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Final Fantasy 16 producer Yoshida sparks debate over use of JRPG term

"It wasn't a compliment to a lot of developers in Japan."

Clive in Final Fantasy 16
Image credit: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16 producer Naoki Yoshida has criticised the term JRPG, sparking debate among players online.

In an interview with Skill-Up following previews of the game, Yoshida was asked about how JRPGs have advanced in comparison to action games. According to the interviewer, Yoshida was visibly uncomfortable with the phrase.

"One thing [Yoshida] wants to get across is that when we create games, we don't go into them thinking we are creating JRPGs, we are just creating RPGs. The term JRPG is used by western media rather than users and media in Japan," said localisation director Koji Fox.

Our Final Fantasy 16 video previewWatch on YouTube

Yoshida went on to explain that for many Japanese developers, the term was considered discriminatory when it first appeared 15 years ago.

He said (as translated by Fox): "This is going to depend on who you ask but there was a time when this term first appeared 15 years ago, and for us as developers the first time we heard it, it was like a discriminatory term. As though we were being made fun of for creating these games, and so for some developers the term JRPG can be something that will maybe trigger bad feelings because of what it was in the past.

"It wasn't a compliment to a lot of developers in Japan. We understand that recently, JRPG has better connotations and it's being used as a positive but we still remember the time when it was used as a negative."

He continued: "I remember seeing something 15 years ago which was basically a definition of what a JRPG was vs a western RPG, and it's kind of like Final Fantasy 7, and it has this type of graphics, this length of story, and compartmentalising what we were creating into a JRPG box, and taking offence to that because that's not how we're going into creating. We were going in to create an RPG, but to be compartmentalised, they felt was discriminatory."

Yoshida's response also adds context to the decision to choose real-time combat instead of turn-based, as he discussed the perception of JRPG combat.

"Travelling around the world, speaking with fans and media about their image of the franchise, they would always give the same answer: that it's turn based, that it's anime like, these teenagers saving the world, 'very JRPG'," said Yoshida.

"This was the image for all Final Fantasy. This was turning off some players because they thought it could only be that and that was a reason to not get into it."

Yoshida's comments have sparked debate among players online as to the use of the term JRPG.

As video game critic Alex Donaldson said, JRPG can be considered "a subset of design and stylistic hallmarks that were bred in Japan in the 80s/90s", but agrees that the term has been used pejoratively. "Maybe we need a better word," he said, adding "it's probably not entirely fit for purpose, especially if it causes this sort of reaction in Japan".

Final Fantasy player and streamer Dreambourn appreciates Yoshida shedding light on the term JRPG. "I think a lot of people who were there recognises how JRPG was short-hand for 'anime trash'," Dreambourn said.

"It is absolutely natural that they don't want to be stuck in an imposed genre. They want to compete against God of War, Horizon, and other massive IPs, I totally understand them that the JRPG term prevents them from being a part of this conversation. It undermines them."

I recently went hands-on with Final Fantasy 16 and, with its real-time action combat from Devil May Cry 5's Ryota Suzuki, it's certainly a step away from the turn-based games of the past.