Why Japanese RPGs Suck

11 problems and smartass advice on how to fix them

Using strategy to win battles is great, but why is it always this: cast ice spells at the red enemies, shoot fire spells at anything made out of ice and use lightning on anyone whose name ends in "The Robot." If a villain could somehow create a robot that has the ability to not explode after rubbing its socks on the carpet and touching a doorknob, I wouldn't have a chance. JRPGs need to get rid of the idea that it makes a difference if your sword is warm or cold, and that smashing a giant crab with a big block of ice is going to make it any less dead than zapping it with lighting.

Quick fix: Start thinking of spells that aren't powered with colored mana or named with made-up suffixes.

In a perfect world: Pretty much any spell with the suffix "-exploder" is guaranteed to be a winner. Head-exploder, brain-exploder, eyeball-exploder, butt-exploder; each of these spells is better than the last and has nothing to do with any kind of elemental attack. Given the choice between learning a big fireball spell and the ability to even very slightly explode butts, I think the choice is obvious.

Worst offenders: Ice spells.

Watch this video and ask, is it really the sudden onset of cold weather that's doing damage or is it the physical ramifications of being impaled on a gigantic column of ice?

Just because you can't see a 100-foot bone dragon, doesn't mean that there isn't one three steps in front of you, poised to poof into existence and immediately chomp your face off. Random encounters are a feature that date back to when RPGs were written for technologically primitive game systems. Today's consoles and PCs are powerful enough to render enemies while also showing the rest of the world at the same time. To keep up with steadily advancing technology, since its creation, the JRPG random-encounter system has been tweaked and carefully molded in no ways at all.

Quick fix: Just drop the whole concept of snapping into "battle mode" and out of… "regular mode?" Games that take place in a world with consistent laws of physics and clearly established rules of invisibility tend to make more sense than other games.

Above: There is nothing in this screen

In a perfect world: Let's get some on-screen enemies that actually ambush you. After all, if they're just sitting around a dungeon, waiting for heroes to walk by, they've probably cooked up some well-planned ambushes with all that free time. I'd love to see a game that not only gets rid of the jumps into "battle mode," but pits you against enemies who actually move and hide in clever and realistic ways.

Worst offenders: Every Final Fantasy game prior to FFXI. This is so ingrained into the series that FF is actually known for the random encounters.

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