Why I Love Towns

I’ve been playing video games for a long time. I’ve played all sorts of games, from Super Mario Bros. to Bejeweled to next week’s mega-release, BioShock. I even rocked a little bit of the mildly creepy Astro Grover for the NES (what is it about that game that always bugged me out as a child?). I’ve been around the proverbial block, as games go, and I guess one could say that I know the ins and outs of most of the genres out there. By now, I’ve even managed to formulate a pretty solid set of understandings and opinions about each one.

One type of game, however, has vexed me throughout the years. I’ve hated it, loved it, been indifferent to it, etc., and this cycle will probably continue for at least another decade. The genre in question? Role-playing games.

When I first picked up Dragon Warrior for the NES, I was but a wee tyke, and being as such (that’s a stupid little kid, for clarification), I couldn’t quite grasp what could possibly be good about such a slow, uneventful, and tedious game. I promptly asked my father to exchange it for the much more agreeable Ninja Gaiden II. Up through the SNES era, I was re-aquainted with the genre, via games like Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, and my beloved 7th Saga. By the PS2 era, I was definitely into RPGs. In recent years, I kinda sit on the fence, waiting for one to catch my eye.

Now I can guess what you’re thinking. How the hell does “Why I love towns” pertain to any of this? Well, I’ve been playing some RPGs lately (Brave Story is in my PSP right now, its soundtrack crashing a cymbal at me from across the room every… let me count… ten seconds), and what I realized is that, well, I love towns.

A while back, I wrote an article on random battles, and how they f*cking suck. That’s basically one part of what I’m getting at now. There’s a certain sense of tranquility when you enter a town in a traditional JRPG. It’s as if a great burden has been lifted, and you can breathe easier. Gone is the worry that you will face yet another in a series of arbitrarily encountered generic foes and gone is the annoyance of that worry becoming a reality. Everything becomes pleasant, cozy, and predictable.

This is what a late-in-the-game random battle looks like

Maybe what I like most about RPG towns is the freedom to explore, even though I am bound by the city limits. Most of the town’s inhabitants feel perfectly safe leaving their doors open, which means that their houses are never off limits to my exploration, and of course, my treasure-hunting. It’s great to steal sh*t out of someone’s home, oftentimes right in front of their face, and then proceed to have just the most friendly conversation you can muster. As a matter of fact, I love talking to NPCs.

Did you ever notice that you have to talk to people no more than twice in order to hear everything they’ll ever have to say? Well, that’s great, because who really wants to talk to everyone in town, anyway? I’ve got a world to save, I don’t really have time for that crap. It’s just the completist (and curious little kid) in me that compels me to chat them up in the first place. Unless they are going to give me something, advance the game state, or reveal an interesting plot point, I really don’t give a rat’s ass about them.

Lastly… the shops. Who DOESN’T like being able to sell anything that they no longer need, even if it only nets them a quarter of the market value? The town is the main place that I buy and sell items, eat, sleep, and equip myself with deadly toys, allowing me at least some pleasure in dealing with Bandit 1 and 2, or Mr. Slime and all his friends and family. It’s the town, and everything therein that takes the edge off of those anxiety-ridden treks between happy places.

Disclaimer: No, I don’t hate RPGs. And no, I am not completely jaded to the overworld map and it’s encounters. There are just better ways to construct an enjoyable videogame experience, and I’m sure I’ll be telling you about at least one way to do so after playing BioShock next week.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.