After predominantly residing on handhelds for the past half-decade, the JRPG genre is finally making its move on the HD console market. Our PlayStation 4s, Xbox Ones, and Wii Us are hosting no less than twelve major titles that make up the most prolific line-up since the days of the PlayStation 2.
Not just smaller releases either! Publishers are putting out some of the biggest titles in the world! 30 years in the future, it may very well be possible that we look back on 2016 as one of the best years that the genre has ever seen! A revival and a revolution, finally pushing the JRPG successfully into the HD world… because it certainly wasn’t that successful the last generation.
And just for reference, we aren’t discussing the Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita, or PC. Just the home consoles today.
Final Fantasy XV
The big fish on the list. A lot of pressure has been put on Final Fantasy XV to get the series back on its feet, but even before its launch next year, the game has already galvanized the fanbase. Some want classic menu-based fighting like the older games, and others don’t mind the more action oriented approach. Half want a more linear RPG, and the other half can’t wait to go waypoint-hopping in the open-world.
Final Fantasy XV stands tall as one of the biggest titles of the year, but it also raises the biggest question marks. This can only result in either Game of the Year material or one of the biggest disappointments of the year, if not in years. Yeah… no pressure guys.
The other big title of the year. Persona 5 might come from the younger of the two franchises, but it’s easy to forget that Persona 4 was first released seven years ago. Even Persona 3 is almost ten years old! Yup, it’s been a full decade since the Persona revolution. Fast combat, social links, anime aesthetic, funky music. It’s been a long time since the fantasy genre dominated the JRPG scene, and it’s all thanks to this franchise.
Persona 5 is only going to take this insane blend further with the whole “thievery” theme.
Unlike Final Fantasy, both Persona 5 and the Persona series in general enjoy universal acclaim and excitement from the JRPG fanbase, and there is little doubt that Atlus is going to mess it up. Get ready for what is without question going to be one of the best reviewed games of the year.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
A third place victory for a B-tier Square Enix franchise. Developer tri-Ace finally returns to the series that put it on the map, a full eight years after it nearly derailed it with Star Ocean: The Last Hope. This latest game returns to us with more classic character designs, a simpler combat system, and most importantly, a new producer. There is always a sense of excitement looking at a classic franchise through promising new eyes, especially with how great this game looks so far.
Final Fantasy XV is the same way, yeah?
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness will be the hit it deserves to be if tri-Ace can deliver on the whole package, and Square Enix is on record for having bigger plans for it in the future. Fine by me. It’s not a series that turns up so often. Of course, that’s also part of its appeal, but this is a great series that deserves a bigger audience.
Tales of Berseria
What would a list of next year’s big JRPGs be without a Tales game? The series has become the most prolific on the market and an annual force to be reckoned with. You can expect to find Bandai Namco’s staple franchise on every list for years to come.
Unlike other years, I am a bit more excited for Tales of Berseria because it is changing the series’ rapidly aging formula quite a bit. It stars a female lead for the first time, and so far, it looks like it will focus primarily on her. Tales Studio is also passing up on the idea of “having a party” this time with just one woman and one young boy questing together. This shift from quantity to quality changes the whole landscape of the series. Out with the traditional mish-mash of random strangers and in with two completely contrasting personalities and combat styles .
Is it just me, or does that sound really interesting? We just got the English confirmation, so get your annual party hats out! Tales is back… again.
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book
Another Tales game, another Atelier game. Our other annual JRPG outing has not been confirmed for a 2016 release just yet, but you know it’s coming.
You also know what to expect. Simplistic combat, lots of alchemy, light storytelling and cute anime girls. This one even has a hilarious chubby guy named Oscar, and he is just the best!
I always say that I want to break into this series, especially after liking the the art design of the last two games, but judging by the size of this list, I’ll have to wait until next year.
World of Final Fantasy
While Final Fantasy XV is looking to move the Final Fantasy franchise into the modern age, World of Final Fantasy is looking to take it back to its roots. This charming little title features a classic menu-fighting system, a cute aesthetic that borrows from both chibi and Disney styles, and most importantly, it is loaded with fan-service! Cameos from your favorite characters, appearances from classic monsters and weapons.
Some might scoff, but I think it looks fantastic. Can’t wait to see if there is a serious game behind this fun title.
Dragon Quest XI
While it might be wishful thinking for an English release in 2016, I have every intention of picking up this game’s Japanese version on the day it is released. The rest of the Western world can wait for its turn, but I won’t. I know how long these games take to translate if Square Enix even decides to publish it at all. Sorry, but I don’t want to sit on my hands this time. I’ll be playing Dragon Quest XI before 2017 becomes a reality.
I think this one has a good chance of seeing a release in the West though. It’s not limited to a single platform, a very Western-esque move, and Square Enix is going to want to capitalize on this year’s surge in the JRPG genre. Because it is on the PlayStation 4, which has only a mediocre userbase in Japan, I’d say even that Square Enix needs the Western market to justify the PlayStation 4 version at all!
Plus, it uses Unreal Engine 4, so I mean… come on! It’s coming to the West. It’s only a matter of when.
Nights of Azure
I’ll close out with a smaller title, but that’s only because I think it looks kind of neat. Nights of Azure comes from the Atelier team at Gust, which surprisingly can, in fact, make other franchises too. This one has a great color scheme, an action/RPG battle system, and a brilliant setting.
More importantly though, there is a strange relationship between the two leading females in this game, and I can’t quite tell if it is being exploitative or not. They wear skimpy clothes and are not exactly realistically proportioned, but there is a sincerity to the screenshots and trailers that you don’t find in other games of that nature. Half of my interest in this game is seeing if Gust can dance the line and create an interesting connection between these too without getting silly.
The game did quite well in Japan, and it could be Gust’s chance to finally branch out and explore other franchises for once.