JRPGs are one of my favorite genres of video games. My love for them began on my 8th birthday, when I finally got Pokémon Blue Version with a blue Gameboy Pocket. Best birthday ever! There’s something special about starting out weak and gaining strength as your journey progresses. Leveling up and seeing your stats increase is so satisfying. What can I say? I’m a numbers guy. JRPGs have told some truly fantastic stories, ranging from saving the world from a demon lord’s resurrection or going into another dimension inside a TV to catch a murderer. What could possibly ruin a great JRPG you may be wondering? The answer is random encounters. It’s so annoying when (dananana) you’re just walking (dananana) and random encounters keep (dananana) happening. STOP THAT! STOP THAT RIGHT NOW YOU PIECE OF SHIT! I JUST WANT TO PLAY THE GAME FOR FUCK’S SAKE. LEAVE ME ALONE AHHHHHH! Ok, ok, keep your cool man.
With that outburst over with, back at the task at hand. Random encounters have ruined several potentially great JRPGs for me. You’re just trying to get from point A to point B when you keep getting ambushed every three seconds. It gets worse when you’re unable to escape without taking damage. This especially gets annoying when trying to conserve for a boss battle.
Recently, I was playing Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga and it was awesome. As with all Shin Megami Tensei games, it has a phenomenal battle system based around exploiting weaknesses to gain extra turns. Digital Devil Saga takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future where having crazy anime hair is considered normal (normal hair is considered strange). The characters are trying to retain some semblance of humanity as they transform into frightening hell spawn demons (boobs with teeth!). To gain more power, the characters must devour others who have the same abilities. The grungey soundtrack kicks so much ass! You’ll be headbanging in no time. Dude, this game is metal as fuck! Unfortunately, having random encounters undoes so much good the game has. I ended up quitting a game that was good because it tested my patience, and my patience failed the test.
Another game ruined by this dated mechanic was Final Fantasy VII (this could apply to many of the older FF tittles). I was enjoying this game until about the half way point. Final Fantasy VII pushed the boundaries of what games could accomplish. Games now can tell incredible stories previously impossible due to technical limitations. I rage quit the game after constantly taking damage from constantly getting dragged into battles and taking unnecessary hits.
Pokémon may be one of my favorite series but it has held on to random encounters for far too long. If you didn’t have a horde of repels, caves were a nightmare to get through. Zubat’s cry is ingrained in the minds of all who have entered Mt. Moon. I still have the flashbacks every time that cry rings out. You end up running from every battle and accidentally run away from the elusive Clefairy. NOOOOOOOO!
Random encounters aren’t much of an issue anymore. Many newer JRPGs have eliminated this antiquated mechanic. Persona 4 and 5 do not have random encounters. You can avoid battle in most cases. Enemies are visible as “shadows.” Pokémon has random encounters designated to certain sections (grass or caves). Repel can prevent encounters all together if the lead Pokémon is at a higher level than the wild ones. Bravely Default gives you the option to turn off encounters. Thankfully, random encounters are a thing of the past.
JRPGs can have a difficult entry for inexperienced players. They are on the long side with many clocking in over 40 hours. Not everyone can enjoy turn-based combat. Random encounters certainly won’t make the genre more accessible for fresh faces. Older JRPGs can be hard to get into because of such dated mechanics. Many of the previously mentioned games are still good and worth checking out. Just the random encounters hurt the (dananana) experience. SON OF A BITCH!