2013 promises a lot for JRPG fans with some potentially great games on both consoles and handhelds. Over the last 5-6 years there has been a damning perception that the JRPG genre is dying a quiet and sad death.
Many critics of the industry and fans alike, especially in the West, have denounced the genre. The consensus is that its time under the sun is over. The truth of the matter is that such a perception is a myth.
While I will agree that the quantity of games has decreased significantly if compared with the SNES, PS1 and PS2 eras, while the fact remains that the amount of risks game developers have taken in this generation has kept the genre alive and well.
One of the reasons such a notion has prevailed for so long is due to the popularity of the WRPGs on the consoles that has caught the industry by storm. For perhaps the first time on the console market WRPGs have started competing with JRPGs. A genre which was once relegated to PCs managed to find an eager and willing audience.
Additionally, because the marketing push has been so focused that people started to think that the days were numbered for JRPGs. Another aspect that led to this perception was the high cost of production.
Japanese developers don’t use the Unreal Engine, such a hit with Western developers. That in turn meant developing new engines for JRPGs were a costly venture.
In my opinion, this is why are seeing decreasing numbers of games on the consoles. However, on closer inspection, the genre was doing its regular rounds, especially on handhelds while the console JRPGs started to innovate.
I still maintain that the level of experimentation is quite high in JRPGs. This is why we have seen many diverse games in the genre on both handheld and consoles.
My only concern during this current generation is that the quantity of games in the genre has been low which has made fans like myself quite frustrated. That is about to change in 2013.
The amount of games coming out this year easily eclipse any equivalent period over the last 5-7 year sending fans into rapture. Every sub genre is well represented from traditional, to action and niche giving fans a lot to cheer for!
Traditional JRPGs are still the bread and butter of the genre and Level 5 with its charming new game, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The collaboration of Level 5 and Studio Ghibli has ensured that they capture the imagination of the industry and gamers.
Ni No Kuni is a love letter to traditional JRPGs of yore while its visuals are something spectacular to behold. Nintendo too has pulled all stops when it comes out with new Pokémon games later this year, much to delight of fans worldwide.
Atlus, who has usurped the position of JRPG leaders, is ready to unleash another installment of their much-loved Shin Megami Tensei series. The lure of adventuring in a post-apocalyptic Japan, fending off otherworldly beasts through a great turn based mechanic is quite high for the fans.
SquareEnix may have changed it priorities when it comes to JRPGs but that still doesn’t temper with anticipation for Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. The game acts as the closure for the controversial Fabula Nova Crystallis series as well as giving the Final Fantasy series its first female heroine.
Rounding off is Atelier Ayesha, the niche yet traditional game series. It has gained a rabid fan base through the years and is everything the fans want. Be it items creation, a fun turn based battle system, a colorful world to explore, basically all things which make traditional JRPG fun.
Action RPGs are always thought to be an aberration in the JRPG genre but the number of such games suggests this too is just a perception of the ignorant. Namco Bandai’s new game in the popular Tales series will bring more attention to this series.
Tales of Xillia has already been dubbed as the best game in the series and the Western audience will be eager to see the perfection of the Tales formula when the game hits this summer.
The next game I will allude to be so different from the JRPG norm that I am still at odds, whether to mention it in a JRPG article: Dark Souls 2.
The Souls series is probably From Software’s most played games yet, as its punishing yet rewarding and deliciously seductive game play has been a surprise package.
The upcoming Dark Souls 2 may look like WRPG but the draconian nature of the game designs and absurd level of difficulty harkens of the early days of JRPGs. Dark Souls 2 has a decidedly JRPG vibe.
One of the most surprising announcements came early this year when Xseed announced the Wii action RPG, Pandora’s Tower. This hybrid of Castlevania and Tamaguchi (weird, I know) is coupled with a sinister love story has endured itself to gamers. Pandora’s Tower will most definitely be the last great game on the Wii.
The taste of niche JRPGs are only something which die-hard fans of the genre can appreciate, and 2013 will be the year when the niche becomes chic!
Etrian Odyssey IV which comes out early this year will once again be providing fans with ludicrous difficulty, cartography, turn based mechanics and a FPS view for exploration segments. This game is as niche as they came.
Disgaea Dimension 2, the sequel to the very first Disgaea doesn’t have a Western release date yet but is almost a done deal that the game will come out in English.
Insane, over the top, hard core and silly are some of the adjectives that can be used to describe the series and is set to return in full force once again on the PS3.
Fire Emblem has been criminally overlooked by Nintendo in the West. However, now it aims to make up for its absence with Fire Emblem: Awakenings for the 3DS. With lavish production values along with all the strategy RPG (SRPG) staples of the series, will become 3DS’s first major RPG.
Lastly, we have Project X Zone, a game which by all accounts should not be coming out in the West as such games never do: An SRPG that has characters from Capcom, Sega, Banpresto and Monolith Software games coming together in a bizarre and totally crazy universe.
These are some of the top-flight games that are set to invade consoles and handhelds in 2013. I have missed a few here and there as their Western release dates are still hazy, but already the numbers of JRPG coming out this year alone is mind boggling. I am over the moon!