching her exciting journeys unfold. Mostly, it was the Final Fantasy games, but sometimes we’d fit a Sonic the Hedgehog session in. My mom was only 21 when she had me. She was a single mother who simultaneously juggled raising me, going to college, and working part-time. Videogames became her only hobby—they were an escape from her stress-inducing reality. JRPGs, especially those of…

velvet room

Persona 5 has a lot of new footage and it looks so good y’all

I’m already in love with Persona 5. I’ve probably been in love with Persona 5 all my life, even before it was announced. Persona 3 (2006) and Persona 4 (2008) are, arguably, two of the greatest games of all time. Hell, Persona 3 is my personal favorite game of all time. The Persona series, starting from P3 on, lovingly meshed social sim elements with traditional RPG dungeon crawling— garnering widespread critical and commercial admiration. With its fourth-chronological installment (technically, Persona 3), the Persona series became bold and unlike anything else in the RPG realm. Whereas, the first few games in the…


Ikenfell will let you relive your childhood dreams of going to magic school

Like any human being who was between the ages of three and 30 when the Harry Potter books were coming out (we’re talking 1997 here), I always wanted to be a wizard. Besides the obvious advantages of being magic, so much of that world was impossible to resist, from Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans right down to the Quidditch pitch and those terrible screaming bowling balls that broke Harry’s arm that one time. I was entranced, up until my 11th birthday, where an empty mailbox single-handedly destroyed all my faith and childhood wonder (it happens to all of us.) Still, I…

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost reimagined as a SNES game

The SNES JRPG aesthetic has always had a certain charm. From chiptune album covers to horror stories about haunted game cartridges, many artists seem to gravitate towards the pixel art found throughout Nintendo’s RPG releases of yesteryear. What appears as a simple solution to the console’s limited system RAM actually presents a design style capable of extremely complex and fascinating artwork. Just take a look at the gorgeous backgrounds seen in Tales of Phantasia (1995) or the character design behind Square’s Chrono Trigger (1995). London-based electronic music duo Delta Heavy is the latest artist to adopt that classic aesthetic, with…


Final Fantasy XII and the glory of the grind

This article is part of PS2 Week, a full week celebrating the 2000 PlayStation 2 console. To see other articles, go here.  /// The first time I played Final Fantasy XII (2006), I didn’t get it. I liked it, I think—there was something unusually elegant about the game’s stern, philosophical conversations about honor, and the long loping lines of its battle system—but I got halfway through, hit a boss battle of five little goblins that wrecked my shit with a panoply of status effects, and called it a day. I believe winter break was ending, anyway. I mused over my failure…

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Failure and rebirth in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Star Trek’s cavalcade of hit-or-miss conceits includes a fair share of philosophical thought experiments, and chief among them is the “Kobayashi Maru.” This name refers to a wargame for Star Fleet military cadets used to evaluate how officers-in-training would react in an impossible-to-win scenario. The crew being examined receives a distress call from a fellow ship called the Kobayashi Maru, a wounded bird floating defenseless in the void, and upon reaching it two Klingon vessels emerge and attack. The captain must decide whether to leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction or engage the firing ships, though the cadets are…


The bizarre, Burton-esque JRPG that almost got away returns on PS4

Okage: Shadow King (2001) was always the game that barely slipped away. The game Hot Topic would have capitalized on, had it discovered it in time. The game I (now regretfully) sold as a teen for store credit to put towards buying a PlayStation 3. Yet now, despite the odds, Okage is back. When it was announced a few days ago that Okage was coming to PlayStation 4 through the platform’s PS2-to-PS4 emulation, my brain tickled with fond but long-forgotten memories of the cult classic that never entirely faded away. Okage: Shadow King is a strange title among its genre’s…


The brilliant cruelty of Bravely Default’s nonlinear narrative

If I started this article at the end it probably wouldn’t make much sense. There’s a reason most writers put words and events in chronological order to tell a story. Some stories, however, are best told out of order. Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) works this way as it uses the chaotic scrambling of the nonlinear narrative to explore the limits of human memory. So too does a recent episode of Doctor Who, “Heaven Sent” (2015), which uses a repeated narrative to highlight the stubbornness and fortitude of the Doctor’s character. For videogames, taking these same…