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As our friend the Angry Video Game Nerd starts every episode off with – I’m gonna take you back to the past. No, we aren’t going to play some… well you know. Instead, we are going to talk about a time when the Japanese RPG was the way most gamers experienced the genre. Lately, things seem to have grown a little stagnant in the Japanese game playing scene, and as such, the genre is not nearly as represented as it was in the day when the next Final Fantasy was all anyone could talk about.
However, the genre is far from dead. In fact, in just the last 12 months there were three really solid games released. Well, there was more, but like any genre, not all games released are worth playing. If you are a fan of the genre and you feel like it’s getting lost in a sea of first-person shooters and MOBAs, you really should check these games out and remember why you loved it so much in the first place.
Bravely Default (3DS)
Whether you feel a love for Final Fantasy 13: Lightning Returns or not, this game proves that Square Enix still has some magic left up its sleeve, even if it seems locked into milking Lightning for all she’s worth. With Bravely Default, Square and Silicon Studio has built a very interesting combat system that is literally baked right into the name of the game. Players either brave or default on every turn. Braving attacks right away, defaulting banks action points with the hope of performing a better action later. It adds a great deal of strategy and excitement to the game, and while it doesn’t rewrite turn-based combat, it is a notable change, and one that is worth commending.
What really sets Bravely Default apart is the way it actually lets you bypass some of the most annoying aspects of the genre. Too many random encounters cramping your style? Turn them down so they don’t occur as often. It’s little tweaks like this that allow the game to stay true to the JRPG genre while making it far more playable for people who find some of the tropes to be a little too annoying to be fun.
Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)
Notice a trend here? Another fantastic JRPG available on Nintendo’s portable console. It seems to have become the haven for turn-based games, which is great, because portability is well suited to jumping in, grinding through a few battles, and moving on with your day. I’ve made it no secret that I am a massive fan of Persona IV Golden on Vita, another fantastic portable RPG, but the Persona series is not the only game in the Shin Megami Tensei series. In fact, there have been over 25 games released with that branding attached, so in spite of having a IV at the end of the name, this is not even close to the fourth game.
While this game might lack some of the incredible character development that is a staple of the Persona series, it makes up for it with a fantastic battle system and a really interesting demon fusing mechanic that creates all kinds of possibilities for the way a particular fight can play out. Like most games in the Shin Megami Tensei series, it’s quite long, so as far as a value perspective is concerned, you are getting some serious bang for your buck.
Ni No Kuni (PS3, 3DS)
Okay, it’s time to move out of the portable game space and move into home consoles. Well, not fully, because Ni No Kuni is actually available on both the PS3 and the 3DS. Both versions of the game are quite good, but they are also very different in the way they play. This is a good thing, as it’s not just an adapted version brought to the handheld, but rather it actually uses the control methods offer by the DS in a way that changes up the game. While not the best game you will ever play, it’s still a very solid entry from Level-5 and Studio Ghibli. It features a Metacritic rating of 85/100, which is obviously rather positive.
Like Persona and Pokemon, you actually use familiars, which are collected and used to fight the battle for the player character. Each one levels up independently, which gives you some awesome ways to expand upon the fun of the fantastic battle system. After all, it’s the collection aspect is what keeps players coming back to Pokemon, even though the formula of the game is pushing 20 years old. Seriously, if you’re looking for an absolutely gorgeous JRPG to play on your PS3, or even if you prefer the portable version, you cannot go wrong with Ni No Kuni.
Now Go Play!
Now that you have some games on your radar, go ahead and pull out that 3Ds (or 2DS, which we just so happen to have reviewed) or your PlayStation 3 and get to JRPGing it up.
So now we turn to you. What are some of your favorite recent Japanese role-playing games. Or, if you’re more in the mood to reminisce about the games of the old days, what classic RPGs did you adore?