It’s Time for a JRPG Resurgence

I want the reinvigoration of a once great genre.

Joey Davidsonby Joey Davidson

For more than five years, if you asked me what types of games I didn’t like, my answer would consist of JRPGs and the Buck Hunter series (only, I love playing Buck Hunter while drinking).

Japanese RPGs were probably consistently the best genre of gaming in the '90s and early '00s. We all pumped hours and hours into things like Golden Sun and Final Fantasy. With that success, though, came the birth of sameness. I’m no expert on the type, but it was sometime towards the Xs in Final Fantasy that all Japanese developers decided to make their games similar. Titles were wrought with the same storylines, the same character tropes and consistently tired battle systems.

Personally, the only JRPG I still love is Pokémon, and that’s probably a love born more out of nostalgia and familiarity of the basic mechanics. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy the subtle addiction that comes from leveling and evolving Pokémon?

Ni no Kuni makes me want more great JRPGs.

Playing this game developed by Level-5 with art from Studio Ghibli has made me fall in love with the Japanese RPG genre all over again. The attention to detail, the methodical nature of battle and the original story are all things that made me love this genre so long ago.

The remake of Persona 4 Golden also had a hand in this desire, based simply on the fact that it’s a brilliant JRPG with not much in the way of shared mechanics.

But these two big games have turned me on to wanting more from the genre. I want better JRPGs that break away from the mold formed by the likes of Final Fantasy. I want crazy storylines with wildly varied art styles. I want JRPGs to follow the path of anime and become an explosive genre in and of itself.

Watch us play Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

I’m sick of the same tropes and genre staples that have turned these games into decent songs stuck on repeat. Give me more, Japan. You’re capable of some freakin’ beautiful stuff, and I want the JRPG genre to be evidence of that fact.

I will say this: Ni no Kuni and Persona 4 Golden have convinced me that I need to take a second glance at some JRPGs that I likely missed in my fog of disdain. So, readers, what’s good in the world of Japanese RPGs that I simply must play?

Don't worry, I already plan on getting destroyed by Fire Emblem: Awakening when it comes out.

Joey Davidson is the Associate Gaming Editor for CraveOnline and co-host of Watch Us Play and the Next Gen News podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeyDavidson.