Why Do People Care About JRPGs?


Why do people like Japanese role-playing games? What is a Japanese role-playing game? Why the hell do I write a column about them every week?

Welcome to the Random Encounters Explainer. Consider this a primer on JRPGs, your introduction to the genre and a piece designed to answer many of your burning questions. Whether you’re an expert on all things Atelier or you don’t know the difference between Final Fight and Final Fantasy, allow me to help you develop more appreciation for an under-appreciated genre.

Let’s do this.

So what is the deal with JRPGs? Why should I care about them?

Well, they’re awesome. More than any other genre of video game, JRPGs are adept at playing with your emotions and crafting the illusion that you’re fighting your way through grand adventures. They tend to focus on narrative and exploration. Sometimes they tell wide, sweeping stories about angry gods and evil empires. Other times they keep things simple and adventurous. And sometimes they let you hang out in high school.

In general, the experience you can get out of a JRPG is drastically different from the experience you can get out of any other genre of video game. Although you sometimes have to be patient with them.

Hold up. What’s a JRPG?

You know, this is a surprisingly tricky question. By its strictest definition, a JRPG is just a role-playing game made in Japan: a Japanese role-playing game. But there are also a ton of Western games designed to look, feel, and play like Eastern RPGs: games like AnachronoxCharles Barkley’s Shut Up And Jam: Gaiden, and the latest Penny Arcade.

In many ways, the genre has evolved to become something more than just “a role-playing game made in Japan.”

Then what makes a JRPG a JRPG?

Any number of things. One common factor is turn-based combat—that is, combat in which every character stands around and waits for some arbitrary clock to run out before they attack. You’ll usually gather a party. You can usually visit a variety of exotic cities, dungeons, and other locations. You’ll usually participate in some sort of character progression system. Maybe there are airships. World maps. Lots and lots of bosses and monsters and tough challenges. Awesome music. A whimsical sense of humor.

But it’s not those parts that make a JRPG a JRPG; it’s the sum of them all. JRPGs are JRPGs because they’re dream-packed, emotion-triggering, hair-raising adventures that make you laugh, cry, and everything in between.

In other words, JRPGs are JRPGs because they feel like JRPGs. Helpful, right? Really, though, it’s like porn: you know it when you see it.

Sounds boring. Why do people like them?

Lots of reasons! For one, there’s a certain rhythm to turn-based combat that a lot of people enjoy. We might love their stories and characters. Or maybe we just like getting lost for a while in experiences that we can’t get elsewhere.

I find JRPGs intimidating/archaic/obsolete/annoying. Why should I care?

Well… give them another chance! The genre has much more depth and breadth than you might believe if you’ve only limited yourself to games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

Okay… then what should I play?

Have you tried the Paper Mario series? Or Mario & Luigi? Both are hilarious, fast-paced twists on the genre.

If you want something really unique and special, get your hands on Valkyria Chronicles, a strategy role-playing game with an unusual setting, some lovely cel-shaded graphics, and one hell of a combat system.

Want something faster? How about the action-packed Kingdom Hearts series? Or the hack-and-slash Ys games, several of which have been repackaged for Steam and PSP?

What if I’ve never played a JRPG before? What game should I play?

Good question! Let me give you a few options:

Final Fantasy VI – The best game in the most popular RPG series on the planet. It packs one hell of an emotional wallop. Its characters are subtle, interesting, and hilarious. And that music.

Suikoden – A fast-paced, politic-heavy game that places you in the shoes of a rebel out to fight against a nasty, oppressing empire. It’s a little rough around the edges, but that’s part of the charm. And it’ll help you segue into my favorite game of all time, the illustrious masterpieceSuikoden II.

Mother 3 – Charming, easy to get into, and poignant as hell.

Lost Odyssey – Old-school sensibilities in a new-school package. If you can get past the awful voice acting (and a few annoying characters), you might really enjoy this console JRPG. Worth playing if only for the dream sequences, which make up some of the best writing I’ve ever seen.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky – About as awesome an adventure as you can find nowadays. A little too text-heavy for some peoples’ tastes, but I love it to death.

Final Fantasy VII – You might as well see what all the hype is about.

I loved Final Fantasy VII. But I haven’t played a single good JRPG since then. What game should I play?

Check out Radiant Historia, a DS game that is something of a spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger. Or Persona 3, an addictive (albeit way-too-long) dungeon crawling high school simulation. (It’s better than it sounds.)

Or spend some time with the dark, surreal, sometimes-repetitive Nier.

I find JRPGs to be slow and plodding. Is there a JRPG that’s awesome before its third hour?

There are many. Try an old action-JRPG like Soulblazer or Illusion of Gaia. Or a new one, like the bizarrely awesome The World Ends With You.

Okay, seriously, I can’t find a single JRPG story that keeps me engaged. Why are they all so awful?

Because you have no soul. Also, maybe you just haven’t found the right story for you. Check outFinal Fantasy Tactics, a Shakespeare-inspired tactical RPG with a plot that rivals Game of Thrones in betrayal and medieval badassery. Or Xenogears, a sci-fi masterpiece that’s up there with the most ambitious (and strongest) RPGs ever.

If you want a simpler, more romantic tale, check out the aforementioned Trails in the Sky orMother 3. The Suikoden series is also chock full of masterful storytelling.

Why are JRPGs so afraid of innovation?

They’re not.

Are JRPG creators consciously recycling tropes?

In some cases, yes. The Tales series, which is particularly popular in Japan (and has its own loyal fanbase out here), is purposefully designed to be built around stereotypes and fantasies and nostalgia and all that jazz. It has its pros and cons.

But a lot of the time, JRPG developers are very careful to avoid and subvert their own tropes. Hence the new wave of RPGs that try very, very hard to be different. Some work. Others don’t.

Why are the swords so big?

To overcompensate.

Just kidding. Maybe they started out ginormous so you could see them among the 8-bit pixels of old-school sprites, and as characters grew, their swords grew along with them.

Well… thanks. I sure have seen the error of my ways. I love JRPGs now.

You’re welcome.

 

Source: Kotaku

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