For many people, the best Japanese RPG of the previous decade was the excellent Persona 4. With Persona 5 released in the west last month, JRPG lovers quickly claimed it to be the best of this decade thus far, and certainly the best one that’s likely to be released this year. Of course, a lot of great JRPGs don’t even make it to the west, so many fans end up having to deal with untranslated imports or even pirated copies downloaded from seedy websites. (PROTIP: Don’t do the latter.)
But it looks like 2017 is going to spoil JRPG fans a little! We’re going to take a look at the JRPGs that (we’re promised!) will be released this year. We’re going to focus on more family-friendly titles, of course; there are plenty of others coming out for those looking for darker games!
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom
The first Ni No Kuni was an incredible collaboration between Level 5 (the creators of the great Dark Cloud series and some of the best entries in the Dragon Quest series) and Studio Ghibli (the guys who brought you some of the best animated films of all time – My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc.!). With great characters and an epic adventure that played out almost like a mix of Pokémon and Dragon’s Quest, it was one of the best JRPGs or recent years. Ni No Kuni 2 looks to bring back much of the same magic.
The most crowdfunded game of all time, Shenmue 3 is the long, long, long-awaited sequel to 2001’s Shenmue 2. This series doesn’t delve into fantasy quite as much as many other JRPGs. You roam around urban and rural Japan solving mysteries and taking part in all sorts of realistic quests. It’s soaked in a lot of modern Japanese culture, especially from the urban side of things. You’ll probably still learn more about Japanese culture from blogs such as Japan Ryan, but there’s definitely something to be said for exploring the culture in videogame form!
Blue Reflection Sword of the Girl Who Dances in Illusions
If that isn’t a JRPG name, then I don’t know what is! Any family with kids into the magical girl genre should definitely check this out. This blends fantasy and high school (yes, like Persona) in a game where you play as a high school girl who gains magical powers (obviously), who must then use her powers to help out others in the school and form friendships. It certainly seems like a dose of much-needed positivity in the gaming world!
Cladun Returns: This Is Sengoku!
Cladun Returns is a much more simple JRPG than the others on this list, with incredibly retro graphics and gameplay. It’s set in the Sengoku Era of Japan (this was around 1467–1603, which saw almost non-stop military conflict and political intrigue!). The player will get to interact with several famous figures and events from that era, so any family that’s looking to learn a little more about Japanese history should definitely keep an eye on this one! It’s due to be released in June for the PC, though if it’s successful enough a PlayStation port may not be out of the question!
The Alliance Alive
The Alliance Alive looks like it will be a great way to introduce kids (and adults!) to the world of classic JRPGs. It will be released on the 3DS, and you’ll get to play as nine different characters, each with their own stories, all of which slowly begin to come together and form a high-stakes tale. If you’re looking for classic JRPGs to play on handheld Nintendo consoles in the meantime, you could always look into the incredible port of Chrono Trigger – which some would call the greatest JRPG of all time. (Though some Persona 4 fans will probably give them the evil eye.)
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Okay, to be fair, this is actually a re-release of a game that’s over a decade old. Still, Final Fantasy XII was definitely up there with VII, IX, and X as the greatest games in the entire series. If you’ve completed Final Fantasy XV – another great JRPG that was finally released this year after about ten years of delays (it was supposed to be the thirteenth game in the series!) and never got round to playing the twelfth installment, this PS4 remaster will be a perfect addition to your collection. If your kids have played XV but were too young (or non-existent!) when XII came out, this is a must buy.