Thursday 27 October 2016

What Draws Me To JRPGs

Whenever I approach the end of a game, even if it's an absolutely outstanding game, I start getting excited for something new. My backlog and my wishlist are both overflowing with so many JRPGs to play next and whether it’s Atelier, old Final Fantasy, Disgaea or Tales of, as vastly different as they are, they're all apart of this genre I love. I'm a fan of all genres of video games, but JRPGs are where I feel my happiest and most at home when gaming. Whether for the quirky characters, the long hour counts or the unique worlds to explore, these are some of the reasons I'm drawn to JRPGs.

Gameplay Systems and Mechanics
JRPGs feature a variety of gameplay systems and mechanics, with well-known ones including turn-based battle systems and skill trees. A lot JRPGs are for having unique stories, but gameplay is equally important and JRPG's focus on stat progression or skill acquisition is one of the most enjoyable parts of playing JRPGs for me. I find leveling and grinding really satisfying, even more so when paired with a good skill tree to pave through or skills to reach for as I level up.

Another big reason I love JRPG mechanics are the variety of them. I can go from playing an active battle system in Final Fantasy XII to a turn-based one in Final Fantasy X. I can play tactical battle systems like the one in Fire Emblem or an action ones like in Kingdom Hearts. There are a bunch of genres blended together in JRPGs and while there are definitely some common elements, the combination of these makes each game feel unique. Blending in different genres such as the visual novel aspect of Lost Dimension, the social sim part of Persona 4 Golden or the roguelike dungeon crawling in Sorcery Saga, it’s this kind of variety that makes playing JRPGs fresh and exciting to me.

Whether it's real life toys or in-game items, I love collecting things that interest me and JRPGs really cater to this. Most JRPGs feature plenty of items, weapons, monsters and even dialogues to collect and unlock through difficult but rewarding side and main quests. In my current platinum trophy playthrough of Final Fantasy X HD (that I'm really neglecting by the way), the hardest part so far has been trying to get the Ultimate Weapons, especially with tasks including dodging 100 lightning bolts and playing way too much Blitzball to wait for a rare item to pop. It might sound tedious, but knowing my characters will have the best weapons in the game and I will have gotten some extremely rare items through my own hard work and dedication is enough to keep me pushing forward in the hunt. This is what makes me what to replay so many JRPGs - I want to unlock all of the Dive scenes in Ar nosurge or try to get all the Digimon in Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth one day, along with all the other various JRPG challenges that stick in the back of my mind. Whether you're a collector or a completionist at heart, JRPGs are an incredibly fun way to indulge in these tendencies.

Game Length
While I assume most people reading this blog already love JRPGs, a point I usually raise to non-JRPG fans who wonder why I’m so into these seemingly strange Japanese games is that I enjoy the length and value of putting 100 hours into one experience rather than putting 20 hours into many smaller experiences. My reason for playing JRPGs isn’t solely because I feel like I’m getting better bang for my buck out of them than other games, but I like really throwing myself into activities and 50+ hour JRPGs are a great way to do this. Some of my absolute favourite JRPG experiences have been games I’ve spent hundreds of hours in, like Kingdom Hearts and Persona 4 Golden, and their long length only added to my investment in the story and my enjoyment of their systems. For some people the length of JRPGs is daunting, but for me it’s one of the most rewarding parts of playing JRPGs.

When choosing a JRPG to play, I'm usually first attracted by the story premise more than gameplay. While gameplay is no doubt important in a video game, the stories of JRPGs are usually one-of-a-kind. I think there’s no other genre of games where I can say I’ve played stories about medieval fantasy, high school students fighting monsters inside someone's heart, a great curry God, being a CPU or making star children in order to stop the spread of monsters. I’ve also had plenty of emotional moments with JRPGs where I’ve laughed or cried, since many JRPGs aren’t afraid to explore really heavy subjects all while mixing in humourous quirks such as talking bears, sometimes crude humour or awkwardness. When a JRPG story gets it right, playing for hundreds of hours flies and I leave the experience feeling like I learned or experienced something new.

There are many reasons to love every game genre, but JRPG's great gameplay, stories and fun collectables are the reason I play them for longer than I probably should without any shame. I love feeling like I’m progressing through an interesting world with complex characters and while you can find that in many genres, paired with JRPG gameplay, story length and scavenging, it definitely feels like the right kind of game for me. Whether it be for fun, an escape or a good story, I'm sure that with these things that appeal to me, JRPGs will continue to be a prominent part in my gaming life for a long time.

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Why do you play JRPGs? What was the first game that made you love the genre?
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  1. Nice article! What I love most about Jrpg is losing myself in a fascinating world and exploring every corner. They really cater to the adventurer in me. That's why I can't stand Jrpgs with generic medieval settings.

    1. Thank you for your comment! :) I agree, I love it when a JRPG feels like a true adventure, especially in a variety of settings