E3 is next week, and while it's easy to get distracted by the dubsteppy shooters and flashy next-gen engines, the important news, of course, revolves around JRPGs. Yep, my favourite part of the show every year is getting to wander the floor and find hidden Japanese gems (and/or accidentally convince Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime to leak that Fire Emblem: Awakening is coming to North America).
Last year we saw lovely games like Ni no Kuni, The Last Story, and the overpriced but underrated Final Fantasy Dimensions. As for this year... who knows?
So as we head into the weekend, waiting patiently for Monday to begin, let's go through some of the biggest E3 questions and storylines.
What's up with next-gen Final Fantasy?
In February, when Sony announced the PlayStation 4, Square Enix's Final Fantasy brand director Shinji Hashimoto came on stage and meekly promised that yes, they're working on a next-gen game in the biggest RPG series on the planet, but they've got nothing to show until E3. Four months later, we're finally here. It's likely we'll see some of the new Final Fantasy during Sony's big press conference on Monday night, and hear even more about it on Tuesday morning when Square holds their Final Fantasy Q&A.
Logically, it's safe to think we'll see something of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the tantalising action-RPG that nobody outside of Square's mako reactors has seen in years. Last we heard, it had been overhauled entirely and turned into Final Fantasy XV. Let's see if that's really what happened.
The most important question is: will it feel like Final Fantasy? Could Square Enix take this opportunity to blow us away with a game that ditches the melodrama and returns to the series' trademark charm and humor? Final Fantasy has been struggling for quite some time now, and this year's E3 could very well be Square Enix's last attempt to convince fans that they want to return to form.
Speaking of which...
Can Lightning Returns help redeem the series?
Regular column readers know that I was disappointed by the first two Final Fantasy XIII games. I'm not the only one. So it's a little disconcerting that 2014's Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is going to take us back to that world of terrible dialogue and unpronounceable proper nouns. That said, I'm cautiously optimistic about what I've seen from Lightning Returns thus far, and I plan to play it next week with an open mind. Hopefully Lightning is a bit less whiny this year.
Will Vita strut its stuff?
Yesterday on Twitter, Sony's Shahid Kamal Ahmad asked fans what JRPGs they'd like to see on Vita. Not bad, Ahmad. The Vita is already a powerhouse JRPG machine thanks to Persona 4 Golden and a massive catalogue of PlayStation and PSP games — a new JRPG or two at this year's E3 might not make for the system-sellers that Sony needs so sorely, but they'd be lovely for those of us hunting for new adventures on the Vita's gorgeous screen.
Right now we know there are new Ys and Atelier RPGs coming, but I'm hoping for more surprises at Sony's conference on Monday night.
Has Xbox given up on us entirely?
Microsoft has promised more Japanese support for their new console, but the Xbox 360 never quite made waves in Japan, despite JRPG exclusives like Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon. Will we see any JRPGs on the Xbox One?
At least Namco Bandai's got our backs.
Tales of Xillia will be on the show floor, and out in the West this August. That's one to watch.
Where did Dragon Quest go?
Japan gets all the good stuff. Both Dragon Quest X and the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII were released out East last year, but we haven't heard a peep from either Nintendo or Square Enix about either game. Perhaps an appearance at E3 is in order. I wouldn't be shocked to see a Nintendo-published DQVII announced for release in late 2014.
Look forward to the little surprises.
For me, one of the best parts of E3 every year is finding under-the-radar JRPGs and getting them on peoples' radars. I've already sectioned off some time to walk around the show floor and see if I can find any hidden Japanese gems, so keep an eye out here all throughout next week for regular JRPG coverage from your favourite JRPG columnist. Please be excited.
Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.