Thoughts on JRPGs

Posted on June 24, 2016 by Richard Goulter
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My friends told me the PlayStation Vita is a weaboo’s console. While I’d say Sony have badly mismanaged the console, focussing instead on their PS4, one advantage is a decent catalogue of JRPGs available. (Since the Vita is portable, you can play through these on the bus or the train or whatever).

So far, my experience in JRPGs consists of Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII. (With “South Park: Stick of Truth” being the closest I’d otherwise experienced of the genre).


“Western RPGs are for gameplay, Japanese RPGs are for story” is the rule of thumb I was told.
In case you’ve not played (or seen) Final Fantasy’s combat in these games, it consists of turn-based-ish combat on a screen where the monsters are on the left, good guys on the right; each turn you pick an action (attack/cast magic/use item). (Then you get EXP, level up your characters, etc.). – Chrono Trigger’s combat is a bit more active/involved, but roughly follows the same format.

The character’s Health (HP) and Mana (MP) persist across battles; and can be replenished by resting at inns (which are few / far between), or by using items (like potions, which are relatively expensive). So the gameplay-dynamic becomes trying to gain experience / get to where you need to be without using too many resources, while being careful to not let HP get too low.
– South Park’s system replenished HP/MP for each battle; with this rule, characters can simply use all their most powerful magic spells without concern for the cost to MP.

So. It’s fair to say these JRPGs combat system isn’t trivial. And FFIV does pull dick-moves in its boss fights, such as only being able to fight particular bosses with particular magic spells (or else the boss uses super-strong counter-attacks).

Yet, one main ‘drawback’ to the JRPGs is the ‘grinding’: since your characters have levels, as do the enemies, the game may demand that the player repeatedly fight through enemy encounters to level up the characters. It’s more monotonous than not. (FFIV even provides the option to automatically select the same move as previous turns; which alleviates the grinding by way of ‘not really playing the game’).

In a way, it’s rather twisted way of making gameplay ‘accessible’: Typically, if you’re not skilled at playing a game, you can’t proceed. With levelled-games, all you need to do is grind-through enough enemies until what was previously insurmountable becomes .. surmountable.

Referring to the Wiki

Perhaps my preference for games is decidedly more linear, but, sure, I looked up the wiki for these games while playing through them.
The biggest impact this has is you’ll find out about all the best items/weapons, many of which you’ll probably miss the opportunity to get on first try.

There were times I got quite lost/stuck as to where I should be headed, too, in these games. That could also be due to how old these games are.

Characters and Story

I think what FFVII was significantly weaker than FFIV and Chrono Trigger in the “ludonarrative” aspect of characters: In the latter, you have specific characters with fixed magic abilities. This strictly dictates how you can fight. (Particularly, “do you have a healer?”). – FFVII lets you pick & choose which characters have which magic spells, & so as far as I can tell it’s all rather arbitrary.

I, uh, had quite a long hiatus during my playthrough of FFVII; so some aspects of the story confused me. (FFIV, Chrono Trigger were much more tractable).

It’d be fair to say that these games let the characters develop by way of sidequests; these would elaborate more on the back-story of the character. By exploring more, you’d get more story, and better weapons/etc. (hopefully).


These games are certainly classics, although they do show their age. I can’t say I’d enthusiastically recommend them, but the artistic style is quite cute, & I don’t feel I wasted my time playing them.

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