What Makes a Great JRPG? - Part 1 - What Are They?

With Square's "I Am Setsuna" dropping this week, I've been thinking a lot about my favorite genre of gaming; JRPGs! In my typical rotation of games I'm usually working on at least one JRPG, sometimes even a few. My current commitment is with Suikoden Tierkreis, a title for the Nintendo DS developed by Konami. (thanks Dadfaxan) and Pokemon Omega Ruby (thanks Dictator!). Out of all the games I've played in my lifetime JRPGs seem to effect me the most and become the most memorable, enjoyable and nostalgic.

"Chrono Trigger" is widely considered one of, if not the, best JRPG of all time.

What makes a good JRPG? First it's best to touch on, "What is a JRPG?" This is pretty difficult to the uninitiated so bear with me! By definition a "JRPG" is simply a "Japanese role playing game", however, the sub-genre has since surpassed this simple definition into an entire category of games. The best metaphor is how Mexican food doesn't have to come from Mexico, there can be American made Mexican food. With this metaphor in mind, consider that a JRPG doesn't have to be made in Japan to qualify into the sub-genre. I know, it's confusing. I think the main reason the name has stuck is due to how incredibly popular the style of game is in Japan. JRPGs are typically primarily story based, typically with a pre-set protagonist in a pre-set world with rich history and development. Gameplay tends to be more number based, utilizing a plethora of statistics and calculations. Think Pokemon's combat! If we were to compare the genre to the other popularized RPG sub-genre WRPGs, there's a world of differences. WRPGs or "western role playing games" tend to more open-world, with more of a focus on gameplay. Combat is more action oriented and skill based typically, with less focus on the overarching story line. This isn't to say WRPGs do not have in depth story lines, simply less focus on them. It's a very grey subject and can probably be argued in a ton of different ways, but in the way that I see it: Is Portal an FPS because it's first person view and you shoot things? To anyone still confused at the distinction and what I would consider a JRPG or a WRPG, check the list below!


Final Fantasy Series
Chrono Trigger

Dragon Quest


Kingdom Hearts

Tales Series


Elder Scrolls


The Witcher

Mass Effect

Dragon Age
Baldur's Gate

These are all obvious picks for each category, but some titles tend to be a little more complicated. "Dragon's Dogma", a Japanese developed open world RPG would be considered a WRPG, as would Dark Souls. The best example of a JRPG that would seem like a WRPG is "South Park: Stick of Truth", due to it's combat style and storytelling. So quick recap! JRPGs do not have to be made in Japan, and it has become a sub-class of role playing games. Typically centered around character development and story lines, a deep combat system and distinct art styles, JRPGs are typically worth the time they require the player to commit. Over the next few days I'm going to be discussing what JRPGs are top in class and why. I've interviewed a lot of the LAN Mob regulars and I've gathered the information! If you're a fan of JRPGs comment below and let me know how you would define a JRPG. If you're new to the genre or have never played a JRPG before at all, stay tuned and maybe we can make a fan out of you!


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