When I hear an average video gamer talk about Japanese RPGs and sometimes Japanese games in general, they tend to criticize them as being very similar and lack innovation. For some titles, this is true; and for others they couldn’t be more wrong! My question is this…Why are so many video game reviewers not willing to draw that line? There really are some titles that bring originality to the area, but some reviewers write them off as just your typical RPG. Where did this hate for games outside of the US fester? I have my opinions, and I hope you will share yours.
Back in the nineties, around the time when the Sony PlayStation was making headlines as a true 3D – gaming system while Nintendo was having marginal success. Two games came out that would be considered the greatest games of all time by advocates throughout the world. There are a number of reasons why gamers look at these titles with such admiration.
I liked both games for different reasons. Final Fantasy VII, in my opinion, was one of the first games that wasn’t made with the intent of entertaining children, the story was robust, and the exploration qualities of the game seemed, for the most part, to be endless for the era, in addition, the game play mechanics and stunning visuals made the game a success for new and veteran players alike. These two games sparked a genre that is now known as JRPGs or Japanese Role Playing Games. Sure they existed before 1997, but their presence in the US was nowhere near as relevant.
Multitudes of games came pouring in from Japan some good, some bad, at the time it didn’t matter. Everyone wanted and expected another final fantasy title when they went to the store and picked up a game. Reviewers had to sit down and play every game that they came across in order to give their readers an honest opinion of what was new in the market. I imagine that years of playing sub-par RPGs made them develop a Bias, whether they intended to or not. Some reporters even went as far as describing Japanese RPG players in the USA as anti-social “fan-boys” who do nothing but sit in their mother’s garage eat junk food and stare at their TV for hours on end. A lot of RPG fans would disagree with this assumption.
Back to the point, I believe because of the biases that were formed, every RPG, good or bad will be first considered awful until proven otherwise. The cynical undertone of reviewers who gave some RPGs great marks are proof of this. So how do we fix the problem? The answer is easy. Stop treating this genre with the built in stigma that has been rampant in recent years, in other words, when reviewing JRPGs, look at them as you would a game made by EA or BioWare. Instead of loathing the fact that you have to play the game, go in thinking this might be a new and fun experience. Titles like the Tales series by Namco Bandai and Dragon Quest by Square-Enix were good titles that slipped under the radar for a long time because reviewers didn’t find them ground breaking.
Fortunately, things are getting better, but I still feel it will be a while before RPG games and the people who play them get the respect other players enjoy.