The E3 press conferences happened a few days ago and expectedly the JRPG showings were very small. However, the confirmed JRPGs that are coming to the west soon, like Tales of Xillia 2, Tales of Hearts R, FF Type-0, Xenoblade Chronicles X, etc., all have a good number of playable or important females. Of course I can go into many reasons why Japanese RPGs love putting female party members in their casts and many of those reasons aren't because they view women as equally awesome as men (or else we'd have more female MCs), but at least they don't pull out the Assassin's Creen 4 excuse. Seriously, that was bad.

Anyway, I think of a series like Tales which has really brought some playable female characters that not only kick ass but are hella fun to play as. The healers and mages tend to be female in Tales games, but these types of characters have become more fun to use with each iteration. A magic user used to just stand around a cast spells but now he or she might shoot magical enemy out of the staff or throw knives at people or use a mechanical doll to EAT FACES. The games are also pretty fond of the female healing brawler, started by Tales of Eternia's Farah. They also have no problems giving ladies swords or heavy-hitting weapons like Tokunaga (Anise's weapon in Tales of the Abyss) or Ines' hammer (Tales of Hearts R).

Xeno games always have females who kick ass and take names, so I don't need to explain there. I'm intrigued that I can create my MC. Usually they throw a little romance of the MC with someone, so I wonder if the MC of XCX will be more detached? I hope not? I don't care if they decide the romance part could be tricky, but I still want them to be fully involved.

I have yet to reach Type-0 in my backlog, but I remember from screenshots that the protagonists are all in some sort of academy and they there seem to be equal-ish numbers of males and females judging by the number of skirts vs. pants. I'm intrigued by this PS4 remake. I certainly think character models can be upgraded. I just wonder if they'll put effort into the other problems the game supposedly had. Also, will they make Agito more than a pay your way to actually get through game?

Of course I also just played an interesting main female character in Drakengard 3. Actually all the characters are interesting in a "perverted" way, as in they are intentionally not mainstream/weird/squick-inducing. They also represent traits that real people have that aren't necessarily unhealthy. I feel like giving the game all the applause for doing that, even if the base game isn't actually that good.

I did play an hour's worth of Ar tonelico Qoga and I was not prepared for that. I'm just not in the mood for that kind of gameplay right now so I'm shelving it. Maybe because it's not accompanied by equivalent male stripping. Maybe because the voice acting so far has been absolutely atrocious. Maybe because I had more fun playing Dynasty Warriors lite with Zero in Drakengard 3, and that's not even a great system. Also the whole thing with Mute felt really transphobic and I just don't want to. Just no. Maybe the MC will pull an Estelle and I can forgive him, but right now he needs to just shut up. Tatsumi can take over, seriously.

And now I'm done with this somewhat disorganized post. I'll return hopefully soon with a post of some substance.
Warning - slightly spoilerish for Tales of Graces f.

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Anyway, so far the gameplay has been a lot of fun. It's quite different from Vesperia with no TP anymore but CC that is used for skills that also recharges during battle. It's hard to explain and better to just figure out as the game goes. Boss battles are harder than in previous games in my opinion but they allow you to retry boss battles instead of redoing cutscenes so that's a major plus. Also there is adjustable difficulty but I haven't messed with that yet.
I think it's rare for someone to play RPGs and not think about the levels they gain as they progress. For me, it's easy to fall into the trap of using levels as a guideline of how far along I am in a game. I usually think of level 50 as being close to the end of the game, since I'm usually around 50-60 at the end of FF, Suikoden, and Tales games. With the assumption of many PS2 RPGs being around 40 hours, I tend to expect to see a level increase of 1-2 per hour. Of course every game is different.

Dragon Quest VIII and Persona 3 Portable obviously are games where you can level up quite slowly. I'm over 50 hours in DQ8 and I'm at level 38. I'm actually higher level than the guide I'm following because I happened to beat some metal slimes. For Persona 3 Portable I ended the game at level 80 with party members at 75, and that was 101 hours. Of course Persona 3 has lots of side activities and I also spent more time than usual staring at fusion combinations.

Still, even if DQ8 and P3P have turn-based combat just like FF games, I just felt like the former 2 were slower just because of the slow leveling. And it's not like a game needs to be giving you 1-2 levels per hour if you feel like you are making story progress. It's just that in these games you still need the levels/stats/skills (unless you are hardcore and/or risky) to beat the bosses and even the regular enemies. Thus the term "grinding".

Of course it's hard to be a JRPG fan without some love for grinding, but I find the grinding in DQ8 to be much more boring than in P3P. Partly it's due to the fact that P3P and other Persona games are all about finding the enemy's weakness and exploiting them, while most of the time in DQ8 it is attack, magic, whatever. The other frustrating and old-school mechanic of DQ games is the "attacking a group of enemies" mechanic. It makes so much offensive magic useless when it is limited like that. And unlike Suikoden, regular battles in DQ8 don't have an auto mode to speed them up either. They have intimidate, which I don't use since if that worked, most likely I could kill all the enemies with my hero's boomerang.

Other games have level "caps" per area where you gain significant amounts of experience and levels until you meet the expected level for the area. Notable games with level "caps" are Lost Odyssey, Trails in the Sky, and Xenoblade. The upside of "caps" is that usually you don't have to grind much for experience (loot, on the other hand, is a different story) and you can really tell if you can move on or not. The downside of level "caps" is that you can't overpower yourself unless you play the game out of order. I don't feel the need to be overpowered, so level caps don't bother me.

The thing that makes level grinding a chore but feel "required" is when levels are the means of gaining new skills. When leveling is slow, the skill gaining is slow and you really end up doing the same thing almost for every battle. I think this is the killer combination of DQ8 and perhaps the other DQ games. In P3P it ends up making most of your other party members seem useless since they gain their skills so slowly due to the level-tied skill learning.

Anyway TLDR: I prefer a quicker leveling up pace since it makes me feel I make game progress faster. Level caps are fine and don't really affect the way I play a game.

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July 2016

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