Japanese RPG Publishers To Watch
E3 always gives a great glimpse into what publishers have in store for the RPG fan. As I walked the show floor, it was easy to discover which companies are making the genre its bread and butter. Some are focusing on big games, while others are bringing over releases we never thought possible. These are my thoughts on what companies are making an impact on the RPG scene.
Atlus has kept on pace with its RPG releases, and just looking over the variety it's offering in the next couple months, RPG fans have plenty of games to delight in.
We haven't received a new mainline SMT game since 2004's Nocturne. So seeing that Shin Megami Tensei IV is only weeks from release is thrilling. Atlus had it at E3 and it's easy to see why this game is a big deal, as you're recruiting demons and choosing a future for the world. The series has garnered its hardcore reputation for a reason, and the classic difficulty should be intact here. Bringing a science fiction flavor into a fantasy world has done well for Atlus in the past, and it should be exciting to see how this one unfolds.
Less than a month later, on August 6, Dragon's Crown is available for PS3 and Vita. This action RPG comes from Vanillaware, a company known for its beautiful art as seen in games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Odin Sphere. Love them or hate them, the outlandish character models certainly are memorable.
Atlus could depend primarily on SMT and Persona, but it stepped out by taking a chance on a risky title at the time: Etrian Odyssey. Old-school RPG fans who remember having to map dungeons took much delight, while others thought the high difficulty was too overwhelming. Atlus has since worked on making the series more accessible and trying to find balance between difficulty and ease of play. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a new take on the first entry with many new enhancements. EO has often been criticized for not having much of a story mode, so this entry fills the void with fully animated cutscenes and a set party. Classic gamers will be happy to know that they can play with a fully-customized party as well in the fall.
Xseed flooded its E3 booth with upcoming RPGs to check out. The one that caught my eye most was Ys: Memories of Celceta for Vita, a complete reimagining of Ys IV. It uses some similar systems to Ys Seven, but from my hands-on time, I found the combat smoother and faster than ever. Rune Factory 4, Valhalla Knights 3, and Ragnarok Odyssey Ace were also showcased. While Valhalla Knights 3 is on Vita, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace is on both the PS3 and Vita. The game is an update to the original Ragnarok Odyssey with all the DLC included and a bunch of new additions like dungeons and enemies. Rune Factory 4 is the first time Xseed has published an entry in the series since Rune Factory Frontier, which Xseed did a wonderful localization on. Rune Factory 3 is one of the best in the series, so seeing if Rune Factory 4 can top it will be interesting. I like a lot of what Xseed has done, focusing on hardcore games, supporting handhelds, and listening to fan feedback in what to bring over.
Square Enix finally did it. This E3 was all about bringing back RPG fans and letting them know that popular franchises haven't been abandoned. Square was on all cylinders with Final Fantasy. Lightning Returns is looking better than I ever imagined, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is taking a nostalgic approach to bring back the fans it disappointed, and the biggest Final Fantasy news was Final Fantasy Versus XIII becoming Final Fantasy XV. Some fans weren't happy with the change to an action battle system for a mainline Final Fantasy title, but I think it's time for a change and that Square has something different on its hands with XV. Time will tell how it pans out, but that trailer looks intense and even seeing that the project that was long in limbo was going somewhere is great news.
We also finally got a confirmation that Kingdom Hearts III is in development, which made many fans (myself included) jump for joy. Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy Versus were Square's two biggest teases that felt like they were going nowhere anytime soon. To see them finally ready to talk about these projects is a good sign.
That also doesn't even address the fact that Square Enix was at E3 to show off Kingdom Hearts HD ReMIX 1.5, which I thought was a great nostalgic trip, and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. ReMIX provides fans and newcomers the golden opportunity to play through the first part of the series before we get the third entry. Hopefully Square Enix also has plans to bring Kingdom Hearts II and other entries into HD, so fans can get the full experience before Kingdom Hearts III arrives. I'm happy Square is giving us games to play through while we wait for these bigger releases. I just wish they went beyond HD collections and into some new territory while we await them.
Namco Bandai is right on track with Tales of Xillia releasing August 6 and exhibited it in their booth. The company is gunning with the Tales series as they also recently announced Tales Of Symphonia Chronicles, an HD collection featuring the two Symphonia games. The game wasn't at the show, being that it won't release until early 2014, but this gives me hope that Tales of Xillia 2 might also be headed to North American shores. Also on display, and heavily promoted at E3, was Dark Souls 2, where learning through failure and overcoming a punishing world is its main attraction. The new director, while facing early criticism, appears to be putting his all into this entry.
NIS America was on hand to show off the upcoming Time and Eternity along with Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. More Disgaea is never a bad thing, and this one welcomes back favorites Laharl and Etna. Time and Eternity has you trying to go back in time to avert a disaster on your wedding day. Who said love is easy? The art style is unique, but the humor may not be for everyone. NISA has earned a reputation for bringing quirky, niche games to America, and the company is hardly stopping with its E3 showing. The Guided Fate Paradox, a rogue-like where you play as a high school character who wins the lottery and becomes a god, is also on deck. I also chatted with NISA and plans to bring The Witch and the Hundred Knights (an action RPG from the Disgaea team) are still in place, but it's looking like we might not see it until 2014.
We're entering a new generation of hardware soon, so I'm excited to see what happens with RPGs running on the PS4 and Xbox One. I can say after walking out of E3, I was filled with excitement for the future; plenty of games are around the corner, and I can't wait to see how they all shape up.