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  Mechanic #218 - Reverse JRPG
Posted: May 24, 2016

Play a JRPG backwards, from the final boss back to the beginning.

  Reverse JRPG

This is a game where you play a JRPG in reverse. You start the game having defeated the final boss, which you then undefeat by battling it in reverse. You then go to the last town you save and unsave it. You go from powerful group of warriors capable of saving the world, and you unsave bit by bit, all the while growing weaker and less capable as you go. Only when the last playable character is left, at level 1, crawling into his bed in his comfortable home in his idyllic home town does the game finish.

  Reverse Exploration

The crux of the experience is that you are still playing a JRPG, but the experience of going backwards changes how you approach it. For instance, instead of taking an item from a box, you put the item back in the box, losing an item that you previously had. Instead of buying equipment, you are basically selling it so that you no longer have it. The goal is to get rid of everything you had until you have nothing left.

Take a typical JRPG quest line. You arrive at a new city and something it wrong. The NPCs there tell you about a vampire lord who is killing villagers at night. His castle is past the forbidden woods to the north. Your team grinds a bit, getting experience and equipment needed to defeat the vampire, then travel there. After exploring the castle and looting it completely, you engage the vampire lord in battle, defeating him. You then travel back to the town where you are greeted by thankful villagers who then give you a key to the Western Gate, allowing you access the other half of the continent.

Playing backwards, you arrive at the town from the other half of the continent. The villages are already grateful for you, explaining how great their life has been since you defeated the vampire lord in the castle to the north - and they take back the key to the Western Gate. Knowing that you defeated the vampire lord, it is now time to undefeat him, so you travel to the castle, largely running from battles and ignoring empty treasure chests to unbattle the vampire lord.

You find the vampire lord's remains in the throne room at the end of the castle. Examining the remains puts you into unbattle (which I'll explain in a moment), where the remains reconstitute the vampire lord with 1 hit points. After undefeating the boss, you leave the castle - this time examining all the empty treasure chests and returning items and equipment to them. You fight battles in the castle and forest, lowering your character level. You return to the town (they are now complaining about the vampire lord killing them at night) where you unbuy equipment.

You've just played the quest in reverse. Now you use clues in the villagers' dialogue to figure out where you originally came from. One might say, "Welcome to Hill Town. I hope your ocean voyage was a pleasant one." From that you gather that you were on a ship, and find a port outside of town with your boat. You can now set sail. But to where? Well, you need to find the locations you can travel to and try to figure out which one you uncomplete first.

  Reverse Combat

In reverse combat, your goal is not to defeat an enemy, but to undefeat them. As such, everything you do has the opposite effect. Hit the enemy with a sword and he gains back health. Drink a health potion and you lose health. If the enemy becomes dizzy during battle, castle a Dizzy spell to make him undizzy. The battle is over when the enemy is at full health with no status effects.

But there is a complication for your characters as well. They too will get hit, and healed, but if they are healed more than their maximum hit points, a temporal anomaly will occur and the battle starts over. So as your characters health gets too high, you must undrink health potions to lower it down again. Essentially, health works exactly as it always did, but in the opposite direction. You can still lose a battle, you still must manage your health. It's just that things work a little bit differently than they did before.

Battles have a sort of puzzle element to them where you'll see the effects of an action, and you must be sure to perform that action. For instance, a boss might complain that your last attack was super effective, and knowing that he is weak to electricity means that in the next turn, you must uncast a lightning spell on him - but you must be careful. Uncasting a spell restores MP, and if you have too much MP, you won't be able to cast it. Good think you can undrink mana potions to reduce your MP.

Yeah, so battles won't actually be affected much by being in reverse. There's still upper and lower limits to all the bars and gauges, it's just that those are reversed. Full HP is worse than minimal HP.


As you travel, you'll get weaker and weaker, even losing party members over time. You must make sure that you don't delevel yourself too much as you travel, or enemies will one-unhit heal you. So there's still a strategic element to how you power up (or power down) your characters, with a bit of a puzzle element to figuring out where to go (or where you've been), and in all honesty, I don't think the mechanical experience of playing a JRPG will change all that much. The framing will be quite the mindbender though.

As for the plot? That's easy. You know how JRPGs always feature a character from a small town that makes some dumb decision that ends up getting the town destroyed? Well, by defeating the final boss, that character starts to experience time backwards, and he undoes his entire journey just so he can go back to the beginner, before his family and town were destroyed, and make a different choice. You could make a pretty good metaphor for selfishness where the character unhelps the entire world just so that he can be happy. It could work.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.