The common derision leveled at JRPGs asserting that they would all rather be anime series is, I find, a somewhat misguided one. While most JRPGs are undoubtedly influenced by anime tropes and conventions (and vice-versa), they'd be terrible if adapted and restructured to fit the pacing and format necessary for a proper TV series.
It's a problem of engagement. Despite the other common derision leveled at JRPGs, asserting that players are rarely if ever actually playing a JRPG, JRPG stories only work or flow properly if the player/viewer is present every step of the way. Simply put, most JRPG narratives, characters, and pacing can't actually survive being converted into a set of weekly installments, as any TV series must be.
Keep reading for a little more elaboration on that fact.
Resonance of Fate (PlayStation 3 (reviewed), Xbox 360) Developer: Tri-Ace
Going into genres, Resonance of Fate would make for a good, light, "adventure" show.
First off, it's got a solid cast of three reliable archetypes appealing to a range demographics. Vashyron is the experienced badass who acts the hornball at times. Zephyr's a sullen 17-year-old with a mysterious past and affection for chokers. Leanne (Reanbell if you want to go purist) is the peppy girl whose story is most directly connected to the main plot thread.
Second, it's structured just right to produce miscellaneous adventures to build an episode around. Basel's a crumbling, clockwork-looking Tower-of-Babel analogue, and a bunch of touched-in-the-head religious leaders, the Cardinals, live up top and lord over the populace. The trio live on level four, an upper-middle-class neighborhood and work as "hunters", mercenaries who do odd jobs like fetching wine from the fridge and gathering wood from the forest for a local sculptor.
Of course, these people are called "hunters", so the "fridge" with the wine in it is actually a blasted, frozen wasteland full of elephants that wear rocket launchers. The sculptor needs the wood from the Forest of Idols, a giant labyrinth full of hostile artist's dummies wielding chainsaws.
As you can see, most of the game's sixteen chapters (just enough for a full season and bonuses!) fit the "weekly adventure" format that a real TV series requires to run, and most of the cutscenes even work with that idea. One chapter starts with Vashyron and Zephyr trying to watch saucy material when the power goes out. Leanne slips in the bath (girls are always in the bath when blackouts hit) and Zephyr comes to the rescue. Cue scream, play "slap!" sound effect, and draw a hand-shaped bruise on Zephyr's cheek. The rest of the episode is spent clearing the power plant of monsters, and ends with a poignant moment about how sometimes being in the dark feels better. Roll credits, edit in the next-episode preview, and hit "broadcast". Tune in next week for more!
Even fashion conforms to the needs of a decent TV series. There are enough clothing/accessory options in-game to make sure that everyone wears something different (and stylish) in every episode, with stuff left over to make a good OP and ED animation. Hell, there's even a Christmas
Like a premium, subscription broadcast,
viewers players can choose Resonance of Fate's language track. Unfortunately, the dialog isn't subbed over actual play, only in cutscenes. Some of the lines are contextual to story events and provide some fun banter during battles. None of it is important, and the acting is great in both languages, so the option is yours to choose. Also, Nolan North plays Vashyron. Good choice on Sega/Tri-Ace's part, that.
Sub-lovers beware, though. The game is "dubtitled", so you won't be getting the one-to-one translation some of you care about.
Suffice it to say that it all just works. All one would need to do is expand the cast of side characters to fill out time and round the season from sixteen to a clean twenty-four or so, and you've got a nice, DVD-ready production. The merchant who gives out a running "find dolls attached to optional bosses" task could be given some face time. The lady who runs the incredibly stylish boutique, she needs mannequins. Most of the fetch-and-gather side quests could stand easily beside the main story and slot in perfectly.
Why not do it, then? Why isn't Resonance of Fate an anime? Ironically, the answer to that question is that while it would be a decent anime, it wouldn't be a great anime.
The Resonance of Fate TV series would be slickly presented, somewhat witty and quite enjoyable to watch, but in the end would pass through without much in the way of lasting impact. It would be good fun to watch, but ultimately feel hollow.
The reason we should be happy that Resonance of Fate is a game and not a show is that all the crazy gunfights would be things we, as players, can participate in. All those crazy stunts and gun balletics go completely unexplained in the context of the game and setting itself. As players, we can just take that for granted because it looks awesome. But as viewers, we'd need some kind of explanation, any kind of explanation, as to why (or at least how) all this happens, lest all the absolutely amazing action sequences that take place every episode be rendered completely meaningless.
An anime can't effectively explain such "game-like" mechanics as Resonance of Fate's. It can't explain why "Scratch Damage" from machine guns must be turned into "Direct Damage" by pistols before actually killing a target, or why a "Hero Action" temporarily makes a character invincible as well as slowing down time to allow attacks more time to charge up. It can't explain why running Hero Actions between two other characters builds up "Resonance Points" that allow "Tri-Attacks", which are simultaneous, death-dealing Hero Actions. It can't explain why the three protagonists can pull off acrobatics that put Devil May Cry to shame, when most everyone else cannot.
It doesn't make sense to clear out the world map by laying down Energy Hexes, nor does it make sense that special colored hexes can link Terminals to Dungeons and add special experience or damage multipliers to the whole area.
Put simply, an anime, by nature, cannot explain Resonance of Fate's play mechanics, which are so labyrinthine and arbitrarily complex, weird and complicated solely for the sake of being weird and complicated, wholly unintuitive, non-contextual, contrived and disconnected with reality that the game itself can't justify their existence beyond "Well, it's there and looks cool, so go learn it."
Now, you might think that that's a bad thing, but it really isn't, not in this case. If you can swallow the fact that this game makes absolutely no attempt to link its narrative with its mechanics, that it's there for you to play with, and nothing more, you'll find that Resonance of Fate's play experience is tactical, nuanced, and deeply layered, rewarding any action with grandiose, gratuitous spectacle. It lives only for itself, but lives the in the loudest, flashiest, most dramatic way possible.
That's why the game won't stand to let you just watch it. It won't stand to do so because it can't stand without having you participate in it. It would be pointless as an anime, ripped apart by critics as a hideous, obnoxious way to spend all of the budget at the potential expense of character and plot. As an anime, Resonance of Fate would be considered an egregious waste of time on the level of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
But since all a player can do is participate in that festival of absurdity, the experience is elevated beyond anything the narrative alone can sustain. The need to choose where to plot hero actions, choose targets, equip the special ammo, customize/enhance the guns in hilariously "tacticool" ways (thank goodness those mods don't actually display in-game), and pick spiffy outfits from the rack turn what might have been a halfway-decent anime into a great game, one that doesn't need to justify its mechanics, yet whose chapter-by-chapter pacing is perfectly suited to its languid, everyday rhythm and light, slapstick story.
If you choose to buy Resonance of Fate (and I recommend that you do), for the love of all that is holy and good in the world, play it, but don't watch it. Photo Gallery: (9 images)
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