List by Matt S.
I know that we’re only eight days into 2020, but I’m making the prediction, here and now, that it’s going to be one of the best years for the JRPG genre. With so many games as yet unannounced, I still really struggled to pull this list together, and there are more than a few potential favourites that I’ve left off.
To make it a bit easier on myself I decided that I’d leave off JRPGs that are relatively standard re-releases. I’ve left Tokyo Mirage Sessions and the Atelier Dusk trilogy off, for example, because those are functionally the same games you’ve already played. I’ve also left off stuff like Persona 5 Royal – I know it’s got a new character and narrative arc, but it is nonetheless a glorified expansion.
Even then, the ten games below are almost certain to be really great stuff, and no doubt by the end of the year there will be dozen more games that were released that I would have added to this list had I known about them at the time.
Idea Factory is in a real groove these days, coming up with new ideas and properties at a startling rate, and most of them have landed pretty well. Death End re;Quest, for example. Or Dragon Star Varnir. Arc of Alchemist looks like it’s very much in that tradition. It’ll be quirky. It’ll be a little bit risky. Heck, it’ll probably be risque. But it’ll be its own thing and at a time were homogenisation is such a problem in video games, we should be very glad that we’ve got Idea Factory.
Langrisser 1 & II
With the runaway success that Fire Emblem has enjoyed in recent years, it’s no surprise that the development team behind Langrisser (Warsong at times in the US), would look to its own tactics JRPG hybrid and see if there’s room for it as well. Once a close #2 to Fire Emblem, now a distant relative, there’s a lot that this remake of the original two has to prove, but early impressions are very good indeed.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Do I spoil it? Do I? I want to talk about what makes FFVII so great, but people are so downright feral about spoilers these days I just know that were I to talk about the plot of this decades-old game I would get yelled at by someone. Anyhow, that’s a digression. Final Fantasy VII looks every bit the mammoth blockbuster JRPG that you’d expect from Square Enix, and as the one entry in the genre that almost everyone will play, even if the genre’s not usually their niche, hopes are riding high on this. Me, personally? I would have preferred a remake of FFVIII. But that’s just me.
Gust is surely the hardest working JRPG outfit out there. Last year alone the team released three full JRPGs… from the one development team! That’s truly astounding. Fairy Tale is intriguing, as it’s the first time the Gust has worked on a licensed property. From what I saw at TGS last year, I was mightily impressed, and it will be nice to play a Koei Tecmo-published anime title that isn’t a Warriors (Musou) title. I still don’t know enough about Fairy Tale… but I do have the anime on my “to do” list ahead of launch.
Project Sakura Wars
SEGA really does have more JRPG properties than anyone is willing to remember. Sakura Wars has been a long time missing from western shores, but SEGA’s taking a swing at bringing it back, and this game really does look so beautiful. So, so beautiful. It’s what happens when you have something of a budget to work with, but aren’t beholden to the need to be photo realistic a-la Final Fantasy. Really, it’s so beautiful. I just need the gameplay to work and I’ll be in love with this one.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls
Once upon a time Americans produced the Wizardry series, but at some point it moved over to a Japanese developer… and basically disappeared from the west. There have been so many Wizardry titles that we never got out here, but the series has been enduringly popular in its new home country. Perhaps noticing that people all around the world are playing the first-person dungeon crawler JRPG genre again, the developers have decided to take a proper swing at localisation again, and I really hope it pulls off, because while I love the genre as a whole, I really love Wizardry.
I know there’s some debate about just how closely the Souls-likes resemble JRPGs, but I certainly see the Nioh series as being JRPGs. You get the hardcore deep, challenging gameplay of the Souls games, along with a love of Japanese history and mythology, and it’s that side of things that ultimately makes the action all worthwhile. From my time with the Nioh 2 beta last year, I thought it was a genuine standout title, and I suspect I am going to spend a long, long time invested (and frustrated) by this one.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon
Bless SEGA. The company finishes one arc – and era – of its now-flagship Yakuza series, so what does it do next? A complete digression side-story set in the same world (last year’s Judgment), and, now, a turn-based JRPG that’s almost certainly going to put off anyone who enjoyed the blisteringly fast combat system of the entire series to date. I can’t wait though. I want that same oddball sense of humour and believable, breathing Japanese cityscape, but with turn-based, strategic combat. I want that more than my wildest dreams let me believe was possible.
Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen
If you haven’t played an Utawarerumono game in the past, then you’re kinda in luck. This one being released this year is actually the first in the whole series, meaning that you could start with this one and then play them through as intended. Between you and me, I actually prefer Utawarerumono to even Fire Emblem. It’s a blend of visual novel and tactics JRPG that leans heavily on the VN, and the unique characters, settings, and stories are just too appealing. Make sure you don’t miss the chance to catch up with one of the most underrated properties out there this year!
Tales of Arise
I’m mostly including this game on this list, because if I didn’t, there’s one particular DDNet reader who would track me down and kill me (you know who you are). But seriously, while the Tales series is not my favourite JRPG property of all, every time I start to play one I do find myself getting very, very hooked. The series consistently provides great characters and worldbuilding and while the combat system doesn’t do much for me personally, we are at the point where it is highly refined – “perfect” for what the developers want it to be. It’s also worth noting that the last “new” Tales title, Berseria, really was a surprise and even I listed it as a highlight of that year, so I have higher expectations for Tales of Arise than I’ve had for any Tales title previously.
Are there any JRPGs that you’ve been looking forward to that I’ve left off this little list? Be sure to share with us which in the comments!
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb