Yoishi Wada Thinks Japan's Weak Spot Is Core Gameplay

Wada, Square Enixs’ president, divides game design into three distinct pillars: “the core gameplay element, community features, and the hardware platform it’s for.” While he thinks Japanese developers have the latter two down pat, he thinks improvements could be made for the former. Core gameplay is “the area the Japanese creators are struggling with right now, trying to explore in new ways,” says Wada in an excerpt from a recent interview with Gamasutra. “‘I don’t think we can say Japan’s strong” in core gameplay,” he says. Moreover, he contributes more to the East Vs West debate when he says “Western developers have become much stronger, during the past five years, in this aspect — the game element.”

You can read the interview in full here.

I find this interesting when looking at, say, Final Fantasy 13. If I were to complain about something about the game, it would be exactly that: the core gameplay. Everything else in FF13 is par for the course when it comes to JRPGs. Then you start to consider the gameplay, and the fact that it’s such a fresh–but flawed!–approach for this genre begins to make sense. They’re trying to find an answer to what they consider to be their biggest problem: gameplay. While their efforts should be commended on intentions, the fact still remains that every encounter became a battle of a thousand cuts. This made most battles an a boring exercise in repetition for me, almost a chore. But, here’s hoping that they don’t rest on their laurels and that they continue to try to innovate the genre…..though hopefully they also realize that the biggest problems JRPGs face are not just gameplay elements…but Tom can tell you more about that!


  1. Tom

    Here’s the problem with Square Enix: what platform a game is for IS A PRINCIPLE DESIGN PILLAR. So are community elements, which FFXIII had exactly zero of.

    So FFXIII is a failure in gameplay elements (or at least, not as successful as it should have been), a success in hardware platform (it picked all of them! They made more money!) and a non-starter in community. Sounds like a brilliant game to me!

  2. Fernando Cordeiro

    Core Gameplay sounds more like a SquareEnix problem. Nintendo, Capcom, Sega, Treasure… basically all other companies are doing fine in that regard. SquareEnix is the company that focused all its efforts in one gameplay style and is now facing problems coming up with sustaining innovations for them.

    It’s a lost fight really. The throne JRPG was already usurped by other genres that started tackling its core value: storytelling. Back then we would endure grinding in order to reach a new town or see what will happen next. But now there isn’t an inch of me that would not be willing to trade Chrono Trigger as it is for a Bioware – or even a Valve – remake.

    What Japanese developers should be doing is playing Portal and Half-Live 2.

    • Tom

      Wait. Are you saying someone should remake Chrono Trigger? Because no one should ever touch Chrono Trigger. The JRPG’s #1 problem is that no one looked at Chrono Trigger and said, “This is how it should be done.”

      The other problem being that ATB was always a replacement for actual combat. FFX went in the right direction by being turn based (which is something JRPGs can offer) and Atlus’ Press Turn system gave it a proper jolt of innovation, but…most people tend to lean towards Square Enix, who refuse to rip off the most elegant system invented.