Let's Have a Discussion: Are JRPG's Really RPG's?



  • Blasphemy! I know, right?

    Since i started playing games i never really questioned JRPG's. For me they were my first exposure into what was classified as a role playing game. Maybe this is why i never questioned it. It wasn't until recently when I heard a statement by a developer claiming that they weren't RPG's that it was given any thought. I didn't agree with it at first, but now ive been thinking more and more about it. After playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends, trying CRPG's, years of western RPG's and more recently playing Torment: Tides of Numinera I really feel that there is a legitimate argument that JRPG's are not role playing games at all.

    From the JRPG's i have played, i feel no sense of actual role playing in them. I feel like things like turned based battle systems, leveling up, skill trees, hit points and dialogue heavy encounters have all becomes standardized features that makes a game an "RPG". Yes, those are all features or mechanics you find in a role playing game, but none of those have much to do with actual role playing. I will admit something, I haven't touched nearly as many JRPG's as a lot of people in this community have. I wanted to make that clear because i can only speak from the games i have played (which is enough to have a general idea). Based on the games i have played, I've usually taken on a role of a character with zero player agency in which i follow a predetermined path to the end while the only options given to me is how i wish to upgrade my abilities or some games offering a tedious side mission.

    The games that are counter to the above description usually have you play a character that you create or is at least given somewhat of a blank slate with a little bit of history sent out into the world to shape it and yourself. The choices you make, the company you keep and how you treat people around you are all dependent on how you wish to play.

    JRPG's are not bad games, a lot of them are still really good and some are even my favorite games. But I am starting to think they don't fit in this category. Now, I can fully accept the idea that Japan has a different way of viewing RPG's, and that's a valid point worth discussing. I should also add that I know some JRPG's offer you a bit more in terms of how you wish to interact with the world around you. There are a ton of Japanes RPG's and I cant possibly speak to all them. So feel free to discuss those games in your comments. I also actually think that Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest were takes on original pen and paper role playing games . However the style for future JRPG's was shaped by the original depicted styles of those games which resulted in something further in what it was originally trying to be.

    Ill now leave it off to the EZA community to discuss. Look forward to hearing all your thoughts on this.

    Love & Respect



  • short answer

    no, I don't think JRPGs are really role playing games, and I'm really indifferent to it

    long answer

    sometime later when I have the energy for it



  • I was actually just thinking about this recently. I think it depends on the game, and even then how you perceive "Role Playing" changes heavily depending on the game. I'm playing through Persona 4 Golden for the first time right now, and I'm definitely RPing pretty hard in that game. I also play Pokemon like I'm RPing, largely by projecting onto the character and building my team how I think I would if I lived in that world. I also played Final Fantasy 5 by choosing jobs that I felt fit those characters and their traits. In that case, I would say the RP comes not from putting yourself in the game, but believing you are those characters. On the flipside, there are games like Final Fantasy 4, where you don't do that at all, and just play for the story, world, and characters. I don't think it's any worse, but it is different.

    I think a big problem that comes with all RPGs and not just JRPGs is that sometimes the games are designed in such a way that you can RP, but other mechanics become to powerful and make playing the game a certain way "better." First example I can think of is Divinity: Original Sin, which is definitely a WRPG where you can RP however you want, but there is such a crazy advantage to stealing from people that I felt obligated to do it, even when my character wouldn't. Then there are games with incredible job systems, but then force you at certain points to strategize in specific ways. There were parts in Bravely Default where it felt literally impossible to advance unless I switched my characters' jobs into a certain configuration, despite the fact that the characters I had been building them up to be wouldn't do such a thing. All of this could be chalked up to lack of willpower on my part, but I think there should be better checks and balances to ensure that you can actually RP and play how you want to play, especially if the game has systems in place where you should be able to do so.


  • Banned

    It'd be pretty difficult to emulate table top rpgs fully in a video game.

    Unless of course the entire game was procedurally generated based on every single decision you make allowing for near infinite possibilities.



  • No, they are the superior JRPGs.



  • Western RPG's are all built around the d&d ruleset. usally have customized silent protagionist

    Japanese RPGs drop you in as a person with a history in a world with history

    just depends on what you prefer thats why i think there 2 different subgenres



  • not in that sense and neither are WRPGs, morality scores dont equate to being able to be the person you want to be. If anything MMOs are more RPGs since it's more possible to role play in them. Western RPGs nearly always force you into a preset role of the dragonborn or the commander or the warden or the undying, with amnesia, a trope widely used to deride JRPGs that's actually a thousand times more common in WRPGs

    if the ability to make decisions made a game an RPG, then visual novels would be far better RPGs and games like Shining Force 3 would have far more interesting decisions anyway.


  • Banned

    Minecraft is the ULTIMATE rpg.



  • @Art said in Let's Have a Discussion: Are JRPG's Really RPG's?:

    It'd be pretty difficult to emulate table top rpgs fully in a video game.

    Unless of course the entire game was procedurally generated based on every single decision you make allowing for near infinite possibilities.

    Of course, games can only do so much. But some games capture this pretty well. Some of them are even decades old. JRPG's do nothing like this for the most part.

    @FF7Cloud said in Let's Have a Discussion: Are JRPG's Really RPG's?:

    Western RPG's are all built around the d&d ruleset. usally have customized silent protagionist

    Japanese RPGs drop you in as a person with a history in a world with history

    just depends on what you prefer thats why i think there 2 different subgenres

    I thought about this too. But then what differentiates it from any other game that drops you into a already developed character and world? Then we are only looking at things like possibly skills trees and party members. Should Uncharted or Metal Gear Solid V be an RPG because i assume the role of Nathan Dake or Snake and choose for him to be non lethal the whole game?

    id also say the original final fantasy and dragon quest were initially built around the concepts of dungeons and dragons too. But because of tech they were only able to do so much.

    @Sieghardt said in Let's Have a Discussion: Are JRPG's Really RPG's?:

    not in that sense and neither are WRPGs, morality scores dont equate to being able to be the person you want to be. If anything MMOs are more RPGs since it's more possible to role play in them. Western RPGs nearly always force you into a preset role of the dragonborn or the commander or the warden or the undying, with amnesia, a trope widely used to deride JRPGs that's actually a thousand times more common in WRPGs

    if the ability to make decisions made a game an RPG, then visual novels would be far better RPGs and games like Shining Force 3 would have far more interesting decisions anyway.

    I agree with the statement about RPG's, like dragon born , and this is very much an issue with Fallout 4. I know Mass Effect only came down to Red or Blue but other RPG's go beyond morality. For example Torment: Tides of Numinera and other similar CRPG's like it, allow you to make several choices in which you as the person playing are given to define how your character wants to act. It's not defining you as good or bad, its just freedom. Something JRPG's have none of. But your right, ultimately games suffer from the issue that they cannot be open ended and completely mutable to how you wish to play.

    @Art said in Let's Have a Discussion: Are JRPG's Really RPG's?:

    Minecraft is the ULTIMATE rpg.

    True. Probably a very accurate statement lol.

    @naltmank said in Let's Have a Discussion: Are JRPG's Really RPG's?:

    I was actually just thinking about this recently. I think it depends on the game, and even then how you perceive "Role Playing" changes heavily depending on the game. I'm playing through Persona 4 Golden for the first time right now, and I'm definitely RPing pretty hard in that game.

    Persona came to mind as a good example of a game where you have a lot more role playing elements.



  • @CGamor7 i always assumed what the difference between a action adventure (zelda for example) and a RPG were number based stats and equipment



  • @FF7Cloud said in Let's Have a Discussion: Are JRPG's Really RPG's?:

    @CGamor7 i always assumed what the difference between a action adventure (zelda for example) and a RPG were number based stats and equipment

    Yeah that's kind of how I always saw it. But I have just thought way to much about it and now im wondering what makes a game really an RPG lol. The lines are being blurred now where devs are taking things from all sorts of games and putting them in one. But i guess a good question is, what is role playing defined as in a game? Maybe destiny is an rpg. You're a guardian. you interact with real people to act as guardians to raid dungeons to increase stats.



  • @CGamor7 yea devs are putting rpg element in everything now, by my definition botw is a RPG


  • Banned

    If stats make a game an rpg then every metroidvania is an rpg.



  • @Art so you dont count symphony of the night as a rpg?



  • @FF7Cloud SoTN is many things (amazing for one), but an RPG? I've never seen it that way



  • @bard91 i always put it as a action platformer with rpg elements



  • I always disclaim that genres and labels are best for marketing and not necessarily best for critically analyzing a game.

    With that out of the way, it seem like WRPGs allow for more player agency (but in recent example like Fallout 4, even then you don't have much say) as opposed to JRPGs that provide greater world context and you unfold the story as a more pre-determined protagonist. However, you still have agency in a JRPG. Your choice to explore, say, a village in such a way that limits story or enriches it, is entirely on the player.

    You also RP when you choose what types of attacks or spells to use. Your version of the hero in Persona 4 can be drastically different from another persons.

    Just my 2 cents.



  • RPGs are almost a useless genre at this point since almost every game does something that used to be associated with the genre.

    Hell, as far as I see it a role playing game is one where you play a specific role. That can mean making up your own character and role, like most western rpgs, or playing the role of an established character with a previously designed history like most japanese rpgs.



  • You shouldn't look to deep into game genres. An RPG at this point is just a game that is generally focused on storytelling and has some kind of player choice involved (in terms of gameplay, not necessarily tied to the story).

    If you get fixated on the name Role Playing Game then just look at how dumb some other are like Real Time Strategy (they're pretty much always Real Time Tactics games). Then look at others like "Fighting game", Beat em up, Shoot em up, etc. and how broad they are.

    Genres at this point are mostly just there to give you a general idea of what they're about. There is no set in stone definition for what an RPG is when it comes to videogames. If you can find something online then it's just made-up by them.



  • I had this discussion with a friend a while back. We were thinking 'What makes games an RPG, when talking we came with another question. What makes games NOT an RPG today?'
    The short answer was, pretty much everything has RPG elements but doesnt mean its an RPG. We also came down to the D&D conversation.
    Some games give you total control of your character to progress through a story you have 'control' over( MMORPGS, Elder Scrolls, Fallout.)
    Some give you a preset character but a flushed out story line that you get to play and develop (Final Fantasy, Tales, Dragon Quest)
    Some give you some of both

    I feel RPG's require the elements below, while some will be flushed out, others take a back seat but they are still there. These are elements that may be in other games, even all might show up but i think are required to be an RPG.

    1. Long over arching story line with the stories between that develop the characters and the world you live in and seeing its effects throughout
      -- Think of the early shooters or side scrollers. Metal Gear games. You're a solider, get in kill win. Why? Because save the world. SoTN kill Dracula, why? Because he is bad and save the world. Now these games have developed out, and have stories now yes

    2. A perception of control over parts of the story. You feel your characters thoughts, feelings, and may have some control of how a character perceives the world.
      -- JRPG's Final Fantasy Tactics or Front Mission 3, or WRPG Mass Effect where there is a predetermined script but you have a feeling of control over paths and a way to project your thoughts onto the character. Other RPG's may have side quests that let you do some of this if not in the full story

    3. A D&D/LARP combat system. Turn based, or Real time but has pen and paper type rules
      -- ‘Real' FPSs a shot to the head kills you, no damage maximum, no ability to walk away with an arrow in your head because you had the best boots equiped in the game... looking at you Bethesda.

    4. Character Progression (levels, abilities, skill tree, equipment layout)
      -- Basically every game has some element of this now.... but if an RPG doesn't it can be quickly denied and casted aside. If CoD or Overwatch removed leveling and weapon progression nothing changes in the game itself. It's a number you can look at, but if Final Fantasy or WoW didn't have leveling or progression... numbers would drop (Warlords of Draenor)

    5. Dungeons/Bosses to progress the story or arc. Can give insight to the world you’re in rather than just a test or to move the plot
      -- This kinda goes back to the smaller stories and at this point also finds its way into many many games that aren't 'RPGs'. Most RPG’s will have side quests that give you extra insight, or story of the land its in. And yes some RPG's do have crawling through a dungeon looting, a boss that is just a test or to go "oh need to move the plot some how"

    The difference between a JRPG and a WRPG and other types I think is normally in the decsion of what takes backseat and what is the driving force. WRPG may give you that large free roam perception of 'You are the character', an understanding of the world around you and a small push to get you moving in it. While JRPG's will focus home on that large quest driven story, a background on the world that changes around you and give you a character that you assume the role as in it.

    **Note: This is not a full list and games will/do vary outside of these. L&R