The lights are on
It’s no secret that this generation of video games hasn’t been particularly kind to Japanese games in general, and Japanese RPGs in particular have fallen out of favor. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing in this once-beloved genre worth playing from the past five years. With this generation approaching its end, we decided to look back on the must-play JRPGs that came out on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, DS, and PSP.
Blue Dragon (360)
Of any new developer this generation, Mistwalker has been the greatest hope for JRPG fans. Founded by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, this team hasn’t had all hits, but they’ve still helped create some of the best Japanese RPGs in years. As Mistwalker’s first release, Blue Dragon seems like the true, current-gen continuation of the Dragon Quest franchise that we never quite got. The story may have been simplistic, and Toriyama-designed characters aren’t for everyone, but the classic gameplay and huge world harken back to the genre’s roots in a way that I definitely appreciated.
Demon’s Souls (PS3) -- GI's Review -- and Dark Souls (PS3, 360) -- GI's Review
Though I’ve always had a sort of begrudging respect for the obscure Japanese studio From Software, it’s fascinating to me that the generation where Japanese developers are largely being ignored is the generation where From Software has really come into its own. Demon’s Souls’ unforgiving brand of gameplay was so risky and against the stream of everything else coming out these days that Sony passed on publishing it in the U.S., but somehow it still became a cult hit. The Namco-published follow-up, Dark Souls, has only grown bigger. These certainly aren’t traditional JRPGs, and they aren’t for everyone, but they provide an experience that’s totally unique this generation.
Disgaea 4 (PS3) -- GI's Review
Though it hasn’t changed a ton from its origins, Disgaea 4 was widely considered to be the best entry in the quirky tactical RPG series since the original. If you want a game that features both comedy and an almost laughable amount of depth, the Disgaea series is still delivering.
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS) -- GI's Review
Though technically a remake of a Super Famicom game, Dragon Quest V made its North American debut on the DS in 2009. While playing, I found it hard to believe that this game came out in 1992. Yes, the combat is as simple and as straight-forward as it has always been in Dragon Quest games, but between the deep monster-recruiting system and the shockingly touching, generation-spanning storyline, this game feels fresh, modern, and well worth playing in this iteration.