Let’s think about some of the biggest releases we’ve been playing and raving about over the past few months, shall we? Well, Final Fantasy XV is the game that keeps on giving. It made its debut after a decade, ended up meeting most of our expectations, and is in the midst of a growth surge to make it a bigger, better, and more intriguing game. Pokemon Sun and Moon set records. Nioh ended up being a surprise hit for Koei Tecmo, even selling out for a time after launch. Kingdom Hearts has been making a comeback with its PlayStation 4 compilations. Tales of Berseria has found a number of new fans outside of Japan. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild convinced people to buy Nintendo’s Switch. And NieR: Automata’s become a surprise heartthrob. Hey, don’t all of these games have something in common?
That’s right, they’re all Japanese-developed RPGs. Many of them fall quite easily under the JRPG banner, while others are ones you might have to argue for a bit to prove they deserve to be under that umbrella, what with their Western-inspired elements. Still, it’s proof of something big happening in the world of gaming. People are getting really interested in RPGs made in Japan again. While this isn’t news in and of itself, as JRPGs have always had quite a devoted following, what is important is that many of these are considered AAA titles.
When you think of a AAA title, what comes to mind? Call of Duty and Battlefield absolutely qualify, as do titles like Assassin’s Creed, The Elder Scrolls, and Grand Theft Auto. Now, think about Japanese RPGs you think would make the cut. The Legend of Zelda definitely would. It’s a Japanese RPG, but one that often just barely falls into the JRPG category for various reasons. Pokemon absolutely does, but often doesn’t get that credit it deserves due to it being a handheld game with children being the target audience. Final Fantasy is a series that falls in and out of favor, with Final Fantasy X being the last one to garner real adoration before Final Fantasy XV came along. My point is, these RPGs made in Japan don’t often have the same sort of fervor around their releases in other regions as western games as a Halo, Madden, DOOM, or Lego game would.
There’s a sense of people stepping up and appreciating the nuances such games bring to the table. After all, there’s a lot to like about an RPG made in Japan. These titles tend to focus very heavily on characters and storylines, ensuring the 50 plus hours you’re spending playing are enjoyable ones. Since they were made in Japan and there’s often a delay in release, that can mean we’re getting a version that already has had patches applied and various bugs squashed. It can also mean veteran installments in series where gameplay has been fine-tuned, meaning less of a question as to whether or not a game will actually be good.
And it seems like there are only more opportunities for Japanese developed RPGs to continue to reach that same AAA level. Persona 5 is upon us, and it’s one of the most anticipated PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games of 2017. Bandai Namco has been going out of its way to hype up Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, one of its next PlayStation 4 games. In Switch promotional materials, Nintendo makes sure to mention Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Kingdom Hearts III is still among the most wanted JRPGs of our time. Dragon Quest XI is also a much hyped, multiplatform adventure.
It feels like Japanese RPGs are on the cusp of greatness. I mean, they’ve always been great. People have always loved JRPGs. But now, there’s a sense that RPGs made in Japan are rising to a prominence they’ve never achieved before. They’re able to stand alongside and garner the same sorts of adoration and respect as AAA endeavors. It’s an amazing thing.