JRPG fans have a lot of nitpicks with the genre’s gameplay mechanics and storytelling techniques. But they’re wrooooong!
I love random encounters!
You’re in a dungeon. You see the door ahead, but there is another corridor branching off to the right, a treasure chest at its end. Do you make for the door? Or do you risk the detour to get your hands on whatever is inside the chest? Random encounters are a source of frustration, but that’s why I like them, in a funny way. They shape the way I approach dungeons. And I love the feeling when you finally make it to a savepoint with low HP, when every single step could have triggered a fatal random encounter! But I made it! Yay!
I love silent protagonists!
Hmm, OK, love may be a strong word. But they don’t bother me, and I may even enjoy projecting myself onto a silent empty avatar! I can easily suspend my disbelief when it comes to silent protagonists. They are not meant to be mute, they are meant to be a stand-in for me.
I love savepoints!
I don’t want to be able to save anywhere! Of course savepoints raise the difficulty a little bit. If you die before you reach the next savepoint, you lose progress. But look at it this way: Savepoints also stop you from wandering into a boss fight unprepared! When you come across a savepoint, you know you’ve almost made it. Now save your game, refill your HP and MP, because there’s a boss battle ahead!
I love round-based battles!
Are round-based battles slower than real-time battles? Yes, but that’s a feature, not a bug. Does everything have to be fast fast fast? No! The thing I appreciate about round-based battles is that they leave you all the time in the world to decide your next move. There’s no pressure to be as quick as possible, and you can even make tea while rethinking your tactics.
I love levelling up!
It’s strange that many players don’t like “grinding” in JRPGs. I always enjoyed that when I was having trouble with a boss, I could simply level up a bit. The stats boost, maybe a new ability or two, would often make the difference. And in the meantime, I could run around the world map, try out new abilities in battles, maybe do some sidequest or just kind of lose myself in the soothing rhythm of fighting, fighting …
I love that the games are long!
Strange but true : A lot of people are upset when a game takes over 50 hours to beat. They don’t have time for this, they say, they’re adults now and work a job from 9 to 5. Me too, but I still enjoy getting immersed in a long game that will keep me entertained for weeks, if not months. JRPGs usually tell epic stories and feature many characters with their own goals; you can’t fit that kind of experience into ten gameplay hours. Even if you could … I relate more strongly to stories that have taken up more than one afternoon of my life!
(BTW, short games get criticized for not being worth the full price. This is one aspect where videogame producers just can’t win.)
I love when there are things you can miss on your first playthrough!
Of course, if someone doesn’t have time to play long games, they sure don’t have time to play any game a second time. But they do want a 100% playthrough!!! And get really mad if they discover that they missed some hidden secret item, simply because it was hidden, as a cool bonus for extremely dedicated players. I try not to be perfectionist when I play a game for the first time. The end result may not be a perfect savegame, but it will be mine, reflecting, at least a little bit, my own preferences and my own fuck-ups. It’s relaxing not to worry about maybe missing something. And it means that when I replay the game a while later, it won’t be a simple repeat. There will be things left to accomplish!
I love the colourful, stylized graphics!
Not everything has to look realistic, be kept in greyish greens and star a 30-something protagonist with dark hair and stubble!! I want distinct graphics styles, unusual character designs, and I don’t care if it doesn’t look “grown-up”. If I want realistic, grown-up stuff, I can simply go outside …