Final Fantasy Director's Take On Western Vs Japanese RPGs

How does Final Fantasy XIII director Motomu Toriyama explain the difference between Japanese-designed role-playing games and their western counterparts? By pointing out the divide between classic RPGs like Tomb Raider, Hitman and Final Fantasy.

I know what you're thinking. "Tomb Raider and Hitman aren't western RPGs!" But Toriyama's argument was that western gamers - or, more specifically, players of Eidos games that let players control a singular protagonist - play from their own perspective. Japanese gamers play from the perspective of their character, comfortable playing as a third-party participant with a bird's eye view of the action.

Sure, it makes a strange slide and Toriyama's theory may have some holes in it, but there you go. Square Enix's perspective on the matter.


Comments

    On the surface this seems like a bizarre and completely baseless argument. Is there anything else to it? Did he write a paper on it or something?

    His logic of playing from a protagonist's point of view holds water to some small extent, but he's trying to compare completely different genres and design theories in an apples to apples comparison.

    It seems like he's not comfortable with the criticisms that FFXIII is receiving and that's fine, no one likes something that they've worked incredibly hard on to receive some negative feedback.

    It however, doesn't change the fact that the linear nature of the first section of the game (in my opinion the main complaint of the game) was, in essence, a run forward 10 paces in a straight line to watch a cut scene method of play with a rinse and repeat action.

    Whilst I'm really enjoying FFXII so far, I miss being able to explore my opening surroundings like the earlier iterations and learning about the plot of the game and culture/lore of the areas through exploration:

    FF7 -> The Slums
    FF8 -> Balamb Garden
    FF9 -> Alexandria
    FF10 -> Besaid

    I don't think his argument above cuts it. It feels more like he's avoiding the issues that reviewers and players have been raising by stating it's just a difference between Western and Japanese gaming culture.

    Why doesn't he just go the whole way & compare FFXIII to Doom? I mean the Space Marine is a character role that you play, thus it must be an RPG by his definition right?

    Tomb Raider and Hitman are simply not examples of RPGs. I don't know he could even THINK that arguement holds any water. If you want to back to proper western RPGs you need to look at Dragon Age, KOTOR, Baldurs Gate, the Ultima series, the 'Gold Box' series, Wizardry, the 'Bards Tale' series ... but Tomb Raider and Hitman? Sorry, but Toriyama has either lost the plot or is showing massive ignorance of western games.

      Michael Traun:

      He hasn't lost the plot. It's just that he was in a difficult and rather cynical position that Eidos, Square Enix's western arm, apparently doesn't do any RPGs, and naturally, he doesn't want to promote western competitor RPGs by talking about them.

    So essentially what he's saying is that JRPGs aren't RPGs at all, they're action adventure games with pretty numbers at a level up screen...? I'm happy to agree with that!

      I have long held the beleif that most JRPGs are simply a hybrid of turn based strategy and adventure games. Just because you can pick items and you have levels does not an RPG make.

      This is not to say that JRPGs are not good games.

      I was going to say the same thing. JRPGs = Action/Adventure + Fluff.

    I find it hilarious that they cited two major (though no longer popular) Eidos franchises because:

    1. Square Enix owns Eidos.
    2. It's cross promotion of brands Square Enix basically owns.
    3. Eidos apparently doesn't do any RPGs, and Square Enix is loathe to mention say, competitors' Bioware/EA's Mass Effect or Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series.

      He's basically commenting on the way western games tell a story as opposed to the way the Japs do it.

      And I agree with him, name all the games we have silent heroes in western games and then name the games that are Jap.

    Why doesn't this say what his comparisons were? This article has pretty much no content.

    Seems like most of the comments are a bit off topic by discussing flaws of FF13 when the article was about the differences between Japanese and Western RPGs. It might also help many readers to take note that this article is simply a picture and, seemingly, interpretation. There are no quotes, not even paraphrased ones. The lack of context (or even facts) is disappointing.

    As far as the definition of RPG, it seems "his" definition, as implied by this article, is much closer to the meaning of the words than most of the commenters. You Play the Role of a character in a Game. Levelling up, gaining stats etc does not = role playing, but it seems that the western world has gotten confused.

      Personally I see it the other way around. I do think I understand what you're saying, I just disagree. I think in say Oblivion you play the role of an ex-prisoner in a fantasy world with the chance to save the world. In ME2 you play the role of a space marine given unlimited resources to track down and defeat a threat to humanity.

      In JRPGs you don't so much play a 'role' as you do a 'character.' In western rpg's you see a lot more customization but you still play a distinct 'role' that is not in line with who you are. Being given moral choices just reinforces that as you can play the role of a good guy or a bad guy or inbetween. But if you play an RPG whre you only play the character, with no real first person development or control over their actions, are you really playing a role? Are you really 'playing' anything, or are you more like a third person observer.

      I think the RPG's where you have more control and customization are more true to the idea of a 'role playing game' whereas one where you are forced into a specific character that will only play a certain way as a 'third party participant' as he puts it, is not. Whether you find one or the other more in JRPG's than Western RPG's depends on your experience, I personally don't have that much with JRPGs.

      But would Toriyama have even attempted to make this comparison/justification if it wasn't for the critical responses to Final Fantasy XIII?

    I have a bruise from the facepalm

    I wonder what Toriyama's perspective on Omikron: The Nomad Soul would be then.

    In other words, Toriyama's point is:

    1) Western RPGs have player-proxy protagonists, i.e. "you can play as a version of yourself."
    2) Eastern RPGs have you watching someone else.

    PROBLEMS
    1) Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy 7 is clearly an example of a negative player proxy, i.e. a character designed to remind you that you suck ("you're pretending you are someone else in order to ignore your crippling self-loathing"). Raiden from MGS2 and Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion are pretty much characters that serve the same purpose; you're meant to identify with them and yet you're meant to hate doing it.
    COUNTER-PROBLEM: After years of JRPGs where you played an obvious wish-fulfillment main character, Cloud was actually the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately since it was FF7 that made JRPG's mainstream, people think Cloud was the template when in reality he was a criticism of the template.

    2) Empirical support for his assertion exists. Mass Effect and Oblivion both allow you to customise the hell out of your character and to essentially create a version of you and make your own choices.

    All Toriyama is saying is "Western games place immersion as the primary consideration (i.e. you feel like you're there), Eastern games are more cinematic (i.e. you watch the game as if it were a movie, see Metal Gear Solid)."

    To which I must respond: "tell us something we don't already know."

    Both games provide a fantasy for the audience. The Western style simply is more honest about it; allowing you to be your own character. Japanese games do this indirectly, via an Audience Surrogate character.

    I think he needs to have a word with bioware.

    I wonder what Toriyama’s perspective on a game without a weepy, girlish muppet as a protagonist would be.

    uhhh you mean hes only come to this conclusion now?
    i thought everyone knew the difference.
    western RPGs YOU'RE the character and in JRPG'S you help the character... per'sae

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