So I recently convinced some friends of mine to try Japanese role-playing games (JRPG). Let me tell you, it was no easy task. It took a comparison of games they played in the past, and a pleasing price range to get them to consent. But even after the hassle they still treaded carefully and they have every right to do so. For those who don't know what a JRPG is - it is a role-playing game developed in Japan (DUH!) - But what really makes a JRPG a JRPG is the formula it follows. All JRPGs follow a turn-base type formula; a system in which the player and enemy take turns attacking each other, or a Active Time Battle technique; a system similar to the turn base system but enemies can attack despite it being your turn (dicks). JRPGs are a foreign genre that has a distinct language of its own, like most games do. Except JRPGs are not as hospitable as other games. It can be down right intimidating. A poor soul may hear about Final Fantasy being a good RPG and expect it to play like The Elder Scroll Series. So in the wake of their adventure I thought I would write a mini-survival guide to JRPGs, covering things you should expect and things you should do.
1.) RANDOM ENCOUNTERS, ENEMIES ARE EVERYWHERE!
Trust me when I say every step. Will. Be. Obstructed.
Random encounters are big part of JRPGs, and they happen everywhere sometimes in towns. Random encounters are battles that take place randomly as you are venturing through the world. They can be down right annoying when all you want to do is progress through the story. As a result, you try to think of the best possible route that will result in fewer steps and fewer encounters. They seem to happen more when you don't want them to happen, like rushing to a nearby town to revive a fallen teammate. JRPGs have gotten a little better at handling random encounters in this modern age (think PS2 to PS3). Games like Persona 4 display the enemies on screen dragging about. This can allow players to avoid battles or get a sneak attack on the enemy, unless you decide to play an old school JRPG.
My only advice about random encounters, if you are playing an old school JRPG (think NES-PlayStation era), is get use to them. They will always happen and there is no solution to avoid them. I would avoid trying to run from battle, running may hurt your party more than fighting. A failed get away is just a wasted turn that could have been used to attack. Just fight your way out you could use the experience.
2.) Talk To Everyone
JRPGs don't give you a waypoint to follow or tell you what to do next straightforward. They require you to go around town and talk to people. Even then the townspeople throw vague hints on what you should do next. Honestly, talking to the townspeople and decoding the hints add to the experience of embarking on an adventure, when all you have to go on is a town that has a dock Northeast from your location. Talking to people not only gives you hints on where to go but also gives you free items. We all love free stuff. So when you walk into a new town take the time to meet new people. However, figure out if the town is friendly or not before mindlessly going up to people. I will never forget walking in a new town in Final Fantasy 2, and talking to a guard only to enter a battle I could not win. Don't worry the people in the town before it will let you know if the next town is friendly or not.
3.) Spend Money Wisely
I always had an issue with saving money. Even as a college student, I would see something and just buy it without thinking how it would hinder me financially. After spending some time playing old school JRPGs, I have gotten better at spending money. At the start of a JRPG you will be given a certain amount of allowance. It won't be a lot but it will be enough to buy essentials, which should be weapons and armor (if not given to you) along with potions and antidotes. As you push your way through your journey you will gain money from killing enemies. It sounds a bit easy so far, but the truth is you will encounter moments in your journey where you will debate to spend 300 on a new weapon when all you have is 310. If you ever find yourself in such a moment here are things you should ask yourself.
Do I enough potions and antidotes?
If things do go south will I be able to get enough money to rest at an inn?
What will happen if one of my teammate dies in battle? Do I have enough to revive him?
But the main question you should ask yourself is, "do I really need it?" If the battles are too much for you to handle at the time then yes, you should buy it. Don't think I'm telling you not to buy new weapons and armor, because you will need it as you journey through the unknown. But think about how much it's benefiting you and if it's really worth it. Chances are you will enter a new town with better weapons and better armor than the town you are currently in. In my opinion, you should stock up on potions or at least leave enough cash to sleep at an inn to fully heal. If you really want that shiny new sword there is another option.
4.) Grind, Grind, Grind, Grind
You've probably heard that grinding is a big part of JRPGs, you heard correctly. Grinding is a process that requires you to kill enemies over and over again to level up, or get enough cash to buy that new sword you want so badly. This may turn some people off to the genre, but it isn't as bad as you think. My advice to you is to grind close to town, and keep doing it until the enemies feel easy enough to venture through. You should also grind as long as it takes to upgrade your weapons, armor, and magic. As you go through the game you will encounter tougher and larger enemies that will require you to adjust. Just repeat the process. You may find this repetitive but you'll learn a great deal about your enemies, and hone-in on strategies that effectively disposes of them with minimum collateral damage to your team. Most JRPGs are quite friendly and forgiving at the start of the game pitting you against weak enemies, but then the game's difficulty spike will rise out of the blue.
5.) SAVE! SAVE! SAVE!
I cannot stress this action enough. JRPGs do not provide you with checkpoints to return to after death. It is up to you, as the player, to constantly save and be prepared to face anything that is thrown at you. When should you save? Save before leaving town. Save before entering a new town. Save before entering a new dungeon. Save before entering a new room. Save before talking to a person who looks important. Save after leveling up. Trust me just save. You don't know frustration, until you leveled up five levels only to get your whole team stoned by a bunch of birds, and realizing you didn't save between any of the levels. Some JRPGs are friendly with its save option, allowing you to save anywhere in the game. Others will only let save at a certain location, have no fear, most of them offer a temporary save file meaning you could have a checkpoint until you decide to shut down the console. Take advantage of this.
6.) Be Brave
Look, you've already made the bold decision to pick-up a JRPG. A genre that may be completely unknown to you, intimidating, and depending on the game may take 60+ hours to complete. Playing a JRPG is a commitment, like entering a long-term relationship. It can be scary. But don't let that scare you from exploring the world or straying off the path that is set for you. Trust yourself but also trust the game. JRPGs are not impossible to beat, and the developers want you to see everything there is to see in the game.
Certain things I've listed can apply to other genres of games. The truth is, picking up a new genre that is out of your usual norm is a big leap of faith. But if you are interested in JRPGs, or have one lying around and never picked it up, consider this a small item in your inventory at the start of your quest. There is a lot more to learn in JRPGs, but I don't want to kill the joy of letting you learn those foundations on your own. So pack your bags and equip your best armor, because you are about to embark on a new adventure.