JRPGs have become something of a niche genre--a far cry from when games like Final Fantasy VII commanded gamer mindshare. Why has the genre faded so much? Akihiro Hino, CEO of Level-5, developer of the upcoming Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, has a few ideas. "If pushed, I'd say Japanese RPGs tend to cater to players who are not skilled at action games and prefer to have command systems that allow them time to strategize, as well as those who enjoy stories that are similar to reading novels," he explained. "So for fans of Western RPG, such JRPGs might seem somewhat antiquated."
Hino says that his upcoming game does make some concessions to appeal to non-Japanese gamers. "We took the preferences of our Western player-base into consideration too, and implemented action elements such as the ability to move your friends and familiars freely around the battlefield," making the game feel more dynamic than your typical turn-based RPG.
Perhaps more significant than the ability to control side characters is the desire to harken back to the golden era of JRPGs, when the genre thrived internationally. Hino wants Ni no Kuni to be "a restoration or reformation of an RPG from the good old days," citing its focus on the "so-called fundamentals that make RPGs interesting."
He cites the numerous areas that can be discovered on the map, challenge battles, and a constantly changing cast of party members as part of the core tenants that Ni no Kuni embraces. "Perhaps you will find this orthodox approach a refreshing change from the many overly-individualistic titles that make up the bulk of the market in recent years," he told IGN.
It also helps that it's a really pretty game. Ni no Kuni will be available on PS3 in two weeks.