A while back I reviewed The CRPG Book, a book from Bitmap Books covering the history of Computer RPGs through various eras of titles in the medium, with write-ups from various authors. The book has since received a follow-up, The JRPG Book, written by Kurt Kalata with contributions by other authors. I’ve finished reading that, so it’s time to give my thoughts on the book.
It’s interesting reading this after having read a fair amount of the discourse on the term “JRPG” coming from Japanese game developers – born out of the very real stigmatization RPGs coming from Japan received from the Western press, especially during the console generation of the PS3 and the Xbox 360. However, in a way, the book does a very solid job of showing how “JRPG” is still a somewhat valid term, by getting into the various ways in which RPGs developed in Japan took some different paths from the RPGs on PCs from Western developers (not only in the US, but also from Europe as well).
The book is structured categorically and then chronologically, focusing on various categories for different kinds of games (such as Japanese PC RPGs, Strategy Games, and Dungeon Crawlers), or focusing on specific developers (Falcom), or franchises (Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Shin Megami Tensei), and in turn, going in chronological order from there. All of the articles are accompanied by numerous screenshots for the various covered games. The book also includes a section on various Western takes on Japanese RPGs, going all the way back to games from the 90s like Septerra Core, to modern games like Undertale and Deltarune.
If I have a minor complaint about the book’s organization, is that it could better communicate in the data portion for each game’s write-up if the game received an English language release, and if it was released under a different title. Often that information is in the actual write-up itself, but it still could have been surfaced a little bit better.
In all, this is a really good overview of the scope of games and developers who made RPGs in Japan, and it does also an excellent job of showing how wide the scope of RPGs made by Japanese studios can encompass.
The JRPG Book is available from Bitmap Books.
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