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Default Why Categorise jRPGs and wRPGs? @ IndieRPGs.com

March 5th, 2012, 22:53
Craig Stern picks up the discussion about differentiating between jRPGs an wRPGs and defends the categorisation:
This difference in approach is actually visible from differences in map geography. To examine a small sample, here are the overworld maps in Baldur’s Gate, Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout and Fallout 2. By contrast, here are overworld maps from Dragon Warrior 3, Lunar, Lunar 2, Phantasy Star 4, Final Fantasy 4 (B), Final Fantasy 6 and Final Fantasy 9. The mountains in the Fallout games are passable; the mountains in the Elder Scrolls games are sometimes passable; mountains in the others are not. Compare the frequency with which one encounters impassable mountain ranges or oceans among the wRPGs versus the jRPGs. Notice anything?
In the jRPG maps above, you can actually see that the liberal use of impassable mountains and water effectively turns large portions of the world into corridors between two or three visitable locations. Exploration is thus rendered highly linear. In recent years, Square-Enix seems to have decided that it isn’t worth keeping up the facade, and has shed the overworld entirely.
More information.
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March 5th, 2012, 22:53
Interesting article. However, one part really bugged me:
"At first blush, this seems like more of a similarity than a difference: all RPGs feature a linear main plot, in the sense that there is only ever one main plot line in the game. Having a narrative that is truly nonlinear from start to finish would be prohibitively difficult and expensive–so much so that only one game [links to Witcher 2 review] has tried anything even approaching the scale of such an undertaking."

Uhh.. what? Even if you argue that all RPGs are linear in some general way (although that's already a contentious claim), I'm not sure how Witcher 2 is the best example of nonlinearity at all. If anything, it's a profoundly linear game.

Don't get me wrong. I loved it. But having an alternate middle chapter to a linear RPG does not a nonlinear RPG make.

Edit: I also don't get how 'random battles' are one of the main differentiating features between jRPGs and wRPGs. If I had to pick 10 major differences, this certainly wouldn't be one of them. Also, there was little to no discussion of differences in class development, art style, type of story, difficulty, etc. Honestly, it's maybe not that great of a comparison.

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March 5th, 2012, 23:55
There might be a few games here and there that blur the line between western and Japanese RPGs. But for the most part JRPGS have the following characteristics:

Anime (I'm not a fan of anime, not that it is bad or anything, just not my taste)
Loads and LOADS of random unavoidable encounters
Primarily Sci-fi (not bad in and of itself, I'm just more a fantasy guy)
Are more of a movie production than a game
Cumbersome menus

I used to play a lot of JRPGs in the 8 bit and 16 bit eras. But I burnt out from them for the above reasons.

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March 5th, 2012, 23:59
Originally Posted by killias2 View Post
Uhh.. what? Even if you argue that all RPGs are linear in some general way (although that's already a contentious claim), I'm not sure how Witcher 2 is the best example of nonlinearity at all. If anything, it's a profoundly linear game.
I guess it is a matter of how you define the term "nonlinearity". You are probably referring to nonlinearity of world exploration and the article refers to nonlinearity of narrative.

At first, I interpreted the term "nonlinearity" as in how the choices you make will determine which exclusive paths you will follow, each having different irreversible impacts on the storyline. However, it seems that most people apply the term "nonlinearity" if they can choose the order in which they can do stuff like unrestrictive exploration of the world, choose which quests to do in any arbitrary order, etc., which is typical in open world RPG, yet they do tend to have a linear main storyline.

I remember reading on the back of the Gothic DVD case that the game was nonlinear yet my feeling was that it was very linear, simply due to my own definition at the time.
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March 6th, 2012, 00:00
I'd definitely view random encounters as being a defining element of JRPGs. Many western RPGs have them as well, but they don't build the entire game around them the way JRPGs do.
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March 6th, 2012, 00:07
@TheMadGamer:

Again, I'm not sure I agree with you.
1. Anime - Definitely yes here, with rare exceptions.
2. Random encounters - Plenty of wRPG's have this as well. I mean, Wizardry and the Bards Tale games are a great example. Pool of Radiance had it. Fallout 1 and 2. Baldur's Gate 1 and 2. Hell, D and D had random encounters. Meanwhile, there are also many games in both sub-genres that have non-random battles.
3. Primarily SciFi - Umm.. what? Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy (at least up until 7, with 9, 11, 12, and 14 also being good examples of medieval-style settings) are both predominantly medieval. I do agree that jRPGs tend to have more "medieval+" settings, with weird scifi/cyberpunk/steampunk/post-apoc type things going on. Still though…
4. More of a movie production? Maybe true with the last few Final Fantasies, but, then again, it's also true of the last few Bioware games. Tie again.
5. Cumbersome menus - Well, that depends on your definition. There are plenty of wRPGs with cumbersome menus, and jRPGs are often built around a console interface.
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March 6th, 2012, 00:29
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
Loads and LOADS of random unavoidable encounters
The one thing I despise in every single game that exists - mobs respawning for no real reason except designers' lack of ideas to keep you occupied with other stuff. While not all wRPGs get endless respawn everywhere, every single jRPG out there builds a game around respawns.
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March 6th, 2012, 00:59
This difference in approach is actually visible from differences in map geography. To examine a small sample, here are the overworld maps in Baldur’s Gate, Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout and Fallout 2. By contrast, here are overworld maps from Dragon Warrior 3, Lunar, Lunar 2, Phantasy Star 4, Final Fantasy 4 (B), Final Fantasy 6 and Final Fantasy 9. The mountains in the Fallout games are passable; the mountains in the Elder Scrolls games are sometimes passable; mountains in the others are not. Compare the frequency with which one encounters impassable mountain ranges or oceans among the wRPGs versus the jRPGs. Notice anything?
Yeah.. I notice you just compared a bunch of games from the late 90's - 2000's to games from the 80's- early 90's. Completely pointless…
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March 6th, 2012, 03:54
* Exploration - yep, he's mostly right there. jRPGs will typically lock you in then slowly open the world to you over time. HOWEVER - most wRPGs do similar. Instead of completely locking you out, though, they let you stroll in and get butchered by enemies 10 levels higher than you. (Oblivion was the big exception to that and many gamers hated Bethesda for it.)

* Linear Narrative - yep. jRPGs tend to be more interested in telling a complex story about a team of characters. Some characters will show up only for a time, others may leave the team then come back later, others may stay on but undergo a lot of personality changes, and so on. Because of that, they have to lock the narrative down quite a bit or they run into the "too many story branches" problem. Western RPGs tend to concentrate more on one character with perhaps a few side stories here and there to flesh out the other team members (if any).

* Random battles - used to be, but not so much now. Some games still use them (e.g. Lost Odyssey) and some don't (e.g. Last Remnant).

* Linear Progression - errr, who cares? In all the games you need to pull in enough loot to progress through the game. It doesn't matter if I do 1,000hp damage to a 10,000hp monster or if I do 1hp to a 10hp monster.

From MadGamer

* Anime - depends on the game. Even inside a single series it depends on the game. Sometimes you'll even get a mix of anime and not so anime in a single game.

* SciFi - ummm, no.

* More a movie production? Huh? You mean how they often have a lot of CGI?

* Menus - yeah. That's a console thing. If Playstation controllers had 101 keys then I'm sure the menus would be much nicer.

From me

One factor I haven't seen covered is the age of the characters. jRPGs seem to have a lot more main characters that are teenagers. wRPGs leave the kids at home.
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March 6th, 2012, 05:01
Originally Posted by killias2 View Post
@TheMadGamer: Again, I'm not sure I agree with you.
Well why not??? I'm right you know!

Anime - I just don't like anime very much. In the late 80s and 90s I went through a long period of having an open mind with that art direction but by the end of the 90s I had just really tired of it. I don't think I've played a JRPG that was not done in anime - but that isn't to say that ALL JRPGs are in anime - I really don't know as I stopped following JRPGs for the most part in the late 90s.

Random Unavoidable Encounters - it's true that you can find WRPGs in the history of WRPGs that have unavoidable random encounters. But this concept largely lives in the realm of JRPGs. I loved Dragon Quest through Dragon Quest IV (also known as Dragon Warrior). I played Final Fantasy through FF3. I played Secret of Mana and a few others but by the late 90s I just couldn't take anymore of the random unavoidable encounters. I just really tired of it and dropped JRPGs altogether.

Sci Fi - Admittedly I don't follow JRPGs so I'll take your word for it. But all the big name JRPGs that catch my brief attention in magazines or on the internet seem to be sci-fi with swords. It just doesn't appeal to me. If this were the only problem I had with how I perceive JRPGs to be in general, I'd probably still play some of them, but this just adds another nail to my JRPG coffin. And to be fair, I never liked the sci-fi elements in the early Ultima series either.

Movie Productions - I'm sticking to this one. Too many JRPG developers seemed to think that watching a videogame is more important than playing one. I'm not the only one who feels this way as I've seen this very topic come up time and again on the internet - in both forums as well as by 'reviewers.' I played a bit of DA:O and did not play DA2 at all - but I do concede DA:O had more than a bit of 'movieness' to it.

Cumbersome Menus - It's true there are plenty of WRPGs that have questionable interfaces (yes I'm looking at you Skyrim - but hooray for SkyUI). But most of my experience with JRPGs is on a console. And Console JRPG interfaces are always a pain. After a while, I didn't even expect them to be anything but a pain. The JRPG UIs were 2nd to the random unavoidable encounters that really burnt me out.

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March 6th, 2012, 08:18
To me, the inavoidable random countless encounters are what truly keep me out of playing JRPGs: the last one I've almost finished was Lost Odyssey, nad I consider it pretty good. But even there, too much grinding and random encounters every five steps…
At least in Final Fantasy 8 you could get the Zero Encounter skill, which removes that.
I'm still asking myself why on earth no one else has implemented it again…

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March 6th, 2012, 11:00
Speaking from a very limited personal perspective, every one I've tried has both an aesthetic and a narrative style I can't stand. Graphics/art aren't usually my focus but then put the other issues on top, and they aren't my thing. So,yes, the categorisation is important to me.

@Zloth, just out of curiosity, which jRPGs don't use an anime style? I admit I'm always perplexed they seem so uniform.

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March 6th, 2012, 13:01
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
Anime (I'm not a fan of anime, not that it is bad or anything, just not my taste)
Same here. It's just not my taste. Superheroes as well.

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March 6th, 2012, 13:37
Originally Posted by Ball_Breaker View Post
At least in Final Fantasy 8 you could get the Zero Encounter skill, which removes that.
I'm still asking myself why on earth no one else has implemented it again…
There are actually a lot of JRPGs that have an equivelent to the zero encounter skill. Although probably not as many have it as should…..
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March 6th, 2012, 23:21
Originally Posted by fadedc View Post
There are actually a lot of JRPGs that have an equivelent to the zero encounter skill. Although probably not as many have it as should…..
Could you name some of them please? Just curious…

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March 7th, 2012, 01:27
Well there are multiple FF titles that have it. Dragon Quest's holy water is pretty iconic for stopping random encounters, although how effective it is depends on the chapter. Other then that it's just something that I remember seeing in a scattering of other JRPGs, most of which are not significant enough for me to remember the names of. One of them had something to do with alchemy and there was a spirit you could use to turn off random encounters.

Originally Posted by Ball_Breaker View Post
Could you name some of them please? Just curious…
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March 7th, 2012, 21:09
I categorize because in most western RPGs females are not semi-nude 16 year olds so i don't have to feel like a pervert.
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