Today, we’re going to embark on a long journey through the world of Japanese Role-playing Games. The JRPG is one of the most misunderstood genres in all of gamedom. Its games are often dismissed as trite, poorly written/translated messes with unbearable characters and equally outdated and uninspired gameplay. I say that these games are misunderstood because in spite of the fact that these criticisms are almost universally true of the genre, they still possess a rabid and almost cult-like fanbase (myself inexplicably included). But perhaps I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I should begin by explaining exactly what a JRPG is. A JRPG is really any role-playing game produced in Japan. That’s it. What’s astounding is that in spite of this broad definition, the characteristics that these games all seem to share an astounding amount of thematic, literary, and gameplay similarities. This allows the term JRPG to be indicative of much more than a game’s geographical origin. Ultimately, when we cut through the bullshit, we see that a JRPG is a very distinct type of game; one that, over the next few weeks, we’ll be examining in detail worthy of a mind-meltingly boring cutscene.
We’ll begin this installment with a look at ‘storytelling’ in a JRPG.