What Makes Japanese RPGs Stand Out From the Others?

  • Japan has lots of things that make the world get hyped, and Japanese video games or Japanese RPG (JRPG) are a part of that hype. Still, there are many people in the West who prefer JRPGs, and there are Japanese people who prefer Western RPGs.

    So what’s the differences between games like Final Fantasy, Call of Duty, or Super Mario?
    Besides the difficulty in translating the languages, it’s all about the cultural differences!


    Titles such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (COD) or Fall Out 4, and others American games all share a theme related to violence, urban crime, and action (particularly shooting, fighting, etc.). I’m not saying Western culture is mostly violent, rather the focus is on the reality and brutality of the games. Since many Western countries highly respect the value of individual strength and there is often news about recent real-life urban crimes and wars, somehow what is going on inside the games seems more realistic than ever.

    While Japanese games are divided into 2 categories: global successes such as the Super Mario, Sonic, Biohazard and Pokemon franchises; and games specifically designed for typical core gamers, Japanese games in general focus on creating the characters around well-known idols or people in multiple media platforms. Moreover, JRPGs mostly follow fantasy-style, with dramatic spectacles, or family-friendly use, such as the game made for Wii and Wii U of Nintendo: Wii Fit, Wii Sports, Wii Party and more.

    Whenever speaking of JRPGs, we cannot forget the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The NES was the first video game home console to find success after the Video Game Market Crash of 1983, with their games that are well-known for unrealistic narratives and family-friendly gameplay. Recently, the outstanding upgrades such as 3DS, Wii U, and others allowed for worldwide successes such as Splatoon, Zelda, the Monster Hunter franchise and Mario franchise.

    Character Design

    The Japanese tend to prefer games that focus on the storyline which is led by young, attractive protagonists with incredibly unique senses of style and appearances. Western RPGs tend to be designed with older protagonists who have a strong will as well as being physically strong individuals and focus more on gameplay and combat.

    Characters in JRPGs also often shown up with detailed costumes, are considered more “cute”, unrealistic and “colorful” than Western RPGs, where characters are illustrated as dark, gritty, and sometimes too realistic. Speaking of realism, sometimes it seems JRPG characters often have more massive gear and weapons than Western RPGs characters…is that a bit unfair?

    Narratives and Development

    In JRPGs, the narratives often value teamwork and perseverance while providing a wide range of cultural themes and symbols, just perfectly matching Japanese culture and Japanese characteristics. The design and appearance of the games are also often bright and colorful. One exception is some recent “hunting games”, where the atmosphere seems darker, but still considered smooth and bright.

    In Western RPGs, many narratives emphasize freedom of choice and individuality by allowing players to fashion their own protagonists. Additionally, in combat, there are extremely brutal and bloody fighting scenes, which are spotted less often in JRPGs.

    Bonus: Upcoming JRPGs to Look Forward To!

    Not to intentionally leave out the popular Western game titles for the moment, but here are some upcoming JRPGs that you should definitely check out!

    The Legends of Zelda Wii U: Twilight Princess Trailer

    Final Fantasy XV Trailer

    Star Ocean 5 Trailer

    Fire Emblem Fates Trailer

    What are your thoughts on Western and Japanese RPGs? Which do you prefer and what are some differences you have noticed?

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    Buying Cool Japanese Video Games Just Became Easier!

    *Featured image: photo-ac.com