While I mostly agree (I’m super familiar with what a JRPG is “supposed to be” and have been playing games for over 30 years), SAO: Fatal Bullet is a spin-off of the main series set in the fictional universe of Gun Gale Online, which is a third-person loot-based shooter in the vein of Borderlands.
The game itself was marketed very heavily around its shooter/action chops as you can see in any of its trailers, like this one:
I think they were really going for a crossover appeal between the die-hard SAO fanbase and new gamers that wanted a fun shooter to play. And the action combat that comprises the bulk of the gameplay is about as far from traditional JRPG gameplay tropes as is possible.
I’m not complaining about the pure act of reading, exactly, which would be ironic for someone who writes as much random stuff on the internet as I do. Rather, that the writing and pacing of the opening text moments in Fatal Bullet is very poor, redundant, and ultimately doesn’t make the game any better.
Some of the best examples of the JRPG genre are text-heavy in their openings, as you’ve said, but they became classics because that text was well-written, engaging, and important to the overall plot. Fatal Bullet’s opening is an example of how to do that sort of thing terribly wrong, and it’s not the fault of genre convention but rather the poor design of this specific game.
Everyone’s tastes are certainly different. But if the plan was to make a game that could capture both SAO fans and newcomers, I’d still personally argue that overloading the opening hour with nothing but repetitive text when they also built a perfectly functional and fun set of gameplay systems that mostly sit on a shelf…was not the way to do it.
Thanks for reading and for the comment! I too enjoyed the original .Hack back on the PS2, but never got around to playing the many sequels.