Final Fantasy developers split on whether JRPG term is OK or not09/26/2023
The question of whether the term JRPG is ‘discriminatory’ or not rumbles on, with one Final Fantasy creator saying it is and another saying it isn’t.
For most gamers, the term JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) is an ordinary genre name, no different than FPS (first person shooter) or RTS (real-time strategy) but recently questions have been asked as to whether it’s a necessary distinction from Western role-players.
Final Fantasy 16 director Naoki Yoshida (aka Yoshi-P) recently described it as being ‘like a discriminatory term’ and that he felt ‘we were being made fun of for creating these games.’
That’s not something any other Japanese developer has said before, with the term having been in wide use for years, by not just fans but Japanese platform holders such as Nintendo and Sony.
PlatinumGames co-founder Hideki Kamiya (who yesterday announced he is leaving the company) entered the debate by saying he was ‘proud’ of the term, and now two more Square Enix luminaries have offered their opinion.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth creative director Tetsuya Nomura revealed that, ‘I’m not too keen on it.’
‘When we started doing interviews for the games that I started making, no one used that term – they just called them RPGs. And then at some point – I can’t remember exactly when – people started referring to them as JRPGs. And I’m not really sure what the intent behind that is. It just always felt a bit off to me, and a bit weird. I never really understood it – or why it’s needed.’
However, producer Yoshinori Kitase told The Guardian that, ‘Personally, I don’t see it as that derogative.’
‘I think obviously with modern gaming, titles developed in the West are the majority now. So if [JRPG] is only used in terms of differentiating – maybe showing off a slightly different approach to games or a unique flavour in terms of Japanese-made games – I’m absolutely fine with that.’
So far it’s only been Square Enix developers that have criticised the term, which suggests there’s probably been a lot of internal debate over the issue – no doubt brough on by Final Fantasy 16, which not only features more Western style gameplay than usual for the series but in terms of storytelling is heavily influenced by Game Of Thrones.
Even beyond the issue of whether the term is discriminatory, there’s always been two interpretations of what it actually means.
As far as some fans are concerned it’s simply an indication of the game’s country of origin, regardless of the specific gameplay or story details.
Others consider it to be a specific sub-genre, typified by linear storytelling and party-based combat, and that it doesn’t matter who actually made it.
The recent indie game Sea Of Stars, for example, was created by Canadian developers but is a purposeful homage to JRPG classic Chrono Trigger, to the point where it could almost be considered a spiritual sequel.
Ultimately, it’s up to Japanese creators whether they want to discourage the use of the term or not, but at the moment there appears no consensus.
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