The Year In JRPGs, 2016

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that this was one of the most significant years for Japanese role-playing games in recent history, first and foremost because one of this fall's biggest games was a brand new Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy XV turned out to be one of the most interesting games of the year, standing out among a crowded slate of shooters and open worlds. Is it disjointed? Absolutely. Does it feel unfinished? Yep. But Noctis and crew still managed to resonate with thousands upon thousands of JRPG fans, offering a unique road trip with a rhythm unlike any other open world game out there.

Although 2016's other highly anticipated JRPG, Persona 5, hasn't quite made it west yet, FFXV capped off what was a solid year for the genre. Let's discuss, shall we? As has become an annual tradition, here are all the JRPGs I played this year:

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam - A generally forgettable entry in the Mario & Luigi series that will hopefully convince Nintendo to reimagine their idea of what makes for a good Mario RPG. Paper Jam is a ton of fun to play (and super clever) but not nearly as iconic as, say, Thousand Year Door.

Adventures of Mana - Great remake of Final Fantasy Adventure that I'd recommend to just about anyone.

Bravely Second: End Layer - Kinda disappointing. Where Bravely Default felt like a fresh take on traditional turn-based RPGs, its sequel doesn't live up at all. Bravely Second is too repetitive and reuses way too many of Bravely Default's ideas -- the bad ones, too.

Dragon Quest VII - I've played around 15 hours of Dragon Quest VII, which means I'm roughly 5% through the game. Very good RPG.

I Am Setsuna - Gloomy and monotonous, but charming. Although it's easy to tell that this is a budget JRPG, designed by a very small team of Chrono Trigger fans, I Am Setsuna still achieved what it set out to do.

Fire Emblem Fates - Kinda disappointing. Whether because of the fragmented story or because the characters just weren't great, Fates didn't hook me nearly as much as Awakening.

Star Ocean: Integrity And Faithlessness - *vomits*

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse - Yet another solid Shin Megami Tensei dungeon-crawler. Nice appetizer to prepare for Persona 5.

The Legend of Heroes: Cold Steel II - Came out at the worst possible time for me, so I haven't played more than a couple of hours yet, but I will finish this game by next year. The first Cold Steel is great.

Final Fantasy Explorers - I forgot that this game existed.

World of Final Fantasy - Haven't played much of this one, but from what I have seen, it seems excellent, like a cross between Kingdom Hearts and Pokemon. Fahey loves it.

Final Fantasy XV - Greater than the sum of its parts. Final Fantasy XV might be a mess, but it's a tremendous mess.

Dragon Quest Builders - A lock for game of the year. Like Minecraft, but better.

I probably should have played Tokyo Mirage Sessions, which I hear is excellent, but I think my Wii U stopped working. (Not like I'd even notice?) Hopefully Nintendo ports it to the Switch.

A pretty good year for JRPGs, don't you think?


Comments

    Cold Steel II and FFXV are the only ones that stood out among a field of mediocrity and disappointment, as well as a not-insignificant amount of really bad localization issues. I think the fact that Persona 5 got delayed into 2017 was the final straw though, if it had come out in 2016 we'd have still had a really good year for the genre rather than a bit of a mediocre one.

    2017 will see another Tales game (Tales of Beseria), Persona 5, Trails in the Sky 3rd, Tokyo Xanadu, most likely Ys VIII, Dragon Quest XI, Kingdom Hearts 3 maybe, presumably Ni no Kuni 2 and whatever they're calling the new Valkyria game now, and depending on how far you want to stretch the genre definition there's stuff like Nier Automata, Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Yakuza. Looks a much stronger year.

    Last I heard of Setsuna (around the time it was released) people were raving about it as the second coming of the classic JRPG style of game. Did it turn out to be a disappointment?

      Yes. It was basically a factory built (Hah! Puns.) JRPG designed to try and invoke nostalgia but lacked any real charm and that feeling of love for the story and characters that the games of that era had. Which was a shame. There was a genuinely interesting game in there wanting to come out.

    I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that this was one of the most significant years for Japanese role-playing games in recent history, first and foremost because one of this fall's biggest games was a brand new Final Fantasy. My feeling is that it was significant because it was a largely disappointing year in which most of the main titles moved to next year. Final Fantyasy XV's significance was that it was more or less the last bastion in a year of disappointing JRPGs. For me, it was the lesser known titles or new IPs that were the highlights.

    Titles like Etrian Odyssey II: The Knight of Fafnir, Trillion: God of Destruction, Stranger of Sword City, Odin Sphere: Leifthraisir, Grand Kingdom, God Eater 1&2 (Since FF EX made the list), Superdimension Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls, and SAO: Hollow Realisation were what kept me occupied during the year. Dragon Quest Builders and World of Final Fantasy were fantastic new IPs based on existing franchises but 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is rapidly becoming one of my new favourite games.

    Next year is shaping up to be the significant year of JRPGs with the first four months being choc full of titles in the heavy hitting series along with a number of potentially good new series.

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