JRPG: Jaded Role Playing Gamecomments powered by Disqus
Posted on Sunday, December 7 2008 @ 06:17:54 Eastern
It's not fun when you realize that something you have admired over the past years turns out to be complete ****. Whether it's a TV show or a movie, you can't help but feel retarded for liking that thing. There have been allot of things I liked in my childhood, but later realized they were worthless and had the value of Mariah Carey's movie resume'. The most recent object that I've come to realize as "stupid", is none other than the Japanese Role-Playing Game genre. I first saw a true game in the genre early in the new millennium when someone, at this summer camp I went to, was playing Final Fantasy IX, and I instantly fell in love. It was like nothing I've ever seen before. A couple of months later, JRPGs was the only genre that I cared about. Then the years went buy, and with no changes in its core gameplay, I've realized that the genre is clichéd, tedious, and boring.
Anyway, the purpose of this blog entry (hopefully, Vox Box entry), is to list the complaints that I have with the genre and to hopefully to persuade developers (who has learned english, and feels like he/she should read the information from a website that has little to no popularity in the gaming sub-culture) to stop milking these game design elements.
1: Androgynous characters
I don't understand why developers of the genre think that having feminine looking characters as a good thing to have. Maybe it's because the character designers behind these games are transvestites and they want to express those inner-feelings they have into the characters they created, rather than do so in the real world, but sadly can't because they are trapped inside the closet. Or maybe because they are gay and have a fetish to feminine looking men. However despite how you see it, the problem with Androgynous characters is that they are supposed to be taken seriously in these games. I mean, in the real world, if you found a man who almost looks like a girl, and tells you that he's out save (or the destroy) the world, would you try to join (or stop) him in his objective? or would you rather call the police? Besides, when you see characters like Kuja from Final Fantasy IX and Calintz from Magna Carta, who would make you say to yourself or your friends, "wow, that girl's hot". Only to later realize that she's has a penis.
2. Random Encounters
Back in the NES days, JRPG developers had to implement random encounters into their games, simply because of the limitations in technology at the time. Despite that, with 2 decades of increased technology, that makes it possible to create individual polygons for a piece of grass, you still can't make an enemy appear on screen!? Allot of fan-boys defending this, will tell you that random encounters help you progress through the game without worrying about leveling-up. Although, isn't the point of an RPG to worry about leveling-up? It gives you a sense of accomplishment once you finally increase your strength, so that way, you can enter, what were initially impossible, to reach areas. Besides the real reason why developers keep implementing random encounters is to save money on production costs, and that way, they can make allot more money.
3. Emphasis on story
JRPGs usually have a heavy focus on its' stories. And this is really the appeal of the genre, with many people playing JRPGs just to follow the game's story. Now to me, that just goes against the whole idea of playing video games. The reason why we chose video games over any other medium (like movies or TV) is to have an interactive experience. And when you have a genre that has a heavy emphasis on the un-interactive part of a game, it shouldn't count as a video game. Besides it's not like these stories are any good. They usually involve an amnesiac boy who tags along with 6 other people to fight some big, evil corporation or kingdom, with there being a heavy emphasis on plot-twists (plot-twists, a good story does not make). If you are going to have a large emphasis on a video game's story, you should make it more interactive, and I'm not just talking about adding choices in your response, I'm talking about the feeling of being involved in the story, where you can move freely, and have the feeling that your are a part of the story, rather than someone observing it, like in Half-Life 2. Or you can just go the easy route and add quick time events.
4. Turn-based battles
Again, back in the NES days, JRPG developers had to implement turn-based battles into their games because of, again, the technical limitations at the time. Still, how come after 2 decades, with all of the technological capabilities, turn-based battles are still a staple of the series? Sure they were pretty cool when you first saw and experienced it, but after 20 years, it just becomes a tedious chore. Besides, it's not like it makes the battles more strategic, like the fan-boys say it would, since the battles are usually short and can mostly be won by simply selecting "Attack" commands for all of your characters, with little to no risk involved. Again, this purpose is solely used to save more money during the production of the game, and in turn, make more money.
5. Lack of immersion
JRPGs usually try to use the games' story to keep the player interested, but I think that a better option would be to make games more immersing. You see, when you play a game that can make you feel like that you are actually in the game, you can't help but feel engaged. Now, the 8 and 16 (32 maybe)-bit games didn't have any immersing feel to them because of their limited technology (and therefore, excused), but with technology in its present state, there should be no reason for JRPGs to not feel immersing. JRPGs have this weird fetish of including static, lifeless backgrounds and NPCs that contain no emotion or life whatsoever. This would've been acceptable in the early-to-mid 90s, but in 2008, with games out there like GTA IV and Half-Life 2 that have settings and characters that are full of life and emotion.
6. Lack of variety
The lack of variety in its' game-play is one thing that adds to the tedium of JRPGs. The games usually consist of the linear progression of 'going to towns to buy and sell items; traversing through dungeons to fight monsters; rinse; repeat, And that's it, and it gets very boring after 40 hours of game-play. The towns are especially boring, with nothing to do there except go to the stores. Oh sure, you can talk to those NPCs but nowadays, they just spurt out boring dialogue about their life stories, unlike the NPCs of the 8 and 16-bit days, where NPCs had important things to say that helps you progress through the main game.
7. Progressing the genre
This leads to my biggest complaint to the genre as a whole. The lack of improving the fundamentals of the genre. You see, all of the above complaints are caused by this very problem. The JRPGs you play today, really play the same as they did in the 16-bit era, with little to no improvements over gameplay. Fanboys call this lack of progression "traditionalism", but anybody who's familiar with other video game genres would understand that without changes to those genres' fundamentals, those genres could not survive. Take point-&-click adventure games. Allot of gamers think that this genre died because of the rise of games like Doom and Quake, but in reality, the reason why that genre died, was because of the lack of evolution occurring to the games in the genre. Throughout the decades, the point&click adventure genre has always been about constantly clicking on everything with little to no risk, trying to solve illogical puzzles, until you find something that causes you to progress further into the game. That's exactly what's occurring to the JRPG genre. In all honesty, did 3D RPGs do anything different, gameplay-wise, compared to their 2D siblings?
So that was the list of my complaints for JRPGs. Congratulations for reading the angry writing of some nerd sitting in front of his computer for most of his day. You know, you're probably asking me "LF, isn't there a single JRPG you like?", well as it may surprise, yes, there are actually a couple I like, and I'll be happy to tell you what they are. They are Earthbound, Growlanser Generations, Barkley: Shut Up & Jam: Gaiden, A Blurred Line, Pokémon and Dragon Quarter. The reason why I like those games is because they don't fall to the typical conventions of a JRPG, they do things differently, like, adding a sense of charm, or offer a different type of experience. However, like I mentioned in the beginning, it's not fun to realize that you dislike something especially if you became attached to it, and was usually your favorite genre of video games. Despite that, it makes us look back in our lives and come to the revelation that we were stupid back then. To me, the JRPG genre is dead now, and if games like White Knight Chronicles and Final Fantasy XIII, convince me otherwise, I will to post a video on YouTube of me punching my crotch with simultaneously saying, "I'm a ****".