It’s Time For Japanese Developers To Stop Hoarding Their RPGs

When I think about all the role-playing games released in Japan that never make their way to U.S. shores, I like to picture a snarling dragon sitting atop a pile of game cartridges, spitting fire at anyone who comes within breathing distance.

Hey Japan. Time to stop hoarding your gold.

This is not a new phenomenon, of course. American RPG fans will undoubtedly remember all the games we missed in the 90s: TerranigmaFinal Fantasy VLive A Live, and many more. But it’s a little nutty that this localization barrier still exists today. If you don’t speak Japanese, there’s no way to legally play games like Valkyria Chronicles 3Suikoden PSP, and of course, the infamous Mother 3.

It’s too bad. When a Japanese developer announces a new game, my first reaction is not “Awesome!” but “Shit, we’re never going to get that, are we?” When Atlus announced yesterday that dungeon crawler Etrian Odyssey IV is coming here next year, I was more relieved than anything. It had been way too long. I was starting to worry.

If you’re wondering why Japanese game publishers and developers have been so reluctant to localize their RPGs, the answer is easy. They think it’s too much of a risk. They look at games that have failed to take off in the U.S.—RPGs like Brave Story and Half-Minute Hero and quite a few others—and decide it’s not worth the time, money, and shame involved in localizing their games for an audience that doesn’t seem to want them.

But here’s the thing: we do still want JRPGs. There are still plenty of fans who are happy to spend money on great, high-quality games. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at two big examples.



A few weeks ago, when I interviewed Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime about the Wii U, I managed to sneak in a couple of questions about Xenoblade, one of the Wii’s biggest RPGs. Released in Japan during 2010, then in Europe a year later, Xenoblade was not confirmed for U.S. localization until December 2011, months after many diehard fans had already imported or pirated it.

So what took so long?

“We needed to make sure that there was really an opportunity for it,” Fils-Aime said. “We wanted to see how it would sell in Europe, and based on the performance in Europe, we would look to bring it here to the U.S. It did well in Europe; we decided to bring it in here. We took a very smart approach and we sold it ourselves online in terms of physical goods as well as a focus on GameStop as a retailer, and it was a very good effort for us.”

“How’d it sell?” I asked.

“Quite well,” he said.

I had already gone over my allotted interview time, so I didn’t get a chance to prod him for more numbers, but that “quite well” could mean just about anything, depending on Nintendo’s expectations. Could mean 200,000 copies sold; could mean 20,000. (Probably closer to the latter.)

The important takeaway here is that gamers were willing to dish out money for a high-quality, critically-acclaimed JRPGs. Didn’t matter that it was in standard definition. Didn’t matter that a ton of its prospective audience had already bought the European version. RPG fans were hungry for good games, and they proved it with their wallets.



And what of The Last Story, that other big JRPG that came out for the Wii this year? I asked publisher XSEED’s Jessica Chavez (who you may remember from her excellent Kotaku Q&A a couple of months ago) how it performed.

“The Last Story has definitely gotten the support of the fans,” she told me. “It’s doing really well, and we hope word of the game’s quality/sexy packaging will continue to entice more to check it out.”

Again, no specifics, but my point still stands: U.S. gamers are willing to spend their money onexcellent Japanese role-playing games, but with many of them, we’re not even getting the chance. Granted, publishers like XSEED, Aksys, Level-5, and Atlus are doing a commendable job of localizing and releasing their Japanese games in the United States. It’s the bigger guys—the Squares, the Konamis, the Segas—who need to stop hoarding and mistreating their RPGs.

While chatting with Nintendo’s Fils-Aime, I also asked about the next RPG from Monolith Soft, the one they’re making for Wii U. Should we expect that same Xenoblade rollercoaster ride all over again?

Reggie Fils-Aime: “The way we look at the opportunity is, given a level of marketing support, how much are we gonna sell and is it gonna be a profitable venture?”

“We know that they’re working on a game,” he said. “I personally haven’t seen it, but I know there’s a lot of excitement in Japan and Kyoto about what they’re working on, so I look forward to seeing it. In the end, if it’s a game that we decide to publish from… what would be a second-party standpoint, certainly we’d love to bring it here to the US.

“The way we look at the opportunity is, given a level of marketing support, how much are we gonna sell and is it gonna be a profitable venture?”

Fair enough. Presumably that’s why Square Enix hasn’t released Final Fantasy Type-0 in the U.S. yet; they know the Final Fantasy brand could move copies, but the PSP is dead, and not a lot of people are buying Vitas. Maybe they’re waiting to see how a classic role-playing game like Bravely Default: Flying Fairy will do in Japan before they commit to bringing it here. Maybe they think nobody here will care aboutSlime MoriMori Dragon Quest 3.

That’s all well and good. I don’t expect any gaming company to operate in a way that won’t make it money. But there’s an audience for great Japanese RPGs, and the success of games likeXenoblade and The Last Story prove that. Sure, RPGs not named Final Fantasy might not move more than forty or fifty thousand copies without some sort of marketing budget, but a game can still be profitable on that scale. Look at the success of XSEED, of Aksys, of Monkeypaw Games.

And hey, even if a publisher doesn’t make money off the Western release of a given game, sometimes building up fan loyalty can be just as beneficial. By localizing a niche RPG—like, say,Mother 3—a company like Nintendo could have turned a cadre of angry fans into some of its biggest supporters. We feel connections to the guys like Atlus and XSEED not only because they talk to us like human beings, but because they rarely hold games back. This summer, Atlus released two niche RPGs on the dying PSP—Gungnir and Growlanser Wayfarer of Time. Both games flew straight under most peoples’ radars, but the hardcore Growlanser fans will never stop appreciating Atlus for giving them the opportunity to play that game.

It’s depressing that localization has become such a big issue for RPG fans. Fifteen years ago, I never could have imagined that I’d miss out on so many RPGs just because I don’t speak Japanese. So listen up, you lovely publishers. We’re here, we want to play good games, and we’re willing to give you money for them. We just need a chance.


Source: Kotaku

The Last Story: One Of The Best RPGs I’ve Played In Years

Lost among this week’s barrage of awesome new video games is The Last Story, a role-playing game that’s slipped pretty damn far under gamers’ radars considering it was designed and directed by the man who created Final Fantasy.

You might be tempted to ignore this one. It’s for Wii. You probably haven’t touched yours in a while. Maybe it’s in the closet, collecting dust with your Ninja Turtle action figures. Maybe you still haven’t finished Xenoblade(it’s hella long). Maybe you’re playingDarksiders II or Papo & Yo or waiting on the new Mario game. Maybe you were just going to let this one pass by.

Don’t. The Last Story is one of the best role-playing games you can get on a console today—and one of the best I’ve played in years.

Maybe it’s the effort. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the infamously mustachioed ex-Square maestro responsible for shaping the childhood of anyone who grew up with games like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, spent almost a year-and-a-halfbuilding the combat system for The Last Story. He and his team looked at Japanese games. They looked at Western games. They prototyped. They tweaked. And Sakaguchi, directing his first game since Final Fantasy Valmost two decades ago, didn’t leave the lab until he had forged a set of systems he was proud to play.

The resulting product is sort of a hybrid between the best of Japanese and Western game design, a combat system that blends first-person shooting, stealth, strategy, and hack-and-slash action. In theory, it sounds silly. In practice, it’s transcendent.

See, what makes The Last Story special is that it takes you to a battlefield and says, “Hey, you’re on a battlefield!” Fights are frantic and chaotic, almost the medieval version of a Western shooter like Gears of War or Call of Duty (minus the guns and ridiculous bro chatter). You control Zael, a Genuine Hero and member of a charming group of mercenaries who fight together in groups of four or five. They’re not your average RPG troupe; as your party moves through dungeons and caverns, they will maneuver around like a battle-hardened team, hiding behind pillars and flanking doorways as you sneak through enemy fortresses and mystical forests.

The Last Story Is One Of The Best RPGs I've Played In Years

In combat, they’ll all do their own thing, leaving you alone to control Zael. No complaints here. Zael is a monster-disemboweling wrecking ball equipped with a sword for slashing, a crossbow for first-person sniping, and special skills like an ultra-powerful sneak attack and an attention-drawing tank move that can also revive allies. You can bark orders at your party—especially helpful if you want them to cast spells—but you’ll mostly be focused on your own action.

(Important note: If you play The Last Story, be sure to go into the options and change “Attack Type” from Automatic to Manual. This changes your modus operandi from “run at an enemy and watch your character automatically swing his sword” to “run at an enemy and swing your character’s sword.” In other words, this turns it into an actual video game. I can’t imagine enjoying the combat without this switch.)

Every battle is scripted. There are no random encounters. Battlefields are constructed in deliberate, careful fashion, breakable environments and all. So whether you’re running away from soldiers in the narrow alleys of a crowded city or sneaking behind rocks to get in proper position to snipe a bunch of giant ogres before you get smashed, it’ll feel like every moment was crafted just for you. There are no filler battles. This is a game that respects your time.

There’s variety, too. Your team might start off near a hedge maze, right behind a group of nasty skeleton warriors who don’t know you’re there. You can foolishly charge in and try to take them all out with swords and spells. Or you could sneak around corners of the maze, carefully sniping each one individually, baiting it closer to you so you can smack it down without alerting its allies.

Another battle might drop you right into the middle of a chaotic brawl. You won’t even have time to enter first-person mode and pull out your crossbow. You’ll just have to fight.

And then there are the bosses. Oh, the bosses. I won’t spoil any of them, but they’re remarkably fun to take down. Almost Zelda-like. Okay, if you absolutely insist, I’ll spoil one: One particularly devious fight pits you against a group of doppelgangers who take the shapes of your party members. During this devious fight, you’ll also be able to attack your actual party members. In the frenzy, it can be awfully hard to tell which doppelgangers are actually your friends, who you will accidentally attack. Often. Get ready to be yelled at. A lot.




“This all sounds great,” you might be saying. “What’s the downside?” Well, like Xenobladebefore itThe Last Story is a game saddled by its system. It’s too pretty for the Wii. You might find yourself hamstrung by technical issues. Sometimes it’ll take a second or two before a cut-scene starts. The lag is occasionally infuriating. The camera is an unforgivable mess.


This is all offset by the wonderful localization, the excellent British voice acting, the lovely music (composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu), the thoroughly interesting characters, the love story that doesn’t treat you like a child, and the plot that takes itself seriously but not too seriously.

An RPG is successful when it resonates with your emotions, when it makes you feel like you’re somewhere else, someone else, something else. Whether the characters are adventuring through an exciting new world or just fighting to protect their city, whether the game is turn-based or grid-based or non-stop high-octane action, what matters is that it makes you feel something extraordinary.

The Last Story is pretty damn good at that.


By: Jason Schreier

The Crown of Command: Rebooting Talisman For a New Generation


Don Whiteford of Warrington’s Nomad Games on how to rebuild a classic

If you’re of roughly the same generation and habits as I am, chances are that the mention of Talisman will bring back happy memories. Games Workshop’s classic board game was something of a gateway drug, complex enough to distinguish it from the Ludo and Monopoly of my early childhood, but without the seemingly Byzantine complexity of full-on pen and paper role-playing games.

Picked up for a month’s pocket money at an annual London tabletop gaming event called Salute in the early ’90s, Talisman lit a fuse in me which has, through a few twists and turns, lead me to where I am today.

So, a few years ago when I heard that Capcom were publishing a digital version of the game for Xbox LIVE and PSN, developed by Big Rooster, I was overjoyed. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Early on in development, Capcom announced that they were looking for a new team to take on the project, but quickly abandoned the idea.

“Rather recently we have finally stopped development completely,” said the publisher’s Christian Svensson. “After a misfire at the start, the details of which I won’t get into, we evaluated several options for moving the project to new developers, but the costs of moving forward outweiged the potential revenue. I realize this will be disappointing for the fans of the game.

“The rights have reverted back to Games Workshop where I hope someone will pick them up and try again. I too still would like to play a Talisman video game.”

Disappointing indeed, but luckily, a reward for the Talisman faithful was close at hand. Nomad Games, staffed by developers from THQ’s defunct Warrington studio, has picked up the licence and is working on not one, but two versions of it for PC and mobile.

“As a digital studio, we’d been very interested in going in to the mobile area, so with the new studio we thought we’d make mobile a core part of what we were doing”

“I think it’s fairly well publicised why Capcom stopped working on it,” studio head Don Whiteford tells GamesIndustry International. “We picked up the licence because we’d just done, as THQ Digital UK, a game with Games Workshop called Warhammer 40K Kill Team. We were actually out at E3 when we heard the studio (THQ Warrington) was closing.

“We’d worked quite closely with Games Workshop for a number of years. The licensing manager, John Gillard, was out at E3 and asked us what we were going to do next. We said we were looking to start something up and he asked if we were interested in the licences that they had. As a digital studio, we’d been very interested in going in to the mobile area, so with the new studio we thought we’d make mobile a core part of what we were doing. One of the properties they had was Talisman, the board game. We’d seen that board games, particularly on touch devices, were doing quite well and being well received, so we thought: that’s great.

“I must say, it’s not been a trivial exercise, getting it into electronic form,” Whiteford continues in a satisfied but tired tone. “There’s such a complex ruleset behind it. From the graphical perspective it’s not as challenging as a 3D game but from a game logic side there’s a lot to get your head around. Of course, if it doesn’t function exactly as the rules define it should, then we’re going to lose people. So that’s been the biggest challenge.


“The main issue is that a game of Talisman can go on for some time,” he says in a slight understatement. “It’s one of the reasons that Capcom cited as being a problem with developing it further. We realised that if we wanted to take it to the mobile space the game needed to work in bite-sized chunks, from short bursts all the way up to the full thing. People game differently in different environments, especially with the portable devices, sometimes you want a quick go for five or ten minutes or something, and sometimes you do want to pass the thing around and have maybe an hour or half an hour session with someone.

“So what we’ve done is, and our programmer Carl has designed this, is come up with this idea of a quest system. So the first release of Talisman is actually a game called Prologue, and effectively what we’ve done is create quests for each of the characters. Basically the game is focused at this stage on single player challenges to introduce players to all the characters and all the special abilities that the characters have. So that’s Prologue, that’s the starting point. It’s like 50 quests with all the characters and you sort of work your way through. And you’re given specific challenges, you’re basically playing the board.

“We picked up the licence because we’d just done, as THQ Digital UK, a game with Games Workshop called Warhammer 40K Kill Team. We were actually out at E3 when we heard the studio was closing”

“It introduces all the cards, it introduces the way that the different characters work and gives you a really deep understanding of the game. At the same time we’re working on the multiplayer version, and what we’re going to do is look at how we execute the multiplayer version. Whether it will be instantly just a straightforward adaptation of the real board game, we’re looking at different ways of doing it, different scenarios according to how players want to play it. So that’s where we’re at at the moment.”

Talisman was, like so many of the borderline collaborative/competitive board games, always a tight balance of diplomacy, keeping fellow players onside until the tables had turned to your advantage, turning on them at the perfect moment to augment a triumph with the crushing humiliation of your peers. It sounds like Prologue is going to be purely single player focused, so is Whiteford comfident that it’ll retain its charms?

“Asynchronous play is definitely an option,” he explains. “Again, because we’re doing the quests at the moment, you could design an asynchronous game where rather than just a turn you have to complete a set of objectives first before you pass it over to the next player. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be one turn per go, it could be ‘here’s part of a quest’, and that you actually leave something for the other player to pick up and go forward with, and that can vary depending on your outcome.

“So we can start to work with the potential of the game and that particular environment, the asynchronous play. Of course there’ll be AI, and there’ll be pass to play as well, so if you’re in a room and you want to play a game, if you want to play a full game if you can do that, but if you wanted to play a quest based game which was shorter with a couple of you we’re looking at things like co-operative questing where you actually help each other to do a certain type of objectives.

“I think that’s always an interesting twist in a game like this, like Risk, is he going to help or is he going to kill me? That has to be there because that’s really… that’s the personal bit, at the end of the day.”


Whilst Talisman is far from the top end of the complexity spectrum, following relatively simple guidlines for combat, magic and victory, it’s certainly got its fair share of pieces and cards, alongside rules that take a few dry-runs to get the hang of.

“We have got quite an extensive tutorial in Talisman Prologue which does explain a lot of the little nitty gritty rules in there that some players may not understand. I think what we found as well is that there are some rules that, even when you implement them perfectly, can actually look like bugs, or it appears that something isn’t working correctly even though it is.

“One of the main things we wanted to do was just make sure Talisman Prologue is easy for players who’ve never played Talisman to learn how to play it without having to read a 30 page rulebook”

“There’s quite a good interactive tutorial in there to help players learn the game but I think one of the challenges we had as well was to take a game that has aspects where players can do things whenever they like, so there are spells that you can cast at any time, and other items that you can use at any time, and we had to think really carefully about how to allow the player to do those things without constantly prompting them in a very annoying way. ‘Do you want to do it now? Do you want to do it now?’

“So we did spend a long time working on the UI and making the way the player interacts with the game very easy to pick up, easy to figure out what’s going on. So one of the main things we wanted to do was just make sure Talisman Prologue is easy for players who’ve never played Talisman to learn how to play it without having to read a 30 page rulebook first, without playing against somebody who’s going to beat them very easily, without them even having a chance. It’s a very good introduction to the game, we feel.

“Having started with this, this is our first foray into it, it’s definitely a path that we want to go down so we’ve got some other things lined up for the future. So it’s an interesting place to be, obviously now on the Apple store there is, in the games, section, a board games section. There needs to be more!”

Talisman Prologue is out today for £5.99 from Nomad Games.

The Reasons So Many Japanese RPGs Never Make It To The United States

The Reasons So Many Japanese RPGs Never Make It To The United States

Feeling screwed? If you’re an American fan of Japanese games, you certainly should be. Publishers in the East have not treated us very well over the past few decades. They’ve given us rushed and incomplete localizations. Often they don’t send us North American ports at all.

Sometimes, it feels like Japanese game makers just don’t want us to play their games.

From Nintendo’s Mother 3 to Sega’sValkyria Chronicles 3 to countless ports and remakes on the PlayStation Network and other platforms, there are a whole lot of great Japanese role-playing games that most U.S. fans have never even had the chance to play. But Victor Ireland wants to change that.

You might not be familiar with Ireland or his former company, Working Designs, but if you played Japanese role-playing games during the PlayStation era, you probably played something they made. Ireland was responsible for the localization of Alundra,Vanguard Bandits, and the wonderful Lunarseries, among many more.

Working Designs is long gone, but Ireland is still trying to translate and port over as many Japanese role-playing games as he can. The first step, he told me, is printing a deluxe physical copy of the PSP dungeon-crawler Class of Heroes 2. He partnered with publisher MonkeyPaw Games to launch a Kickstarter for the physical copy of the game in hopes of showing Japanese publishers that crowdfunding is a viable way to stir up fans and get Americans interested in their products. And he says that ifClass of Heroes 2 meets its $500,000 goal, it will open the doors for future localization projects.

Once it’s a known quality, it becomes easier,” Ireland said in a phone interview. “If we do [succeed], we can go back to Japanese publishers, show them that we funded it, and get them excited about the whole model.”

“We’re doing what’s possible rather than what’s wished for.”

So why start with a game like Class of Heroes 2? This is hardly the dream RPG that American fans have been craving. It doesn’t have the clout of a Lunar or a Suikoden. And even Ireland admits that its predecessor was not very good (though he says the second game is far superior).

“We’re doing what’s possible rather than what’s wished for,” he said. Niche games and licenses might have done well in America over the past few months, but to Japanese publishers, Kickstarter is an unproven commodity. And Ireland says he had a great deal of difficulty getting people on board. Japanese developers Acquire and Zero Div were willing to participate, so he took them up.

Ireland wouldn’t tell me what games he hopes to bring over next, for fear of ruining business deals that are not yet finalized. But there are quite a few big hitters in Japan that haven’t made it here. In addition to the aforementioned Valkyria Chronicles 3, we’ve missed out on PSP role-playing games like Final Fantasy Type-0, the new SuikodenShining Hearts, and many others.

So why have so many RPGs on the PSP never made it here?

“I think it’s a combination of the hardware and retail,” Ireland said. “It’s a combination of existing sales for stuff that’s already out and retailer enthusiasm for stocking the product.”

For one, Sony’s first handheld has not done nearly as well in North America as it has in Japan. And with the release of its successor, the Vita, earlier this year, the PSP is all but obsolete in the United States.

And “Best Buy is not just gonna step up and buy 20,000 copies” of a game like Class of Heroes 2, he said. Nor have those retailers shown interest in some of the other niche PSP games out there.

Japanese publishers don’t like taking risks, Ireland says. Even when a North American publisher promises to take on a game’s financial burden, a publisher is afraid of losing face in the result of a failure or poor performance.

At this point, the obvious solution might be to localize RPGs and then bring them over to the U.S. on a digital platform like Steam or the PlayStation Network. Some Japanese developers, like Falcom, have dipped their toes in the water of digital distribution. But others aren’t as interested.

“The reality of the market is that publishers are skeptical,” Ireland said. So he wants to show them numbers—not just words.

I don’t think Class of Heroes 2 will meet its $500,000 goal, and that’s a real shame. Not becauseClass of Heroes 2 is a particularly great game, but because it could open up unprecedented possibilities for Japanese game localization in the future.

So all we can hope is that, even if Class of Heroes 2 doesn’t take off, Japanese publishers start looking at Kickstarter’s success in the West and turning to people like Ireland to help bring their games to a new audience. I think there are many JRPG fans here in North America. Japan just has to find them.



Assassin’s Creed? Halo? Screw’em, I’m Playing Persona

by Jason Schreier


Persona 4

Persona 4

“Oh no!” you are almost certainly thinking. “Gawker Media is underwater, desperately clinging to Tumblr like that guy in that movie where the cruise ship sank. But it is Friday! It’s 3pm Kotaku Time! What will I do without my favorite weekly JRPG/sex-advice column Random Encounters?”

You are too sweet. But don’t worry! I am still here, I’ve still got power, and I have a serious illness where I can’t go more than a week without talking about JRPGs, so Kotumblr will have to do.

Over the next few weeks, the bulk of the gaming industry will set its sights on games like Assassin’s Creed III, Halo 4, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. I will not. I’ll be playing Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Persona 4 Golden, two Japanese role-playing games that I find more interesting and engaging than any big-budget shooter or adventure.

I’ll have lots to say about Mario’s latest papery excursion next week in my review, which should be up Tuesday, drowned servers permitting. For now I want to talk about the latest Persona game.

Persona 4 Golden, which comes out for the Vita on November 20, is unusual in a lot of ways. For one, it’s a video game on the Vita. It’s also 3,137 megabytes, which is particularly insane when you realize that the lowest-end Vita memory card is 4 gigabytes, or roughly 4,000 megabytes. The highest-end Vita memory card, by the way, is 32 gigabytes, and it costs $100. This is a business strategy commonly called “we can do whatever we want because fuck you.”

The other interesting thing about Persona 4 Golden is that it’s a remake of a video game that came out in 2008. This is sort of like that joke about how the people behind Twilight started planning a remake of Twilight when Twilight came out, except instead of a joke, it’s real and actually just happened.

But it’s all good, because people love Persona, to the point where it’s become the shining example of A Japanese RPG It’s Okay To Like. It’s common to see gamers and critics write things like “JRPGs? Oh, I hate JRPGs. But boy do I love Persona!”

So one big question I’m pondering as I play Persona 4 Golden — my first experience with Persona 4 in any form — is why? Why do people love Persona so much?




I never finished Persona 3 Portable, a game that Kirk and I have discussed quite a bit on the site formerly known as Kotaku. I logged some 25, 30 hours in the game before I had to put it down for one new thing, then another, and then another, and no matter how many times I promised myself I would go back and finish it, I never quite could find the time. But I loved what I played. I loved the calendar-dictated rhythm of daily life as a student in Iwatodai. I loved the dichotomy between mundane classes at school and harrowing journeys through Tartarus. Something about the whole thing just worked.

It’s also very, very Japanese, and I say that not to disparage, but to point out that this is a game that wholeheartedly and unabashedly embraces both Japanese culture and Japanese game design. Aside from the obvious — it’s a game about people in Japan — Persona 3 also clings onto a lot of design quirks that Western games try to avoid. Repetitive rituals, for example, like that ticking clock animation that appears every time it turns midnight. While Western-developed games like last month’s fantastic Dishonored try to give you the player more control than ever, Persona 3 does quite the opposite. Persona wants you to know that it’s in charge. Not you.

Similar trends are rearing their heads in the first two hours of Persona 4 (although I’m sure it’ll open up more soon). It’s got all sorts of funny little ticks. Every time you head in and out of the game’s bizarre TV World, the screen will turn funky and that same old TV World animation will play. Just before you’re about to watch television at midnight, your character will close the curtains and walk away from his window. Rituals.

And then there are the moments during which the game tells you what to do. “You should go to bed,” the game will tell you. Or “You shouldn’t talk to him right now.” You won’t even have the option. Your character spends a great deal of time performing actions that are dictated by the game, not you.

To many people these things would be unacceptable, the definition of “bad game design.” But a large number of Westerners—even the ones who don’t typically like JRPGs—have fallen in love with the quirks and trends of Persona 3. What’s up with that?

Maybe the series’ unique structure—seriously, what other games follow this sort of rigid school-dungeon-school-dungeon routine?—makes it easier to forget about what we’d consider flaws in many other games. Maybe these sort of choices work only for games like Persona. Or maybe we’re just too in love with Mitsuru to care?

I’ll be thinking about this question more and more as I continue to play through Persona 4 Golden. I would invite you to offer your own theories in the comments, but we have no comments. Hurricane Sandy affects us all.