Case Study: Intertextuality between Dragon Age: Origins and Final Fantasy XII

Intertextuality isn’t a term used much outside of literary essays, but it is a word that describes the phenomenon of taking influences from a particular text and making a new text that pays homages to the original texts. Loosely it refers to the origins of certain ideas or concepts that worked their way into other content.

Using this as a base, I will be showing how a Western RPG, Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) is intertextually bound to the earlier Final Fantasy XII (FFXII). DA:O is a game I picked up this semester to give myself a grounding in the modern WRPG. I was looking for a game that was immediately accessible, and was blown away by how easy to was to pick up and play. Many weeks later I finally found that the gameplay had been heavily built on FFXII, similarities that I had picked up much earlier. While FFXII was rated well by critics, the player communities took issue with the passiveness of the game, they cited the new, self programmed AI system as taking away a core element of gameplay. Which was true, but definitely played in to the aims of a great JRPG. By taking away some of the gameplay involved in grinding, the developers had taken a core pain and turned it in to a passive experience that was easily forgotten and able to be set aside as you did other things.

And yet, this system that was criticised by audiences found it’s way, exactly, into a WRPG. I personally, loved it. I have always been drawn more to the focuses of JRPGs and for a western RPG to exhibit these values meant that I fell in love with DA:O. I previously looked at what I feel stops Visual Novels from being JRPGs and cited gameplay. And here we have a WRPG exhibiting the gameplay not of it’s genre. Of course, the next logical question is, “Do you think DA:O is a JRPG made outside Japan?”

Let me take you quickly through the areas I’ve already defined as setting apart typical WRPGs and JRPGs, namely style, gameplay and structure. The grey area is thick but together they create an ambiance that befits either a WRPG or JRPG.

The stylings of DA:O befit both genres. The focus on relationships and speech interactions is something seen more commonly in WRPG staples as the way to progress story in which you choose your character which is the element not available in JRPGs for the most part. However the art style and creatures have a realism that shies away from the extravagance of the JRPG. The characters themselves and their personalities fit many of the tropes of RPG history both JRPG and WRPG origins.

The structure is where things get interesting. There is a multifaceted storyline that is typical of a WRPG, but it’s pacing isn’t. In fact, the pacing is ripped entirely from FFXII and befits the epic nature inherent with JRPG. On the flip-side, the party system is much more common in JRPGs, but the recruitment and dialogue that results is almost unheard of in the JRPG scene.

I already know what the conclusion would be when I started writing. DA:O is most definitely a WRPG. It values the same values throughtout all parts of the game, however, it is tied intrinsically to JRPGs, and benefits from throwing away the worst part of both and hand picking positive qualities from both worlds to create a bridge between them, I felt that as I was playing this game I was playing a multicultural RPG.

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