JRPGs Are Exponentially Better With Fast Forward

Illustration for article titled JRPGs Are Exponentially Better With Fast Forward

Longtime Kotaku heads will know that I’m a big fan of the Trails series, an ambitious set of Japanese role-playing games that tell a sprawling, epic story of love and warfare. This year, I fell behind on the series, but one thing’s helped me catch up: the fast forward button.


Some backstory! I finished Trails of Cold Steel in 2016, just in time for the second one, which came to PS3 and Vita that year. (Since then it’s also come to PlayStation 4 and PC.) I played a chunk of Cold Steel II but eventually just stopped, in part because the Vita fell out of my gaming rotation but mostly because it was just a whole lot. These games are big, epic adventures full of cutscenes, plenty of turn-based combat, and lots and lots of dialogue. One of the series’ quirks is that just about every character gets a line in just about every scene, which can get a little tedious. There are only so many times you can watch all nine members of your party each say, “Ah, I agree!” in different ways before you’re wondering what else you could be playing.

Still, I’m hooked by the longrunning plot—which tells the ongoing story of protagonist Rean Schwarzer and his rowdy band of military academy classmates—and I want to see it through. Trails of Cold Steel III just came out in October, and there’s a Switch version planned for next year, so I figured this would be a good time to jump back into the second game and pick up where I left off.

And it was! What I discovered, upon restarting Trails of Cold Steel II on PC, is that the game’s developers have now wisely added a fast forward button (Turbo mode) to the game. By holding my controller’s right trigger, I can zip through all those tedious battles and conversations, allowing me to get to the good stuff way more quickly. This fast forward button has made it easy and fun to get back through the parts of the game I’d already played on Vita, and now I’m caught up to where I had previously left off (the beginning of Act 2), ready to finish Trails of Cold Steel II in preparation for the third one next year.

A fast forward button is simply necessary for JRPGs today. The random battles and fluffy conversations of big, meaty games like Trails can be charming, but they can also feel tedious, especially to those of us with limited gaming time. Whether it’s in re-releases like Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and Final Fantasy VIII Remastered or brand new JRPGs like Bravely Default, having some sort of fast forward function just makes these games exponentially more enjoyable.

Perhaps it says something about this particular genre that it’s hard to enjoy it today without being able to speed things up, but that’s a conversation for another time.


Film editor perspective, here. Sure, a fast-forward button helps helps, but it feels like a workaround, not a cure. Japanese games don’t need a fast-forward button. What they really need are film editors and UX designers.

JRPGs, and Japanese games in general, are just really bad about wasting your time. And I don’t even mean this in terms of a “too much stuff to do” or “how many cutscenes there are” kind of way. I mean it in a “why are there 2 seconds of silence between literally every line of dialogue”, or “why is this menu option that I access several times an hour five levels deep”, or “why is it that the name of an attack popping up takes more time than the attack itself” kinda way.

Japanese games are horribly paced, in both the UX and in the editing of their filmic scenes. Even non-JRPGs like Kingdom Hearts 3 and Death Stranding all suffer from these excruciatingly slow cutscenes where conversations flow at a snails’ pace, with characters restating their last sentence three or four different ways, and long seconds of the camera silently focusing on a character’s face between each and every line of dialogue, like a local news anchor talking to a field reporter with 3 seconds of latency.

It’s not a culture-wide thing, because Japanese filmmakers and animators generally do a fantastic job with pacing and editing (and there are certain JRPGs that are exceptions, like the Persona franchise). It is almost exclusively a Japanese game industry problem. And honestly, it feels like calling for a fast forward button is ignoring the real cause of the problem, like applying a band-aid to a bullet wound.