I want to like role playing games, or more specifically, Japanese role playing games. Final Fantasy is the most popular property in that genre and I have friends who cherish many of the games in the series. Recently I’ve tried numerous games to try and wet my appetite, but none of them have really grabbed me. I will enumerate below the similarities between many JRPGs that I’ve tried that cause me to drop them.

Dialogue

As a writer, bad dialogue and overly simplistic dialogue offends me. I have an extremely low tolerance for it. Considering these games have to be translated for release in North America, this is likely a tremendous factor why I find them distasteful. Though not RPG titles, there are some anomalies I’ve encountered such as Danganronpa 1 and 2. Danganronpa is exceptionally well driven and the characterization of the characters is excellent — a rarity in translated Japanese games in my experience. It almost seems intentional that JPRGs have simple dialogue and story concepts because far too many of them are sub-standard. Granted I haven’t spend hours and hours in the games I’ve played, but I shouldn’t have to. If you can’t grab the player within the first hour, then what good is it? I could write another long winded piece about tropes in video games, but needless to say, female characters have not been a strong point in what I’ve seen so far.

Turn-based fighting

Turn-based fighting seems to be the defacto style of gameplay in JRPGs. I have tried Final Fantasy Origins, FFIV, FFVII, and FFVIII, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Suikoden II. With the exception of Ys, which is more like hack and slash action, all of these games have turn-based fighting. I’ll be walking through an overhead view of a world map and often times I’ll run into the same kinds of monsters, over and over and over again, just so I can level up. I find this extremely repetitive and uninteresting. There’s a sense of detachment from the game that I feel when giving orders to people in my party and waiting for them to attack. A greater sense of enjoyment and connection is felt when I can directly manipulate my character, when it responds to my controller inputs and I can see every move executed per button press. In my eyes this slow paced action is a hindrance to progressing through the story.

Coda

I’m going to keep searching for a JRPG that will truly captivate me with compelling characters, strong dialogue, and gameplay that doesn’t utterly obliterate my sensibilities. Chrono Trigger is a JRPG that truly meets these parameters and is a grand adventure that I adore. There’s faith another one will come along that will inspire. If you have any recommendations I would love to hear them. If you think I’m not putting enough time in to give these games a chance, let me know. Maybe it’s just me that’s the problem and should give up on the genre.

Published by Alex Knight

Alex Knight is a broadcaster, podcaster, and audio engineer. In addition to over 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector and media landscape, he holds a diploma from BCIT’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program and numerous certifications from the UBC Sauder School of Business in project management and general management. He’s been working on building a podcast network media company more recently and has done Voice-over engineering, mixing, and mastering sessions at On The Mic Training in Vancouver.