Do JRPGs Need To Be Social To Survive?

Do JRPGs Need To Be Social To Survive?

Some people believe that Japanese role-playing games are meant to be single-player experiences, enjoyed alone in the dim blue light of your living room during marathon binge sessions involving little to no contact with other human beings.

Other people believe that the first group of people are totally boring and that the single-player-only model is as obsolete as VHS tapes or paying for music. And also multi-player games make lots and lots of money.

“So who’s right?” you might ask. “The hermits or the money-mongers?”

Good question. I don’t know if there’s an answer.

On one hand, if you ask the business executives behind gaming’s biggest companies, single-player games are on the fast track to extinction. Square Enix Europe CEO Phil Rogers said as much just this week.

“The industry as a whole is realizing that all games, whether they be on console, PC or handheld, need to be social to survive,” he told Gamasutra. “There are, of course, many different aspects to online play, but we see social and collaborative play as something that players of all types are increasingly interested in.”

Square Enix is, of course, the publisher behind mammoth series Dragon Quest andFinal Fantasy and one of the biggest players in the world of JRPGs. So when one of the company’s top executives says that games can’t survive without some sort of social play, it’s worth a listen.

Not that Rogers’ comments are much of a surprise to JRPG fans, who by now have probably noticed that the industry’s most talented designers are focusing on social and mobile projects. The creator of Final Fantasy, who left Square Enix a while back, is now working on a mobile surfing game (that will likely have some sort of social aspect). Other big names that you may or may not have heard of are also working on games in the mobile and social sectors.

If you’re a fan of traditional JRPG experiences, this might all seem nothing short of terrifying.

Even Dragon Quest, a series that for decades has been the Republican Party of JRPGs, is going all MMORPG for its next release, out this summer in Japan.

This is because social games make lots and lots of money. Loads. More money than your average game maker knows what to do with. (This is generally a good reason for a business to chase a trend.)

So if you’re a fan of traditional JRPG experiences, this might all seem nothing short of terrifying. You might hear the word “social” and instantly shudder, your mind filled with dancing Zynga cows and endless pop-ups about sharing things on your news feed. You might envision a world where the only way to play a JRPG is to dish out $15/month for the privilege.

This kind of future is indeed worrying. Even with smaller developers like Falcom and Atlus and tri-Ace pumping out single-player JRPGs on a regular basis, we could see more and more talented designers heading to the social sector in droves.

But social games are making money for a reason. So let’s not condemn them. Let’s be more creative. Why are multiplayer games so appealing to so many people, even when they’re saddled with repetitive, grindy gameplay (“go kill 20 slimes, please”)? What is it about interactive entertainment that makes multi-player components so essential?

I think the answer is simple. We enjoy playing games with our friends because, as a general rule, our friends are more interesting than video game characters. This is because our friends are actual human beings. But it’s also because video game characters tend to be boring.

Have you played Persona 3? It’s a beast of a JRPG, a critically-acclaimed delight that I’ve been grinding through for the past few weeks. I love it to death. And I think it’s just as social as any multiplayer title.

Persona 3 is successful because its characters are just as, if not more interesting than human beings.

Here’s the part where I sound like a mad man. Persona 3 is a social game because it lets you interact with people who feel real. Its cast of characters—genuine, oft-crazy personalities like the goofball Junpei and the sweaty Gourmet King—are Persona would never work as an MMORPG because its inhabitants would be more boring than the characters that have populated the series for years. In other words, Persona 3 is successful because its characters are just as, if not more interesting than human beings.

That takes a lot of skill to pull off, of course. And not all games can do it. In my review for Xenoblade, released last month for Wii, I pointed out that it felt like a single-player MMORPG. I also pointed out that its characters, with the exception of a rogueish Han Solo-type named Dunban, had the personality traits of your average MMORPG player: stuffy and dull. Xenoblade would be the perfect MMORPG because its strengths lie in its world and its environments, not in its characters.

Of course, “make interesting characters” isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the debate over social gaming. There are other solutions. Why not try out an episodic JRPG, released on a regular schedule that almost feels like television, giving fans cliffhangers and story theories to discuss and debate on a weekly basis? Or what about a single-player JRPG that ships with a hefty multiplayer component, like Final Fantasy VIII‘s addictive Triple Triad card mini-game or Final Fantasy X‘s blitzball?

The possibilities here are limitless, and I hope JRPG developers decide to explore them before jumping ship for straight-up MMORPGs or Facebook clickfests. “Social” doesn’t need to be a curse word.


Source: Kotaku

What Makes RPG Dialogue Great (And How It Can Go Wrong)

What Makes RPG Dialogue Great (And How It Can Go Wrong)

We spend a lot of time watching video game characters talk.

Sometimes they’re perched in dimly-lit inns, plotting out their next moves over frosty mugs of Genuine Medieval Ale. Other times they’re exchanging snarky quips between rounds of troll-hunting or alien-squashing. Or sharing awkward pleasantries afterrobotic sexual encounters.

Japanese role-playing games are especially dialogue-heavy. When we’re not watching our characters talk, we’re seeking out new conversations; if you enter a town and don’tgo around starting chats with everybody you see, you’re totally doing it wrong. Non-player characters usually have interesting or at least helpful things to say about a given situation. When they don’t, we get mad. It feels like a waste of our time, a disrespectful abuse of an important gaming ritual. It’s frustrating.

(Incidentally, I’ve never seen an RPG that tries to justify these non-stop verbal volcanos. It’s never quite clear why random people are always willing to jabber at your character before he or she says so much as hi. And how the hell does your entire party fit into one tiny little tent? Let’s move on.)

But for something we spend so much time reading and watching, dialogue is sure hard to properly analyze. What makes a given line or scene interesting? What makes it work? What makes it not work? What makes you want to chuck your computer at the screen and tell Vincent Valentine to stop whining about how sad his life is?

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what makes dialogue flow, which may be why we’re so quick to jump to easy adjectives like good, bad, and all of their respective synonyms when we describe the way characters are written. It’s also tough to look at dialogue as an objective art; like food or paintings, your average character’s line could be delectable to some people and dull to others.

Like any good video game, great dialogue has a certain flow.

But there are tricks. Rules. Rhythm, for example: like any good video game, great dialogue has a certain flow. Words bounce and move in certain directions, with certain cadences and beats. You can tell when the pulse isn’t there.

Sometimes this rhythm is achieved through mirroring language, synonyms or antonyms that echo and play off one another like dance partners at a ball. “Such a big sword for such a small girl,” a character might say. Other times it’s about striking balance between long and short sentences: “My life is a chip in your pile. Ante up!”

Some game designers even play around with what the video game form can do to the rhythm of dialogue. In the adorable lawyer sim Phoenix Wright series, for example, text makes bleeping and blooping noises that vary speeds depending on how fast a given conversation is moving. And the music pulses alongside the beat.

Sharp writers have mastered techniques like the rule of three, a well-regarded principle that can be used both for drama and comedy thanks to its timeless formula: setup, climax, payoff. Sentence construction is made much easier when you have rules to follow.

Dialogue in a video game, like dialogue in a movie or a television show, should ideally sound like real life, but smarter. This is easier said than done. It’s particularly hard for video games that take place on planets full of elves and space orcs and magical crystals. It takes a certain level of talent to make dialogue sound natural when you’re stuck with names like Balthier and Cait Sith.

But even when a line doesn’t sound like something any sane human being would say, it can still be memorable. It can still be catchy. Final Fantasy IV‘s classic “you spoony bard” is part gaffe, part translation quirk, and 100% unforgettable. And it’s hard not to be endeared when FFVI‘s Kefka spits out ridiculous half-curses like “son of a submariner.”

Let’s look at some dialogue in action. Take a look at these lines from Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, a wonderful classic JRPG that was released for the Sega Saturn and then again for the PlayStation in 2000. Some background: you’ve just met a wayfaring gambler named Ronfar, who has agreed to join your party and help you save. This is because Ronfar is a good guy, but it’s also because he feels extraordinarily guilty about his inability to save his lover, Mauri, when she suffered some mysterious illness a few years back. (There’s more to the story, but I won’t spoil it here.)

Here’s what he says (to himself) a few minutes after agreeing to help you out:

What Makes RPG Dialogue Great (And How It Can Go Wrong)What Makes RPG Dialogue Great (And How It Can Go Wrong)

There are two main problems with these lines:

1. They’re completely on-the-nose. There’s nothing to think about, nothing to infer. Ronfar is saying how he feels when he should be showing how he feels.

2. Who the hell would actually say something like “All that I care about now are the dice”? Even as an internal monologue, it just sounds clunky. Say it out loud. It’s tough to get through. Ronfar might be trying to convince himself to forget about Mauri and whatever psychological issues he’s associated with her trauma, but these few lines just don’t feel natural. They don’t feel like something anyone would think to themselves.

Not to pick on Lunar: Eternal Blue, a game chock full of hilarious writing and charming characters, but it’s this sheer lack of subtlety that often hurts JRPGs. People don’t say what they’re thinking. We don’t need to see what goes on inside their heads. And if we do need to peer into their internal monologues, we should see something a little more interesting than blunt variations on “here’s how I feel right now!”

Ultimately, dialogue is at its best when you don’t even notice that it’s there. If a writer is doing his or her job well, you won’t spend time thinking things like “what a witty line” or “that language sure felt clunky.” You’ll just think of a game’s characters as people on your screen, people with personality traits and quirks and interesting things to say. They’ll just feel real.


Source: Kotaku

This is PlayStation JapanStyle

Welcome to a monthly look at what’s happening with the PlayStation brand in its home country. This is PlayStation JapanStyle.

Read on, and let us know what you think below. よろしく.

~Game Releases~

This won’t cover every game released in Japan this month, rather those that stand out for their hype or for their Japanese-ness.

Freshly announced for North American release, Tales of Xillia for PS3 is already on the Greatest Hits line in Japan, which we call “PS3 The Best” over here.  It’s joined by No More Heroes: Red Zone Edition, which is basically the North American version of the game. Not on the official list but making EA’s own offshoot line of re-releases is Battlefield Bad Company 2.EA calls its own best-sellers the “EA Perfect Best” line; a lot of game companies have their own names for re-releases here. EA actually has two of them, as Shadows of the Damned will appear on EA Best Hits at the end of the month. If you’re confused by this, don’t be. One of them is clearly for the best hits and the other is obviously for the best which are also perfect. Duh.

While some shooters get their second go at retail, two others make their debuts with Heavy Fire: Afghanistan and Sniper Elite V2.

PS3 rounds out August by getting Hyperdimension Neptuina V and Dirt Showdown on the 30th.

Vita’s month is, like most months up to this point, less than spectacular. The big feature will be on the 30th, when the Hatsune Miku: Project f + white Vita bundle is released. Like Tales of InnocenceGravity Daze, andPersona 4 before it, however, I fear that this will only give Vita system sales a mere moment above water. I of course hope that my fears are not prophesies.

Before Miku makes its big show, however, Sony’s second handheld will also get a mystery/adventure game called 特殊報道部 (Tokushuu Houdoubu), which can mean “Special Investigation Division” or “Special Reporting Division,” by Nippon Ichi Software on the 23rd. In it, players control characters including broadcaster Chika Murase, known throughout the land because of her outstanding…qualifications.

Other than the above, Vita has been the recipient of Orgarhythm, a small number of visual novels, and a Japanese chess game in August.

Believe it or not, the PSP is still very alive and successful in Japan, with both its hardware and software usually outselling its younger brother the Vita. While new PSP games are released in North America on like a semi-annual schedule these days, Japan is still cranking them out. It won’t leave August with any new heavy-hitters, but it will be getting a new Gundam game, a newElminage, and a “PSP The Best” version of Grand Knights History, among several other small-to-mid-sized releases.


Here are the 20 best-selling games in Japan for the week ending August 12th.

1. (3DS) New Super Mario Bros. 2
2. (WII) Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online
3. (NDS) Pokemon Black 2/White 2
4. (PSP) Kuroko no Basuke: Kiseke no Shiai
5. (3DS) Run for Money Tousouchuu: Flee From the Strongest Hunters in History!
6. (WII) Just Dance Wii 2
7. (3DS) Brain Training 3D
8. (PS3) Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena
9. (WII) Kirby: 20th Anniversary Special Collection
10. (3DS) Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb
11. (WII) Wii Sports Resort
12. (3DS) Kobitodzukan: Kobito Kansatsu Set
13. (PS3) Sniper Elite V2
14. (PSP) Digimon World Re: Digitize
15. (3DS) Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry no Wonderland 3D
16. (WII) Mario Party 9
17.(3DS) Rune Factory 4
18. (NDS) All Kamen Rider: Rider Generation 2
19. (PSP) Super Dangan-ronpa 2: Sayonara Zetsubou Gakuen
20. (PS3) Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2012

Hardware sales looked like this:

3DS – 102,646
Wii – 16,145
PS3 – 14,580
PSP – 12,018
PSV – 9,446
PS2 – 1,187
360 – 998
DS – 952


I’ve been playing the PS3 version of Ni no Kuni lately and I really like what I see. This game is a lot of what stateside fans have been starved for. Forgive me for being brief here, but I’ll have more on this next time. It starts out heavy on story and very light on challenge, but so far it’s done an excellent job of gradually expanding. I’m having more fun with this than I have with most RPGs of the generation so far. I listened to some shitty podcast about it where the guys were kind of bagging on it, but the point where they described being “10 hours in,” was well behind me in less than five hours. People are idiots. Let that be a lesson, guys. Never ever listen to anyone’s opinion on the internet. They’re all wrong.


This week in Japan was Obon, a string of national holidays. That means in next week’s sales charts (which someone will post in a regular news story, I reckon) will probably have some things jumping up. We’re going on a 6-hour train ride to grandma’s house, so what do we do? Buy the kids a portable game and pray it keeps their mouths shut for at least half the ride, right?

Udon is the specialty food around here, and Kagawa’s part in the Shikoku Festa shows it. A circle of smiling old ladies gathers in a circle every year as they march and do the “Sanuki Udon Dance.” It’s cute, but the song drags a little bit, especially when you can hear someone pressing a button on a CD player somewhere to skip back to the beginning of the track.


 Another part of the festivities that looked promising was Tony’s Burger Stand. I went up to order one, and he was like, right over there, dude, and pointed to a table beneath the tent on the right side of the picture. There was a tray of burgers sitting idly; they’d been there a while. I was like “…Those?  Just, you want me to take one of those?  You’re not gonna cook one?” This cat was like “Naw, we’ve got a bunch that have just been sitting there.” When I thought about it, I hadn’t seen them add new burgers to that pile in a long time and had no way of knowing how long they’d been sitting around in the hot, humid Shikoku summer. No thanks, Tony. I like the idea of a burger, but I don’t like the idea of rockstar throwing up all over the festival.


~Seeya next month~


Source: psls

“WONDER” – It’s Like Facebook or Twitter, But for Japanese Geeks!

wonder! - It's Like Facebook or Twitter, But for Japanese Geeks


Meet Wonder! As social networking sites go, it’s pretty darn nerdy. Cosplay, figurines, mecha, anime drawings—you name it, Wonder! seems to have it.

Just launched by Yahoo! Japan, the site does have a decidedly otaku (geek) focus and an unnecessary exclamation point. Wonder! is image heavy, which I personally prefer for social networking sites (and is probably why I enjoy Instagram).

As IT Media points out, Wonder! is similar to Facebook and Twitter: you can upload images, “like” other people’s uploads, and follow them.

If you want to become a member, you’ll need either a Yahoo! Japan ID, a Facebook ID, or a Twitter ID (fyi: an iPhone app is planned by year’s end). Currently, the site only seems to be in Japanese, but that has never previously stopped those who don’t know the language.

The site does have a never-ending page, which does seem to cause load time to crawl the further you go. And once you click on something, it takes you back to the top of the page. That’s annoying! (necessary exclamation point)

Here’s a sample of what you can find (warning: skimpy cosplay outfits):



Most of the content varies between mecha or hero figurines (or models) and female cosplayers. Over time, expect it to become more varied and slightly more inclusive. If you are into Japanese subculture stuff, Wonder! is worth checking out.

Wonder! [Official Site via IT Media]


How Square Enix Screwed Up Black Ops II for Japan

Black Ops II Japan

For years now, Square Enix has published the Call of Duty games in Japan. Square Enix honcho Yoichi Wada is apparently a big fan of the series—and Western games. His goal is apparently to make Japanese gamers more open to playing foreign titles. That’s admirable. It would be more admirable if the company didn’t keep screwing up the games.
A few years back, Japanese gamers were very upset over spotty localization for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The line “Remember, no Russian” (AKA, Don’t speak the Russian language) was written as “Kill ’em, the Russians” in Japanese.

Now it’s Black Ops II‘s turn. The Japanese language version features jarring and nonsensical localization.

Black Ops II for JapanThis image is supposed to say “Eliminate Enemy Players” in Japanese, but the way it’s written seems somewhat odd (敵プレイヤーをせん滅しろ). Instead of writing “elimination” as 殲滅 (senmetsu), it’s written with “sen” in hiragana script: せん滅. As jarring as it might seem to a few Japanese players, the word can be written that way. And is. So to be fair, this isn’t actually a mistake. The rest of the multiplayer localization, however, is.

Black Ops II for Japan

Take the multiplayer welcome screen, which seems like should say “Welcome to Multiplayer” in Japanese (マルチプレイヘようこそ or “Multiplayer e Youkoso”), but it actually says “マルチプレイヤーへよ……..q”. It’s unclear what “……..q” refers to. It’s unclear what much of the localization refers to.

Black Ops II for Japan

For example, there’s this image. It wants to say “Hacking” in Japanese, but they cannot even fit the Japanese word for ハッキング on the screen. It cuts out at the corners, making the “gu” character (グ) look like the character for “ku” (ク). And “hacking” (ハッキング) in Japanese isn’t even a verb by itself; it’s a noun!

Black Ops II for Japan

Take this image. On the screen of the above handheld device, it reads “kensaku chuu” (検索中), which means “looking something up.” Like, in a dictionary. Pretty sure the latest Call of Dutymultiplayer doesn’t have you look up words or things online while playing. (If it does, that’sawesome!) Rather, the Japanese tansakuchuu (探索中) or maybe “saachichuu” (サーチ中) would be better.

Then, there are the descriptions of the different multiplayer matches and equipment, which many Japanese players are finding to be confusing.

The truly odd thing is that most of these words should be in English. Japanese people know basic English and all study it at school. Many Japanese products—especially cars and electronics—have simple English in them. So writing “hacking” or “searching” in Japanese doesn’t actually make much sense. Players would understand what they mean.

Online in Japan, people are complaining about these mistakes and bitching at the publisher. Some of the bad localizations are even becoming memes! A modern day “All your base are belong to us”, if you will.

The Black Ops II Japanese localization seems like it was done by individuals who didn’t know the context of what they were localizing and didn’t have the opportunity to get the necessary context. Localization is more than looking things up in dictionaries. So is Call of Duty.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is on sale today in Japan.


Source: Kotaku