Why Japanese RPGs Suck

11 problems and smartass advice on how to fix them

Sometimes JRPGs tell me that there's no more room in the party. Doesn't it stand to reason that if I've got ten friends and I'm going to lay siege to an Air Fortress, it would be a good idea to bring along all ten - not just my three favorite party members? Standard JRPG strongholds, such as Air Fortresses, Deserts of Thirstiness and Mountains of Very Large Icy Rock Monsters Live Here are all notoriously difficult to attack. If it were up to me, I'd bring all the help I can get.

Quick fix: Logic dictates that if the game wants to put 20 characters in the group, then it should let you use all 20 characters. If having 20 teammates unbalances the gameplay, there shouldn't be 20 controllable characters in the game in the first place.

In a perfect world: Instead of arbitrarily cutting monster-smashing power, start killing off unwanted characters. If your favorite ninja is bitten in half to make room for Spunky the New Guy, the tension level and desperation to succeed goes up. But being able to leave the ninja back at base to eat scones and polish his lucky shuriken destroys the illusion that the world is in real danger.

When we get the message that "there's no more room in the party" it would be great if the sentence could end with "…because nobody wants to bring along the damn Moogle." That's the best reason we can come up with for leaving part of the team behind.

Worst offenders: The Suikoden series. 108 characters who will join your army and six party-slots mean just about everyone gets left at home.

The problem with turn-based combat is that when it isn't your turn, your characters don't do anything. I get that it's supposed be a representation of real combat. And I get that who goes first is mostly likely determined by some obscure statistic buried under tons of relevant but ignorable menus. But what's the point of having a 60" 1080p flatscreen TV if I have to imagine what's happening on it?

Instead of watching a battle, I'm left flipping through menus, while my guys stand in place, caught in a looping four-frame animation that lets me know they're ready for me to hit the attack button.

Quick fix: Rather than represent an actual battle by using a set of turn-based combat rules, wouldn't it be even better to just show a real-looking battle?

Above: Good thing there's enough time to have this lengthy conversation before anyone can make a move

In a perfect world: Let your opponents watch you flipping through the menu. I'd like to see an imp's terrified expressions go from "bad" to "oh shit!" while flipping from Ice 2 to Immolation 3 to Imp Dissolver 5. Let him wallow in fear as I run to the fridge for a drink, then finish him off with a leisurely button-tap that was five minutes in the making.

Worst offender: Final Fantasy Tactics' battle screen. To keep from having characters doing nothing while waiting their turns, the battlefield is populated with 10-20 characters walking in place. That's right, to keep things exciting everyone walks in place.

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