*** Post will contain spoilers for Tales of Symphonia ***
If you have read some of my posts before, you may have noticed one that outlines my like for the Japanese Role Playing Video Games (JRPG). But like with everything, this genre is by no means perfect. As I have been playing more of these recently, I have begun to notice a very annoying trend in them. From the title you should be able to easily guess it.
Did you guess “Padding”?
If you did, then you would be right. To be more specific, I talk padding of the nonsensical variety. Let’s use an example from my current JRPG that I’m playing called “Tales of Symphonia”. That game, as far as characters goes has cliched but varied characters. Story is interesting at the start, but starts to get drowned out as time goes on due to the magnitude of the game. Part of that magnitude comes from the unnecessary padding they add on for reasons they don’t even bother explaining to the player until very later!
So what happened exactly?
Here I was going to the Temple of Earth as instructed by the story and I come across a gnome. Okay, that’s cool. But guess what, they wouldn’t let me past until I got another gnome in another location a potion. So I had to go halfway across the world map to get the potion, then go to the different dungeon that gnome was in, and then make my way back to Temple of Earth! (There is no fast travel)
Now that I had done that, I moved on to exploring the dungeon (or temple, whatever you fancy). All was good, killing enemies, leveling up and exploring loot chests. Then I came across another gnome, oh and wouldn’t you know it, they wanted something as well in order for me to advance.
Player: So why am I helping them again?
Game: You want an explanation?
Player: That would be nice.
Game: No screw you! Do as you are told, and we may take enough pity on you to explain it later.
Fine, I go get what the gnome wanted, in this case it was spicy curry. But here is the kicker, here is what really set me off on this whole nonsensical padding thing. I had to go halfway across the world map again! So that’s me two times entering and leaving the temple to fulfill completely unrelated mini quests. Quests mind you which don’t even give me an incentive to do so to begin with. All the game says is, if you want to get past the gnomes, you give them what they want.
Player: Why would I want to do that?! There is enough space around the gnome for me to walk around them.
Game: No no no, you must get them their shiz before you can move on.
I do that, I get him the curry, and get a nice little scene with everyone eating around a little campfire. Then I move on and finally learn why I had to do all this. It was so the gnomes would lend me their aid in finding a tunnel that would lead back up to where I was, well I could have done that through exploration!
Then as I went back to the start, I saw a new gnome. Finally this one was here to help me get to the dungeon boss, my main objective. So helping one wasn’t enough to get them to help me in return apparently?
On top of that, I had already figured out how to get to the boss, but because you needed the gnomes (which the game never told me at any point before completing the blasted mini quests), I had to play through that arduous 30 minutes process.
To that I say the following:
I don’t know why this is a staple of JRPG design, of course they have gotten MUCH better at this but this unnecessary padding just seems like a lazy aspect of JRPG design. This padding just seems like an easy way out for the devs to extend gameplay hours through trivial mini quests thrown in there.
This isn’t exclusive to Tales of Symphonia alone, I have played many other JRPGs that have had this problem in my perspective. I think this problem is mostly prevalent in older JRPGs, but it is relevant in some modern games that are structured around a quest/mission system.
Some games may do this with some logic behind it, while others do it simply to make the player feel like they are getting their money’s worth. And to that I put my foot down and say…
I realize this was kind of a rant post, but I hope it does at least make other gamers and devs out there realize how bad padding can be very frustrating to play through.
Click here for my previous post on JRPGs.