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Why Japanese RPGs Suck

I don't think I'm alone on this - although I might be the only one mature enough to admit it - but I have no idea what I did at the end of FFVII. Since 1997 my confusion has only grown. Plots have gotten so out of hand that each new game is desperately trying to one-up the pack by adding even more extra twists and extraneous plot devices. There's always an evil puppet master revealed towards the closing act, the main character will discover at least one brother, someone will discover their mother was a robot and their father was a potato. Nothing is surprising, because no one knows what the hell is going on anyway.

Quick fix: Instead of trying to win the player over with ever-more-ludicrous plot convolutions, just storyboard out a classic struggle with interesting characters and an antagonist who acts like a jerk because of a character flaw. Of course, that's all easier said than done.

In a perfect world: There would be a game that doesn't end with the hero saving the whole world from an unstoppable evil. If a game really wants to do something new, how about having the hero fail? Not in a "we'll get 'em next time, kiddo" kind of way. I'd be amazed if everybody dies, the credits start rolling and someone says "isn't this sad?" It would be believable, simple and something I haven't seen 100 times already.

Worst offender: Eternal Sonata, which explains away its nonsense by making the entire game part of Chopin's dream. In the future all JRPGs will have intros that explain that all subsequent events are [insert dead celebrity here]'s dream. The dream factor is totally enthralling and totally not just an extra layer of fiction between the game and the game player.

Before playing my first JRPG, I never though of myself as the type of person to sport pants with a tail-hole in the back. Now that I've done it, there's something that just doesn't sit right about playing a cross between a studly hero in top form and a cute little bunny rabbit. What's worse is that it always seems completely unremarkable to anyone in the game. If I've got all my facts straight, there's only one way to produce a man-rabbit, and frankly, I'm disgusted that it's such a common practice in JRPG worlds.

Quick fix: When making a game about people, just stick to using human body parts. If there's any uncertainty, just ask this question: "is this body part found on members of my species?"

In a perfect world: To appease animal lovers and normal people, try giving the hero a thick lumberjack mustache, a beard, rustic Burt Reynolds chest hair and a penchant for cooking outdoors. I've never seen a JRPG hero with facial hair.

Worst offender: Final Fantasy IX's Zidane. He's a double-knife-wielding womanizer who makes his way in the world as a member of a group of sky-pirates. Also, he has giant eyes, pointy ears and a monkey tail.