The State of JRPGs In 2018
Given the fact that PAX is currently ongoing, the boss suggested that this week’s news blog might be better used by taking a look at 2018 landscape for console JRPGs. During the last generation the Xbox 360 really served as a market disruptor, and that combined with Japan’s difficult transition into HD development really served to hurt the industry – to the point where many of us thought that console JRPGs would be abandoned entirely in favour of smartphones.
Happily, this did not occur. The story of the current JRPG resurgence is also the story of the current console hardware landscape and ecosystem. An ascendant Sony and their PS4 no doubt helped the situation some. Ironically, so too did PS Vita cross development – as simultaneously developing games for the PS Vita and the PS4 enabled JRPG developers to realise that their games did not have to match the visual fidelity of Western AAA action games in order to be successful. This same cross development environment appears to be continuing on with the release of the Nintendo Switch, which itself seems like it is set to become a pretty hot platform for JRPGs. The final piece of the puzzle here is the fact that Steam has really emerged as a great secondary platform for JRPGs. A game will tend to release on PS4, and then 6 months to a year later it will be released to Steam, where it will have a second lease on life. All these factors combined appear to have created an environment wherein JRPG developers are able to profit very nicely within the Western market.
Where does the Xbox One fit into all of this, well…
For the first two iterations of Sony hardware, the Playstation was viewed as being the home of Final Fantasy. This is obviously not so true today, although if one had to name a home for Final Fantasy, then it would probably still be Playstation. If a Final Fantasy game is releasing then chances are that it is releasing on Playstation, along with any other platform that Square Enix may choose to support. As such the PS4 is home to Final Fantasy: Type-0, World of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III, along with the forthcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake, which is set to be an actual console exclusive if it ever sees release within the lifetime of the PS4. While Final Fantasy is still being heralded for its past achievements, it has not been in rude health since the release of Final Fantasy XII, over a decade ago. Square Enix’s big breakout successes for the current generation are actually the sexy cyborg sequel Nier Automata and the resplendent Dragon Quest XI, which will release in September. Finally, new Square Enix studio Tokyo RPG Factory has released two moderately budgeted titles I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphere.
Square Enix is not really hogging JRPG relevance the way it used to though. The current generation of Playstation JRPGs has really been the story of three high profile sequels: Persona 5, Ni No Kuni II, and Ys VIII, all three of which have been widely claimed to be the best in their respective series – though this author strenuously denies that this is the case with Persona. On the Falcom front, the company has also released Tokyo Xanadu and several Legend of Heroes titles on the platform.
Beyond this the PS4 has been fertile ground for many other JRPG sequels including Disgaea 5, Valkyria Chronicles 4, Star Ocean 5, Metal Max Xeno, along with the worst and one of the best titles in the Tales franchise – Zestiria and Berseria respectively. There are no doubt many other minor JRPGs that have slipped between the cracks here, but that is because the PS4 is a JRPG monster.
1. Persona 5
2. Nier Automata
3. Ni No Kuni II
4. Ys VIII
5. Disgaea 5
6. Yakuza 0
1. Dragon Quest XI
2. LoH: Trails of Cold Steel III
3. Granblue Fantasy Project Re:Link
4. Yakuza 6
5. Kingdom Hearts III
6. Final Fantasy VII Remake [yeah right!]
The Switch is the young upstart console in this pack, and already it has got more going on in the JRPG space than certain other platforms that will be mentioned anon. The Switch is a little light on content upfront owing to it only having been on the market for a year, yet despite that it is already the home of perhaps the best current generation JRPG available on any platform.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a stunningly good game, and should satisfy any JRPG enthusiast, regardless of whether one prefers gameplay or story. Tokyo RPG Factory has also been busy on the platform, releasing both I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphere. Finally, a game of the year version of Disgaea 5 is also available on the platform.
In terms of upcoming content the Switch will see releases of Shin Megami Tensei V, Octopath Traveler, Ys VIII, Dragon Quest XI, along with any potential future installments in the Fire Emblem, Pokemon, Mario & Luigi, and Paper Mario series.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
2. Disgaea 5
3. Lost Sphear
4. I Am Setsuna
5. Romancing Saga 2
6. Nights of Azure 2: Bride of The New Moon
1. Shin Megami Tensei V
2. Octopath Traveler
3. Ys VIII
4. Dragon Quest XI*
6. Fire Emblem?
*The reason that Dragon Quest XI is so low in this list is because it is likely a technical mess, and as such this belated port takes a lower priority. For Nintendonlies this will still be an essential purchase.
“I am kind of new to the Xbox One family with only having my S console since June. I am playing FFXV right now and loving every second of it. I want more JRPGs since I am not a PS4 owner and I love the genre. Are there anymore out now or is FFXV the only JRPG we have on this amazing console?
If there isn’t any other JRPGs on the Xbox One currently, are we getting anymore in the near foreseeable future? Someone please say yes. lol” ~ Mirage13
“FF15 is a JRPG?” ~ Brandy1977
“Dumbest person on earth. Loves JRPGs and owns an XB1 but no PS4.” ~ medmuscle
This conversation pretty much says it all, fam. The Xbone basically has a JRPG for every year that it has been on the market, resulting in a grand total of five of them. If you are a JRPG fan on Xbone, then forget about choice, because you are going to be playing all of them!
The best JRPG on Xbone is probably Ys Origin, a twelve year old PC port. Xboners can also play Romancing Saga 2 or Final Fantasy Type-0. The worst JRPG on Xbone is probably Valkyria Revolution or Final Fantasy XV.
JRPGs still to come are Valkyria Chronicles 4 and Kingdom Hearts III
1. Ys Origin
2. Romancing Saga 2
3. Final Fantasy Type-0
4. Valkyria Revolution
5. Final Fantasy XV
1. Valkyria Chronicles 4
2. Kingdom Hearts III
The PC is just a great catch-all grab bag of JRPG content. There are regular pleasant surprises here, as often some fairly old games will get a breath of new life here. HD versions of Grandia II and Tales of Symphonia can be obtained here. Final Fantasy III – XV may be acquired, as can Type – 0, World of Final Fantasy, and Chrono Trigger. That said, Steam’s versions of Final Fantasy III – VI and Chrono Trigger are definitely not the versions that you want to get.
Steam is also an excellent place to go if one wishes to have access to all three of Falcom’s Trails in the Sky games, along with all three of their current Trails of Cold Steel games [with potentially more to come]. The console versions of these games are a fragmented mish-mash that spans the PSP, PS3, PSV, and PS4; making Steam a tidier way of accessing them.
Steam is often a secondary market for games that have been developed with the PS4 in mind. As such Steam owners have access to Ni No Kuni II, Ys VIII, Nier Automata, Tales of Zestiria, Tales of Berseria, Criminal Girls, along with a ton of Idea Factory games including Fairy Fencer F and the Neptunia series. For strategy fans there is Valkyria Chronicles, Phantom Brave, Disgaea, Disgaea 2, and Disgaea 5.
Upcoming games are Dragon Quest XI, Trails of Cold Steel 3, and SaGa: Scarlet Grace: Scarlet Ambition.
This list is hardly exhaustive, as it is not at all easy to find out which JRPGs are available on Steam, nor which JRPGs are coming out in the near future. This is due to the difficulty of finding relevant content on the Steam storefront, as well as the complete indifference with which PC gaming blogs choose to cover JRPGs.
1. Nier Automata
2. Ni No Kuni II
3. Ys VIII
4. Disgaea 5
5. Trails in the Sky
6. Trails of Cold Steel
1. Dragon Quest XI
2. Trails of Cold Steel III
3. SaGa: Scarlet Grace: Scarlet Ambition
*This is not a definitive list of upcoming games, as PC games media offers poor coverage of JRPGs.