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JRPG vs WRPG: The ultimate (turn based) battle!

This weekend I played Xenoblade Chronicles 2 very hard. In fact ... I finished it! And I finished it because I am looking at the fantastic Fire Emblem Three Houses. Yes ... I am a fan of the JRPGs. But not everyone, just the really good ones.

My passion for the JRPGs was born with the Playstation 1. Before, in the Sega Genesis and Family Game, I guess I was too young to understand them and didn't pay attention back then. In PSX, I played whatever Japanese thing they put me in front of my face: Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Legend of Legaia, Legend of Dragoon, Legend of Ur Mum, etc.

There was something that caught me in the way things were told, the turn-based battles that allowed me to plan the next move like a chess game. That cheesy thing that is a common denominator in the oriental role-playing games, added to the fact that at that time I was beginning to find my love for anime made my teen self of the past consume them as candies.

As I grew up, I entered adolescence and no longer wanted to be related to waifus and husbandos, so the role-playing north moved me towards things like Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale, Diablo 2, etc. Oh coincidence, it was the time when I started playing DnD, Magic, reading Tolkien and listening to Rhapsody.

When talking about role-playing games, they are usually treated as two opposing sides. Like the River Boca (rivals in Argentinian soccer, sorry), Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings, Star Trek vs. Star Wars of role-playing video games. But ... does it necessarily have to be that way? I don't think so! Let's see what makes each one different, shall we?

JRPG: Clichés, friendship and saving the world from the baddie that is not so bad in the end. 

The JRPG (Japanese RPGs for those who are lost) are a subgenre in itself. The first role-playing game for a console came out in Atari and it was called Dragonstomper, back in 1982. Hence many subgenres were unleashed as the ones I'm speaking about today, among many others.

There are many things that tell you that the game you are playing is a JRPG. The style of art, of the Japanese animation type. The heroes are usually a little bit childish and delicate, the story is usually very grandiloquent, often involving saving the world from cataclysmic events of the San Puta and the turn based fights. 

Although WRPGs also have a very marked turn based fight component, in JRPGs they are handled differently. The location is not important, but we will have a 3 vs any amount of enemies as a basic formula. We will have an attack, elementary magic and the use of items. The magic will generally follow the formula of "air, fire, water and earth". The roles will be very defined, with the tank, the busty healer, the one that hurts, the busty magician, etc.

Story wise, as I was telling, will always be on the side of the epic, gigantic, important stuff. There is always something very big that is about to happen to the world the group of heroes live in (almost always orphans ... what do the Japanese have with orphans?).

The characters, their personalities ... also respond to anime clichés. Let's have the cute and busty girl. Also the badass with long, white hair, to the one who does everything right, to the funny and busty, the Naive hero who fights for friendship and politically correct values and never crosses into being a little douchebag ...

The bad guy is generally going to be an average emo, edgy guy who, near the end, realizes that love and friendship were the true meaning of life and decides to abandon his beliefs to surrender to the power of the kokoro and help the heroes, if it is with him sacrificing himself even better ... and there will be a baddie that is bad and even more bad than the previous bad and that doesn't change. 

The main story is going to be the main course, with the sidequests being generally a real kick in the groin. The secondary characters in cities and towns are usually static with a nice question mark marker that indicates that they have a changa for us, the vendors are always there selling pieces of armor and other goodies...

What I love about the JRPGs is that they take me along a definite path and I don't usually hang up with things other than progress in the main story. Except the leveling ... because of the dreadful habit that the JRPGs have of making you go back a few steps to grind like a real Asian gaming lord and level up to be able to pass that next boss who has you as his ...puppy. 

Another thing that I really like are combat systems. Usually, I prefer them over WRPGs. As I told you, they usually take turns, in which you have to choose, think about the next movements of the opponent, try to have good timing with the turns ... I'm passionate about that!

WRPG: I had to do something important ... but I don't remember what! 

The WRPGs followed in the line of the Dragonstomper that I mentioned before. Isometric views, more adult stories, less busty characters, realism ... Steampunk and anime aesthetics give way to something medieval, depressing and attractive in their own way. 

The story, in this case, is no longer going to be something of such a massive scale as in the JRPGs, possibly something that does not affect the entire world at all. And what is the most important difference ... it will not be the most important thing we have to do. Let's see, I correct myself. In theory it is the most important thing, but the WRPGs give such importance to secondary missions, with a level of development as or many times deeper than the main story itself, that we are going to find ourselves deviating from the path to do all kinds of little things just because it's fun to do it. 

You as a player will have more choice about what kind of character you want to be. There is usually a moral system that will impact what happens around us according to our actions in the world. I always liked that ... what can I say! I'm kinda of dubious moral and I like to have the option of being ruthless when I need! 

They are also often greatly influenced by the well known tabletop role-play games. Look at the big names in the world of WRPGs: Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale, Pillars of Eternity, Dragon Age, Divinity Original Sin ... Everyone will incorporate mechanics of the role played with dice in one night of beer among friends if not the actual lore from those realms. 

Lore usually has a lot to read, with details that give life to the world in question and make anyone who does not like reading in games run away in terror. There are usually no jokes as could happen in a JRPG. The characters are serious, adults and mostly grumpy. The dialogues are in the line of a Shakespeare play, that kind of dialogue that if you have to recite it would shame you because you would feel like a nerd.

The fighting is also with turns in general (I'm not talking about Action RPGs like Witcher 3 or Skyrim!), but when handling isometric views they will have a more important location component in relation to the enemies. Choose where you move, how much you can move with a certain character, attack, cure, defend ... The roles are usually similar, although with very different aesthetics. The trinity of the one who hurts, the one who receive the punches and the one who heals will always be present.

When talking about skills, the subject is usually more complex, with much more variety and things that happen when using any ability. Passive skills that must be read carefully to know what they do and, in general, greater depth. When in the JRPG you had the classic fire magic that hurts, in the WRPG you will have the fire magic that hurts, apply damage per second of X for Y time and cause weakness to enemies with metal armor.

Returning to the theme of the stories, in the WRPG there is more place for one to be the one to decide how to play, while in the JRPG we fulfill the role given by the game. This is something I really like about WRPGs, that freedom that makes them relatively close to the tabletop rp. That feeling of saying "what will happen if I say or do something like that to this NPC?".

And speaking of NPCs ... these tend to have more active lives in WRPGs. They usually move around their cities, have schedules where they work and in general the missions they give are less static than those we see in a JRPG. We will possibly have different outcomes for the missions, while in the JRPG it is a single outcome and that's it.

The structure itself changes, by adding an important component of story that we do not see in the JRPGs. In the latter, things are summarized in "go to that side and bring X amount of one thing".

What I like most about WRPGs is undoubtedly that freedom. When I feel I have time to sit down to play and read a lot, a good WRPGs is inevitable. The least I enjoy them is, sometimes, when I have the combat element, since it can become very chaotic and in the blink of an eye end all your Party end up on the floor!


As you can see, there are things to love about both subgenres. Without going any further, I just finished Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and it was one of the best games I played in recent years. I loved the combat system, the story and how long it is! It was worth every damn penny! And while now I have my eyes on Fire Emblem Three Houses, I am also with a tremendous craving for WRPGs, with which I already set my sights on Pillars of Eternity (again), Divinity Original Sin 2 and Baldur's Gate 2 (again! ).

And you? Do you have any preference? Leave your comments below!

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