Naoki Yoshida doesn't want Final Fantasy XVI to be called a JRPG
While there has been a deluge of Final Fantasy XVI news and impressions today, one interview in question between Australian YouTuber Skill Up and Final Fantasy XVI's Director Naoki Yoshida has been making waves - specifically for his take on the term "JRPG", and how some developers at Square Enix not only dislike the label, but even consider some instances of its usage discriminatory.
Following up on a comment that Yoshida had made during the Q&A section of his session about how the "Action game genre [has advanced], and become the norm", Skill Up asked if he thought that the JRPG genre hadn't advanced in the same way. By Skill Up's own admission, he hadn't known that he would be stepping on a bit of a landmine with this question.
Interpreting for Yoshida, FF14 and FF16 translation lead Koji Fox shared that the development team does not develop games with the thought process that they are "JRPGs" - just RPGs.
They then goes a step further, saying that the term itself is purely a distinction that they feel has been used exclusively by western media, rather than any users or media in Japan. Even worse, the term itself seems to strike a nerve with some members of the development team, due to associations with how the term has been used in the past.
"This is going to depend on who you ask", he specified, "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".
The suggestion is that at that time, the term 'JRPG' was used to silo off Japanese RPGs from other RPGs from the West - often to negative effect. Furthermore, Yoshida and team don't set out to create a game that fits the more narrow definition of a 'JRPG' - they want to make broad RPGs in line with all of the rest of the wider genre.
SkillUp notes that Yoshida was quick to acknowledge that nowadays the usage of the term has been far more positive - but that also that he feels that there are still a lot of developers in Japan that remember feeling that the terminology itself was overly restricting - and triggers bad feelings for those that were around when the term first was coined;
"We were going to create an RPG, but to be compartmentalized, they felt was discriminatory," Koji Fox notes, interpreting for Yoshida.
Naturally, hearing a director from a major developer from Japan making these statements makes one wonder exactly how widespread this thought process is; and gives me some pause about how I may have played into that same stereotype in the past, if even unknowingly. Even the official PlayStation website and store buys into categorizing a certain type of RPG as JRPGs.
It's definitely food for thought as we await Final Fantasy XVI's release, when it launches on PlayStation 5 on June 22, 2023.