The line between what makes a game a JRPG or a Western RPG has always been a bit blurred, with most people believing that a JRPG is any RPG that comes from Japan. GameSpot recently had the opportunity to sit down with some key figures of Monolith Soft and Nintendo, such as Tetsuya Takahashi (Executive Director, Monolith Soft), Shingo Kawabata (Producer, Monolith Soft), Genki Yokota (Director, Nintendo), and Hitoshi Yamagami (Producer, Nintendo), to discuss what exactly makes a game a JRPG, and the difference between an RPG and a JRPG.
Would you prefer it if there wasn't a designated separation between JRPGs and RPGs? Does it ever feel odd to have it categorized that way?
Yamagami: I feel like we just make RPGs I don't need anyone to add the "J," personally.
Kawabata: Certainly, I wouldn't want anyone to use "JRPG" in a negative way, I wouldn't want them to try to pigeon-hole a certain game with that designation if they meant something negative by it.
Takahashi: Personally, I don't feel people are saying anything negative when they say "JRPG," rather, I feel like it's become a genre category at this point, the same way you might have an action movie or a horror movie. If people say JRPG, then they're just trying to designate a certain approach to the subject matter or a certain way of dealing with themes, because it's nothing negative in general. I'm very happy with that usage.
Much like many players, even the developers feel that the need to differentiate between a JRPG and an RPG is unnecessary. Next they were asked what is unique to RPG's.
RPGs are the only genre I can think of where there is a designation between the country of origin. Why do you think that's unique to RPGs?
Takahashi: You may not be aware of this, but I think a lot of the time when people use JRPG in the Japanese market, they actually do have negative feelings that are building up behind that. Unless the rest of the world shares those negative connotations, then that's not something I would worry about at all.
Yakota: Certainly, it often designated to people that they might see a similar presentation style that they see in anime or manga.
Takahashi: I like to think about the fact that even in the US market, you guys say "comics," but you also say "manga." The two words designate the country of origin, or the style, if it's the case of someone emulating that. It's the same in Japan where we say manga, but we also say american comics. I feel like this kind of usage is similar to what we're seeing with "JRPG" being used a term outside of Japan.
As the definition for JRPG became more of a general term for games designed like RPGs from Japan, rather than strictly RPGs from Japan, a question arose that not many gamers think of. How do developers feel when Western developed RPGs are referred to as JRPGs?
There are also western developers who make games that are referred to as JRPGs. Is it odd to have someone from the west make a "JRPG?"
No, it doesn't bother us at all. It's kind of interesting for us to see people try to present in that particular sort of style. We'd love to see what people come up with. (Consensus of the group, streamlined by the interpreter.)
The above quotes are just an excerpt from the full interview from GameSpot, which you can read by clicking here.