I finished Ikenfell yesterday. It’s an indie game about a bunch of very gay witches that go on an adventure in their magical school. It was very cute and fun, and again, very very gay. If you’re looking for an in-depth look at the game, you won’t find that here, because other people better than me have already done that — like this guy.
What I am here to talk about is the feature that makes Ikenfell one of the greatest JRPGs ever made by default. It is so good, so perfect, so important that I don’t think I’ll be able to live without it in games of its ilk going forward. I’m talking about the Instant Victory button.
Ikenfell is a tactical-ish turn-based game, where your party and enemies navigate a grid during combat, pick a spell, then cast it. As actions in battle occur, the better your timed button presses, the more damage you do / stronger buffs you get / less damage you take.
I really enjoyed Ikenfell’s combat. But as I mentioned in my article on Yakuza: Like a Dragon, JRPG battles exist on a sort of bell curve: The beginnings tend to start off slow, with limited options. Then the game picks up, with you learning more abilities, gaining new party members, and being given freedom to experiment with your toolkit. Finally by the end, you have a set strategy in place, you’ve found the characters you enjoy using the most, and there’s little in the way of change through to the game’s credits.
I started to feel this with Ikenfell. I thought I wouldn’t use the Instant Victory button, but after fighting the same four or five enemy types in a dungeon, I felt myself getting exhausted and activated it. Instant Victory can be used during a character’s turn, meaning you can press it whenever you want during a fight. Do so, and your enemies poof into EXP, letting you go on your merry way.
Pressing that button let me feel freer than I ever have playing a JRPG before. It became as much a part of my flow through the game as swapping equipment and solving puzzles. With each new dungeon, I would fight enemies a few times. Once I felt satisfied that I had gotten the “full experience” combating them, I would simply Instant Victory my way to the end until I reached that dungeon’s boss, which I would fight, rather than skip. I also used it to grind up levels when I was struggling during boss fights, skipping out on the tedious repeated battles that can come with leveling up to make my party of extremely gay witches stronger.
Was I denying myself the satisfaction of overcoming the challenge of combat by using the Instant Victory button? Not really: I wasn’t playing Ikenfell for the combat. I was more interested in the story, unraveling the mysteries of the titularly named school and praying that the characters I was getting to know would be happy by the game’s end. The combat was secondary, and while I enjoyed it, there came a point where I simply wanted to move on once I experienced everything the game’s loop had to offer.
Having finished the game, Instant Victory is the part of Ikenfell that will stick with me after the fact (well, that and the fact that I will never be in an emotionally fulfilling relationship). It just makes sense from both a gameplay and accessibility perspective. More choice is never a bad thing when it comes to games, and being able to choose how much I want to engage with particular systems in a game is extremely cool. It’s the natural evolution to Bravely Second’s ability to turn off random encounters, and the ability to instantly solve puzzles in games like 2017’s Spider-Man. And while ports of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy games have come with “cheats” that let you max out all your characters stats and have an infinite amount of money, they don’t allow for the same level of choice — you are either an overpowered God, or you have to play the game “normally,” with no in-between. Frankly, every JRPG should have an Instant Victory button, and I will not be satisfied until they do.
That’s all for now! How do you feel about Instant Victory buttons? Let me know on Twitter @mintplaysthings! And if you like my writing, please consider donating to my Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you!