Standard JRPG Combat, Single Character Party

In standard JRPGs you have a party of heroes off to save the world. Well, what about games where there's just one character, but you still have the standard JRPG turn-based combat?

I was thinking about this recently and realized while I can easily name a few like this, there's not that many. (Naturally this excludes games where you have just one character at the start or for limited segments.)

  • - Dragon Quest 1
  • - Paper Mario series (kind of, your ally isn't a full character system-wise)
  • - Pokemon (kind of, one at a time)
  • - Helen's Mysterious Castle
  • What are some other games like this? How do they keep combat interesting (or do they)?

    Undertale is a single character RPG that comes to mind. It’s turn-based, even if turns don’t happen in a conventional way. Combats stay fun and fresh thanks to the enemy patterns rather than the character’s abilities. Deltarune departed from this structure by having a party of heroes instead.

    So you accept Pokémon specifically because (in most episodes) the monsters fight in a 1v1 format, right?

    I was looking through my shelves…

    ◉ I guess the entire Madō Monogatari series would fit? Can’t remember one entry that featured more characters than Arle. The original games were simple dungeon crawlers…

    https://youtu.be/rE6T4fE_9bM

    … But the SFC game instead tries to combine (rather awkwardly in my book) Zelda-style areas and the same simple 1v1 battle system.

    https://youtu.be/Fq1Kikz1bV4

    ◉ Cyber Doll on the Saturn is a great example. I may be forgetting some fights where you are assisted, but you are essentially a lone wolf.

    https://youtu.be/OgzUhUtiOhg

    ◉ I would argue Azel also fits that trope, except you are riding your weapon instead of carrying it. The Battle system is pretty much a fancier ATB system.

    https://youtu.be/aIzshjmZkNE

    ◉ Most of the old Dragon Ball RPGs either focus on a single character (typically Goku) or have you swap characters one by one and face a single enemy, Pokémon-style.

    https://youtu.be/73QuPEBgPlE

    https://youtu.be/wALiQqdyRpI

    ◉ Technically all games built on the Fushigi na Dungeon model are turn-based, although I would understand if that did not fit what you are looking for…

    Baby‘s First JRPG Guardian's Crusade feels close enough to maybe count? You only have one character that you control directly but you have a second party member with a health bar, but you can’t control them directly.

    It at least counts as much as _Paper Mario._

    I finally remembered an example I‘m sure nobody else will cite: Dragon Tycoon Edge, the…I’m not 100% sure what it is, but I do know it has single character RPG combat.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ltWIbxon-w

    @“chazumaru”#p65694 I‘m not sure Pokemon is the best example because you do have a multiple character party, but since it’s only one character at a time it's definitely related!

    Ah heck, Madou Monogatari was going to be my answer!

    I'll say Cruise Chaser Blassty instead then :D

    A party of heroes that you control is really just one visual metaphor for a battle system where there are multiple nodes that can be targeted by enemies and each node can attack independently.

    As a thought exercise, I can easily imagine a different visual metaphor for the same type of battle system that uses just a single character — for example, if your character piloted a mech that had a couple different missile launchers (and maybe a healing unit of some kind) attached to it, all of which could be targeted by enemies. Each turn you’d select a different attack for each missile launcher. This would be a single character game, but mechanically it could behave just like a typical multi-character turn-based rpg. (I don’t play many mech games, so I’m not sure if anything like this already exists. Lots of JRPG bosses behave this way at least.)

    Another example might be if your character held two swords. Maybe this one could have some restrictions on what enemies each of your two swords can attack, e.g. the right sword can only attack enemies to the right of what the left sword targets, and you might balance the battle system so that it heavily encourages you to use one sword to block each turn (perhaps acting like a tank character would in another rpg).

    …and so on.

    My point is, it seems like there are lots of ways to make different variations of the standard turn-based jrpg battle system work with a single character metaphor. So it’s kind of interesting to me that the multi-character metaphor is so dominant. I suppose part of that is for story telling reasons: it’s a lot easier to write an engaging story if you have a bunch of people who can banter with each other. Or maybe there’s this desire for every player in the world to have at least _one_ character that’s their favorite, which of course necessitates multiple characters.

    >

    @“saddleblasters”#p65771 As a thought exercise, I can easily imagine a different visual metaphor for the same type of battle system that uses just a single character — for example, if your character piloted a mech that had a couple different missile launchers (and maybe a healing unit of some kind) attached to it, all of which could be targeted by enemies.

    >

    @“saddleblasters”#p65771 Another example might be if your character held two swords.

    I was too tired to figure out how to analyze and explain it concisely earlier but please note that Cyber Doll, mentioned a few posts above, works pretty much the way you suggested in your thought experiment. Replace the mech idea with cybernetic enhancements, divided between five body parts, each of which have their own HP gauge (so akin to five party members). The head acts as the Shin Megami Tensei-style protagonist / team leader and you bye forever if it "dies". Losing one arm instead prevents you from using certain weapons, etc.

    @“chazumaru”#p65784 Cool! Now that I’ve looked at the video carefully instead of just skipping through it like I had before, I can see that! It makes me feel good that someone actually implemented this thing that I was only thinking about theoretically

    @“Video_Game_King”#p65711 I‘ve been wanting this game so bad. it’s so bizarre looking.

    Anyway, dare I say.... Fallout 3, etc!? it's not J, but it does have all that RPG stuff when you bring the hud up.

    also Cyber Doll rules, and is a great example of a single character jrpg. I don't have full access to my collection right now or I'd be scouring the boxes to remind myself. I'm sure I've got some stuff here!

    [edit] meanwhile in the pasocon thread
    https://twitter.com/DragEnRegalia/status/1513675768181628930?s=09

    Today‘s morning reading session (which I’m still in the middle of) has led me to this little single character party RPG.