What makes a good Isekai game? What to avoid?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by watermark, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. watermark

    watermark Veteran Veteran

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    Isekai seems to be all the rage these days, especially in anime.

    For those who don't know, "Isekai works revolve around a normal person from Earth being transported to, reborn, or trapped in a parallel universe, usually a fantasy world."

    I think this genre works by playing on three desires:
    1. The I am special complex: The protagonist is usually a down-on-his luck, average person stuck in a boring, mundane existence where he might be physically "comfortable" but mentally breaking down because his dreams aren't being fulfilled and he doesn't see any way out of it. This situation resonates with a lot of us. Then all of a sudden the protag gets whisked away to a new world where he's the "Chosen One" with all these special powers and (usually) hot babes/guys who can't keep their hands off him/her. This raises a good question: What if you suddenly tell any average person "You are the One." and "The World is depending on you!" Would that person rise to the occasion?

    2. Intelligence superiority complex: With all the knowledge at our fingertips, if we were to go back in time, we could totally rule the world. Isekai is one of those What Ifs. Modern Man vs Ancient Savages superiority.

    3. The Save/Load complex: What if you can save/reload your life and do everything over? Correctly this time? Enough said. Hence all the reborn isekais.

    However there are some things I start to not like about this genre:
    1. OP protag or Mary Sue syndrome where the protag is absolute nobody in the real world and author suddenly expects audience to believe that he/she is super smart and noble just because he/she is now the Chosen One. It's not the new special powers, that's fine. It's how the protag suddenly becomes super smart in using them.

    2. Cookie cutter NPCs. Where all the bartenders speak gruffly, the kings royally, and the hot babes gush uncontrollably. When you can guess what anyone will say next, it gets as tiring as playing a game on god mode.

    So. What do you think would make a good isekai game? A bad one?
     
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  2. alice_gristle

    alice_gristle Veteran Veteran

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    If you're tired with the tropes, why not break them? Just a brief glance at 1. and 2. suggests tons of ways to break the expectations... and not just the obvious reversals. Plus, if Isekais are all the rage now, games that break the mold ought to have a nice chance to make an impact! :biggrin:
     
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  3. ChipTato

    ChipTato Villager Member

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    What really boils me is how most isekai if not all dont even capitalize on the fact that you're from a different world. When you get rid of the whole transported to a new world trope what you get is just a fantasy story. Why not play on the fact that you lived in another world? Why not instead of being the Most OP person in the isekai because reasons, you are considered the weakest being because you're the only human in their world? What about getting outcasted/exiled for the same reason? I know isekai is the highest form of escapism, but let's be real. Sometimes expectations dont meet reality and jumping into another reality might not be better

    But my whole opinion is what makes a "good" isekai is exactly what makes a horrible story
     
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  4. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    So, I'm guessing this is more about story than the game itself... What I think is important, apart from following basic storytelling guidelines, is that the main character reacts realistically to his situation, and it's what I often see done badly in isekai anime. They end up with one of two types of characters, which are either masters of the world as soon as they enter it because they're apparently familiar with the setting/rules etc (Sword Art Online), or they don't even get the basic things, despite being familiar with it (Re:Zero). There should be a fine balance between having the main character with an advantage over the inhabitants of the world because they are familiar with everything that comes with the world they've entered, but there should also be a learning process, since living in such a world is very much different than playing it as a game or reading it as a book.
     
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  5. Lihinel

    Lihinel Veteran Veteran

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    Some might, but as a general statement, I'll call BS on that one.
    And Dara agrees:
     
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  6. V_Aero

    V_Aero Veteran Veteran

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    I once watches Sword Art Online. Well, I enjoyed it, but after I completed it, I said to myself "okay I will never such a genre again."

    I personally think there isn't even one existing way to make a good Isekai plot. As soon as I see something like "an other world" I instantly get annoyed. Why don't write a story which just takes places in another world, but without traversing into it, make a protagonist who is weak in the beginning but then becomes the Chosen One? Like Luke Skywalker or Avatar Aang.
     
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  7. watermark

    watermark Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah, I agree that the majority of us would be pretty useless. In fact, if apocalypse came today, people who live in the third world and familiar with primal technology will have a better chance of surviving than us softees dependent on modern tech.

    But, if you're a specialist like a doctor, engineer, or an astronaut who actually knows what happens behind that wall, then this could be possible.

    Or, if you're a genius like Dr. Stone.
     
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  8. Redeye

    Redeye Chronicles Creator Veteran

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    I never really understood Isekai, the only interesting concepts I've seen were the ones from SAO and Log Horizon, which raised the question "What if we could literally, physically interact with video games in a hyper-immersive VR experience?" (A question which I long to see answered irl).

    Other than those, I'm not really interested in isekai. I once read an idea for a game's story on here. They had a mildly interesting lore and concept, and I was actually kind of getting invested. But then, in a single sentence, they threw it all away and said the main character was some loser from Earth. Like.... why? What does Earth have anything to do with this fleshed-out fantasy world? Why can't the mc just be a normal resident of this world? The isekai twist had literally zero purpose other than to possibly allow your game to make cringey pop culture references.
     
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  9. Shikamon

    Shikamon Villager Member

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    As a game, I don't think isekai based game will be different from your common jrpg. IMO A good isekai genre is when there is a sense of wonder about another world. The character should find something he/she unfamiliar with so it will motivate him/her to explore the world more and encounters something new. "Another world" genre is not something new but rather reinvented by SAO series with their tropes like youth protagonist, harem party members, RPGlike system in the world, etc. I assumed this discussion follows that trend rather than old "isekai" like Narnia, Alice in the wonderland, Wizard of Oz.
    So what it makes good :
    > Protagonist which has a purpose. not just randomly thrown at the isekai. is he gonna start a new life ? or find the way to return his own world? or just try to survive?
    > NPC with different morals or mindsets than our world because they should have different cultures. it will make a believable world rather than just duplicate our world.
    Things should be avoided :
    > Overpowered protagonist without proper explanation.
    > Pop Culture references
    > Game system within the world itself. Like why monsters have levels or drop loot unless the god within the world created that system.

    Actually, I don't mind about isekai's cliche because that makes me enjoyed it. too many distinct will make it as just another world game but not isekai.
     
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  10. Darkanine

    Darkanine ...In my thoughts and in my dreams... Veteran

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    Theirs an old Isekai RPG from the 90s called The Magical Land of Wozz, it wasn't a fantastic game, its gameplay was filled with half-baked ideas that seemed cool on paper but weren't fleshed out that much and the combat system was really easy to break, but I feel like it got the "isekai" aspect of its design right. Wozz as a place, was really fun to explore. It had its own history, culture, customs, festivals, etc, that were alien to the player characters, but actually made sense in the context of the world.

    I guess the way to go about an isekai is to make an interesting fantasy world, but then make it where the main character is totally clueless of it. This is a pretty common trope in general, just a "fish out of water" type story you see all the time. Lord of the Rings was similar in the sense that Frodo and co grew up in a rather tame and uneventful part of Arda, but were thrust into the more fantastical aspects of the world.

    But I also think it's important to separate the genre of Isekai from the way it's used nowadays. People seem to forget the concept of it is quite old, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Barsoom, Narnia, Peter Pan, Little Nemo and even several Mickey Mouse stories are all examples of what essentially is an isekai, done decades or even over hundreds of years ago and are generally all quite different stories from one another. And beyond that, mythological stories from around the world often involve themes of mortals traversing into or from mythical realms, and some of those stories date back several thousand years.

    In short, I wouldn't try to worry to much about the tropes of isekai and just try to tell your story. The genre, like fantasy and sci-fi, is by its very nature, endless in possibilities, even if some works make it not seem so.
     
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  11. BK-tdm

    BK-tdm Manga Maker Veteran

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    Isekai is pretty much the battle royale of anime, everyone came out with its own idea of it but most of them are more of the same.:kaophew:

    You already know the cliches so you can either embrace them or avoid them, you can make an OP MC kiriboy and let it roll or you can do stuff like what Zero no tsukaima or Konosuba did, a normal guy mc, and in konosuba's case, less useless than the rest of the cast since he can actually make do with the limitations of his party and coordinate them.

    We're talking about this in an rpg setting yet all is see is SaO references while the greatest "Video game conspiracy affects real life" series is actually .hack//GU Trilogy. Haseo > Kirito :kaopride:
     
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  12. RCXDan

    RCXDan Champion of Brightmoon Tor Member

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    I guess the best way to write an Isekai story is to make both worlds thematically relevant instead of just saying "kek, earth is a loser place nobody wants to visit" which is kind of a bad message to send in general.

    As much as I didn't like how Final Fantasy Tactics Advance handled the execution, it kinda had the best set up for what I'm trying to say here. (Aka. the characters use the fantasy world as a vehicle to avoid their real life problems, but of course that doesn't last forever.)

    (Marchen Awakens Romance (MAR) also handled it pretty well, although I'd have to rewatch the whole thing again to be sure.)

    I'm very much down for a character who's a fish out of water and realistically takes time to adapt to the new environment, cause like... you're going into a completely different world with its own baggage and hoops to jump over. The only way I can let this pass is if you're Ainz Ooal Gown and already start as a god completely alien to the world you're inhabiting, pretty much. (And even then this is hella difficult if you can't make an overpowered character compelling, which is kinda why standard Isekai protags flounder so often.)

    Also, who says you have to go for a JRPG setting? You could very easily make the "new world" literally anything. Sci-fi planet full of techno marvels but is super hard to get used to, a "new world" that's literally an impossibly large, non euclidean ghost hospital, and so on.

    So yeah, here's my points -

    * Do - make the world you came from have emotional attachment instead of disregarding it completely
    * Do - have the character realistically adapt to the new world
    * Do - make the new world have its own identity instead of just "another medieval rpg". Take time to make it original because imagine if you're trying to pitch this idea to someone but remove the "MC is from another world" aspect.

    * Don't - make the main character overpowered unless that contributes to how they have to resolve conflict or deal with their personal issues, more often than not this would also require them to not be omnipotent at everything they do as well
    * Don't - fall into the age old trap of "MC guy and MC girl hook up" unless you can make their relationship actually interesting. Like I'd love it if someone made a group of MCs who are already/become best friends and that's it.
    * Don't - have the new world revolve around your character. A believable world has to have inhabitants with their own thoughts, lives and problems.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
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  13. alice_gristle

    alice_gristle Veteran Veteran

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    Woow, I had totally forgotten I actually played this game a little! As far as I can remember, I got bored really quickly. :biggrin:

    There's a weird little novel called The Knight by Gene Wolfe (2004?) that did wonderful things with this. I mean, the novel sucks in many ways, but it was occasionally heart-wrenching in how the main character got glimpses of the world he'd left behind. Recommended reading, but mind the faults!
     
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  14. hero_buddy

    hero_buddy artist and pro cat petter Veteran

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    an isekai game that i really enjoyed was aselia the eternal. the protagonist actually struggles, and even has to learn an entirely new language, since, surprise surprise, not everyone across the multiverse speaks japanese. it’s a pretty long VN SRPG, so it won’t be for everyone, but if you like VNs and SRPGs, i recommend it.

    honestly, i’d even play an isekai with a cliched OP protagonist, since those types of anime are my guilty pleasure... :kaoswt:
     
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