Ever since Final Fantasy graced the NES, gamers have clocked in hours upon hours fighting random battles, level grinding in dungeons, and saving the world from imminent destruction at the hands of an evil... thing. But no matter how many JPRGs we play, time and time again we see the same elements pop up in practically every one. You know the ones.
How many times can we play as a silent protagonist with silly hair? Do we really have to save the world by stopping an overlord again? You think we'd have grown tired of these cliches by now, right? Wrong. We love them, every one of them, every time.
Cheesy, pop-filled soundtracks
What is it: Sometimes a fully orchestrated score just won’t do. Sometimes the creators feel that adding a bit more flair is needed. Sometimes, JRPGs need a catchy, happy, upbeat pop soundtrack with nonsensical lyrics! There are times where a poppy soundtrack is relevant to the setting and weaved into the story, and there are times where the music has no business being there and sticks out like a sore thumb. Either way you won’t forget it.
Why we love it: Just like most cheesy pop music, the songs gets stuck in our heads whether we like it or not. Sure, the songs might be corny as all get-out, but the songs, no matter how ill-fitting they are, are super memorable.
The party is filled with the same stereotypes
What is it: You have a pretty-boy brooding protagonist (amnesia is optional), his best friend (thats the tougher opposite of him), the cute but kinda shy girl love interest (who may or may not have a prestigious linage), her perky BFF (or an alternative tough chick if the perky one is MIA), and that… humanoid… animal thing that’s in your group. Oh, and they’re usually young – like, really young. We’re talking high school age or below. Stuff happens, paths cross, and you and your new friends must make it on this journey together to save the world!
Why we love it: Despite the cliché, we became accustom to the familiarity of it; we know what to expect. They’re underdogs – a motley crew – and who doesn’t love that? Besides, most gamers can find one character that they can identify with because just about everything is covered, and it’s also good to see a range of personalities in one group.
Goofy character design, bad haircuts, nearly impossible costume designs
What is it: You can’t throw a stone in your average JRPG without it bouncing off hair that defies the laws of gravity; clothes that at least two sizes smaller than they should be; and costumes adored with a dozen belts, random fur, and so many studs and chains you’ll wonder how they can even walk.
Why we love it: At least they’re not bald space marines, right? JRPG characters definitely stand out amongst most video game characters because they're fun and colorful. Sometimes the costumes are so bad it’s funny, and there are times that they’re downright cool. And just think of the cosplay potential! Praise to the lucky few cosplayers that can effectively pull off an outlandish outfit that seems impossible to exist in the first place.
The villain wants to ruin the world, and his motives are always overly complicated
What is it: So, we hear you’re a villain who wants to destroy/rule the same world that disappointed you. Here's what you do: construct a crazy, complicated plan to destroy the world by controlling the empire, ruining some towns, forcing a cult to worship you, destroying a crystal, burning down a forest, and doing other stuff that makes for an epic adventure. But you can’t do it all by yourself - after hatching the master plan, the next step is to develop a network other bad guys to do your bidding while you sit back and watch it all unfold. Hire your best henchman to obstruct the heroes’ journey every step of the way. He’ll be the Darth Vader to your Emperor Palpatine. Sure, you can do it yourself, but menial labor is so beneath you.
Why we love it: With a plan so elaborate, it’s practically fail safe right? Wrong. It’s convolved, ridiculous, and hilarious. Do they really think this will work? It’s not like the villains never succeed, and it’s cute to watch them try. Plus you would think they would have a backup plan in case if some brave souls try to foil their plan but no. They are really confident that they will succeed.
The nearly impossible quests to obtain <INSERT ITEM HERE>
What is it: Nearly every JRPG includes a series of almost impossible quest to obtain something important or get the ultimate weapon. This makes sense, in a way - no one is just going to hand you the best item in the world. You have to get it yourself, and it won’t be easy. Some games require you venture off in some distant land and do a lot of dungeon crawling and boss battling, while others require you to do some mind-numbing tasks like dodging a number of lightning strikes (you know who you are).
Why we love it: It's never mandatory, so we can always skip it, but we like the challenge. We like trying to accomplish the impossible and brag to our friends. Plus, if we weren’t able to accomplish first walkthrough, we can always try again on the second run. Yay for replayability!
It always begins with the destruction of a peaceful, perfect town
What is it: You know the scenario: you wake in up in your hut/house, go out into town, chat with some townsfolk about absolutely nothing, and suddenly it all goes to hell. The evil villain makes his move, introducing himself to the world by extinguishing a flame of hope and destroying a small, peaceful town. The people are in peril and it is up to you, the hero (or some kids, as we discussed earlier), to set things right again.
Why we love it: It’s the “alright, one last job before retirement” of the JRPG world. After being faced with this scenario so many times, we’ve come to expect to see the city in ashes. It is almost like watching a Godzilla movie - you know the peace won't last and you want to see how it all falls down.
The power of love/friendship always prevails
What is it: It’s rare that your character goes through the arduous task of saving the world alone. You go with friends. Companions. Strength in numbers. Banding together for the greater good, blah blah blah. Your friends are more than just background characters, providing moral support and cheering you on when you need it (sometimes cheering you on more than necessary). They help you when you’re down. Heal you when you get wounded. The villain doesn’t understand the concept of "friendship" because he is a big meanie that doesn’t have any friends and that’s where he loses, usually when a giant beam of light strikes him after all of your friends pray or high-five or something because the power of friendship is totally magic. The overall message is clear: all you need is love.
Why we love it: Who wants to go through all this alone? Everything is better with friends, right? Plus, in a bleak world sometimes a happy, love-filled ending helps wrap up the story nicely.
Do our opinions seem Cloud-y to you?
There are, obviously, exceptions to the rules - games that ignore tropes and cliches and create their own - but, by and large, these are stereotypes that show up time and time again. And that's why we love them; we can always rely on them for a good laugh, or for some nostalgic feelings.
Are there any you'd add to the list? Random battles? Turn-based combat? Let us know in the comments below!
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