Leveling Up in a Different Direction

As I sat waiting for my daughters’ to finish their dance lesson this morning I was sitting playing a copy of Final Fantasy IX on my PSP Go. Something struck me as odd about the situation, while I was playing what I would argue is the best of the PSOne era Final Fantasy titles, I was also doing something I find tedious and boring when I sit at home to play games on my television. That something of course was level grinding.

Level grinding has been a core piece of the JRPG puzzle for me since I began playing them back on the Nintendo Entertainment System with the likes of Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. There always came a point where I just could not move forward without grinding out a few levels and upping my character stats. Honestly it was never something I gave much thought to, it was part of the game and how it was played.

Somewhere along the line though things changed. My best recollection of where it changed for me was around Final Fantasy X. While I do remember having to do some grinding in that game, it seemed nowhere near the level of excess I had to endure in the past. It was more streamlined and delivered more on the promise of cinematic gaming than anything had before it but in doing so it also diminished my desire to spend half my time with a game grinding out levels.

The way I play games has changed. Games like Mass Effect 2 are more appealing to me now than something like Final Fantasy XIII. Some of that just comes with my taste in storytelling having matured but a lot of it comes from the way the games themselves are designed and how I want to spend my time when I am playing on my couch.

Of course this all begs the question of why do I have no problem grinding out levels while I play my PSP but would rather jab my eyes out with hot pokers before playing a like-styled game on my PS3? Personally I think the answer is quite obvious. Level grinding is throw away time and while I sit and wait, I am doing nothing more than letting that time slip away so why not do a little bit of level grinding to make it easier for me to progress the story later on. It was a nice realization to come to and one that has great implications on future Japanese RPGs designed in the classic style, at least for me.

A lot of the gaming community has vocally admonished JRPGs for their reluctance to evolve from what they were. I do not need them to evolve into something different, I just need them to shift where they are trying to target me. Stop trying to get my 360 or PS3 purchases, get me on the handheld and I think we might all be able to coexist peacefully. At least I know I will.


ALL NEW: The Perfectly Sane Show: Volume 2 – Episode 22 – get it at Vagary.tv or iTunes and The Movie Dudes – Episode 1 at Vagary.tv.

Hit up my friends Game Over and TeaBagRadio.

Coming Tomorrow: Week in Movies #2

Currently Playing: Final Fantasy IX (PSOne on PSPGo)
Currently Listening To: Alter Bridge’s AB III
Currently Reading: Gears of War: Anvil Gate by Karen Traviss
Currently Anticipating: Little Big Planet 2
Halo Rank: Captain Grade 3
Bad Comapany 2 Rank: 11
CoD: Black Ops Rank: 20


2 thoughts on “Leveling Up in a Different Direction

  1. I see your point, but I still find grinding incredibly tedious. Even if it is throwaway time, there are still more enjoyable things to play on a handheld.

  2. Interesting observation, sir.

    I agree with you, and I think what makes level grinding feel so old and tedious is the lack of customization. A lot of genres outside of RPGs are starting to use leveling as a way to infuse new life into their games, whether it’s the use of skill trees, loot drops, perks, or some other bonus. Today’s games allow you to shape your character to the way you want it, and that makes it all the more enjoyable, I believe.

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