What’s Coming For The JRPG In 2013
With another year in session, it’s time for JRPG fans to get a look at what’s on the horizon. The following games are set for a 2013 release, hopefully satiating JRPGs fans’ hunger. Of course, this is not a definitive list; we expect many more JRPG announcements as the year goes on, but for now, here’s what to keep an eye on.
Note: Games are listed by release date.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Release: February 4
Fire Emblem fans in North America have been left high and dry since 2008’s Shadow Dragon for the Nintendo DS. The end of this wait is nigh, though, thanks to Nintendo showing faith in the franchise by localizing Fire Emblem: Awakening. Awakening ups the ante by adding new gameplay tactics, such as letting units pair up for stat bonuses. Also in the tank are support conversations that allow building relationships between battle companions. If a pair gets close enough, they may even marry and have a child. But what’s really at stake in Awakening is whether or not you can rewrite history and, should you put permadeath on, the lives of each and every one of your party members.
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection
Release: February 19
PlayStation Portable/PlayStation Network
The PSP is pretty much dead on this side of the Pacific, but that didn’t stop NIS America from giving players a chance to play Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection. Pandora’s Reflection places you in Hades – a land full of death and hopelessness. The story follows a brother who is helping his cursed sister through her painful struggle, hoping for a cure. In Pandora’s Reflection, units move in real time across the battlefield, where positioning is vital for battle advantages. With a variety of classes and powerful, unlockable summons, battles should be anything but ordinary.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legend of the Titans
Release: Feb. 26
The Etrian Odyssey series has captured the hearts of many dungeon-crawling aficionados. For the first outing on the 3DS, vibrant 3D graphics transport you straight to the Yggdrasil Labyrinth. However, you’re no longer just exploring dark caves, but also the clouds with its new skyship mode. New skills, classes, and customization opportunities promise to keep the dungeon crawling fun while you try to avoid inevitable deaths. After all, this franchise earned its reputation for not being for the faint of heart.
Release: March 5
The Atelier series features adorable alchemists all trying to prove themselves in a coming-of-age story. Atelier Ayesha should be no different, except she’s battling isolation. She’s alone in a workshop trying to face her grandpa’s recent death and wondering about her younger sister who went missing years ago. A silver lining presents itself when Ayesha gets word that her sister is alive, now it’s up to her to track her down, and of course, craft your way to hopefully a happy ending. Ayesha also represents a new hand in the Atelier series – since Tecmo Koei acquired developer Gust in late 2011, they are now handling the publishing of Atelier Ayesha.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity
Release Date: March 24
So far, it looks like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity blends the old-school roguelike gameplay of past entries with new ancillary features. The story is familiar for veterans: you wake up from a strange dream and you’re suddenly a Pokémon. What’s most interesting about Gates to Infinity is how it uses the 3DS’ capabilities to its advantage. Not only will the 3D character models be more detailed, but the 3DS’ camera is used for locating objects required to enter portals called Megagates to access new dungeons. With over 20 dungeons to explore, you might not ever want to turn back into a human again!
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Release Date: March 26
PlayStation 3, PC
After Final Fantasy XIV’s rough launch, a title that refers to a rebirth is fitting. For A Realm Reborn, director Naoki Yoshida is up for the challenge of completely revamping this MMO’s formula. A Realm Reborn features a new combat system along with redesigned areas that reflect the story’s time shift to five years after the events of Final Fantasy XIV. It looks like the development team is fixated on getting things right this time around by listening to fan feedback, especially early beta impressions. The dedication gives hope that maybe this time Eorzea will reach its full potential.
[Next Up: A Sega Saturn game we missed out on, a hard-campaigned game finally comes over, and our girl Light gets her own tale...]
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
The Hyperdimension Neptunia games won hardcode fans over by parodying the video game industry and featuring virtual “idols” based on video game consoles. In this entry, Neptune and company are headed to a new dimension similar to Gameindustri, but very reminiscent of the ‘80s. Also in store are new adversaries: a group called “The Seven Sages” who are set on destroying Gameindustri and its CPUs. You battle your way to stop these foes through a traditional battle system where characters’ positioning provides an edge in battles. Considering its previous entry, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, had a fun and innovative battle system, it will be interesting to see if Victory measures up.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers
Release: April 16
A spin-off Devil Summoner title, Soul Hackers was originally released for the Sega Saturn in 1997, but never made it to North America. All that’s about to change thanks to Atlus localizing an updated port for the 3DS. In this cyberpunk RPG, you unsurprisingly dungeon crawl your way through deadly demons with your handheld COMP. Like past Shin Megami Tensei titles, demon negotiation is front and center, and if you can impress a demon enough, they join you in your fight. The 3DS version features new demons, better load times, voice acting, and a new bonus dungeon. As with most games in the Shin Megami Tensei universe, a mature and complex story is a given. In this tale, you don the role of a hacker in a group called the Spookies. One day when the group tries to hack into a virtual city, they get more than they bargained for. We’re betting it has something to do with those demons.
Release Date: Spring
Pandora’s Tower was one of the titles in Operation Rainfall’s campaign to localize some highly-desired JRPGs on the Wii. Honestly, it looked like it had the least possible chance of the three selected. And as the Wii U released, the possibility of a North American release looked even more bleak, but Xseed came to the rescue when it announced its localization recently. In Pandora’s Tower, the main character Aeron is on a quest to break a curse that is transforming his love Elena into a beast. To do this, he must traverse through 13 towers for the cure. While exploring these towers, time is of the essence, as Elena’s curse grows stronger. The longer it continues, the more your chances for a happy ending erode.
Project X Zone
Project X Zone is far from your everyday strategy/RPG. This grand crossover title combines characters from Namco Bandai, Sega, and Capcom franchises. With over 50 characters from 29 different series, the roster pulls from fan-favorites such as Mega Man, Street Fighter, Tales, Xenosaga, and Shining Force. How are these characters coming together? Apparently, a rift in time and space opens, allowing these various heroes and villains to meet and spread evil throughout the world. To trek through the chaos, you team two characters together to form a “pair unit.” A solo unit can also be selected to assist the pair in battles. With an array of real-time moves to choose from, including cross hits, solo attacks, support attacks, and finishing moves, your 3DS screen should be alight with fury.
Pokémon X and Y
Release Date: October
When Black and White 2 launched, many were disappointed that it was developed for the Nintendo DS, not the 3DS. Good things come to those who wait, and fans can now rejoice because their wish for a 3DS version is now a reality with Pokémon X and Y. X and Y add new Pokémon to the roster, alongside a dynamic where the more you battle together with your Pokémon, the stronger your bond becomes. The new cel-shaded art style that’s showcased in its debut first trailer looks fresh and inviting, showcasing a vast world to get your battle on. For now, we can’t wait for more details to trickle out.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Release Date: Fall
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
While Final Fantasy XIII-2 focused on her little sister Serah, Lightning Returns shifts back to its spunky namesake, finally providing some closure on her story. Lightning Returns begins with her being awakened 13 days before the end of the world. The only way to avoid the grim fate is to transport the souls of everyone to a new world. Will this story have a happy ending? And more importantly, what sacrifices will be made along the way in hopes to attain it? Although, Lightning will be the only playable character this time around, expect plenty of familiar faces to pop up during her journey, such as Noel and Hope. Combat is also more action-packed and paradigms have been replaced by changing Lightning’s clothing; different outfits have special perks and can be customized. For a deeper look, check out our latest preview.
[Next Up: Gorgeous visuals take the stage, a game that makes us expect failure, and a series that's maturing...]
Phantasy Star Online 2
PC, PlayStation Vita
Most likely hitting PC first, Phantasy Star Online 2 is set to capture nostalgia and your love for loot. With fast-paced action combat, this free-to-play MMORPG throws you into a sci-fi storyline and wondrous world. Your goal? To banish legions of darkness from the galaxy, of course! Combat focuses on combos , aerial attacks, and counterattacks, including some third-person shooting action to keep you on your toes. With the returning races and classes from previous titles, Phantasy Star Online 2 is giving you plenty of options on how you want to take down your dark foes. A bonus? So far the screenshots have shown off a beautiful, vibrant, and detailed world, enticing you to step in.
PlayStation 3 and Vita
Vanillaware has earned its claim to fame with breathtaking hand-drawn visuals. The company is behind titles like Odin Sphere and Muramasa: Demon Blade and now Vanillaware is back with a new co-op action RPG called Dragon’s Crown. The combat mirrors a sidescrolling beat ‘em up, most reminiscent of the 1990s Dungeons and Dragons arcade games. You can pick between six different classes, ranging from a musclebound dwarf to a spellbinding sorceress. Your battle is all in the name of obtaining the precious Dragon’s Crown, protecting it from a dangerous group of magic-users. If anything, admission to such beautiful, fantastical labyrinths are more than a reason to keep it on your radar.
Dark Souls II
Release Date: 2013
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Death. Most gamers absolutely abhor the “game over” screen, but From Software has broken through the fear and made players look at it as a learning experience and something to embrace. While we suspect Dark Souls II will carry on the torch of learning from your failures, an interesting change has already been announced. Previous director Hidetaka Miyazaki is abandoning his post and instead taking the role of supervisor. New faces Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura, take his place. Already a little controversy has surfaced based on Shibuya wanting to make the game more accessible to newcomers. He’s since made it clear he plans to keeps the heart and soul of the series alive and understands fans’ concerns.
Tales of Xillia
The Tales series has earned acclaim for its battle system that continues to evolve in new and entertaining ways. In this entry, you have some customization over what skills you learn via the Lilial Orb system, which mimics Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid. Xillia is also shaking things up by letting players choose a starting main character for the first time, either medical student Jude or spirit summoner Millia. And if that’s not enough, this is also set to be one of the more mature games in the Tales universe; even the art style was adapted to more adult-looking characters. For a deeper look, check out our preview.
The Witch and the Hundred Knights
Do you love Disgaea’s offbeat sense of humor? The Witch and the Hundred Knights might just be in your wheelhouse. Similar in aesthetics to its developers’ previous titles, the Disgaea team is ditching strategy this time around, instead providing an isometric action/RPG. Unlike Laharl’s single-minded quest to become the Overlord, The Witch and the Hundred Knights is set on making choice and morality a part of your quest to destroy the Forest Witch. You can be as virtuous or evil as you want. NPCs even take your actions into account and react differently based on your moral alignment.
This is only an early glimpse into what the year will offer JRPG fans, but it’s already looking bright. Which of these games are you most excited about?