When it comes to JRPGs, developers like Atlus and Monolith Soft have given us plenty of reasons to be excited about the future. However, that doesn't mean we should forget the past. Over the course of the last generation, there were a number of very good games that managed to fly under the radar.
If you're looking for something to tide you over until the next big JRPG is released, give one of these games a go. You won't be disappointed.
Resonance of Fate
Resonance of Fate can be hard to make sense of. The battle system is incredibly complex, and it isn't exactly intuitive. While most games ease you into things with numerous tutorials, this title drops you straight into the deep end. Many gave up on the game without learning how to swim.
It takes work to master Resonance of Fate's mechanics, but it's worth the effort. Once you have the combat system figured out, battles are intense, strategic, and extremely addictive. The game has a lovable cast of characters, and its many side quests help keep the story interesting. And if you like to play dress-up, you'll love the game's many clothing options.
The Arland Trilogy
Western audiences were introduced to the Atelier franchise via games like Atelier Iris and Mana Khemia, both of which broke away from the series' traditions. When the Arland games arrived, their pastel color scheme and focus on time management unsurprisingly turned off a number of gamers. This was compounded by the fact that the first game in the series, Atelier Rorona, felt outdated the moment it was released. Later games in the series made some big improvements, but the damage had already been done.
Now is the perfect time to go back and give the Arland Trilogy a second look. Two of the games in the series have received enhanced PS3 ports, and Rorona is getting a full scale remake. These quirky, charming games aren't for everyone, but they're a wonderful break from your standard "save the world" adventure. If you're a fan of crafting, you should definitely give these games a shot.
Nier initially received a rocky reception, and it's not hard to see why. Visually speaking, it's pretty unappealing, and the gameplay can get repetitive. However, while it may not be the prettiest game on the block, the piano-heavy soundtrack and rich story transform it into something beautiful. A simple battle can feel epic when the music kicks in. The characters are fascinating and unlike anything I've seen in a video game.
It takes a lot of work to experience all the story Nier has to offer, but the result is more than worth it. Many of the game's flaws, like its lackluster visuals, seem to fade away once you get more involved in the story. Few games are able to achieve the level of emotional impact Nier reaches over and over again. If you enjoy action RPGs with great stories, Nier is a game you can't miss.
From its beautiful graphics to its addictive gameplay to its lovable cast of characters, Valkyria Chronicles has all the makings of a classic RPG. Unfortunately, the game was largely ignored by western audiences. As is, it's an underrated gem. Alternate history settings are rarely seen in JRPGs, but this game proves they're a great fit.
Valkyria Chronicles unique strategic gameplay can lead to battles that are both challenging and frustrating. Initially, some maps seem impossible to win, and figuring out how tackle them is extremely satisfying. While the main plot is fairly linear, the extended cast of characters provide you with some intriguing choices. Is it worth starting a map over to ensure every member of your squadron survives? Should you go into battle with your favorite characters, or the ones with the strongest stats? Valkyria Chronicles is one of the few must play JRPGs the last generation has to offer.
Trails in the Sky
The PSP's library is full of great JRPGs, but none of them shines quite as brightly as Trails in the Sky. The game's world is incredibly rich, full of side stories and loquacious townspeople. It's packed full of fantasy tropes, but the world itself manages to feel completely believable. It's got tons of charm, and there are little details to appreciate everywhere. What other game has treasure chest quotes?
Over the course of the game, things build up into an incredible, jaw dropping conclusion guaranteed to leave gamers begging for a sequel. Now that the sequel is finally on the horizon, it's the perfect time to get lost in this incredible world. Trails in the Sky is no ordinary game, and once you start playing it, you're bound to get swept away.
Do you miss old school, random encounter laden, turn-based RPGs? If so, Lost Odyssey may be just the game you're looking for. It's a wonderful blend of the traditional and the new. There's a surprising amount of depth to its combat, and its story is nothing short of spectacular. The dream sequences contain some of the best storytelling I've seen in gaming.
What's really special about Lost Odyssey is how adult it feels. There are no teen protagonists or adolescent angst to be found here. Instead, the game delivers a serious tale about adult characters who act like adults. It's a breath of fresh air.
The Last Remnant
Square Enix had high hopes for The Last Remnant. Yochi Wada, the company's former president, thought it was a game on which they could build a worldwide strategy. While it didn't live up to those lofty expectations, it did wind up being pretty good. It starts slow and suffers from annoying graphical issues, but once it gets going, it's a lot of fun. The combat is completely addictive, and the story is more interesting that you might expect.
This is one of the few JRPGs available for the PC, and if you can play it there, you should. The PC version has far fewer bugs than its 360 counterpart, and modifications can fix any remaining problems. Best of all, it's readily available on the cheap. If you're willing to look past its problems, this game may pleasantly surprise you.
Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 may be a long way off, but you can enjoy these games right now. There's no better time to go back and discover the titles you missed.