A defense of “grinding” in JRPG’s

Ever since my early teens, I’ve always had a love for Japanese Role-playing Games.

In fact, outside of the incredibly small handful of games that could be collectively referred to as “3D Collectathon Platformers”, I’d say that JRPG’s are most likely my favourite genre of video games.

I love the varied battle systems, the often Anime inspired aesthetics, the wacky and unconventional style of storytelling, the joy of levelling up my characters into freaking god-like entities by battling hoards of enemies for hours and hours and hours… And yet, that last one in particular is something that I often see people slamming as a negative aspect of JRPG’s all the freaking time.

Tanaka-kun-07-5
Here… We… Go…

“It’s a grindfest.”, “It’s just a dungeon crawler of constant battles.”, “The game relies too heavily on grinding and enemy encounters to pad out its length.”, “How can you find doing the game repetitive task over and over again fun?”

While I can understand these criticisms, I find them to be terribly misguided and some what dismissive… Even slightly ignorant.

tanaka-kun-01

JRPG’s can often be one hell of a grindfest. JRPG’s are heavily focused on their combat mechanics and engaging with mobs of enemies, and have very little in the way of open exploration, outside of an alternative pathway in a dungeon that may lead to a hidden treasure chest, an optional superboss or some kind of special item. JRPG’s will often require you to go out of your way to fight more enemies than you would possibly meet naturally on the linear path the story takes you on in order to stand a chance at overcoming the games more difficult challenges.

But, my question is, how is any of this a bad thing?

db9ad334b9eeb1c826b3160ad8133c7724211a77_hq
Hear me out… Please…

Truth be told, I honestly don’t consider, nor have I ever considered, grinding in JRPG’s to be a problem, and it’s rarely been something that’s managed to “ruin” the experience for me.

Because if I’m playing a game I enjoy, where the gameplay is primarily focused around a battle system I find fun with game mechanics that are satisfying to mess around with, how is getting to do more of the things you find fun in the game even remotely a problem? If you truly find a game to be an enjoyable experience, grinding shouldn’t really be all that much of a problem, because the system that you’re using to grind is something you find enjoyable to begin with.

Now I’m not here to defend every single game that has the potential to be a grindfest. There are plenty of games, mainly older RPG’s on the Super Nintendo and the like, that have level caps that are absurdly difficult and quite frankly painful to reach. Reaching the maximum level in Tales of Phantasia for example, is an almost inhuman accomplishment, and it’s anything but fun because it takes forever and the battles take so long.

N-No…

But outside of these few outliers, that are mostly the terrible grinds they are due to the time they came out, I genuinely believe that grinding in JRPG’s isn’t all that much of an issue.

Mostly because there’s something about grinding that is just incredibly addicting. It’s rewarding, it’s satisfying and it’s just so damn exhilarating to rush through hoards and hoards of enemies and get those stats up. As a player, you feel empowered, taking down these countless mobs of monsters as you traverse through their habitat, and on top of that, the effort always feels worth it. Your characters become stronger as a result of grinding. You often gain new items and equipment, all the while amassing a large amount of wealth for your efforts. The time you put into grinding tends to be handsomely rewarded, and makes all that “hard work” feel “worth it”. It’s this pay off that always ends up luring me into “the grind”. I want my characters to become god slaying machines of epic proportions. I want that rare equipment that triples how quickly my Overdrive gauge fills up. I want to acquire a ton of Gald, Gil and Macca to buy more awesome shit for my characters. Grinding rewards me with all of that, and it’s freaking awesome.

This thing was so satisfying to use!

And on top of this, there are so many games that facilitate the act of grinding and that would cease to be the amazing games they are without grinding. My go to example for this is always the Disgaea series, a franchise of games that I’ve sunk tens of thousands of hours into. Each game takes around 20 hours to “complete” if you’re simply aiming to beat the main story mode. But a Disgaea game doesn’t really “start” until the post-game content, which is what your average gamer would consider to be a full on “grindfest” due to how much grinding is required to unlock and complete everything.

With a level cap of 9999 that can be reset with higher base stats, randomly generated dungeons used to level up your items and equipment, tons of side story content and dozens of classes to unlock and master, there’s thousands of hours of content per game in this series, and all of said content comes hand in hand with grinding. Constantly. Yet, that content is some of most varied and enjoyable content to come from the JRPG genre, and wouldn’t exist if grinding wasn’t a thing.

 

Sometimes, there’s nothing more fun than throwing yourself into countless random battles, one after the other, in a JRPG. Be it playing random skirmishes to strengthen your characters in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, clearing hundreds of floors in the Item World to strengthen that awesome sword in Disgaea 5, or participating in a bunch of free battles to recruit stronger demons for your party in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, grinding can often be a fun and rewarding experience that is unfortunately overshadowed by a sea of negativity and misguidedness.

Grinding isn’t for everyone, and not every game does it well, but to say grinding is nothing more than a shameless means of padding a games length, or that it’s flat out “boring” is a fairly baseless criticism in my opinion.

Give grinding a chance.

Just don’t lose your life to it like I did.

HELP!!!
Advertisements

19 thoughts on “A defense of “grinding” in JRPG’s

  1. In the days when I played computergames, I used to love grinding in my Final Fantasy games. In part X I think I remember I grinded the longest, as I really loved that one, abd the characters. I honestly never complained about it either, in fact I even found it quite relaxing at times 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think a lot of it is balance though. I don’t skip battles too much, so most battles should be a fair challenge. The game shouldn’t suddenly go from, say, level 20 for one Boss and then suddenly level 40 for the next. If I want to grind to get the next awesome ability or to take on superbosses, okay. But don’t have a huge jump in difficulty with no warning.

    Oh, and no battles where there is no way out to grind if it’s too hard. *glares at FFT and some other games*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. All games should have fair difficulty balancing and a smooth learning curve to facilitate such balancing (outside of superbosses). Final Fantasy X is an excellent example of how to do this (outside of the Dark Aeons, which were… No…)

      I also dislike games that don’t allow for grinding and can cause you to get stuck into a corner of difficulty. It’s a huge design flaw, and one of the biggest issues I have with the pre-Sacred Stones Fire Emblem games. You can literally end up trapped if you don’t keep everyone alive (due to perma-death mechanics) and if you don’t level them all up equally and take care of their (breakable) equipment.

      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I definitely spent a lot of time in Final Fantasy X just randomly wandering around looking for encounters so that I could open up more spheres on the grid. I think my goal was to try to open all of them and I don’t think I ever did.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Last time I played through, I decided to make Kimahri a magic user. That was kind of fun once he got some decent spells and things going though it did make him kind of redundant in a fight.

        Like

  4. I love grinding too! I’m a particular fan of games that make it relatively straightforward to get through the story content, but provide some monstrously difficult post-game challenges to enjoy if you desire. One of my favourites in this regard from recent years is Omega Quintet, which features a post-game dungeon with enemies way stronger than anything in the main game, and it’s immensely satisfying to finally be able to take some of them down.

    Dungeon Travelers 2 is another good one. That game’s post-game is longer than the main story, and there are even some mechanics and elements of level design you see in the post-game dungeons that don’t appear anywhere in the main game. Finally taking down one of that game’s superbosses — or even just making it through one of the post-game dungeons — is a significant achievement.

    Disgaea is a series I really want to get into but haven’t quite dared jump into yet, because I know it will consume me completely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not alone in my mindset! Omega Quintet huh? I’ll need to check this one out some time!

      I’m also a huge fan of post-game content, which is why I love Disgaea so much. The post-game in that series is always far longer than the main game, and it’s insanity! With some really difficult bosses and maps to tackle that feel super satisfying to beat.

      You should give it a go! It’s a time sink, but it’s so damn fun!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Many people used to complain of the grind in City of Heroes… But I was of the school the developers encouraged – it was about the journey to the level cap that matters, not reaching the level cap. The joke used to run “welcome to lvl 40 – halfway to 50!” (the cap)… But at level 40, you started getting your best powers and fighting world and universe level threats. (You start out basically fighting street gangs, albeit street gangs with modest superpowers.) It felt *good* to defeat such an evil – why hurry past them? On the other hand, I understood the rush to get to lvl 14 and get your travel power… it sucked to have to walk everywhere. Ditto for getting your pool powers and out of Endurance debt at lvl 19 (IIRC).

    If felt the same way back when Ultima Online had “power hour” (an hour a day with enhanced skill gains). “Power Hour” occurred at a different time for different people, so people felt compelled to leave off “fun” to grind through Power Hour so as to max their skills. Not me! There’d be another Power Hour tomorrow, so if my guildies wanted to TH or go taming or whatever – I was always willing to go with them.

    Ultimately the problem is less that of the grind (not that it’s not problematical in some places and games), than of people rushing to “beat” the game or max out their character so they can brag about having done those things. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I guess to give another positive spin, a little bit of grinding could be meditative, if it’s a game and a system you enjoy with good music etc. it can be a deeply relaxing experience. I dabbled in Disgaea on the Switch last year and found it really enjoyable way to pass the time.

    I think you nailed it when you said it only becomes an issue when you see it as a chore.

    The psychology is quite interesting, we want the rewards quickly and easily, but we enjoy them most when we work hard for them.. why is that?

    The big problem I have is the complete lack of time in life, it’s only feeling rushed that sometimes stops me enjoying an RPG where I know it’ll be a big time investment.

    Oh, a couple of guys just finished season one of a podcast where they replay FF I, it’s really funny listening to them go partly crazy.. it’s called ‘no one can know about this’.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. yeah i mean, to each their own…if ppl dont like grinding, that’s up to them, but i agree that this stance can feel pretty dismissive. i can understand the argument that grinding takes away the challenge of a game by allowing you to use time to overcome the difficulty, but it’s not like the challenge still isnt there. you can still do it the hard way if you want the challenge.

    ive never really had a problem with grinding. i loved the way that the disgaea games celebrated grinding and im hardcore grinding on granblue fantasy now. id personally compare it to my job (software developer). when you’re searching for the bug, it can be really frustrating and tedious, but it only makes it more satisfying when everything works.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Finally got around to this! So…

    I don’t disagree that there are situations where grinding is fine, especially if it’s something you have the time or want to do. Good battle mechanics are ones that are rewarding in their own right instead of feeling like roadblocks and thus I can understand why someone would find enjoyment in sinking time into them.

    There are certainly games where I’m down for a bit of grinding but ultimately there are a few things that keep me from liking that type of game design in general. One, I’m very story-focused and want the pace at which I experience a story to be complemented by battles, not broken up by them. If I’m going to “grind,” I prefer it to be in the form of side quests that supplement the main story. I’m not one to usually rush through a game but I also tend to prefer when I feel I’m always working towards some sort of narrative goal.

    Second, I just don’t have enough time to spend on grinding one game when there are a ton of other games and other things I’m itching to get to. So it’s less about not enjoying a game/grind as it is wanting to experience a variety of things. That time I spend grinding could be spent working through a second thing. This is why I tend not to get too sucked into end-game content and save for a few I don’t do well with endless, goal-loose games. There are a few major exceptions. I’ve sunk ungodly time into World of Warcraft during periods where I’ve played and end-game stuff there could in many ways be considered a grind (I’d categorize a large portion of it as that).

    Conversely, grinding can be a good way to listen to podcasts and music. What keeps me going in those WoW sessions is using it as a chance to listen to new music. I also remember grinding Persona 3 way back for similar reasons.

    There’s actually one more reason I don’t grind games during the main quest line in particular: I like the game to remain challenging. By getting too powerful it takes away the strategic elements that make JRPG combat systems so rewarding to me. Granted, this is not a problem for scaling level systems or end-game content.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is more or less my stance as well, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on using “grind sessions” as time to both play games *and* listen to podcasts/music. Though there have been quite a few games where even that wasn’t enough to compensate for the unsatisfying tedium – i.e. RWBY: Grimm Eclipse is pretty much JUST a grindfest that hardly rewards the player (doesn’t give much incentive to keep playing), so in that case I’ll just drop the game entirely.

      But otherwise, there’s probably usually something gratification to be had engaging in that sort of activity. While I don’t find the grinding in DB Xenoverse fun, I don’t mind doing it in Diablo III… I think. I dunno, it’s been a while since I played an RPG (the last one was Witcher 3, which I dare say is so jam packed with quest-based content to level up that there’s virtually no grinding whatsoever).

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Depending on the game, I feel the same way with the whole “grinding and sidequests” thing. Part of the reason I enjoyed “grinding” in the original Xenoblade, was because completing endless sidequests with rewards was fun as opposed to aimlessly wandering to gain levels and money.

      Time is also a major issue, and I admit that it makes grinding a huge problem in the sense that I’m spending far too much time on single games instead of playing a vast amount (I’m STILL play BotW and Disgaea 5). But I’ve never viewed media consumption as something that’s of utmost importance or with any real sense of urgency, so it’s not too big an issue for me.

      Grinding IS a very good way to listen to new music and podcasts. I do it often, especially when going through the Item World in Disgaea.

      I can’t argue with the difficulty thing. That’s more or less true for me as well!

      Thanks a lot for commenting, and sorry for the late response. I really appreciate you reading the post and taking the time to share your own thoughts on the subject!

      Cheers!

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s