Naoki Yoshida, the producer of the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI and shepherd of revitalized MMO Final Fantasy XIV, isn’t the biggest fan of the term JRPG, as it turns out. JRPG is a term that many of us in the West throw around rather flippantly and, as fans, we argue endlessly about exactly what constitutes a true Japanese RPG. It is used as a shorthand to describe a specific style of game design that originated in the country in the late 80s, reached a golden age in the 90s and was instrumental in the success of the PlayStation as a platform.
In an interview with YouTuber Skill Up, who traveled to Japan to speak with the senior development team, Yoshida was asked how JRPGs have advanced compared to action games. According to the interviewer, Yoshida was visibly uncomfortable with the sentence.
Localization director Koji Fox explained that “one thing (Yoshida) wants to get across is that when we make games, we don’t go into them thinking we’re making JRPGs, we’re just making RPGs. The term JRPG is used by Western media rather than users and media in Japan”.
We’re certainly guilty of relying on the term ourselves at times and had never really questioned its use before, just considering it a neutrally descriptive acronym along the lines of MMO.
Yoshida goes on to say (as translated by Fox) that some Japanese developers don’t like the term, explaining that “this is going to depend on who you ask, but there was a time when this term first appeared 15 years ago, and for us as developers when we first heard it, it was like a discriminatory term, like we were being made fun of for making these games, and so for some developers, the term JRPG might be something that would trigger bad feelings because of what it was in the past.”
Yoshida continues that “it was not a compliment to many developers in Japan. We understand that JRPGs have better connotations recently and it is being used as a positive, but we still remember the time when it was used as a negative.”
With Final Fantasy XVI competing against other AAA heavyweights like Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, it seems that some developers don’t want a label that in some cases is used as a pejorative. Yoshida explains that the term has negative connotations, “that it’s turn-based, that it’s anime-like, these teenagers save the world, ‘very JRPG'”.
Considering how ubiquitous the term has become in the industry, it remains to be seen whether its usage will change in the future, but Yoshida has certainly sparked debate with his comments. What do you think of the term JRPG, and can you appreciate Yoshida’s feelings about it? Come up with a decent alternative in the comments section below.