JRPGs versus WRPGS!

October 2012 Edmund Smethwyck

Welcome back to another year at HOL, and welcome back to On the Edge with Edmund, a column about any number of topics. This year, the topic is something that I know many of us here at HOL are passionate about and something I am very excited to discuss in length throughout this year:


For those in the know, these initializations are nothing new, but to those who may not have seen them before, a basic introduction of the concepts is in order. JRPG stands for Japanese Role Playing Game, while WRPG stands for Western Role Playing Game. These games have proven extremely popular throughout the years, with many series venturing into their 8th, 9th, or even 15th installment (plus 'in-between' titles!) The basic premise of these games is that of a protagonist either saving the world, or saving a helpless person/country, or saving the world while saving a helpless person/country!

While the basic concept of the games is incredibly similar, there are in fact a great deal of differences between the two regions and the games that they produce, which will be the discussion of this column. The first thing that is necessary to discuss is that of characters, and more importantly, how they look. Let's start with the characters of the WRPG.

This is an example of a male character portrait for the older WRPG by none other than BioWare, a company many of us love to love and hate. In this portrait, we can see what a typical 'knight' or 'paladin' sort of character might look like in a WRPG. Some characteristics that stand out as stereotypically 'Western' would be the facial structure of the character. As you can see, this male character has a very strong jaw, as well as a pronounced chin. These are things that are typically found in Western male characters. Other examples of this could include another BioWare character, Commander Shepard or Naughty Dog's Nathan Drake.

Not to be outdone by the males, American publishers have created some seriously fierce women in WRPGs. As her male counterpart was already discussed, it seems only fair that we take a look at the female version of Commander Shepard. In this image, we can see a typical female character in a WRPG. She is quite covered, wearing some heavy armor and a no-nonsense expression. Another example of a fearsome female is that of Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic 2, published by LucasArts. Kreia is not exactly the nicest woman, and it shows in her expressions. She will never be the first one to smile, if ever, which while not typical of WRPGs is not unlikely either.

This image provides us with a rather comical view of a typical male character in a JRPG, Luso from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2. While not all males are quite this cluttered, Luso certainly provides an example of what a typical male protanist might look like. We can see he has a more boy-ish figure, the muscles of the Western characters not present here. Even the legendary Link from Nintendo is hardly the most manly in his musculature. He also shows the more pointed, lean face and slight limbs typical of JRPG males. A final example of a JRPG male comes from Earthbound, one of the oldest JRPGs out there, published by Nintendo, in which the male protagonist is none other than...a 12 year old boy named Ninten.

Female characters in JRPGS provide me with a rather troublesome sitaution. Something that is very typical in JRPGs with female characters is clothing being...ahem...rather lacking. However, there are some female characters who provide that whimsical touch without taking it to that level, the first being Salsa from Eternal Sonata As we can see, her outfit is certainly eclectic, consisting of a bib, a pirate hat, antennae, about 10 different colours, and pink lacy shoes. Her figure is slight like her male friends, although she can put out rather unrealistic power if played right! Another female character that can be shown here is Lenneth from the Valkyrie Profile series! She is none other than the main 'ego' of the Valkyries and while she still shows the same slender figure, she will mess you up if you mess with her.

As you can see, it's not particularly difficult to see the difference between JRPGs and WRPGs when it comes to character design. As we progress into the next issue, we'll be diving into the more difficult issues like plot and geography. Until then, however, this is Edmund Smethwyck!