Feature

10 Under-The-Radar JRPGs On The Horizon

by Justin Mikos on Apr 07, 2015 at 11:40 AM

Several highly anticipated Japanese role-playing games are releasing in 2015 and 2016. Titles like Persona 5, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Final Fantasy XV, are some of the highest profile JRPGs in years and are rightfully warranting a lot of attention. But beyond these bigger games sits a strong slate of JRPGs worth checking out that might slip past you if you aren’t following them closely, such as this week’s Etrian Mystery Dungeon – a crossover between Etrian Odyssey and Mystery Dungeon.  

Continue reading to learn more about 10 JRPGs that are worth following this year and the next.

Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker
Developer: Atlus
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: May 5

Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is more than just a remake or port of the DS strategy RPG. Record Breaker adds full voice acting, streetpass functionality, and most importantly a new 30-hour epilogue called the Triangulum Arc. If you are eager to check out the new epilogue content, it is available right away. As for the original campaign, it chronicles how a group of high school kids and a secret government organization named JPs respond to demons invading Japan. You and your team summon your own demons to face off against the colossal Septentrione. In addition to the classic Shin Megami Tensei demon fusion system, a new demon auction system helps increase the size of your army. In both the original campaign and the new epilogue, the choices you make in conversations alter the course of the story and grant you bonuses in combat.

Operation Abyss New Tokyo Legacy
Developer: Kadokawa Games and Experience Inc
Platform: Vita
Release Date: June 9

From the creators of Demon Gaze, comes a new classic dungeon crawler that takes place in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. The dungeons in Operation Abyss are designed by hand and filled with traps to overcome. Unlike the fantasy monsters of Demon Gaze, you can expect mutant animals and demons often seemingly modified in deranged science experiments. Stronger variants of the standard monsters appear more frequently the longer you stay in the dungeon, but the tradeoff is that the loot becomes significantly better. Character growth in Operation Abyss is handled by using Code Rise to sync up with heroes from across history like Jeanne D’Arc. Strategy plays a big role in building your party, especially since you bring six characters into the dungeon with you at once. Early adopters can look forward to some free bonus DLC that should help them get started diving into the abyss.

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven
Developer: Marvelous
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: Spring

Created by the former Rune Factory team, Lord of Magna follows a man named Luchs, who runs the Famille Inn that has been passed down through the generations. While Luchs is eager to run the family business, he unfortunately can’t seem to get any guests. This changes during a routine crystal excavation when he discovers a fairy trapped in crystal named Charlotte who then comes to live with him. Charlotte is the first of many female fairies who come to live with Luchs, and by taking the time to talk with all of them during the downtime between missions Luchs gains new skills as his relationships deepen. Those skills come into play during the unique strategy battles where players need to line up their attacks to take out multiple enemies at once. In battle, enemy armies are scattered along the field and surround their leaders that constantly call in reinforcements. When it is your turn, the enemy you choose to hit is often sent flying into other enemies which takes them out too, similar to how pins topple into each other when hit with a bowling ball.

The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky Second Chapter
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platform: Vita, PSP, PC
Release Date: Summer

The long awaited Second Chapter of Trails in the Sky is finally almost ready to release. This classic JRPG adventure picks up right after the dramatic cliffhanger from the first game, which I won’t spoil here. Second Chapter promises to be more than twice as long as the original because you explore both Liberl and a new neighboring country. Many of the strengths of the First Chapter still apply to the second. You once again follow Estelle Bright on her journey and many characters both new and old join her along the way. It is worth talking to the NPCs and inspecting everything, including the treasure chests you plunder, because the extraordinary amount of text in the game is expertly used to develop the characters and world. The battle system is a careful mix of careful positioning to make effective use of your super attacks sort of like Chrono Trigger and managing and disrupting turn order to gain bonuses. Considering Trails in the Sky is so story heavy, you will want to have finished the first game before starting the sequel. Also if you decide to play the sequel on the same platform, you can transfer your save file over to get some bonuses throughout the sequel.

Lost Dimension
Developer: Lancarse
Platform: PS3, Vita
Release Date: Summer

Lost Dimension is a strategy RPG with an interesting premise. Players start at what should be the end of the game, where they have gathered a party ready to take on the final boss. Suddenly one of your party members goes rogue, and you have to dispatch them. When you finally reach the boss, half your group turns on you, killing your chances of winning. As you work to rebuild your team across the story to take on the final boss again, various party members will continue to betray you, which means you lose all the investment you made in developing them. To mitigate these unfortunate circumstances you need to talk with your allies back at camp to deepen your relationships and eliminate potential traitors with your mind reading abilities. The traitors in each playthrough are randomized, so even on New Game Plus you must adapt your strategies depending on who remains in your party.

Read the next page for Tales of Zestiria, Disgaea 5, Ys Next, and more…

Tales of Zestiria
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Platform: PS3
Release Date: Summer

The Tales series is about to see some significant changes with Tales of Zestiria. Instead of the small valleys of Tales of Xillia, Zestiria features large open environments, and battles happen right on the field instead of cutting away. The battle system is similar to Graces in that you have two artes buttons on X and O. Each arte uses a percentage of your maximum Spirit Chain (SC) which rapidly recovers when you stop acting. Like in Graces, dodging attacks and hitting enemy weaknesses grants you big bonuses. Zestiria introduces a new ability to fuse two party members together to enter a “kamui” state, which unlocks more powerful elemental attacks. While the gameplay and battle changes are the most significant changes to the series, the story differs from past entries by leaning more heavily on fantasy elements. The lead character Sorey is journeying with the Tenzoku, an ancient race of magical beings, to get the strength needed to repel the forces of darkness threatening the land. Although the world is at stake, the focus is on Sorey and his relationships with others. While Bandai Namco has been relatively silent on promoting Tales of Zestiria so far, they have promised to release the game roughly six months after the Japanese launch in January, the fastest localization for any Tales game to date, so expect more details to come soon. The producer of the game, Hideo Baba, has told fans not to expect a PS4 version of Tales of Zestiria so if you’re interested be sure to hang on to your PS3.

Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 The Fafnir Knight
Developer: Atlus
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: Summer

Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 is a similar proposition to the first Untold. In Untold 2 the Classic Mode is a remake of Etrian Odyssey II that brings the enhancements to graphics, mapping, and difficulty options that Etrian Odyssey IV introduced. In addition to the remake, you also get a new Story Mode that tells the story of Princess Arianna and the Fafnir Knight. Instead of creating a team of adventurers and choosing their classes, Story Mode features a fixed party of five characters with full voice acting and animated cutscenes. Like Untold, the grimoire stone system allows you to grant your party members moves they normally wouldn’t have access to and improvements have been made to make it a smoother experience. If you enjoy the classic dungeon crawling PC RPGs of yesteryear or are eager to try them out, Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 should be a great place to start.

Disgaea 5 Alliance of Vengeance
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Platform: PS4
Release Date: Fall

Disgaea 5 is moving the ultimate grid-based strategy RPG to the PS4 to take advantage of the console’s increased power. Instead of the 20 enemy limit imposed by the PS3, the PS4 allows up to 100 different enemies on screen at once. The latest Disgaea game places a renewed focus on story. The campaign is 16 chapters long and focuses on three protagonists: Killia, Seraphina, and Usalia. A major theme in the story this time is revenge, but that doesn’t mean the series’ signature sense of humor is going away. Retribution factors in via a new revenge mode that grants stat boosting crystals upon successful kills, which can radically impact a characters growth. The game also introduces a different character growth system, called the Character World, which functions like a board game version of Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem
Developer: Atlus
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: TBA (Winter 2015 in Japan)

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem was announced back in the infamous January 2013 Nintendo Direct in a teaser trailer that showed character art from the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series and Fire Emblem. After two years of silence the game has finally remerged and it looks wild. Instead of the mainline Shin Megami Tensei tone many expected, the reveal trailer for this crossover hits more of a lighthearted Persona tone. During the day, the protagonists attend school and can explore the Shibuya district of Tokyo. At night they enter a secret world, transforming into superheroes and J-Pop idols to combat demonic enemies inspired by both Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem. While the reveal trailer at first glance doesn’t seem to contain a lot of Fire Emblem influence, lurking in the background are Fire Emblem characters in both the real world and in the secret world. Mounts and vehicles seem to play a major role in the game, as we see the cast ride motorcycles on stage and fly a Pegasus/rocketship hybrid by the iconic 109 building. Many significant details for the game still remain unknown such as the how the turn based battle system will play out, but Nintendo has promised to reveal more in the future.

Ys Next
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platform: PS4, Vita
Release Date: Unannounced for Localization

While Ys Next hasn’t been announced for localization yet – unlike all of the other games on this list – XSeed has been reliably bringing over the Ys games for years, so it seems inevitable. Ys Next sends Adol Christin on a new adventure set sometime before Ys Seven. Adol is journeying to the Goethe Sea, an island archipelago in South Gria. Adol hopes to find an underwater land forgotten by the local residents, so ocean and beach environments are prevalent. While not much is known about the game yet, the most exciting thing is evident right from the trailer; the next Ys is an action game that exchanges a top down perspective for full 3D environments. Considering how amazing Memories of Celceta was on the Vita, action RPG fans should keep an eye on the next Ys. 

What upcoming JRPGs are you looking forward to most? Be sure to share in the comments below!