Japanese Role Playing Games have been my favorite genre of games since I was young. I didn’t know the difference between a game made in the USA or Japan. I mean, its not like they have a “Made in Japan” stamp on the back of the cover. Off I would go, getting immersed in these fantastical world’s of adventure, romance, war, drama, life, death, random encounters and epic boss battles. I’m not really sure as to how I was able to pick up so many, even though I didn’t have the internet and all it’s glory to help me find the latest release. I give God the credit to helping me find these, because some of the games I want to highlight in this post are so obscure they were hard to find years ago, and still hard to find today!
I wanted to make a list of some JRPG’s you may have never heard of, or maybe you’ve seen them in passing but never picked them up for various reasons. I encourage you to check these out, read the reviews to the ones I linked to and I hope you get to experience them as much as I did. Some are older than others, but it’s not the age of the game that matter so much. Think of it like picking up an old book written decades or even hundreds of years ago, the characters, plot and settings still come alive as if they were just written.
I used to skip school just to play this game. Oh yes, it was that good! Now, I’m sure that if your reading this, you’ve most likely played at least one of the Final Fantasy entries, but IX doesn’t get the appreciation that others in the series do. Stuck between the legendary romantic drama of Final Fantasy VIII and the fabled Final Fantasy X, this gem has been overlooked by many JRPG fans. To me, it’s not as good as X, but it has a charm of its own. You play as Zidane, a rogue thief who gets entangled with events that are bigger than him…but he doesn’t care, he just wants to win the girl and go home! There are memorable characters to meet (some not so memorable…Quina…cough, cough), amazing graphics, cut scenes and music that look and sound spectacular.
#4 – Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (see my post on Lunar here)
If you’re looking for a fictional story that will touch your heart, then look no further. I have yet to play a JRPG that is as warm and fuzzy as the Lunar series. I’ve only played the first and second game, but both left me with nice memories even years later. In the second game, Lunar 2, you play as Hiro who goes on a quest to save the world from being overcome by an ancient enemy who was thought to have been defeated. It’s a direct sequel to the first game, and it does a very good job in tying in the first game and standing alone on its own.
This game has lots of animated cut scenes which at the time, were almost non-existent in video games. The music is also clear with instrumentals that sound real, which gives you a nice atmosphere wherever you go. The relationship between Hiro and Lucia is the highlight of the adventure, while twists in the plot will be taking you by surprise several times. Truly, a game you shouldn’t miss, but it’s just so hard to play because it was only released on the PS1 and has yet to be ported to another system…hopefully they will bring it over as they did with Lunar Silver Star Complete (now Lunar Silver Star Harmony)
This is one of those games that many have missed because it wasn’t a “popular” game, nor was there much marketing for it. Illusion of Gaia tells a story that spans many cultures across the world. You play as Will who is told by Gaia that he must save the world from an evil that is coming to the Earth. As you progress throughout the game, you can transform into a few different heroes with individual powers that are needed for different situations or battles. The characters are great because they are a group of friends who have a close bond, and travel on various adventures. You get to know each one, and if something happens to one of them you could almost feel it.
There are many spiritual aspects to the game as well, from talking spirits to finding your destiny in life, ancient religions, rituals and more. It tackles some subjects that many games don’t touch, and I’m looking forward to writing about this one.
This game was only released on SNES so far, and I’m not sure why it hasn’t been released on other platforms. It’s such a good game, that if your able to experience it, I highly recommend it.
#2 – The entire Breath of Fire series (I-V)
This is one of those cult classic series that had so much going for it, but it just never took off the way I thought it would. The first two games were for SNES, then Breath of Fire 3, 4 and 5 came out for Playstation. The best of these five titles would have to be part 3 and 4, in my opinion. They have the classic RPG elements in them from gathering your party, grinding for boss battles, plot twists and even delving into the religious arena. I enjoyed all the titles, except for part 5, Dragon Quarter, which to me was a disappointment. The main characters are always Ryu and Nina, but Ryu’s clan history of possessing the power of dragons drives the story, while the rest is focused on the characters and the world they live in. You will leave playing as if you were really there, and you will have pleasant memories of seeing your party all through to the end. It is truly an adventure set forth in the unknown, fighting your way to discover the mysteries of the game.
#1 – Suikoden 2
I haven’t played this game in many years, nor any of it’s other sequels so I can’t write too much about it. What I do remember (and researched) is that if you like war strategy games, then this is one you need to check out. It was only released on Playstation and is now available on Playstation Network for download, but it first came out when Final Fantasy was being promoted so this one went by unnoticed by many. There are 108 stars, or characters, which you can recruit throughout and add to your base. Most can be used in battle, while others just stay and improve your army.
It’s a deep story of drama, adventure, magic and everything else that makes up a great plot. You will connect with at least several of the characters and become involved in wanting them to succeed. Out of the 5 games so far released in the series, this one has been given the most praise and cult following.
Thanks so much for reading, and I would like to know what JRPG’s should have been on this list, and why? Let me know your recommendations. God bless 🙂