Folks talk about tropes like they’re a bad thing, but they serve a vital purpose in fiction. If every little detail needed to be explained, we’d never get to move on with the story. So, writers put some familiar faces in to let us get to the good stuff.
While some JRPG tropes came about because of technical limitations, many help us skip the exposition and move on to saving the world. You know, after a dozen hours of grinding. Obviously.
While there are some JRPG tropes that should probably be retired, today we’re going to take a look at the ones that still hold up and bring us joy after so many years.
Childhood best friend
This is a JRPG trope that has been around forever, but it is not confined to video games. Anime makes liberal use of this one, because who doesn’t want to go on an adventure with their best friend?
The childhood best friend is often someone that has been a supporter of the main character for years, possibly with some romantic undertones. They can be the main reason for the adventure kicking off or they might just be along for the ride — but they’re always the first one to join the party and, unless their death becomes a tragic moment later in the plot, they’re at the protagonist’s side when they save the world.
When you’re first starting out on an epic quest, you don’t have a lot to offer a potential party. You are weak and squishy and, frankly, more of a liability than anything else. The childhood best friend trope gives someone a believable reason to team up with the main character. No one wants to be a hero on their own, after all.
Failing the first time
The first encounter with the bad guy never goes well for the heroes. Its important to the tension of the story that the main antagonist appears to be unbeatable — right up until the point where the main character beats them, against all odds.
To prove this, many stories have the heroes face off against their enemy around the end of the second act, when they will get their backsides handed to them. Sometimes this results in a permanent (or not-so-permanent) death in the party, but normally it serves as a way to measure their growth until the end of the game, when they manage to finally take down the baddie.
This JRPG trope still works because it amps up the fear in players, who usually don’t know it is a fight they are not meant to win. When you’ve been steamrolling over enemies the whole time only to see your most powerful spells and attacks do nothing against the big bad, it creates new tension and potentially sends you back to grinding for a couple more hours to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
There is always time for dinner
We all have to eat, but when the world is depending on you stopping the ultimate evil it might not seem like a top priority. This JRPG trope is about those times that our heroes of the hour still manage to take the time to grab a bite to eat before battle.
Sometimes this plays into the need for a quiet moment before the final battle or as a way to highlight the differences in the different characters’ personalities. Normally there will be one character who packs away a surprising amount of food while someone else looks on in shock and disgust.
The things that make characters truly work are the things they do in between adventures, when they’re not saving the world. This JRPG trope gives them a chance to be people rather than just characters in a game or sets of stats. When our heroes get the chance to show who they really are with a delicious beef bowl, it brings them to life in a way that no amount of repetitive battle cries and flashy special moves will ever be able to match.
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