RetroVision – What Is The Perfect Length For An RPG?

So what exactly is the perfect length when it comes to a RPG? It’s a good question, and one where we all have our own opinions. Of course, it’s certainly expected that a RPG will last longer than your average platformer.

However, whilst many would argue that the longer the better, some of us just don’t have a spare 100 hours to sink into a classic role playing game. No matter how much we’d love to quit work and live off nothing but nostalgia. As such, given the complexity of the question, it’s always good to hear an expert’s opinion.

Yuji Horii Slime
Yuji Horii alongside his famous Slime creation, a staple of the Dragon Quest series.

Well, when it comes to RPGs, there’s no better expert than Yuji Horii, the man who inspired the JRPG genre. So what exactly does the Dragon Quest creator believe is the best length for a RPG? Well, when asked in a 2010 interview with Kotaku he simply answered:

….40 hours.

Yep that’s right, exactly 40 hours. What’s more, when Horii was asked to clarify why he thought 40 hours was the perfect length, rather than say 30 or 50 hours, well he simply answered:

No particular reason…… It just sounds like the right number.

Dragon Quest Battle
Dragon Quest was originally released in Japan on 27th May 1986 for the Nintendo Famicom. This year will see it celebrate its 30th Anniversary.

He did however, go on to say that despite living in a world where games are becoming increasingly shorter, it’s still his aim to offer gamers the same value for money they’ve always known from the franchise. As such, Yuji Horii isn’t saying there’s anything wrong with a 100 hour JRPG, far from it. He just believes that for however long the game lasts, it should offer both good value for money, and a quality gameplay experience. In fact, that was exactly what happened with Dragon Quest VII.

When you purchase a game for a few thousand yen, you want to have the value of the game.

For kids you really want to have a game they can play for a long time. For adults, maybe they will play for six hours and if the gameplay is good maybe they’ll be happy and want to play longer. But for kids, they might only get a couple of games a year and I would like them to continue to be playing.

Dragon Quest Famicom
Original box art for the Japanese Famicom release of Dragon Quest.

All in all, what this proves is that it’s always best to trust your gut instinct. Let’s be honest, it never did Horii any harm when creating the revolutionary genre defining JRPG Dragon Quest. A game that has gone on to become one of Japan’s most successful video game franchises over the last 30 years.

What’s more, if I was to weigh in on the debate and give my own opinion, well I’d have to agree with Yuji Horii. Although, not with regard to 40 hours being the optimum length, but rather in relation to getting good value for money. Truth be told, whilst I find myself with less and less time to sink into a classic RPG, I can always find the odd 100 hours for a good Pokémon. Ultimately, quality always wins, and Horii has made a career out of winning with quality.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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