Why I Dig Digital Japanese LoveShare. Editorial: JRPGs are like high school. And not just because of all the schoolgirl uniforms. By Ryan Clements
Maybe my experiences in high school were out of the ordinary, but I can't think of a better way to depict my idea of innocence. Four years of life played out in one building, where the only things that mattered were homework assignments and girls. As a (proud) geek, my time was spent anxiously arguing with my closest friends about which girl I should ask to a dance, or excitedly recounting the time I brushed up against "my crush" in between classes. These were interactions devoid of the emotional severity and sexual tension of adulthood. These were childish vignettes that embody my fondness for an innocent way of life.
My love for Japanese role-playing games, then, isn't surprising, because JRPGs avoid explicit sexual relationships and focus on puppy love more than any other game genre out there.High school: where I first began to enjoy geekhood and girls.
The most obvious place where this innocence shows up in Japanese role-playing games is character relationships -- especially romantic ones. There will always be exceptions, but JRPGs tend to avoid or completely ignore the sexual aspect of a romantic relationship in favor of the innocent. This might not be what the "typical male gamer" wants, but there's a certain charm to be found in such innocent relationships -- exchanges that remind us of how we used to interact with the opposite sex (Or same sex, for some!).
Japanese dating sims, for example, task players with getting to know and romancing characters. But these games narrow in on the players' confessions of their feelings, or perhaps a first kiss, as the ultimate goal of the journey. The game doesn't end with graphic sex or marriage -- instead, players work towards that one exasperated moment where you finally reveal your feelings to the girl you like, or she confesses to you. These interactions mirror the experiences of my youth, where I could only see so far into the future. I didn't envision the long and challenging process of dating someone. I was struggling to tell them how I felt in the first place.
This isn't always the case in dating sims, of course. There are many Japanese sim games that are adult in nature, where the goal is to seduce your character of choice and have sex with them, which is usually presented as a graphic, interactive cutscene. But these games, as you might imagine, lose that sense of purity and explore different aspects of the characters' relationships, for better or worse.How could you not love these two?
One of the best examples of the innocent relationship can be seen in Final Fantasy VIII. Players spend the entire game watching main characters Squall and Rinoa awkwardly shuffle around the idea of romance, but they never actually experience a physical connection until the game's conclusion. Yes, they dance together during the ball at Balamb Garden, but their first intimate moment -- a kiss -- plays out right before the ending credits, as the camera pans away from the couple and the garden drifts peacefully into the moonlight.
The fact that Squall and Rinoa's only act of physical intimacy (besides a rare embrace) occurs at the game's finale indicates that this simple expression of love is one of the player's main rewards for hours of dedication. More telling is the cinematography during this moment. The kiss isn't explicitly shown, making it a symbol as opposed to a generic physical action.Azure Dreams Release TBA PS NDS GBC