Five Things JRPGs Can Learn From Western RPGs
In many ways Japan invented the RPG genre.
No I don’t have a historical backing for that statement, and neither am I going to go back and mark the point that western RPGs split off and began displaying their own flavour and attributes but I think it’s safe to say that every gamer has come into contact with a Japanese RPG over the years – even if it was something as harmless as Pokemon.
Basically RPGs are something that Japan does well. They just seem to love these frighteningly long games, with deep and nonsensical seeming stories and a myriad of similar looking characters whose names I will inevitably forget and stat trees which are nearly as important as they are indecipherable.
All that aside, I have to say that there are some things more western RPGs like Skyrim and Dragon Age do a lot better (at least for my unrefined western gaming tastebuds). So I picked the top 5 most frequent offenders and figured I’d show you guys what I think Japanese RPGs can learn from their baby brother western RPGs.
5. Less Recycling
This one is simple enough, and probably speaks more to the length disparity between RPGs more than any preference on the Japanese end. Basically a trend I’ve found in Japanese RPGs which seems a little less prevalent in the west is reusing enemies or game assets throughout the game.
I never want to be fighting the same enemy at level 60 that I was fighting at level 3, even if it has grown horns and changed colour and got a scarier name. This goes for items as well, if I was picking up +3 daggers in my first few hours of play then the items I’m getting at the end should be like “Wicked Render of Fury” not “Sharp Dagger +7”.
As for reusing locations or building? Come on Japan, you’re better than that.
4. A Cleaner UI
This is a big one, way too many times have I found my best abilities or items buried under 8 pages of lame pokes and punches that I had never bothered to flip through until I lost to the same boss ten times.
A clean user interface which makes it easy to find all your spells, items, companions and abilities goes a long way to understanding the game you are playing – and with understanding comes enjoyment.
There is nothing fun about flicking through menus for 20 minutes while your game is paused because you are sure you picked up the key for that gate at some point.
3. Less Grinding
This is a tough hill to climb since powering up over time is such a core tenet of RPGs but seriously Japan, less grinding please.
If I get to a boss and I’m not powerful enough to beat him, I want it to be because I’m doing something wrong or because I skipped an area. I don’t want it to be because I should have stayed in that last town for an extra 5 hours killing marauders – nobody is going to just assume that’s the way the game needs to be played, because frankly it shouldn’t be.
2. More Linear Storylines
Maybe this is personal preference and maybe I’m going to offend some JRPG fans here but dear god could there be less Japanese RPGs where I have no idea WTF I’m meant to be doing. Like honestly, I’m pretty sure every JRPG starts off with the hero as the village idiot of some town in the middle of nowhere and somehow ends with him destroying an alternate dimension while simultaneous combatting capitalism and bringing back the age of magic to the world.
Clear stories which go from one plot point to another in a straight line would be amazing. Skyrim is a great example of this, it’s a game which is sold on it’s open world and yet I was never at a loss for what exactly my character should be doing. The story is literally something like “here are dragons, you are the guy who is meant to kill dragons, this dragon in particular, ok lets do that”.
Find me a JRPG you can summarise in less 50 words. Seriously, go try.
1. Shorter Conversations
This goes hand in hand with my last point but yeah damn Japan you do go on.
I feel like the hero of most JRPGs has to have a conversation with everyone in his village on the way out, every stranger he stumbles across, every boss he fights and then everyone in the next village just to be safe. And when it isn’t lots of conversations, it’s frequent conversations with your party members which stretch on and on. I really don’t care if you became a water mage because your uncle drowned to death and your father swore that the sea would never best your family again – I just want you to hurry up and cast frostbolt.