After a console generation of overall disappointment from the JRPG genre, gears are currently in motion for Japan to retake the living room with a barrage of guaranteed hits from longtime favorite franchises. If these games can’t win Japanese fans back into console gaming and away from their Nintendo 3DS’ and smartphones, then nothing can!
I don’t know if we’ve stopped to count yet, but we have five major franchises due for a comeback on HD home consoles within the year! That’s a lot! The big question is which one do you want the most? Here are your choices.
Major disclaimer: We are perfectly aware that Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III are coming to the Xbox One. This article focuses on the PlayStation 4 as the unifying factor between all five games and how each can help the console become popular in its home country… where frankly the Xbox One stands no chance.
Final Fantasy XV
Square Enix finally has its most globally recognizable franchise back on its feet, and Final Fantasy XV marks the first time a main game in the series has been released since 2010! Reactions have been mixed towards the gameplay and graphics thanks to a widely played demo, but they seem more divided between those who want something traditional and those who want the series to evolve with the times.
The division has nothing to do with the quality. Even those who have a problem with Final Fantasy XV‘s design choices have a hard time admitting it looks anything but drop dead gorgeous. This is guaranteed to turn a lot of heads when it launches..
Dragon Quest XI
Those who want a staunchly traditional JRPG experience should migrate away from Final Fantasy and maybe give this wonderful series a try. Final Fantasy might be more recognizable around the world, but in Japan, it is Dragon Quest which is seen as an almost national treasure. The series has been without a main entry since 2012, a single player entry since 2009, and a genuine single player console game since 2004!
The recently announced Dragon Quest XI looks to bring all of the series’ beloved traditions into a marvelous Unreal Engine 4 rendered world, more palatable for today’s audiences. Little is known about the game itself, but if you are a Dragon Quest fan, I think you’ll know what to expect. Charming characters, episodic story arcs, fast combat, charming art, and most importantly, accessibility.
I’m just curious to see how Square Enix works in a social element. Dragon’s Dogma and its “pawn” system seemed to be onto something that I think could fit Dragon Quest like a glove.
Kingdom Hearts III
Joining Final Fantasy on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is the latest in the popular Final Fantasy/Disney collaboration that fans have been clamoring for for years. 10 years, actually! It’s been a decade since Kingdom Hearts II released.
Yet, we still don’t know that much other than the obvious. It runs on Unreal Engine 4, it features entirely new Disney worlds, and Sora, Donald, and Goofy return to battle shrouded and zippered villains once again.
Hopefully, this game will give Kingdom Hearts fans the closure they need so badly, but maybe it could be the start of a new storyline as well. Who knows?
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
There once was a time when Star Ocean was a staple of the JRPG world, but Star Ocean: The Last Hope derailed that in 2009 when Square Enix exclusively launched it on the Xbox 360. Yeah, not going to happen. The last time this series saw an oft-remembered release was in 2003.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is basing itself on the earlier games, abandoning The Last Hope’s quirks for a more streamlined and fun experience. Character art for our protagonists has also been kept in check, at least. That insane green haired magician is pushing it, but she’s a supporting character, so that’s allowed.
I’m hoping this one launches tri-Ace back to the forefront of the genre, because the company really makes solid games when it is able to focus.
The current king of the console JRPG world, or can we even say that? Persona 4 was released in 2008, and it’s been handheld ports and spin-offs ever since.
No matter. Persona 5 looks slick with its fast battles and rebellious super hero/thief characters. If it can capture the speed, depth, and hip-hop style of the last two games, then the traditional giants might have to finally bow down in defeat to the new king in the face of direct competition.
These are the major ones. I know there are a few more franchises out there like Disgaea and Atelier, too frequently released for this list, and the Wii U exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles X, which could hold its own against these games. Tales too is an old soul that still hangs around every year.
But these are the JRPG series I grew up with, all exploding back onto the scene after an extended silence. How would I rank my excitement for them?
Well, I think Dragon Quest and Persona have overtaken Final Fantasy as my favorite JRPG series these days, mostly because menu fighting is still my thing, and those two shine the best in that regard. I’m also not a big Kingdom Hearts fan, and tri-Ace has a bit to prove before I show it unbridled excitement. I think it plays out like this.
- Dragon Quest XI
- Persona 5
- Final Fantasy XV
- Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
- Kingdom Hearts III
Yourself? Anyway you look at it, the genre looks bound for a comeback. We’ll just have to wait and see how long it sticks.