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In response to "United We Stand" from The Escapist Forum: Interesting, but the article ignores the western RPGs out there that also rely on strong supporting characters. BioWare games in particular are defined by their companions. Dragon Age was very memorable because of Alistair, Morrigan, Zevran, and the others. Many companions--Zevran, Sten, Leliana, and Shale--were completely missable or killable. Seeking them out, fulfilling their personal quests, and getting to know them in general provided new insights into the world of Thedas and their own backgrounds. They are well-written, well-rounded, dynamic characters.
The article also makes the mistake of comparing the player character Shepard with supporting characters like Yuffie. In a WRPG, the PC will always be less-defined. That's because WRPGs have their roots in D&D, where role-playing is about customization and the main character can be played anyway the player wants. This is the greatest strength of WRPGs, because it allows for a story that can unfold in several ways. Look at Alpha Protocol. For as buggy as the game was, it allowed the protagonist to reflect several different personalities. And the choices he made affected the game in wildly different ways. This isn't something you see in JRPGs, which play more like squad-based action games IMO.
I just don't think you can say that the difference between JRPGs and WRPGs lies in an "I" versus "We" mentality, not when plenty of WRPGs also emphasize companions and group-dynamics. I do agree that WRPGs place more importance on the PC, though. And perhaps this lies with the Western emphasis on the individual, or maybe it's just a way of tapping into wish fulfillment. Since on some level we're supposed to be badass Commander Shepard, wouldn't it be awesome if we're the coolest, toughest, most important person in the galaxy?
think the difference is in part in the main character, but not so much the supporting casts. In a good WRPG, the supporting cast will be fleshed out characters who react to the PC and the world around them just like in a JRPG. The big difference is really that WRPGs are D&D-style "you are in this game" and JRPGs are "you are playing these characters in this game". Neither is better than the other, it's just a matter of which experience you want. A WRPG will have more variation in story potential, and more replay value, because your choices change things. A JPRG can often have a more complicated plotline (sometimes to the point of stupidly overcomplicated, although that's hardly limited to the JRPG) because they don't need to worry about coding in all the different responses to different choices presented to the main character.
Done well, a WRPG has a varied cast of interesting characters and a fun world to explore, where your choices have meaning and you feel like you are really a part of the world you're playing in. Done badly, there are shallow characters, shallow, flat choices, and it's like you're just piloting Generic Fantasy Hero around a world that doesn't change based on your choices, which is the point of a WRPG.
Done well, a JRPG has a varied cast and an interesting plot, with linearity being excused because you just really need to see how this plot ends, with sidequests to explore to draw out more information, complete your bestiary, or race giant yellow birds around the world. Done badly, you're being railroaded on a boring plot with flat, cliche characters and nothing to do but press a button every now and then to get through combat.
So it's really all in what experience you're looking for, and it's hard to compare the two because the experiences being looked for are different.