JRPG Today

We don’t exactly live in the heyday of the Japanese Role Playing Game, that time has long since passed.  We won’t be seeing another Chrono Trigger until Square Enix finally has it in them to make good on their trademarking ‘Chrono Brake’ and we’re wholly unlikely to find another real breakout hit that does something really different rather than being deliberately retro.
However, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been great JRPG’s in the past few years, and it’s about time that we took a look to two of the best JRPG’s that didn’t get a lot of love in the New Millenium.

The Golden Sun Series: 2001, 2002, 2010.

While sort of pressing the boundary of ‘contemporary’ when it comes to gaming, I think it passes by merit of having the third in the series, Dark Dawn, release in 2010.  You can’t really talk about Dark Dawn without talking about Golden Sun and The Lost Age, but they all revolve around what is essentially the same gameplay element, a classic Final Fantasy inspired 4 character controlled characters fighting in random battles with predetermined classes and bosses, and that may sound like a wholly retro game, but it couldn’t improve on the formula more.
The series has a tendency to push the graphical limits of the console it rests on, the Gameboy Advance chugged hard trying to incorporate the many fantastic particle effects that the game boasted.  Fantastic effects were coupled with each move and a HIGHLY advanced system wherein changing classes in the middle of the fight is possible and sometimes necessary.
The game is generally intensely fun with great effects and a story that’s just strong enough to keep you interested, the dialogue tends to ramble a bit but that’s really more a symptom of a JRPG than a bad game, this is worth your time in every way.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: 2011

Less an RPG and more a Turned Based Strategy game than an RPG but it holds enough traditional JRPG elements, like the turn based combat and the story-driven gameplay, and it’s fairly Japanese as games go, with you playing a Japanese high school student, many of the references to areas of Japan flew over my head and most of the allusions to the Japanese school system meant completely nothing to me, but at the very least you can begin to see the makings of an actual story and truly compelling characters, which is what you would normally expect from developer of the entire Shin Megami Tensei series Atlus.
This is a game with dozens of different combinations and abilities to play with to your heart’s content, I’m still only halfway through the campaign, and I’m already engrossed in the evolving story.  This is a game that takes a lot of time and patience to get through and do properly, it means you have to be constantly changing your style of play to fit the new skills you are given and your opponent is gaining.
While it takes a little bit to gain a real interest in the gameplay, it’s really alright because the story will keep you dredging through the, at first, rather taxing gameplay.  Every character is designed well and you have to constantly make choices as to who to put your focus on, as you are only given a limited amount of time in the games time arc.  This is the kind of game that a real fan of a good story can sink their teeth into, perfect for a JRPG fan.

While we’re not going to get to those halcyon days of Secret of Mana and Lunar coming out every few months, but we can take pride that Camelot and Atlus are still around to give us an authentic JRPG experience, with Camelot’s retro inspired classic gameplay and Atlus’s fantastic twists on classic gameplay elements, if you have nothing to do and want to see two genres blended fantastically try Atlus’s game Knights In The Nightmare, we may not be getting Breath Of Fire but we’re certainly getting something good.

Honorable mention goes to The World Ends With You which was disqualified because a Square Enix game is not allowed on this list.