Why Japanese RPGs Suck

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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  • bobby-slobby - January 21, 2014 8:08 a.m.

    I love both Japanese and Western games, particularly RPGs. Doesn't matter much who the characters are or how they look like. A variety in gaming is best. I can play games like Call of Duty and be happy, and then go as far as playing JRPGs on my 3DS or PSP. There are good games in all genres.
  • justin-chin - March 12, 2013 2:42 a.m.

    No. You are not mature. You are an American pig head because all you give a fuck about are cheesy names that need no thought whatsoever (add the word exploder) which is not creative at all and you seem to just squeal for stupid shit like wanting to blow shit up every seconds. And are you trying to play a game or get thrown into an insane asylum like Arkham? Wanting to cut off a head and freak people out? That's a game? Fucking retarded. And I think you might be a narcissist because your "good looks" have nothing to do with how good a game is.
  • adrian-grace - June 20, 2013 2:23 p.m.

    you have to be the dumbest person i have ever seen post something on here. don't get all offended because what he's saying is true. I've played japanese RPGs and they all follow the same boring formula. doing it over and over does tend to get on your nerves. in my opinion, us americans do have flaws as most ppl do, but i just think our stories have much more depth than japanese rpgs.. you need to grow up and accept people's opinions...
  • bobby-slobby - January 21, 2014 8:11 a.m.

    So do you.
  • Trade-X - June 23, 2014 1:05 p.m.

    Have you even played anything at all? You can say the same thing for everything else you ignorant fuckwad.
  • magicgenie - February 14, 2012 6:24 a.m.

    Uh. JRPGs do not suck. It's the WRPG that is in trouble, not the JRPG. People just do not realize this because BioWare and Bethesda are making games that are amazingly critcally and commercially successful but without these juggernauts then what do you have? On top of that, BioWare's games are becoming less and less like RPG games and with each entry are "streamlining" more and more RPG elements out. BioWare is making shooters and action games. Furthermore, these two juggernauts and the few European games are focusing their gameplay around conversation trees, outcomes, questing, and sometimes trying to bang your party members or NPCs. That's fine and there is nothing wrong with this and these features do not make a game bad but it also means that the WRPG isn't the most diverse creature, am I right? Meanwhile there is an array of JRPGs that employ a variety of systems... You have tactical RPGs like Valkyria Chronicles, Knights in the Nightmare, Resonance of Fate, Jeanne D'arc... then there is Final Fantasy XIII, and Dragon Quest IX which are modern updates to the classic formula... We also have Persona 4 which is critcally acclaimed and the Persona series is unique and stands on its own... Then there are the fast party-based actions RPGs like Star Ocean and the Tales series... The Atelier series which focuses on alchemy Finally, the Japanese are keeping the first person dungeon crawler alive which use to be a province in western rpg universe, these games are Dark Spire, Etrian Odyssey 1-3, SMT: Strange Journey, Wizardry: Labryinth of Lost Souls... Essentially what this means is that if you are an RPG fan but are not at all amused by games that form their gameplay around conversation trees and questing then a Japanese RPG is the place you need to look... The WRPG genre isn't a diverse as it use to be but there are still interesting JRPGs coming out. You know, at one point it wasn't JRPG vs WRPG and it's a myth that there is something innate about JRPGs that make them JRPGs. It use to be COMPUTER rpgs vs Console RPGs - they played differently due to limitations of the consoles but Japanese preferred consoles and that is why JRPGs have developed the way they have.
  • adam-noyce - April 27, 2012 4:32 a.m.

    You are so Deluded, must be too much Hello kitty, or Big head mode... Jrpg's suck and are (thank the gods) Dieing and can't die fast enough. you polluted the genre with stupidly colorful kittens, whatsits and pedophile geezers, 12 year old girls in mini-skirts and white cotten pantys. Everyone has blue/green/purple hair, can jump 20 meters in the air and wields a 2 meter sword (jrpgs LOVE their swords, epicly phallic, must be an asian penius thing (and don't get me started on asian penius anime, that's a whole new world of stupid (legends of the overfiend). The Heros are almost always white caucasians with gigantic blue or green eyes(why do asians worship whites?) even tho they live in asia, Neo-Tokyo or New-Shanghai. Everyone is a Ninja with super-epic gigantic SWORDS. Psionic abilitys and a talking cat as a sidkick lame lame lame.... There have been some SOLID releases, but few and far between, same with the movies. I can list the best Anime on 1 hand. (Akira, Ghost In the Shell, Macross, Princess Mononoke, Fist of the Northstar).. ok mabey 2 hands... but most are not worth watching unless your 5, or 85 and a pedophile.
  • justin-chin - March 12, 2013 2:50 a.m.

    So here we have a prime example of a dumbfuck who calls just about anything non-american as shit. You want to talk about immaturity? Thinking that watching anime makes you immature is immature in itself. Anime is a hobby. Like how some people treat sex as a hobby but you don't talk shit about a guy getting so much pussy he must have gotten an STD now do you. You don't talk shit about a guy watching American cartoons like looney tunes so what's up? Are you racist?
  • shiro-shira - June 20, 2013 3:32 a.m.

    Here's the fact, most Americans are racist, and I'm not American btw :/
  • adrian-grace - June 20, 2013 2:30 p.m.

    are you on crack??? I am an american citizen and i have to completely disagree wit h that statement.. god you ppl on here are ignorant boneheads .. no better than the racists americans you accuse.. just because someone thinks that JAPANESE rpgs are cliche doesn't make him racist.. it's kinda TRUE.. THEY ARE!! just deal with it.. i swear you all need a lesson in the real world..
  • adrian-grace - June 20, 2013 2:36 p.m.

    god you are an idiot.... anime sucks, japanese games suck (most of them), and if you don't like our opinion, just ignore it.. how old are you?? 13?? you must be some idiot with social issues.. and watching a lot of anime does make you immature. it's not this great big ball of morals like you think it is.. it's just a bunch of over sensitive bullsplatter. now there are SOME good animes out there, but im beginning to be able to count them with just one hand... :/ you are one sensitive dumbass, you know that?
  • bobby-slobby - January 21, 2014 8:12 a.m.

    Japanese games don't suck. You get shit games in all genres. A real gamer would enjoy a mix of genres, from the West and East. I hate gamers who rule out genres all together because of where they come from.
  • inkmage87 - June 11, 2014 2:01 p.m.

    ((2014 response)) Ah I slightly agree.. I grew up in the late 80's and 90's playing games. (still play em, now making one- an RPG). I used to only play Japanese games, even learned Japanese to play the ones, that never came to the west. I thought western games were ugly and boring. However I grew tired with a lot of things with JRPG's, I think this began in 2001, with Grandia, but I remember really feeling this, and being angry with Phantasy Star Universe. LOL That anger was revisited- about two years ago I believe, when my brother and I were playing some Mass Effect online. I'm looking at the world, the techniques, the armor. My brother's running about with his badass Cerberus gun, and all I could think of is Rudolph from Phantasy Star II. I thought, "how cool would it be, for PS to grow up melding Mass Effect, and Final Fantasy- and we get a Phantasy Star 5. Doesn't need to look super realistic, and serous- just not so goddamn childish- and cute cute anime. I think that's one of the main things. I don't like a lot of anime right now, its too "cute"- even Hayao Miyazaki said this lol. Persona's style doesn't bother me, I love it, I've always loved their work, but many of these games just go a bit overboard with it. Even in manga now.. So disappointed they are using the same artist of Full Metal Alchemist, for the remake of Heoric Legend of Arslan. I FREAKIN LOVED AMANO'S DESIGNS FOR THE ORIGINAL...Anyway lol. Dragon Age, and Mass Effect, were my first western RPG's. I liked Dragon Age, (can't wait for 3, hope its better than 2), but one of the things that turned me off to western RPG's, is that fantasy ones, ALWAYS tend to look like Lord of the Rings, and everything was brown, and sepia lol, not to mention characters I felt could be better looking. Does this mean I think they should be androgynous anime teens? Not at all, I design characters, and always thought the Dragon Age characters could have looked better. With games like Elder Scrolls, which Skyrim was my first- and PC (yeah I had to mod thats hit up, characters looked hideous lol), I LOVED how big and opened the world was, I love that shit, that I just no longer feel in JRPG's. I don't think ALL JRPG's suck though. I totally disagree with Japanese worshiping whites. The characters, especially in games like Final Fantasy, and again Persona- look more like themselves. I've seen a lot of cosplayers out there, and I've never seen a Caucasian person, actually look like a character from Final Fantasy, though the Japanese tend to always nail it. I saw one girl in Japan cosplaying as Vanile from Final Fantasy XIII, and I swear to god, I thought Vanile had jumped out of the game, looked 110% like her. Their characters, tend to look like JROCK/POP stars/idols/models. Character designer of Final Fantasy XII, talked about how the character Ashe, was modeled after French actress Sylvie Testud, but altered her face- to look more Japanese. Many Japanese are actually lighter than most Caucasians, and some of them have bigger eyes than westerners. The big big eyes in anime/manga is considered "cute", and big on expression. Then there are some Japanese, who also look like they are part Caucasian, because of some of the original inhabitants of Japan (mostly the north), who also live in northern Russia, and look Eurasian or "Jomon Japanese" The hair colors are actually more apart of pop-culture, as the colors represent the character's personality. Blonde/blond usually means the character is an airhead, or trouble follows them, or they are self-serving. Purple usually means the character is "mysterious" ect.
  • jimjoe - March 2, 2011 8:13 p.m.

    @alexloranger Let's see if I can follow your logic here: I can't judge Japanese RPGs unless I play them in their original language? Is that it? Let's accept that as fact, I'll go back to how insane that is in a bit, and move on. What you're saying is that if I don't speak Japanese I am incapable of judging the gameplay, or the art of the game. In essence what you're saying is that what makes these games amazing is that they are written in Japanese, not that they are games (since I don't need to know any Japanese to judge these games on their game aspects). That's amazing! Now lets go back to your "don't judge if you don't speak the language" trope. If that is true, if these games are so amazingly different if played in the original Japanese then why the hell are they even translated? If all I'm getting is a bastardized product that doesn't qualify me to have an opinion on anything, then why is the game manufacturer putting this product out? At best they are incredibly greedy, at worst they simply don't give a crap about the people buying their product. Which one do you like?
  • alexloranger - February 23, 2011 9:14 a.m.

    Your entire argument is flawed. You are accusing Japanese RPGs of being bad, yet you are referring only to the version you have played, which are the English translations. The entire point of the Japanese RPG is to immerse you into the world, and the entire point of Japanese language is to immerse yourself into your own soul. The entire point of an English translation is to make one, insignificant part of the Japanese language understandable to English audiences, which is the storyline. The soul searching can happen, but since English is not Japanese, and while the translations can happen to be well written English, you are missing the entire point of the Japanese text. So your argument is flawed, come back when you have "played" the Japanese versions with an actual Japanese comprehension level above .01%
  • newvegasfan - December 31, 2010 5:10 a.m.

    I tried to play a final fatasy game... lets just say NEVER AGAIN! TO CONFUSING! my friends have tried time and time again but I just don't get the game... still hard to figure out the bird thing... the chocobo, or was that a different game they tried to throw me into? my friends don't know my gaming style 8(
  • thochaos - November 8, 2008 1:45 a.m.

    I agree with the random encounter thing. I also hate the emo characters Square likes to have in their games. But the worst one for me is the party limit for the exact reasons pointed out. Imagine the damage you could do in a game like Shining Force if all of your crew could help out in battle? That would be so much better.
  • LittleGreen - February 27, 2014 6:24 p.m.

    Them emo characters...
  • Telekinesis - September 16, 2008 12:27 a.m.

    I think the worst offender is Kingdom Hearts 2 for the most gratuitous use of cutscenes, I actually stopped playingg the game all together because they broke up the action so badly and made the game incredibly boring...kill 3 guys, cutscene, every door, cutscene, every screen change, cutscene.
  • cultofbananas - October 29, 2008 6:32 a.m.

    So the random encounter haven't been tweaked or molded at all, yet you admit that Final Fantasy 11 and 12 don't HAVE random encounters. k.