Opinion: Why we JRPG

Brian Abbott, perhaps best known as the titular brainy gamer behind Brainy Gamer, has posted an opinion piece on what makes jRPGs special.

A good JRPG (any well-designed RPG, for that matter) envelops a player in a unified ecosystem that weaves together rules, mechanics, and storytelling such that each informs the other in the player’s mind.

The more a game exposes its systems to me, the more possibilities I see to fully invest myself in that experience. Many of these systems could be simplified or automated, but I often don’t want that. I like to lift the hood and work on the motor myself. I want to drive my own way and feel the engine propelling me.

This is what the best JRPGs do. They let us feel the power and responsiveness of their systems, and they give us fun-to-use tools to access those systems. Complexity is a welcome trait in a game that encourages me to skillfully exploit its systems. For many of us, this is the real allure of gaming across genres. It’s why assiduously avoiding “spoilers” has never really made sense to me.

I think Abbott undermines his own point here: as he seems to concede, most RPGs let you tinker directly with the numbers underneath the hood, not just jRPGs. Getting a peek behind the curtain at the numbers and stats driving everything is pretty central to the whole genre. Still, if you take this as a general pro-RPG apologia, it’s pretty well-considered.

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1 Comment »

  • Matt says:

    I can agree with this on some levels and disagree with it on others.

    My favorite JRPG is Final Fantasy VI. The game isn’t challenging on any level. Interacting with the Esper system is neat but ultimately it doesn’t require much focus. Just move ’em around so everyone knows your favorite spells. The FFVI experience is about the characters, the story, the world and the music.

    That said… I also love FFX’s battle system. Interacting with it is really fun and I can see a game that fine tunes it being really enjoyable even if much of the rest falls flat.


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