Monday, December 4, 2017

JRPG's and Random Encounters

Despite the title, I am not about to make any doctorate level thesis related claims or anything that will win us here the 2018 Pulitzer Award for Mixed Media Journalism.  What I am here to write about is something that I noticed recently while playing Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation on the DS, and Final Fantasy III on the SNES Classic.  What I noticed while wandering the overworld and dungeons in these games, and JRPG's to a larger extent, was that I was getting sleepy.

But before you go jumping to the conclusion that JRPG's are by their very nature boring, sleep inducing hunks of not an FPS, or that the very act of grinding in a video game just to progress the story is a cheap way to artificially extend the playtime, let me remind you of a few things; because why not artificially extend the read time in this article?  I grew up playing Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior on the NES in the early '90s, so JRPG's and grinding through wandering monster encounters is nothing new to me.  

At a certain point, probably high school I would imagine, I would stay up late on the weekends (yup, that was me) playing Final Fantasy III, Paladin's Quest, and Chrono Trigger on the SNES, which are all typical JRPG's with turn based combat.  Usually sometime around one or two AM, I might start to doze off because of how late it was, but usually around that time is when I was grinding for levels.  I may not have even needed to gain levels to proceed through the next area, but I would usually want to be at a level at a factor of five, just because it felt right.  If I was at level 23 when I cleared a boss, I would tell myself that I would probably need to be at or around 25 before going through the next story lead cave, and be at least level 30 before fighting the next boss.  And gaining levels also meant unlocking new abilities that seemed to happen at specific levels that I could never remember, so gaining another level meant possibly gaining a new cool spell or special attack.

Having that mentality ingrained in my brain, playing a JRPG like Final Fantasy III (again), or Dragon Quest VI means that I am going to be grinding for levels makes me wonder if I managed to condition some part of my brain to be in a relaxed state become sleepy.  It is not that I am not enjoying my time with the game, far from it.  Conklederp can attest that while reading, I will often doze off and not because I am bored by H.P. Lovecraft, but because I often read at night and is a pretty consistent way for me to fall asleep.

Random encounters too are their own beast.  They happen fairly frequently so that you are unable to get through a single phrase of the overworld or dungeon theme before being attacked.  This is just a part of the game and the genre.  I guess you could opt to find a game that lets you go from Point A to Point B (after being exiled from your village for pulling flipping the switch on the forbidden machine located in the center of town) where you are not required to fight any monsters, but the monsters are there (often inexplicably) to both present some perceived danger, but true enough, to extend the playtime a bit.  And then you have Final Fantasy Mystic Quest where the enemies in dungeons and caves were all visible (with the exception of one ice related stage if I recall correctly), and I became afraid at the finite number of enemies possibly meaning a finite level I could reach; especially hazardous if a party member dies and loses out on that sweet sweet XP.  The beauty with random encounters coupled with turn based combat is that being able to mash the A button to simply fight your way through is so easy.

So what am I getting at?  That maybe I inadvertently hardwired myself to get sleepy while grinding for levels during random monster encounters while playing RPG's apparently.  Maybe it's true, or maybe it's something that I just made up in the last 47 1/2 minutes.  Either way, it's not like it's going to stop me from playing JRPG's.  I just love the genre too much.



  1. Hmmm, yes. Random encounters are a staple of JRPGs, for good or for bad. I think it is important to just let go and embrace the random encounters. One of the times I played through a JRPG late in life, the random encounters got on my nerves. Can't I just take five steps, GAWD! But most recently, Dragon Quest VIII, i have had no problem with the random encounters. Not sure why this is so, but I will note that the only time in DQVIII that I"ve been unhappy with random encounters is when I was trying to get to a save spot because Jane had just cooked dinner and I didn't want to keep her waiting. AT that point, I was SUPER annoyed by the random encounters and just ran from every monster.
    I think it's just about being in a hurry. If you don't mind the grind, then you can just take every combat as an opportunity to gain some experience. It can be quite soothing. *yawn* ahhhhh...

    1. I don't know when it was put into RPG's, but I really like the "Bookmark" feature, that will create a temporary save file that is deleted once you start again. It's definitely helpful in situations where you have to immediately pull yourself away from the game and are not close to a save point. The Switch is nice in this regard too as you can just put the whole system in sleep mode (assuming that the game itself has a pause mode.