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What is the JRPG genre? A basic guide for the uninformed.

Ok this is more of a soap box rant driven by Hyperdimension Neptunia not given an Australian release date but it also sparked an inspiration, write an informative guide on the JRPG genre so those who only reference it to Square-Enix and Final Fantasy or don't know about it can finally learn what the genre really is and all the different styles of gameplay in each.

First I'll start with the basic info that most should know and then I'll go in depth a little later. A JRPG is a video game genre made in Japan where you take the role of a predetermine character or characters in a heavily story driven experience. The JRPG genre is also known for it's similarity to the tabletop board game "Dungeons and Dragons" in terms of it's RPG influence through character development(leveling up), basic structure of narrative flow and occasionally combat.

Now to get into the in depth part. Like I said a lot of people think Final Fantasy and Square-Enix when they hear JRPG and stereo type it on that alone. This isn't true though. There have been various things done to the JRPG combat system over they years and the classic Dungeons and Dragons style was used when the genre started due to data limitations on the Famicom/NES cartridges. Sure there are a fair few JRPGs that use the classic turn based combat but that is due to what is easier to develop and appeasing fans but there are a lot of examples of JRPGs that have various tweaks to the system or are different.

I'll start with examples of the turn based combat being tweek and then go into the ones that are different. Some examples of variations/tweaks to the norm are Fire Emblem where the combat is strategic turn based where the teams take turns to fight and Valkyria Chronicles takes that up a notch by having stuff happen while moving your characters and using the environment to you advantage a lot better then other games in this sub genre. Shadow Hearts also tweaks the turn based combat system by using a thing called the judgement ring which has you performing a quick time event essentially to perform attacks and skills. The Judgement ring has multiple segments that you have to hit in order to perform the command and it has to sections in each segment, a orange section which will make the command work and a red section with is small and will improve the effectiveness of the command. You need to hit all the segments to get the command to work. Baten Kaitos tweaks the system with cards for your commands with varying values to shake up combat. Resonance Of Fate which made some serious changes to the system like using a special gauge to perform a running attack that you can attack as many times as you like until the time gauge runs out and giving you 2 different types of attacks depending on the weapon used and a variety of weapon types to use. Eternal Sonata is a hybrid turn based combat game that incorporates action combat during the turn of each character. There are tons more but these are just some great examples of variations of the turn based combat system.

Now on to the different type of combat system, the action combat system. There are a whole bunch of these that have come out in years and most of you can probably name more of these then turn based combat JRPGs. Kingdom Hearts is one a lot of people will know straight away but there are others. Star Ocean and the 'Tales of' series are 2 other examples of action JRPGs that have a cult following. The combat in these games is relatively the same but the thing is that some of the people who worked on Star Ocean worked on Tales of Phantasia. The combat systems of 'Tales of' games are arena based and you uses skills by pressing the skills button and a direction and Star Oceans combat system started the same but changed to using 2 different attack button and the skills with 1 button but a different one depending on distance with Star Ocean: Til The End Of Time and in Star Ocean: The Last Hope the skills with 2 different buttons. Secret of Mana had an action combat system that was similar to the Legend Of Zelda series. Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadows uses a touch screen interface for using spells in a action combat setting and works well on the DS. Key of Heaven aka Kingdom of Paradise had an action combat system that was heavily customisable.

Now the final part the stories. Some of you have it in your head that all JRPGs follow the same cliche story of angsty teens saving the world from evil but that's not true of all JRPGs. None of the 'Tales Of' series is like that and none of the Atelier series is either. I could name a boat load of them that don't have angsty teen saving the world but I've already got 2 walls of text and don't really want another. Believe it or not it's easier to name the ones that do contain the angsty teens saving the world. Also in JRPGs there is this thing called character development where the characters overcome their flaws for the greater good but this isn't always emo angst like in Final Fantasy VII and XIII.

Some people will argue that JRPGs aren't RPGs at all and they are half right. The role playing experience of true role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons or Fallout isn't their but it's mechanics of leveling up, magic and large worlds are there. You can also argue that all video games are RPGs because your always taking on the role of a character but that's a whole other thing altogether.

Well this is as much as I'll give you since I could spend forever and a day talking about it but I have to stop at some point. Don't label the genre on Final Fantasy alone and give some JRPGs a go. I recommend Resonance Of Fate, Tales Of Vesperia, Lost Odyssey, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Eternal Sonata, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn and Persona 4 as must play JRPGs that you should be able to buy still but there are tons of classics if your willing to hunt them down. The JRPG genre isn't as bad as you think, I hate FPS and shooters period but there are some that have stood out that I'm glad I tried. If I'm willing to play some games in the genre I hate, then you should at least give half these recommended games a go.

Also JRPGs are more about the story so if you like a strong story then JRPGs are great for that.

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WildArmed2960d ago (Edited 2960d ago )

Some very good recommendations there:
Resonance Of Fate, Lost Odyssey,Eternal Sonata, Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn and Persona 4
Loved n played all of these.
I'd also highly recommend Dragon quest 8.
Too bad we dont get good jrpg's often.

Experimentation has always been a big part of JRPGs.
(Even in SNES JRPG's you'll see HIGHLY diverse combat systems)
This is what got me into JRPGs back in 1998, I think w/ Pokemon Blue.
Oh man, after that it just blew my mind w/ this new genre.
Before this, I've always had been playing arcadey games like COntra or Sonic.. no games that you actually 'save' ur game to continue later.
It REALLY surprised me.
Then I got into FF8 (my first 'real' JRPG to say), and after that I've never gone array.
JRPG's still hold no. 1 spot in my heart.
But it's getting harder and harder to satisfy JRPG thirsts on HD consoles.
The best of the bests have went to handheld, while most people think that's a great. It's frustrating for me, I do not want to spend 60 hours on a small screen, regardless of it being portable.

Well here's to hoping to see more great games like Resonance of Fate.

My heart goes out to all the JRPG fans who have been disappointed this gen :(

Sorry for the big rant.
Your 'blog' hit the right spot lol
Again, you've brought up really good games like Secret of Mana.
I hope people give those games a try.
Those were true gems.

-Alpha2960d ago (Edited 2960d ago )

Dark Cloud 2! Dark Cloud 2! It was the game that got me into the genre. And it's become my favorite, but it lacks so much this generation.

I see all these highly acclaimed games I have no way of reaching. The first RPG I played was back on the Dreamcast called Evolution. I gave it back because I had no idea what an RPG was and thus didn't know what I was playing but man do I regret it today!

I want a fully fledged JRPG for this gen. I'm considering getting a DS or 3DS for my JRPG fill to play those "simple" JRPGs. I am highly anticipating Ni No Kuni and also have VC for my "next gen" fill, but I wish more Japanese developers had the support the studios of the West do.

Actually, I want to play more Japanese games in general.

WildArmed2960d ago

Haha, that is a great move to get a DS / 3DS to play Jrpgs (or japanese games in general)
I've lost all hope of PS3/360 getting some decent JRPGs more often.
I only see a gem every year or two and it's really not doing it.
I have my ps2 set up and that's where I still do most of my JRPG gaming.

I can't believe I 4get DC2 :D

oneangle2960d ago

I think the closest thing you're gonna get to Dark Cloud 2 is White Knight Chronicles since you can build your own towns and weapons upgrade is somewhat similar. Great game, although a bit MMO-ish. Only stopped playing it cause it was gonna be bundled with the sequel anyway. DC2 was one of my few all-time favorites last gen and I'm still waiting for a direct sequel.

Lol, think I'm gonna start playing classics again thanks to this blog and these comments.

-Alpha2960d ago

WKC looks OK, I know SKV loves it to death.

I'm not too fond of the premise of the game. IMO Dark Cloud was a much more charming series. But IDK, maybe I'll give WKC a try one day.

I was going to get a DS for Xmas but the price will go down now with the 3DS coming out soon so I'll wait

WildArmed2960d ago

'WKC looks OK, I know SKV loves it to death. '

You know it ^^
I've put 600+ hours into it, it's probably my most played game this gen.
Loving it, and still play it from time to time :)

But I hope we see good SP JRPGs too.
Since WKC's SP was fail, MP was it's saving grace.

Godmars2902960d ago

"Since WKC's SP was fail"
How come I say as much, though I also wish that the combat engine had been what it was when first shown, and get attacked for it?

WildArmed2960d ago (Edited 2960d ago )


mainly for the lack of any alternate things to do.
You literally have NOTHING else to do but story quests.
There are no side quests at all (which was super disappointing as I love being able to stuff / finding secrets)
I loved the combat system, sure it felt off at first, but I wouldn't have spent 600hrs playing it if I didn't fall in love w/ it.

The plot wasn't as good either, it was too straight forward, but it's not to say I didn't enjoy the SP, I did.
But it didn't have any memorial moments throughout the game.
I heard they updated alot of things in the WKC2 (which includes WKC1), so I'm excited to replay the game.
And they added alot of side quests too!
I'm super excited to get my hands on WKC2 :)


Why, bcoz JRPGs havn't turned into TPS? or FPS?
Heck, combat-wise JRPGs have the most diversity out of all the game.

When you pick up a JRPG, u can bet it'll have a different combat system than another JRPG you just played.

Look @ Eternal Sonata vs Resonance of Fate vs FF13 vs WKC vs Last Remanent.

NONE of these have the same combat system.

(like phew phew I'm still pointing and shooting -.- )
Not to downplay FPS genre, but that's whats been stale since Doom 1.

-Alpha2960d ago (Edited 2960d ago )


Because people here are fanboys. They see you attack a PS3 game and, regardless of them not playing it themselves, will take it as an offense to the PS3/Sony.

A majority of people simply get upset at constructive criticism if they feel that you are making any sort of attack that doesn't uphold a major viewpoint.

Hellsvacancy2958d ago

I bought WKC two weeks ago (coz SKV007 loved it so much, ive seen his Platinum which i doubt ill be doin myself) its an all right game, for the life of me i dont get why IGN gave it 4.5 or summin, its MUCH better then that, and im not much of an jrpg player (except DS and a couple FF games)

Rage_S902958d ago

im on the same boat im getting a ds/psp soon for my jrpg fill the ps3 isn't doing it except for the ps1 classics waiting on xenogears -_- and dark cloud 2 was the truth if they made a new 1 i would probably explode

+ Show (6) more repliesLast reply 2958d ago
soundslike2960d ago (Edited 2960d ago )

The problem with recommending ps1 and prior games is that a lot of them just don't hold up if you never played them within the time span that the graphics were acceptable. If I played some of those games during that time, I have no doubt I would love them, but as of now, there's no way they could possibly keep me entertained unless it was on a hand-held device, of which I no longer own.
One I did play before it was "too late" (for me anyway) was shining force. I much preferred the tactical approach of positioning group members over simply swapping load-outs and selecting attacks.

-Alpha2960d ago

Kind of true. I got FFIX from the PSN store and it's the simplicity of the game I really love. The music, the dialogue, etc. There is something really special about these games that modern games with its focus on voice acting, 3D graphics, etc. loses.

The graphics are indeed rough but I can still connect with the game. I want a DS for the more polished JRPGs

256bit2960d ago

you can only get entertained if they were on handheld? you probably didnt grow up with the ps1 in your time.

soundslike2960d ago

Actually I grew up with a nes, genesis and ps1. You're kind of missing the point. I'm saying they are great games, but without the nostalgia factor to fill in the gaps they might appear dated to newcomers. However, the small screen and simplistic control face of hand helds may give newcomers a better experience than plugging a 16 bit console into their 1080p televisions/monitors. Those consoles NEED interlacing. On top of all of this, the play time for many of those games is very large, and would have to compete with the slew of games in peoples backlogs from this generation and the whole 2011 lineup.

Rage_S902958d ago

i disagree i got ffvii and ix from the psn store and at the same time was playing star ocean and ffxiii and let me tell you i couldn't believe for the life of me how a ps1 game could be sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oo much better then a fully fledged next gen game

McLuvn2960d ago

The 90s were the golden age of jrpgs, days gone by and sorely missed.
The ps2 era jrpgs kept it together for the most part.
Now a days however, I would sell my soul for a decent current generation jrpg.
Less flash , more flesh.

Godmars2902960d ago

What was missed was opportunity to mature them. Not have cooking min-games for alchemy, but additional play modes to better involve players into the word. Finding a balance between the moe/loli princess or the grizzled harden vet who have to save the world.

Letros2960d ago

Xenogears stands today as my favorite JRPG, I miss the genre, hopefully it will make a strong comeback someday.

DelbertGrady2960d ago

It's that genre we all used to love that hasn't been good or evolved since 1998.

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