Dynames Productions Blog

A blog to showcase my creative and technical work. Talk about what I like to talk about.

What makes JRPGs so fascinating to play?

7 Comments

Hey everyone,

Today I bring sort of a discussion topic. What makes Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) so fascinating to play through?

Now before I get into the discussion, I know not everyone likes JRPGs. But this topic is more aimed at those that do and find a certain feeling within these games that they can’t seem to find in others, not even Western RPGs. With that out of the way, let’s get into the topic.

I have for the most part found that JRPGs tend to follow a pretty standard formula when it comes to story telling. The battle systems are usually similar as well in some respects, while minor things about it may differ to help make it a little different. From the JRPGs I’ve played so far, the combat from my experience can be categorized into three categories:

  • Turn Based: You and your opponents fight when it is their respective turn. Example(s) being: Older Final Fantasy titles.
  • Active-Turn Based: Normally a system where both the opposition and player are allowed to attack at any given time. But there is a limit on when you can attack. Sometimes this limit can be in the form of a gauge that needs time to refill before engaging in another attack. Example(s) being: Final Fantasy XIII Series, Tales of Series, Ni no Kuni
  • Real-Time Based: Anyone can attack at any time they please. Example(s) being: Dragon’s Dogma, Souls Series, Bloodborne

For the most part in Western RPGs, I have noticed that the Triple AAA games tend to stick to the Real-Time based combat. Not going to lie, it is fun when the battlefield becomes a land of confusion and you’re just fighting to ensure your character’s survival. But of course this is less strategic, but more about tactics. It also relies on your adaptability as a player to the ever changing tides of battle. But this point is applicable to every battle system I suppose.

So what exactly makes JRPGs fascinating to play? Well for one their battle systems will usually be in-depth, and at times complex requiring some time to grasp it. This is all a part of the fun, as overtime you’ll definitely notice improvement in your own combat abilities in that game.

The next point is the level of customization we get with some JRPGs. Now Western RPGs have done this quite well for a long time now actually, starting with Fallout 3 and above (according to my knowledge, I’m sure there were many fantastic games before Fallout 3 that had great character customization options). But if you look at a JRPG like “Dragon’s Dogma”, you’ll really see the level of detail and complexity that went into being able to customize your characters, the battle abilities and behavior in combat.

Finally, as I mentioned before the story. Even though the stories have started to follow certain trends after being over-saturated in the Japanese gaming market, they still seem to work somehow. All of the characters almost always will tend to go through some type of development, Tales of Xillia is a good example of this. But this does not ensure that the pacing and the writing of the development will be good, there are several Mass Effect characters who have had far better development than some JRPGs characters I’ve seen to date.

In conclusion, JRPGs are great at the things mentioned above because they’ve been doing it for a long time. Japan is one of the countries where RPGs gained a lot of traction in video game form long ago. This also meant that since JRPGs have survived this long, developers and writers have had a great amount of time to practice their art of JRPG game development to a higher level every time.

What did you think about this post? Leave a comment down below as your feedback helps! 🙂

~ Mohit

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Author: Dynames Productions

Passionate about creative content creation of different varieties, programming and exploring new technologies.

7 thoughts on “What makes JRPGs so fascinating to play?

  1. One thing that’s cool about JRPGs is that they have actual boss fights. Undertale had excellent boss fights, but despite its Western origin, it was very much a JRPG at heart, so it’s a weird example. I think it has to do with the fact that the structure of a JRPG has better potential for boss fights than most Western RPGs where they tend to be extremely simplistic (if they even exist at all). Then again, I noticed that’s true of Western games in general, really. Notice how Resident Evil 4 has more in the way of bosses than Uncharted 2 despite both games being third-person shooters.

    • That is true, especially the set up leading to the boss fights. But then again the Japanese developers have had a lot more practice at it.

      But Western RPGs still do some boss fights well, for example Skyrim. The boss fight in that game consisted of a dragon as the end game. Truth be told, while it was no where near as exciting as Dragon’s Dogma dragon boss fight, it was still a boss fight.

      Mass Effect 2 has some in there as well, alongside the mini-bosses.

      I don’t think its fair to compare shooters from different generations because shooters have come a long way now. To devs, sometimes other things are more important than boss fights now. Plus the mentality between a Japanese dev and one from other non-Asian countries perhaps would tend to differ in game design.

      At the end of the day though, it is a matter of fun as the game is intended for. If you’ve fun playing the games you play, then the game itself and the devs have done their job right :).

      • Be that as it may, the boss fights in Skyrim weren’t that much different than battling normal enemies – those encounters were just prolonged because they had more health. To me, a boss should, for the most part, necessitate employing different tactics from fighting normal enemies, which is an advantage Dark Souls has over Skyrim.

        I don’t think comparing games across generations or cultures is unfair at all. If anything, it just highlights the difference in the approaches Eastern and Western developers take. Plus, I’d say it’s impressive how Resident Evil 4 can stand toe-to-toe with Uncharted 2 despite being four years older.

      • That is true, the boss fights were the same as battling normal enemies, just a prolonged battle. But as I said before, as long as the player has fun. Not every game is going to be everyone’s cup of tea after all :).

        Thing about Dark Souls is, it is designed from the mindset of providing a challenge for the players. Skyrim is designed with the mindset of giving players an easy escape into a fantasy based world. How many times have you found yourself getting frustrated in Skyrim? I’m going to wager, not a whole lot. Not to mention the difficulty slider in Skyrim further cements the fact that Bethesda created the game with casual gamer in mind, because that is the majority of the gaming demographic.

        On RE4, as impressive as that game is, you can’t argue that some things about it has aged in comparison to modern TPS. Although some things about it are much better than the modern games. It is basically where some advancements were made, losses were taken in other sectors of game dev.

        Older Western games used to do bosses well, but the industry deals a lot with sales numbers. What is the easiest way to include the largest demographic of (casual) gamers? Make your game easy. If you get complaints about it, tell them to jack up the difficulty.

        Now in my opinion, a more interesting comparison maybe RE4 and The Evil Within, both from Shinji Mikami. It would show the compare and contrast between his own changes in game design to adapt to the current gaming atmosphere.

      • Quite a number of times, actually. Granted, it was mostly because of the interminably long loading screens (another advantage Dark Souls has over it is that they are much shorter), but I felt I had less control over my success in Skyrim than I did in Dark Souls. With the latter, I almost never got frustrated because I found that while the game is pretty difficult, when you do mess up, it’s mostly on you – if you do so repeatedly, it’s a sign you need to change tactics. With Skyrim, I got more of the impression that I should just keep trying and hope things work out for the best.

        As for Resident Evil 4, it is indeed amazing how well it has held up for a pioneering third-person shooter. This is coming from someone who played it after Uncharted 2 (and by extension, The Last of Us). It has an excellent enemy variety, great atmosphere, and good characters; I highly recommend it to everyone.

        I’ve never played The Evil Within. It doesn’t seem too interesting, to be honest.

      • It is true that if you die in Dark Souls, 99% of the time it will be the player’s fault. But this comes to another point, stroking the ego. Most games, we can both agree on has an artificial death in which even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you may bite the dust. Think of CoD, that game has certain technical aspects in place, such as emulated lag (on purpose) by the devs to help bad players feel good when playing, stroke the ego.

        The Evil Within to be honest is not that great of a game. It was Shinji’s attempt at going back to what made RE4 great, but let’s just say it didn’t work out too well. Most of it has to do with some game design decisions, such as an awkwardly limited camera and sluggish controls. Have those two in your game and automatically your game’s fun factor goes down :/.

  2. Pingback: JRPG Padding Which I DISLIKE THE MOST! | Dynames Productions Blog

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