Are Western and Japanese RPGs so Different? | Design Icons



There’s only one genre that we divide down strict geographical lines: the RPG. But western RPGs (like Fallout and Skyrim) and Japanese RPGs (like Persona and Pokemon) actually have way more in common than you might first realise.

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Sources

[1] Dungeons & Dragons Single Volume Edition | D&D Rulebook

[2] Interview with the creators of dnd (PLATO) | RPG Fanatic

[3] The Crowther and Woods Colossal Cave Adventure game | Rick Adams

[4] Going Rogue with Glenn Wichman | The Spelunky Showlike

[5] Comment on Sir-tech Canada Releases Wizardry 8 | Slashdot

[6] How the Ultima Trilogy Took a Genre from Tabletop to Hi-Tech | USgamer

[7] Interview with Michael Cranford, creator of Bard’s Tale | Lemon 64

[8] Retrospective Interview: Jon Van Caneghem on Might and Magic | RPG Codex

[9] Retro Gamer 34 | Archived at Mod DB

[10] Arena – Behind the Scenes | Elder Scrolls

[11] to [34] – Please see pinned comment for full sources…

Find out more

CRPG Addict | Blogspot

In The Time Of PLATO | Illinois Alumni

The Apple II Abroad / Clones | Apple II History

Translation of a Japanese interview with Robert Woodhead | RPG Codex

How Wizardry Cast Story Aside in Favor of Casting Spells | USgamer

The forgotten origins of JRPGs on the PC | PC Gamer

1982-1987 – The Birth of Japanese RPGs, re-told in 15 Games | Gamasutra

Enix Origins: The Story Behind Dragon Quest | Medium

25 Years Of Dragon Quest: An Interview With Yuji Horii | Gamasutra

Dragon Quest – 30th Anniversary NHK Special | Shmuplations on YouTube

Credits

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Fastfall by Lifeformed used under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license
Other Music by Lee Rosevere (
Further credits –

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Comments

  • Hey! The sources list was way too long for YouTube's tiny descriptions, so it carries on in this comment.

    [11] A former mentor recalls the early career of Satoru Iwata | Gamasutra
    https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/254169/A_former_mentor_recalls_the_early_career_of_Satoru_Iwata.php

    [12] Computer Gaming World September 1985 | Archived at CGW Museum
    http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_5.4.pdf

    [13] Yoshio Kiya – 1987 Developer Interview | Shmuplations
    http://shmuplations.com/yoshiokiya/

    [14] Zelda no Video History of Zelda Documentary | YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVMCaflcwSI

    [15] The Possibilities of Adventure Games | Shmuplations
    http://shmuplations.com/adventuregames/

    [16] The Four Video Games That Shaped Metal Gear Creator Hideo Kojima | Kotaku
    https://kotaku.com/the-four-video-games-that-shaped-metal-gear-creator-hid-5847114

    [17] Yuji Horii Talks About Making Dragon Quest XI And The Origins Behind The Series | Forbes
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2018/03/28/yuji-horii-talks-about-making-dragon-quest-xi-and-the-origins-behind-the-series/

    [18] Koichi Nakamura Interview: On the Birth of the Console RPG | 1UP
    https://www.webcitation.org/6O7eoBomV?url=http://www.1up.com/features/koichi-nakamura-interview-console-rpg

    [19] I am Error | The MIT Press
    https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/i-am-error

    [20] How Dragon Quest's Creator Invented JRPGs: An Hour With Yuji Horii | IGN
    https://www.ign.com/articles/2018/08/29/how-dragon-quests-creator-invented-jrpgs-an-hour-with-yuji-horii

    [21] Dragon Quest Creator Sheds Light On The Inspiration For The Slime | MTV Multiplayer
    http://web.archive.org/web/20100712234824/http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2010/07/09/dragon-quest-creator-sheds-light-on-the-creation-of-the-slime/

    [22] The Dragon Invasion | Medium
    https://medium.com/the-magazine/the-dragon-invasion-96a785fb4a7b

    [23] How Dragon Quest Spawned an Urban Myth | IGN on YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xykoyUH2HJo

    [24] Sakaguchi discusses the development of Final Fantasy | Develop
    http://web.archive.org/web/20130310043644/http://www.develop-online.net/news/28960/Sakaguchi-discusses-the-development-of-Final-Fantasy

    [25] Yuji Naja Talks the Beginning of Phantasy Star | Japanese Nintendo
    https://japanesenintendo.com/2017/05/05/yuji-naka-talks-the-beginning-of-phantasy-star/

    [26] Interview with Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE | 4Gamer Net
    https://www.4gamer.net/games/017/G001723/20091017002/

    [27] Akitoshi Kawazu on the origins of SaGa's insanity | Retronauts
    https://web.archive.org/web/20190819184025/http://retronauts.com/article/670/akitoshi-kawazu-on-the-reasoning-behind-sagas-insanity

    [28] Edge Issue 301 | Reported at Nintendo Everything
    https://nintendoeverything.com/square-enix-on-why-dragon-quest-hasnt-been-as-popular-as-final-fantasy-in-the-west-keeping-the-series-fresh/

    [29] Shigesato Ito visits Arino Kacho's Challenge Room | 1101
    https://www.1101.com/gccxmother/en/

    [30] Dungeons & Dragons in Japan | TSR Archive
    https://www.tsrarchive.com/in/jp/jp.html

    [31] Akitoshi Kawazu on the origins of SaGa's insanity | Retronauts
    https://web.archive.org/web/20190819184025/http://retronauts.com/article/670/akitoshi-kawazu-on-the-reasoning-behind-sagas-insanity

    [32] Xevious – Developer Interview Collection | Shmuplations
    http://shmuplations.com/xevious/

    [33] Koichi Nakamura Interview: On the Birth of the Console RPG | 1UP
    https://www.webcitation.org/6O7eoBomV?url=http://www.1up.com/features/koichi-nakamura-interview-console-rpg

    [34] Sir-Tech – Wizardry Interview | RPG Codex
    https://rpgcodex.net/forums/threads/translation-of-a-japanese-interview-with-robert-woodhead.109768/

    Game Maker's Toolkit July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Now this is one history class that I would not sleep in.

    Hasan Fahmi July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • I think the biggest misunderstanding is that jrpgs and wrpgs are two completely different genres and this sort of need to compare them is only really brought up because of the RPG in their names, as though most games aren't some form of role playing anyway.

    TheInevitableHulk July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • When I was a kid, I still thought of Myst and Link to the Past both as RPGs, one a text based, point and click RPG and the other an action, adventure game RPG. It seems like around that time, there became as push for more distinction and linearity among genres, at least from fans

    Boco Corwin July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • While there are Japanese games I enjoy, most of them are not RPGs, like the Armored Core franchise. I find that I often prefer western RPGs over Japanese ones, for a handful of reasons. The primary one being of character customization.
    Most western RPGs, like Balder's Gate, Fallout, Diablo, Star Wars: KOTOR, Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, all give the players a more in depth character creation option than Japanese ones. Not only upon starting the game, but within the game as well. I can choose where I want to put my stats, choose my character's skills and spells – essentially custom tailor my characters. I have found most Japanese RPGs do not provide the player with much, if any, sort of worthwhile customization at all. Weapons and armor are often linearly get better, and your stat improvements are done for you. Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger to name three that I'm more personally aware of. Dragon's Dogma is an exception, and is in some ways better than western games. But your character's stats still improve automatically (albeit based on your vocation) rather than of your own personal choosing.
    If I don't get to design my character, I feel like I'm playing an adventure game instead of an RPG.

    BlackMage July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • in all fairness euro RPGs don't quite feel like american either, do they? especially these days, i mean divinity original sin has quite the depth to it you can hardly find in any american RPG these days, and even has quite some depth on characters.
    USA can do arpgs pretty damn well, and focus on the action part to the point of games getting a bit arcadey, they mostly stopped doing the slower ones that are still fir for the japanese and euro market
    yeah, japanese is very story driven and revolves around characters a lot more, but the gameplay complexity and depth you see in tabletop, may be the most closely matched by eurojank right now.
    back in the day, europeans would always be the guys making the craziest tech demos, pretty much all show, but their tactical games were usually tame in the graphics department throught budget constraints and focused on gameplay depth a ton, tons of tactical games that aren't RPGs in a character building sense, but shared tons of elements with your turn-based RPG combat nonetheless, a lot of them themed around ww2, the tactical genre and even RTS have always been huge here. but it was always more unit-based rather than singular lead characters, but a quite a few of them were a league above the rest in contrast to all the platformer knock-offs that couldn't really compete with the efforts of consoles, point and clikc adventures and tactical games were where macines like the amiga were at.
    i feel liek japanese players tend prefer a well-though out realized pre-made with strong chaacter building (Story-wise) world over a procedural one though, the story and therefor the quality and pacing of the adventure part seems a bit more important there.
    phantasy star on master system was sick AF though, it may be a masterpiece by sheer lack of competition on the console on the genre at the time in the west (to be trampled by a million and one snes jrpgs 5 years later, most of which didn't even release in the west)
    for clarification: we didn't get FF until 7 on the ps1 here in europe, there was barely competition on 16-bit consoles in terms of RPG games, let alone 8-nit, all the hot shit was on home computers before 1993-1994 orso, your best chances on playing japanese stuff was owning an MSX 😛

    Alexander Rewijk July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • One thing I'd have liked if you mentioned was other pen and paper RPGs, especially the Japanese ones. D&D was not the only of its kind to influence computer RPGs. Fallout was to be a GURPS computer game in the beginning.

    Cris Oliveira July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • I noticed that they gave some credit to Tolkein's works on LOTR and Middle Earth for D&D, but the one import ingredient that I feel that is missing is that there is no credit given to Geoffrey Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales!

    skilz8098 July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaait! No, no, no! You cannot say Zelda is an RPG on the Internet and expect to live. Zelda is not even remotely an RPG. According to the Internet, Zelda is just a mere adventure game. It can't possibly be an RPG, it doesn't have NUMBERS! We all know the only requirement for a game to be considered an RPG is to have NUMBERS, so you can see your character going from number 1 to number 99. That's the only thing that matters in an RPG: NUMBERS! We do not care if Link grows as a character and gets stronger, we do not care if Zelda is more open world and has more freedom than other JRPGs, we do not care if the world of the game has dungeons, towns, and NPCs that are identical to other RPGs, we do not care if the game has quests like any other JRPGs, we do not care if the way you progress in Zelda games is identical to how you do progress in other RPGs, we do not care that the world setting and the plot is typical RPG style, we do not care pretty much all Action JRPGs not nowadays have been influenced by Zelda, with many of them being called "Zelda-like JRPGs"… No, no, no, no! If it doesn't have NUMBERS, it is not an RPG.

    gundamzerostrike July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Thanks

    Mr Mark July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • The amount of research and careful editing that went into this video is just breathtaking. Your content is so thoughtful and well rendered, from the strong script, to the great narration, to the sound-effects, to the visuals and editing that tie up the whole thing!! 🙂 great work, Mark–your essays are always a good use of my time

    Bree July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • It’s still strange to me that Resident Evil only exists because of d&d

    Danny the Dan Man July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • How do games like Final Fantasy Tactics (all of them) and Fire Emblem fit into this web? They remind me a lot of the cRPG genre mixed with more obvious inspiration to the war games like Warhammer and the like.

    Terwin94 July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • I have always thought of JRPGs as having a turn based system like Pokemon and Final Fantasy and western RPGs as having real time combat, though there are some exceptions.

    Sad Stormtrooper July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • There are distinctive differences in most every genre some more eastern style and some more western.. Yet post millennium it seems as tho they only want to do this with RPGs.. Ive read it was devised to make the ones that come from Japan seem more niche.. I mean JRPG is such an annoying and monumentally overused term used to describe virtually anything and everything.. Whoever coined it I hope you die!!!!

    That said, it shouldn’t be a crime to use the word “American” if we are going the national route being that’s where RPGs originated from..

    Michael Guerra July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • It's funny because now I feel like I'm looking for a JRPG when I want something more challenging, and a Western RPG when I want something less technical. As far as the big studio games go, at least.
    This was really informative. Appreciate your work, and keep doing what you do man.

    ZachPlaysWhatHeWants July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • I had the TRS-80 growing up, and I still have to get my Dungeons of Daggorath fix every few years. That game had the same wireframe look as a lot of the others, but also had a unique system in which you constantly regenerated HP, but you never actually got to see what your HP was, because it was indicated by a heart beating. The faster the heartbeat, the closer you were to death. But if you just stood still and waited, it would slow down again. Further complicating matters was the fact that almost everything you did would cause a tiny bit of "exhaustion damage" to you, like walking or swinging a weapon, and heavier weapons caused more damage. If you swung a weapon too many times in a row, you could make yourself faint, and your vision would slowly die out, then slowly come back as you woke up again, possibly with a monster in front of you. Casting spells caused a huge amount of damage, so you would have to run away and rest to recover after doing it. It did also have an invisible experience system, so that you got stronger as you progressed along. It was so ahead of its time.
    I also remember playing a game that was straight up called "Dungeons And Dragons" on a computer called the Aquarius. Everything in that game (shields, weapons, monsters) showed up in colors of increasing power (Red < Yellow < Purple < White). The way Persona 5 Royal handled boosts from Baton Pass by changing the numbers to red and then yellow reminded me of it so much. I actually literally wonder how many people in the world even made that connection between these two specific games, 'cause if I had to bet, it's probably less than 100. Not exactly a lot of 40+'ers out there playing P5R I would imagine.

    NintendoCapriSun July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Loved this one as I'm really into D & D right now. I think growing up I preferred the simplicity of a JRPG but as I'm older I prefer the options afforded to Western RPGs. The complexity of their union though is awesome

    CaliforniaHP July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • It's crazy to think that isekai light novels (and their adaptations) are so popular in Japan because 46 years ago some guy from the US created D&D.

    FDN July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Great content, but slide-rolling animation is somewhat nauseating.

    mechmind July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • The way I see it, the main difference between Western RPGs and JRPGs lies in the word "Role"
    In the west, the "role" is one the player projects into the game, through the way they choose to play
    In JRPGs however, the "role" is one the game projects onto the player- the story and characters are mostly determined from the start, and you are usually just along for the ride
    Both cases have the player playing a "role", but the way that role is played is the exact opposite for each.

    Kneeckoh July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Surprised that you didn't try to draw a philogenetic tree of the RPG genres.

    Raphael July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Did D&D invent stats?

    FDN July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Appreciated you mentioning 'Tower of Druaga'; can be found on the Namco Museum Nintendo DS collection.

    Dwarf July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • That was really profound.

    Илья Юн July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • If I'm not mistaking, the 20 sided dice appeared in the ver. 3 of D&D.. So not in those days

    Jean-Emilien July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • I've been following your channel for almost a year now as I'm making a simple rpg maker game. As basic as it is these continue to inspire me to not make it as half-assed as possible. This video really hits home. Thank you

    Rayhaku808 July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • I blame Isekai.

    Anon archist July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • I think that Julian Galop said that first protype of XCOM was something like JRPG and from that they developed core gameplay of XCOM.

    Marko Olčar July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Wish more people would check out the Dragon Quest series

    Gamer Weekly July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Why is the ball moving like that in the Pong-looking footage at the beginning of the video? How should I continue to watch with that in the back of my head?

    LRGonzales July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • It is is nice that this tells me some about the names I have seen for years but knew nothing about them

    Gabriel M Dagá July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Not often I just sit, jaw on the floor at the end of a video. This was fantastic.

    Jefferson Derrickson July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • WRPGs are making a big comeback. Though I find it hard to compete with the mass appeal JRPGs have constructed for themselves.

    Argus July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • 5:57 romaji transliteration doesn't use soft Gs, ever. It would have been written mujen if so, which would never happen regardless because the je syllable does not occur natively in any japanese words.

    ThunderSky July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • WRPGs are where YOU play the role. JRPGs are where you play the ROLE

    Coy Raig July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Personally i prefer JRPG's because they seem more character and story based which is what i prefer from games, where as WRPG's seem to base more on player freedom and choice, which i'm fine with but not huge on. Although things like Deus Ex and Mass Effect i do love.

    Rejected Gamer Sam (personal account) July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • Persona 1,2,Q,Q2 and seires Shin Megami Tensei still have the dungeon crawling with 3D halls and walls like Wizardry until this day. <3

    Koyama Shinrin July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply
  • It’s pet not p.e.t.

    SqualidsargeStudios July 10, 2020 12:30 am Reply

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