If you are a fan of JRPGs, you undoubtedly remember the days of Final Fantasy, where the JRPGs ruled the RPG gaming genre with a iron fist and roamed proud and free. However, as anyone can tell from Final Fantasy 13, the genre seems to be in a bit of a rut. Even the equally popular 'Tales of' series seems to have gone a bit downhill. Fans of the genre thirst for a decent JRPG with no satisfaction. Lucky for them, there are still a few diamonds that may have slipped through the cracks.
The Last Story (Wii)
This is the JRPG that fans remember and idolize. It has a love story, it has an innovative battle system, it has that epic story that draws people in. However, The Last Story is held back by inferior hardware and thus made it easy to miss. The Last Story is so gorgeous and you can tell within the first minutes of the game that it was meant to be played in HD. however, the Wii does not support HD. Because of this, it feels as if it is lacking in the graphics department.
The actual story of The Last Story follows Zael who is a n orphan that joins a mercenary band, though he always dreamed of becoming a knight. He and his fellow mercenaries land on Lazulis Island, a trading port on the edge of an empire. However, they find themselves thrust into the middle of an ancient mystery in which banish foes return from across the sea. Believe me, it is hard to do the plot justice with a short summary.
Why did The Last Story slip through everyone's fingers? For one, Developer Mistwalker though it would be a good idea to make it exclusive to the Wii. However, it was overlooked as the game was released when the Wii was nearing the end of its life cycle. Gamers will remember when the novelty of the Wii wore off and everyone forgot about it. The Last Story came out during that time. Still, that doesn't change the fact that The Last Story was the JRPG game that JRPG fans have been craving for years.
Persona 3 (PS2)
As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of these games have centered around gutsy teenagers going out to save the world. Persona 3 takes this common JRPG trope and turns it on its head, resulting in one of the darkest and most compelling games in years. It centers on a group of high school students who can tap into the mysterious Dark Hour, an hour that most people don’t notice between midnight and one o’clock. During this hour they must travel to a large tower called Tartarus to fight a race of monsters called Shadows that feed on humans. To fight them, they must summon Persona, or manifestations of their inner beings. This is not your typical JRPG. It is a long, brutally hard game, Atlus is usually good from bring really long games like this one. But it is well worth the results as it rewards you with a fascinating, character-based story that will keep you guessing until the very end. Of course, if you do not want to guess the ending, pick Persona 3 FES edition. That way you get a bit more closure.
If you are familiar with the Persona games, you might ask why Persona 3 and not Persona 4? They are both equally good games. However, I will always recommend 3 over 4. Persona 3 has better (addicting, even) music, characters, and story.
Valkyria Chronicles (PS3 / PSP)
Love the traditional JRPG tropes, where some lads go out and save the world against all odds. Well, Valkyria Chronicles is not like that. Instead, you adapt the guise of Welkin Gunther, who was a university student before being conscripted in the Gallian army. Gallia is, of course, a fictional European country in the 1930's Europe setting. Gunther is promoted to lieutenant and tasked to lead small Squad 7 to fight against the invasion of the Empire. Within this squad, your main character will prove himself, form friendships, and protect his home.
Essentially, this game is the JRPG equivalent of Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan, and it is definitely not a bad thing. However, sadly because this game is such a well hidden gem, Sega has stopped green lighting the other installments for English release. Fans will just have to be satisfied with the PS3 version and it's PSP sequel.
Eternal Sonata (PS3/Xbox 360)
If you have ever learned anything about classical music, this game will be instantly likeable. From it's complex classical soundtrack, to seeing musical genres personified, and watching Chopin walk around being a bit of a jerk. It is all just a wonder to watch.
Eternal Sonata focuses around the fevered dream adventures of Friedrich Francoise Chopin. Within the dreams at the last moments of his life he meets Polka, Beat, and Allegretto. Polka is near the end of her life as well, but Allegretto is determined to save her. Chopin accompanies them on that quest.
Eternal Sonata combines traditional JRPG combat with a traditionally colorful world. however, what sets it apart is the whole music theme, something people have never seen before. Be prepared to be sad though.
Resonance of Fate (PS3/XBOX 360)
Never heard of this game? Yeah, it gets that a lot. Resonance of Fate hit western shores a week after Final Fantasy 13. Since, people did not give up hope on the Final Fantasy series until after they realize 13 was a linear piece of junk, Resonance of Fate got highly overshadowed. Too bad it actually turned out to be a decent game.
Unlike Final Fantasy 13, here we have a game which has crafted a truly innovative system of battle centered around gun-play, a deep customization system which pushes every weapon to their limits, and a slowly progressive story which is accompanied by a rich musical score.
The story is set in a land ravaged by and ecological disaster which almost wiped out mankind. However, some survivors banded together and created a town in the wasteland called Basel, made out of gears and iron pillars. Basel uses a machine to dig down into the earth to extract resources in which humanity needs to survive. Within this town, three hunters Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne delve into the cities mysteries and watch as they discover more about their turbulent pasts.