Yesterday we looked at how 2011 looks to be the "Year of the Western RPG." But what about its eastern counterpart? Typically, Japanese RPGs have been known as "traditional" style (though they derive from the American Dungeons & Dragons) compared to the "western" style RPG that has been the king as of late on this side of the Pacific.
If you were to walk the store shelves of any gaming retailer today, this question "Is the Japanese RPG dead?"might arise. Outside of the DS and PSP, only barely pronounceable games have landed in the US on consoles this year, and were met with dismal sales success. Of course, portables are huge in Japan, but is that mentality killing the genre for the rest of the world?
Fresh off the Boat
Japanese RPGs released this year:
Pokemon Black/White - Nintendo (DS)
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded - Square Enix (DS)
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation - Nintendo (DS)
Radiant Historia - Atlus (DS)
Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel - NIS America (PS3)
Hyperdimension Neptunia - NIS America (PS3)
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together - Square Enix (PSP)
Ys I & II Chronicles - XSEED (PSP)
Phantom Brave: Heroes of the Hermuda Triangle - NIS America (PSP)
Jikandia: The Timeless Land - Aksys Games (PSP)
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky - XSEED (PSP)
The 3rd Birthday - Sqaure Enix (PSP)
Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection - Sqaure Enix (PSP)
Japanese RPGs confirmed for the US:
Record of Agarest War Zero - Aksys Games June 14, 2011 (PS3, Xbox 360)
This is the prequel to last year's Record of Agarest War, which was most likely remembered for its boob-based mouse pad that came with the Xbox 360 version. This time around, both versions are getting the retail treatment from Aksys Games. Can the unique soul-breeding (pick a wife to determine skills) and strategy-RPG gameplay save this game from its dated visuals?
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten - NIS America September 2011 (PS3)
Better graphics help bring the Disgaea series closer to the HD era. The series is already known for its insane amounts of in-depth tactics, and now adds a map-generating mode to the mix which allows players to create and share an infinite amount of content.
Atelier Totori: The Adventurer or Arland - NIS America Fall 2011 (PS3)
Totori is the the 12th installment of the Atlier series and follow-up to last year's lukewarmly-received Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland (what a mouth full!). Totiru is giving its more traditional JRPG battle system mixed with alchemy crafting another go later this year. Will this game be able to turn the series around? Or will the cutesy art style miss its mark again?
Xenoblade Chronicles - Nintendo TBA 2011 (Wii)
Though with no release date in sight, Xenoblade Chronicles can still be found on Nintendo's 2011 calandar. Europe's getting Monolith Soft's (Xenosgas series) latest in the fall. With a battle system and visuals similar to Final Fantasy XII, Xenoblade has the potential to be the Wii's best RPG. Though will the threat of Nintendo's new home console squash Xenoblade's chance of succeeding in the west?
White Knight Chronicles 2 - D3 Publisher December, 2011 (PS3)
From Level-5 (Professor Layton series), this sequel actually contains the first game (which was published by Sony) as well. Reviews were all over the board for the original White Knight Chronicles, but with a more complete package, 6-player online co-op and customization galore WKC 2 has the potential to be a big hit at the end of the year.
Tales of Graces F - Namco Bandai TBA 2012: (PS3)
It took awhile, but Namco finally decided to bring Tales of Graces to the U.S. Originally a Wii title, this updated port boast enhancements all across the board. Better graphics, enhanced gameplay, and an all new epilogue. The Tales series has always been one of the elites in JPRGs and Graces looks like it will keep that tradition strong. Will the sales give us western gamers the chance to play Xillia? Only time will tell.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 - Square Enix Q4 2011/Q1 2012 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Square touts that XIII-2 "exceeds Final Fantasy XIII in every aspect." I guess we will have to wait and see since XIII-2 isn't coming till late this year or early next. One thing is for sure, expect amazing cutscenes.
Cladun x2L - NIS America Summer 2011 (PSP)
Classic Japanese dungeon crawl and super retro-style graphics give Cladun a very niche following. But can a title set for PSN make it big? We'll find out soon!
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked: Atlus Summer 2011 (3DS)
Better graphics (though no 3D support), more demons and an extra day (mission) make this remake of the 2009 DS version a must play for strategy-RPG fans who missed out the first time around on the DS. Will the extra content offer enough to make this the definitive version or should gamers just seek out the cheaper original to play on their shiny new 3DS's?
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 Innocent Sin - Atlus Fall 2011 (PSP)
The PSP is pretty much dead as the NGP looks down upon it from the near future. That isn't stopping Atlus from bringing out the one Persona game that failed to reach North American shores. Adolf Hitler's presence in the game (yes, that Hitler!) kept Innocent Sin from coming stateside, as Atlus released only the second half of this two part series, Eternal Punishment, on the original PlayStation. We'll find out shortly if Hitler makes the trip intact this time.
Tales of the Abyss 3D - Namco Bandai Fall 2011 (3DS)
This 3Ds port is one to be on the lookout for if you missed the PlayStation 2 original. Considered by many to be the best in the series, it is a JRPG classic. We're not sure if there's much new for this port, but we'll find out when it releases this Fall.
Japanese RPGs unconfirmed for the US:
You can all but guarantee that if it a game has Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts in the title, it will make the trek across the Pacific. Atlus games are pretty much a guarantee too, but titles like Tales of Xillia and Valyria Chronicles 3 seemed destined to only come across if their predecessors sales make them a safe investment. As for Ni no Kuni, Level 5 and Studio Ghibli's brainchild, their niche nature may compromise their odds. As for Last Story...with the Wii due to be replaced, this may actually be Hironobu Sakaguchi's literal last story, based on the performance of his Xbox 360 titles, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. Outside of Final Fantasy, Tri-Ace's unnamed project could be what the Japanese RPG needs to land big in the west again. The tech-demo for their latest game engine was breathtaking with visuals that rival gaming's elite.
Ni no Kuni: The Another World - Level 5 TBA 2011 (PS3)
Tales of Xillia - Namco Bandai September 8, 2011 JPN (PS3)
Final Fantasy Versus XIII - Square Enix TBA (PS3)
Final Fantasy Type-0 - Square Enix Summer 2011 JPN (PSP)
Grand Knights History - Vanillaware TBA 2011 JPN (PSP)
Valkyria Chronicles 3 - SEGA January 27, 2011 JPN (PSP)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 - Atlus July 28, 2011 JPN (DS)
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance - Sqaure Enix TBA (3DS)
The Last Story - Mistwalker January 27, 2011 JPN (Wii)
Earth Seeker - Kadokawa Shoten April 7, 2001 JPN (WII)
Unannounced Tri-Ace Project - ???
Sinking Ship ???
The Japanese RPG is definitely not dead...especially as long as Pokemon and Final Fantasy fans keep buying those games in the same numbers. But the genre that once flourished stateside after the impact of Final Fantasy VII has slowly dwindled away as gamers move toward the more instant gratification of shooters like Call of Duty. Can Japan find their creative juices again and revive the genre to the upper echelons of gaming? Who will be the first to bridge the gaps between east and west? One thing is for sure: niche Japanese RPGs are still here... but for how much longer?
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