Persona 3 Reload, Like a Dragon Success Proves The Viability of Turn-Based RPGs

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Story Highlights

  • There has been an increasing stigma in the industry against turn-based RPGs.
  • Studios such as Square Enix have been moving away from turn-based titles into action games.
  • The success of Persona 3 Reload and Like a Dragon 8 boldly decry the stigma against the genre.

Recently there has been backlash surrounding turn-based games, with players expressing frustration with Baldur’s Gate 3, a turn-based RPG winning the coveted Game of the Year award at TGA 2023, and the Final Fantasy series moving away from turn-based into pure action territory with Final Fantasy 16 and Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. 

Despite the genre’s popularity, turn-based games still face a kind of stigma, that they’re not meant to be taken as seriously as action games or shooters. A bizarre claim, considering that genre has consistently pushed the bar for storytelling in the medium with titles such as Earthbound, Final Fantasy VI, Xenogears, etc. 

Do people have a gripe against Turn-based RPGs nowadays?
by inTwoBestFriendsPlay

This isn’t a new sentiment either. Up until somewhat recently, the industry has slowly been pivoting itself away from turn-based RPGs for years now. Final Fantasy itself hasn’t had a mainline turn-based game since 2011’s Final Fantasy 13-2. 

That was when games such as Call of Duty and Halo were at the height of their popularity. First-person shooters and action games such as God of War were all the rage and that’s what gamers at the time wanted. Everyone was busy trying to make their own Halo/CoD-killer or their very own brand of God of War. 

I was one of them too. I thought turn-based RPGs weren’t for me at all. My action game-addled brain couldn’t even comprehend the concept of playing something where I wasn’t always “in control.” The idea of taking damage with no way to avoid it in turn always rubbed me the wrong way. After so many attempts to get into the genre, I accepted it just wasn’t for me and gave up. 

And then ATLUS released Persona 5. 

Take Your Time

Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal

Persona 5 was a revelation, boldly heralding a grand return for a genre that hadn’t been in the limelight in a long time. It combines the presentation and storytelling of a visual novel while marrying it with dungeon-crawling gameplay, elegantly dividing it into two halves where the first half actively works as an incentive to better your performance for the second half.

Persona 5 was also many players’ introduction to not only the Persona series but turn-based RPGs themselves. It was my gateway into the genre and what ultimately led to me getting into other titles such as older Final Fantasy games like 7 and 10 and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, to give a few examples. 

Of course, nowadays, Final Fantasy has found itself pivoting more and more towards action with each subsequent entry. The two latest entries in the franchise are both heavily centered around action combat, with Final Fantasy 16 having Devil May Cry 5 combat designer Ryota Suzuki at the helm. 

Of course, I have no intention here to drag on Final Fantasy 16 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I love both of those games a lot. Final Fantasy 16 in particular was a game I described as the coolest title of 2023, and I think Final Fantasy 7 Remake has one of the most unique combat systems of any JRPG. 

Square Enix itself has a very respectable output of turn-based titles with games such as Triangle Strategy, Octopath Traveller 2, and Live-A-Live. However, a brief glance is enough to perceive the difference between Square’s turn-based RPGs and their action RPGs.

Why did Square Enix turn FF away from turn based combat?
byu/Active-Pineapple-252 inJRPG

While their action-focused titles such as Final Fantasy 16/7 Rebirth and Forspoken enjoy massive AAA budgets with heavy marketing, their turn-based titles don’t get to celebrate quite as much luxury. In fact, Square’s last big budget outing in the genre Dragon Quest 11 was back in 2018. 

The only assumption I can make regarding this approach is that Square Enix likely doesn’t have a lot of faith in their turn-based offerings and it doesn’t take a genius to say that this is absurd. Octopath Traveller 2 was frequently touted as one of the best JRPGs of 2023, standing toe-to-toe with Final Fantasy 16 in quality despite its significantly lower budget. It really doesn’t make sense why Square doesn’t prioritize their turn-based games. 

And then there’s SEGA. 

SEGA Does What No One Don’t

YouTube video

In 2019, RGG Studios uploaded an April Fools trailer teasing the at-the-time upcoming Yakuza: Like a Dragon, showing off a Yakuza game with turn-based content. While many fans found it to be a funny gag, especially since Yakuza had always been a beat-em-up franchise, a fair number of fans were also open to the idea of a turn-based Yakuza game. 

And so, Yakuza: Like a Dragon was officially revealed later that year, a sequel that would move away from long-time protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and focus on frizzy-haired newcomer Kasuga Ichiban. With the new protagonist also came the biggest departure for the series, turn-based combat.

Persona 3 Reload
Persona 3 Reload.

It’s a rare case of a franchise with action roots swerving into turn-based gameplay when usually — as is the case with Final Fantasy — it’s the other way around. It was an extremely bold move by both SEGA and RGG Studios and the former gave the latter the trust and the funds to make it work. 

And work it did, Like a Dragon is bigger than ever before with Infinite Wealth being one of the best-selling titles in the entire franchise.

Following right behind Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth was Persona 3 Reload. A tour-de-force remake of the most important entry in the series, given the care and attention of a proper mainline entry. 

Both games showcase the publisher’s willingness to invest big money in turn-based titles, giving them the marketing and the budget that they deserve. SEGA delivers a bold middle finger to the idea that turn-based games are an outdated and dying breed of games and I couldn’t be happier. 

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Nameer Zia is a video game News Writer on eXputer obsessed with hunting down all the latest happenings in the industry. Nameer has been gaming for more than 15 years, during which he has spent more than 3,000 hours on Overwatch 1 & 2. As a literature student, his literary chops feed into his passion for games and writing, using eXputer as the medium to deliver the latest news in the industry. Websites such as GamingBolt and IGN have also credited his works.

Experience: 4+ Years || Previously Worked At: Tech4Gamers || Education: Bachelors in English Literature.

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