I’ve been wanting to know how the perceived differences between JRPGs and Western RPGs effect the player experience, it’s actually the main area of my study in this subject. However I am in an awkward position where I already have a large amount of interaction with these games. I have been playing some new games in the genre, but I feel that I already have a grasp on what I expect from both.
Cue a non-gamer. I managed to find a subject who has almost never played games. She has played Fruit Ninja and that’s about it. It was the perfect clean slate. So we sat down and talked while she went about playing some RPGs.
To say that she ragequit the first game would be completely accurate. She is an artist by trade, as well as a feminist, and took issue with almost every aspect of character design with the game. From the scantily cladness of the girls to the wishy washy characterisation in light of what could be an engaging story, it just wasn’t what she wanted. She also felt this was amplified by the fact that for the first section of the game, she was just given narrative and exposition with very little interaction. She just got bored.
This is contrasted to the Western RPG she played, which she was enjoying. The lack of pre-set story dependent on the main character being established let her create the character she wanted to play as which she said was one of the best things about it. The action started quickly with little skirmishes, and the simpler battle screens was easier on her for being a new player.
Speaking from my own reflection on the comments made, I feel that the main consideration of the differences come from a paradigm shift in aims for a game. A JRPG, as we’ve known all along is about the exposition of a story where you ride the wave of the story. Meanwhile a western RPG will focus on creating a richer experience, much more focus on exploratory storytelling and interaction. Neither is better by a concrete definition, it’s just different. I am loathe to make such a clear distinction but in the lead up to my final posts I think finally building a definition of the typical qualities is important for my later analysis.