When you’re learning to write a novel, you get it drilled into your head that you need to hook your reader within the first few pages. It sounds petty but it is true, both in novels and video games. The best JRPG opening scenes are the ones that hook a player in and convince them to spend the next several dozen hours doing side quests and escort missions.
What are the best JRPG opening scenes and what makes them so effective? We take a look at some of our favourites and over-analyse them as only the Internet can do.
Everything in Persona 5 is done with amazing skill and style, so the opening is no different. Joker is infiltrating what appears to be a casino while Life will Change urges us forward. The combat tutorial hits the player quick, but everything feels so polished and well put together that we don’t mind slowing down for a moment.
What makes this one of the best JRPG opening scenes of all time? It establishes everything we need to know about the game and what it is going to have us doing. We’re going to be thieves with an impeccable sense of style and a flair for the dramatic, but it also sets up one of the main themes of the game which is finding out who it is that betrayed us as we planned this particular heist. As much as the opening explains, it poses even more questions, which kept us glued to the screen for more than a hundred hours per playthrough.
Trails of Cold Steel
Similar to Persona 5, this is another excellent use of non-linear storytelling to help establish the stakes that the characters are working toward the rest of the game. By starting the player in the middle of the game, we get to see what the characters will be capable of after they get some grinding under the belt while getting a glimpse into where the plot is going. For the rest of the game, players are questioning how they will get back to that mission where everything seems to be going wrong.
By showing the characters at their most tense, it makes going back to the rest of the game, which largely surrounds training to become soldiers, seem like a pleasant slice of life adventure. As the stakes slowly ratchet up over time, we are reminded that at least some of them are unlikely to come out of the adventure alive. It makes some of the interactions feel bittersweet but all the more wholesome because of it.
I know what you’re thinking: here goes Trent talking about Chrono Trigger again. And you’re right, but that’s only because the opening hour of that game contains a hundred little points that would influence other games for years. As Crono and Marle make their way through the Millennial Fair, engaging with side characters who will come into play later on and possibly making huge mistakes for Crono’s future, we’re introduced to Guardia during a time of peace, which contrasts beautifully with the war-ravaged time period that the characters are immediately whisked off to.
This is one of the best JRPG opening scenes because we get a peaceful slice of life scene in what would eventually become a strange time-travel based game. There are hints at the romance that would blossom between Crono and Marle as well as foreshadowing about their importance to history. The sudden shift from peaceful days to the foreboding music that swells as Marle steps onto the transporter pad tells us that things are about to get real and I love it.
There are countless other wonderful examples of JRPG opening scenes out there — so which are your favourites? Final Fantasy VII’s bombing mission? Hyperdimension Neptunia’s goddess battles? Atelier Firis and our heroine’s desire to break free of her oppressive home? Let us know down in the comments — or write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
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