I’m not entirely sure how important story is for every JRPG. I definitely don’t need an amazing story with every JRPG but I’ve come to expect at least some attempt at a story with JRPGs. But, do stories matter?
Truthfully, I think sometimes JRPG stories get in the way of the game itself. I’ve found myself getting bored with many JRPGs recently because they tend to drag on for more hours than necessary. Don’t hate me, but I’m thinking of Persona 5 as I write this.
I loved Persona 4 Golden on the Vita and couldn’t wait to play Persona 5. But, I could never power through and enjoy it as much as P4G. I think some of my issues with Persona 5 revolved around the character. I didn’t love the characters like I did with P4G. To me, the main group in Persona 5 felt like a rehash of the characters from P4G and didn’t really separate themselves out in any meaningful way.
Interesting characters kept me coming back to Persona 4 and without that same appreciation, it was hard to keep playing Persona 5. But, where’s the overlap between character and story? I feel like good characters are inherent with good stories and the two rely on each other. Without good characters to feel attached to I find it difficult to feel invested in any game story even if the story itself is interesting.
But what about JRPGs with a trite story and generic characters, why play them? Combat is the next step. If JRPG doesn’t fulfill my need for an engrossing story I continue on if the game plays well. I’m a sucker for weapon upgrades and city recruitment elements of games, so when I come across a game, however boring, I find myself coming back and playing for longer periods of time. Both of those are arbitrary and only represent visual changes in the game. They don’t do anything for gameplay or for the story? I just have an odd obsession with minor aesthetic changes.
So, where does that leave JRPG stories? Do they matter? Yes, they matter. I just tend to get distracted easily and lose focus on games, especially when they go past 25 hours. I’d love to get back to playing 50 hour RPGs and actually finishing them, I just seem to have lost any ability to focus on one story for extended periods of time. I need to get better at focusing on games and actually getting my money’s worth. If I were smart, I’d stop buying games and work on finishing games I left off.
Story, characters, and gameplay all matter. I’m the problem, not the games. I don’t think you can get much better than Persona 5 in terms of content, I just need to reevaluate how I play games. I need to get better, not the games.