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jalexbrown

JRPG Corner #1: Is a JRPG really a JRPG?

By: jalexbrown Nov 9, 2011 | 40 Views | 5 Comments

Jalexbrown discusses the Demon's Souls debate.

JRPG (Adjective) A role-playing game made in Japan

It's a feverish debate.  It's a much-hated debate - by myself included.  It's a pointless debate.  It's an argument of semantics and nothing more.  And if you've adamantly engaged in it, I feel that I can justifyably say that I can't stand you.

It's the debate over rather or not the JRPG is a genre.

Let's look back at one of the earliest JRPGs.  Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in the States) was released on the NES in 1986 (although it would be 1990 before it's US release).  Anyone that played Dragon Quest will remember its random battles and turn-based combat; even if you didn't play it, you'll expect to find such things.  They're iconic.

(Fight, spell, run, item...where have I seen that before?)

That's a JRPG, right?  But would you be surprised to learn that some of the earliest WRPGs also included them?  Wizardry, released in 1981 on the Apple-II and developed by American company Sir-tech, also included random battles and turn-based combat.

(Oh yeah!  That's where.)

Let me reiterate that that's from 1981 - five years before Chunsoft and Enix came out with Dragon Quest.  So Dragon Quest wasn't really so much an innovation as a...copycat.  Yes, I said it; early JRPGs were ripping off gameplay from the early WRPGs.  I love JRPGs, but it's true.

Elder Scrolls: Arena, released in 1994, was part of the first wave of WRPGs to change the paradigm.  There were no random battles, there was no turn-based combat, and the game was much more free-form than previous WRPGs.  And now a distinction was starting to become apparent, because JRPGs were sticking to their roots.  Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III in the States) released on the SNES the same year, and it followed in the ways of its forefathers.

(My how times haven't changed...but surely it will soon.)

(Nope...I guess not.)

Let's fast forward a bit so this doesn't become a boring history lesson, shall we?  How about to 2009, when a little game called Demon's Souls was released.  For the last few years WRPGs had really found their stride with games like Fable, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Fallout 3.  Demon's Souls was developed by From Software, a Japanese developer whose notable past releases included Armored Core and...