The Little Things That Make JRPGs So Great

There's a part at the beginning of Final Fantasy IX — a game that was once underrated, then overrated, and now feels properly rated as "totally awesome" by most RPG fans on the web — where you have to pretend to fight with swords.

You, as the roguish, tailed hero Zidane, are putting on a play for the heinous Queen Brahne and her entourage of rowdy nobles. The play is called 'I Want To Be Your Canary,' and part of it requires you to mock-swordfight against your troupe buddy, Blank. To do this, you have to quickly press buttons as they appear on the screen. If you perform well, and quickly, the nobles will throw money at you, and you'll win a prize.

This is a little mini-game that we never see again in Final Fantasy IX, and it's also an example of something that has characterised the Final Fantasy series (and many great JRPGs) over the years: little moments that matter.

See, when we play JRPGs, we spend a lot of time thinking about their major features: how the combat works; what the characters want to accomplish; where to find the best equipment. But really, I think it's the little things that make JRPGs great: those scenes that break up the monotony with something unexpected, like a performance at an opera house, or a slap fight on the barrel of a cannon, or a spontaneous play-sword-fighting mini-game.

I've been replaying FFIX, recently, and it's roughly as awesome as it was a decade ago (though I could do without the ridiculous load times). More on that in the near future. I've been getting the urge to write a multi-thousand-word treatise about the game. Stay tuned.

But one big thing I've noticed, that I'd like to share with you on Random Encounters today, is that Final Fantasy IX is totally unafraid to throw you into totally ridiculous situations, like one in which you, as the misguided knight Steiner, have to alternate the left and right directional buttons in order to rock back and forth in a giant hanging cage so you can swing it into a wall and escape. I think that the most successful JRPGs are the ones unafraid to be silly — unafraid to embrace the little things.

Let's move the conversation to the comments. What are some of your favourite little moments in JRPGs? What are some JRPG cenes that made a game special for you?

Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.

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    wish you had not used FFVII materia as the image for an article on the little things of FF IX

      I think it is a visual metaphor for "something small that matters a whole lot"

      I agree with the article though, FF9 was one of my favourite in the series because it got so many things right with the gameplay. You never felt totally omnipotent as a team so when it tried to impart some form of peril on your party, you would believe you actually were in danger. The mini games were a nice aside from the daily grind, mog mail, hot and cold, sword fighting, cards (though not as good as 8) all had a place in the game without feeling shoehorned in. The quest was well paced and you felt like you had achieved something whenever you got to key locations in the quest and had made progress.

      I know, wisp, tell me about it! The bell cannot be un-rung. Pandora's box has been opened. Kotaku is surely doomed now that Jason has done the UNTHINKABLE and used a picture of materia in a column that is about the little things in JRPGs in general, but uses the example of FFIX. That's it. I'm done. With the world on the brink of ruin, I'm selling everything I own and moving into the woods to live out the end of the world as a hermit. God help us. God help us all.


      Final Fantasy IX.

      In the words of the great Victor Hugo, "When God desires to destroy a thing, he entrusts its destruction to the thing itself. Every bad institution of this world ends by suicide."

        You don't heff to be met is only game

        Last edited 29/04/13 12:44 pm

    He forgot to mention that it's a genre where artist can freely draw what ever their imagination wants without being restricted, scrutinised and labeled homophobic.

    Oh wait...

      I didn't realise Kuja was a dude for most of FFIX. O.o

    The casino in Final Fantasy VII

    I'm still waiting for an RPG to impress me more than that one. I shudder to think how many hours I spent on the basketball game.

      *looks at the motorcycle game machine* *blows a kiss at it*

    The Iron Chef-like battles in Suikoden 2.
    I got more pleasure in finding a recipe than any other loot.

    TRIPLE TRIAD! - Final Fantasy VIII

      Nothing quite like breaking out of prison but stopping on the way down to play a game of Triple Triad with Two-Shiv Jim in Cell Block B. :P

    The courtroom trial scene in Chrono Trigger, when the old man came up as a witness saying that I stole his lunch (which I of course did). then the scene re-enacting itself where i walk up, look around, and take the lunch. fucking comedic genius.

    What I like about JRPG's in general? It's the freshness of their stories. I'm not smart enough to break it down the differences between western stories, but it's just seems different.

    Final Fantasy 8 - Laguna using a gun blade against a Dragon, in which he originally thinks is a dude in a costume. That's a great moment.

    Interesting conversation on Jasons Twitter feed about the recent art controversy. This guy likes to share a laugh with people who call gamers closet nerds whos opinions are sexist because they are too stupid to understand 21st century thinking.... And the best part? One of the people in the conversation is Patricia Hernandez!

    Play nice to us here all you want, but ill never take any of your articles seriously again.

      They actually talk to us on here, or something? Just curious.

      My opinion on Jason cannot get any lower, anyway.

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