The Next Generation Of JRPGs

The Next Generation Of JRPGs

It's official: next-gen is now current-gen. We have a whole new generation of video games to complain about, and two brand new consoles with zero JRPGs to play on them.

Yeah, that's a thing. If you've followed next-gen mania at all, you've probably noticed the serious lack of Japanese role-playing games. I've been keeping a count on Twitter. The results are depressing.

Here's a complete list of currently announced JRPGs for PS4 and Xbox One in the West:

  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Kingdom Hearts III

That's it. The whole list. And short of a few smaller, cross-gen, JRPGish games that will get PS4 ports like Child of Light and Pier Solar, our shiny new consoles won't have much in the way of turn-based action.

Yes, we've got time. More announcements could be coming. But as the world gets hyped over the next generation of video games — look at those graphics! so immersive! so visceral! — I'm starting to worry that there's not going to be a whole lot on these consoles for people who want that JRPG feel.

This apparently-dismal next-gen JRPG future has been in the cards for a while now — Japan has gone mobile. They've gone portable. They've embraced a future of free-to-play gaming filled with businessmen who salivate over buzzwords like "monetization" and "in-app purchases." Long gone are the days of high-end console RPGs that try interesting things: your Rogue Galaxys, your Xenosagas, your Dark Clouds. Beloved franchises like Breath of Fire and Mana have been thrown to the dregs of "social" gaming — a phrase that has become scarier than ever in 2013.

So what's next? Is this drought going to continue? Are JRPGs going portable from now on?

To answer that question, we have to talk about Final Fantasy XV, the game that came out of development hell to dazzle fans during Sony's press conference at E3 earlier this year. Final Fantasy XV is going to be important, not just for the sake of a series that has been long tortured, but for the growth of a genre that seems to rely on Square Enix as the be-all and end-all for all things JRPG.

See, when Final Fantasy succeeds, console JRPGs succeed with it. We live in a world of imitator culture, and when a Final Fantasy VII or a Final Fantasy X comes along and sells 5-10 million copies, it becomes the vanguard for the genre. It encourages big developers and publishers to release their own takes on the genre — filled with back-of-the-box quotes like "sci-fi Final Fantasy!" — and it convinces dollar-hungry execs that hey, maybe the JRPG isn't all that dead after all.

So Tetsuya Nomura's epic, a project now almost eight years in the making, has a lot on its shoulders. If FFXV goes the way of Final Fantasy XIII — a game that received mixed reactions, to say the least — and turns out to be a directionless blob of eye candy, it could scare off other developers in the field. From conversations I've had with people at Japanese companies, it seems like all eyes are on Square Enix, for better or worse.

That's my prediction: if Final Fantasy XV, whenever it is released, becomes a critical and commercial success, we'll see a whole new generation of JRPGs on the PlayStation 4. (The Xbox One is a bit of a wildcard, given that Microsoft seems to have very little interest in supporting their console in Japan.)

If Final Fantasy XV is a flop, expect Japanese developers to stick with what's worked for them: handhelds. Mobile. Free-to-play.

Big next-gen JRPGs will come either way, of course. Over the next few years, we'll likely see sequels to some well-received games like Ni no Kuni. We'll see new Tales games on the PS3 and perhaps even the PS4. There will be some surprises — maybe some long-dead franchise will pop up once again — and maybe one day we'll even see a next-gen Persona 5.

But these guys aren't taking any big risks yet. Not for a while. We're not going to see a new next-gen JRPG every month or even every year — not until something comes along to show everyone that monumental success is still possible for a Japanese role-playing game. Over the next year or so, keep a close eye on Final Fantasy XV. It could be more important than any of us know.


Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.


Comments

    We saw something similar in the PS3/360 generation. The early JRPGs were all sponsored by Microsoft on the 360 in an effort to crack the Japanese market. They've mostly given up on Japan, so they're not doing that this time.

    However, the PS3 eventually developed a reasonable library of JRPGs, including some standout titles (Tales of Xillia, Ni no Kuni, and to some extent the Atelier games).

    I'm not giving up on the genre on the new generation just yet. However, my bet is that almost all of what we see will be on PS4, not XBox One, simply because the PS4 will probably be where the Japanese console sales are.

      Ni No Kuni is my favourite JRPG of all time. Hoping for a sequel or at the very least something with a similar build. I'm a bit of a Ghibli fan though, so I may be a tad biased.

    Hopefully Atlus will announce Persona 5 tomorrow night.

      If they do it'll probably be for PS3 or Vita, unlikely to be for PS4. Same as how Persona 4 came out on PS2 after PS3 released.

    maybe if the ones released on consoles were up to the quality of the 90s and early 2000s they would still be pumping them out. Fact is on consoles Western RPGs have become more popular and with good reason. Variety, great storytelling and gameplay. Dragons Dogma is the only game to hold a candle to Western RPGs of the last generation

    I'm hoping there will be some decent JRPGs in this new generation. The vast majority of my PS2 collection was JRPG, whereas JRPGs only make up about 1/3 of my collection on PS3 and 360.

    Great, let's just ignore X. Clearly the Wii U is completely irrelevant when talking about "next-gen". #InternetSarcasm

      Oh, don't forget SMT X FE.

      I'm sure it will materialise... at some point.

    Next-gen Valkyria Chronicles please Sega!

    FF15 already recieved negative response. With people not wanting to play a modern JRPG, or even a modern JRPG set in Japan.

    The problem is that JRPGs seem to be created out of obligation rather then because it's a vision they want to share. FF13 sucked because there was no vision or focal point and it turned out to be a complete mess.

      I could be wrong but I thought only Japan hated the fact that it had a Japan setting. everyone I've spoken to has loved the look but are sceptical just cos since FFX the series has been in steady decline quality wise. to be fair its a pretty small sample group I've spoken to though

        I don't like the look. It looks too modern and the characters are too generic.

        Last edited 23/11/13 4:39 pm

        No Final Fantasy 12 was a huge hit and got critical and commercial success. People are just so used to hearing that 10 was the last good one that it has been mindlessly repeated. Maybe 11 being online garbage broke the memory/time line for people. I dunno. Being on 15 regardless.

          I hated 12. The story had promise but was poorly told, and it played like a really poor wrpg rather than a final fantasy game.

          yea I hated 12 to, that gambit system made it so you could just play on auto pilot. I loved the setting but didn't like the way they went with comat

    FFXV and KH3 are my sole reason for buying a next gen console. I regret nothing.

    Im gonna go ahead right now based of nothing but what Ive seen and speculation and say ffXV will need to be killed with fire quickly and without mercy. Please, please, please let me be wrong. As for KH3 my body is ready

    I am seriously hoping that FFXV succeeds for two reasons.
    1. It will save Square Enix. Through a combo of "ok" titles, bad PR & not listening to fans, they have lost a lot of their support. They are slowly sinking & are in need of a win to keep them from going under.
    2. Square Enix have stated that they do not want to remake FFVII until they have had another FF game that rivals its success. So if FFXV succeeds we will most likely be seeing an FFVII remake announced soon after. (Even though I would be more excited for a 3D FFVI, but whatever).

      I think another reason that made SE suffer is, because they are bad liars.
      For example,
      - FF XV was meant to be FF XIII Vs, and was meant to be PS3 exclusive.

      That makes original SE fans losing condifent with the company.

    I'm hoping Atlus announces a next gen Persona tomorrow just to remind us all of the problem with counting chickens before they hatch. The rumour is it's P4 V2 based on a voice actress' supposedly leaked resume.

    Anyway, my prediction is that PS3 will continue to release stellar JRPGs (2014 already has quite a few titles lined up for Western audiences) while the devs make a call on whether the next gen has received sufficient interest to warrant the investment. Vita will continue to see its current, steady flow of JRPGs (again, 2014 has a great line up already) and probably be a popular choice of platform for developers given the release of Vita TV. The 3DS will continue to see JRPGs, especially given that it is the current home of Monster Hunter and due to the brand loyalty to Nintendo. People will also continue to complain about the lack of JRPGs, despite the fact that many of them come out but don't get the same song and dance on websites that Final Fantasy does. (This isn't a poke at any site in particular, just a general observation across the several sites I frequent)

    Japanese RPG's haven't been Japanese RPG's since they stopped making proper-turn-based rpg. Which was what made them JRPG's in the first place.

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