Gamer

Top Five Most Anticipated J-RPGs Slated For Release in 2016

There are role-playing games (RPGs) and then there are Japanese role-playing games (J-RPGs). What’s the difference, you ask? Well, it certainly extends beyond the country of origin of the game.

As a rule of thumb, J-RPGs (think Final Fantasy and the Tales series) are more focused on narrative and a linear plot line whereas Western RPGs (think Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect series) focus more on an open-world experience where you can spend hours on the game without progressing one bit in the main storyline.

For a more in-depth explanation covering the differences between J-RPGs and Western RPGs, here’s a two-part educational video for you:

The international popularity of J-RPGs has been on the rise since the success of beloved titles like the Final Fantasy series in North America. And with 2016 being a year of huge game releases for next-gen consoles, you can bet all your chocobos (Final Fantasy reference, in case you got a little lost there) that the J-RPG genre has some major titles planned for the year.

Image Credit: BagoGames
Image Credit: BagoGames

Here’s a list of the top 5 most anticipated J-RPGs in 2016.

*Note, titles which were released much earlier and are making platform jumps in 2016 (such as the Dragon Quest VIII remake for the Nintendo 3DS) will not be included in the list.

5. Star Ocean: Integrity & Faithlessness (Square Enix)

  • Platforms: Playstation 3, Playstation 4
  • Release Dates: March 2016 (Japan); TBD (International)

The Star Ocean series is one of the most iconic and original J-RPGs out there, making its debut in the 1990s. Before it was announced last year that developers Tri-Ace will be pumping out a new instalment in the series, the last Star Ocean title was released way back in 2009.

Although not much is known about the new game, it’s been confirmed that the gameplay will stay true to its roots, adopting a battle system which is similar to previous games in the series.

The potential of next-gen consoles means fans of the series should expect improved mechanics and more dynamic sequences and cutscenes. A Japanese release has been set for 31st March but the international release date has yet to be announced so we’ll have to wait a little while longer to get out hands on this one!

4. Dark Souls III (Bandai Namco)

  • Platforms: Playstaion 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Release Dates: March 2016 (Japan); April 2016 (International)

I bet some of you might be surprised to know that the teeth-grindingly difficult yet enjoyable Dark Souls series is a J-RPG. The third instalment of the Souls franchise has been in development since mid-2013 and developers FromSoftware have promised that while much of the gameplay from the first two games of the series will remain, they are introducing a few new features.

For one, player movement speed in Dark Souls III will be increased to allow more fluid and intense battles and gameplay. There are also new abilities that will be introduced to allow players to deal more proportionate damage to enemies. However, knowing Dark Souls, that probably wouldn’t make the game any easier. Dark Souls III rages unto worldwide shelves in April 2016 and is sure to excite many a hardcore gamer.

3. Persona 5 (Atlus)

  • Platforms: Playstation 3, Playstation 4
  • Release Dates: Summer 2016

The Persona series has been around for quite awhile but you could argue that it reached the height of its popularity in 2008 with the release of Persona 4 for the Playstation 2.

Dubbed one of the best games of the console generation, so successful was Persona 4 that developers Atlus released a remake version for the Playstation Vita, a fighting game spin-off which nobody asked for, a sequel to the fighting game spin-off which nobody asked for, and a rhythm dancing game.

If you, like me, are a Persona fan, then the wait for Persona 5 (delayed twice since being announced in 2013) must have felt like decades, especially since Atlus keeps releasing yearly teaser trailers like this one! In development for close to six years, Persona 5 is (thank Igor) finally confirmed for a summer 2016 release and features a slightly mature and darker setting this time around.

One thing’s for sure, when this game is finally released, I’m cutting all social links and hibernating in my home for the foreseeable future.

2. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue (Square Enix)

  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Release Dates: Sometime in 2016

The Kingdom Hearts series is slowly turning into the Half-Life of J-RPGs. Kingdom Hearts II was released in 2005, with a main sequel announced in 2006. That’s ten years. Some of the people waiting for Kingdom Hearts III have actually gone on to become mothers and fathers, I presume.

But unlike Valve which has kept silent over any news regarding Half-Life 3, Square Enix decides to release timely reminders to its loyal fans that Kingdom Hearts III is (hopefully) on its way.

First, they released Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix in 2013. And then there was Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix in 2014. And just when you thought that surely the next game would be Kingdom Hearts III, Square Enix decides to troll fans of the series by announcing a HD 2.8 Remix (is this even legal?).

HD 2.8 is a collection of re-mastered HD versions of games released for other platforms and acts as the crucial exposition piece in the Kingdom Hearts series, providing the last remaining pieces of back story for prominent characters set to appear in Kingdom Hearts III.

Despite all my rambling, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 is still one of the most highly anticipated J-RPG releases this year and is sure to convince Square Enix that the time is finally ripe for the release of Kingdom Hearts III.

1. Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix)

  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Release Dates: Sometime in 2016

In the world of J-RPGs, it does not get bigger than this: Final Fantasy. Arguably the most iconic game of all time in the genre, the Final Fantasy series has had its hits and misses but its fan base remains formidably one of the largest in the gaming industry.

And those fans are all waiting with bated breath for Final Fantasy XV (that’s 15 for those who aren’t familiar with roman numerals).

In production since 2006, the wait is finally almost over. FFXV promises to be one of the biggest open-world experiences thus far in the series and the trailers has done nothing but raise fans’ expectations of the game. FFXV will feature an action-style combat system not unlike the system in Final Fantasy XII and XIII but with heightened graphics and more seamless gameplay.

Being in development for so long, the mere hype surrounding the game makes FFXV the most highly anticipated J-RPG release in 2016.

BONUS ROUND: The Legend of Zelda [Unnamed] (Nintendo)

  • Platforms: Nintendo Wii U
  • Release Dates: 2016 (?)

As a gamer, I find it disappointing sometimes when some games are platform-specific releases (such as the Persona series for Playstation). But whether or not you’ve played a game of the series, no true gamer can deny the popularity of the Legend of Zelda series.

The game is considered the flagship title of Nintendo and has a massive following. When the trailer for the new Legend of Zelda game (there is still no confirmed title at this stage) was released, fans of the series flipped out at the massive graphic improvements and the general aesthetic of the game.

Not much is known about the game at this point apart from the fact that it will be released in 2016 exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U. While I will probably not be able to get my hands on this one, I’m sure this is one entry on this list which makes Nintendo fans chuffed to bits. And who can blame them?

A Great Year Ahead

I don’t know about you, but going through this article made my heart rate increase a few folds. If you’re a massive fan of J-RPGs, this year is probably going to be one of the best years you’ll have. And if you’re not a fan of the genre, it’s a good time to start. Just pick any one of the games on the list, and believe me, you’ll be hooked, for life.

 

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