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.
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