by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 13th April, 2018
JRPGs or Japan Role Playing Games are a type of role-playing games that differ in more than one way when compared to classic, western role-playing formula. Although they originated on the Far East, they found a large and loyal fan base in Western countries, becoming as popular as western RPG titles, with some series such as Final Fantasy, earning cult status among Western gaming audience.
These games differ from Western-styled RPGs mainly in the main character, which usually is a known and named person with a predetermined set of personalities along with already built relations with other characters. Also, there aren't many choices in JRPGs, contrary to Western RPGs. This tendency to play with a "Tabula Rasa" characters, deciding their actions and building their personality is best seen in Gothic and Planescape: Torment, were playing characters were known as The Nameless Hero and The Nameless One, respectively. Also, this "empty" shell mechanic is quite obvious in Bethesda's RPGs, where the player builds their alter ego from scratch before setting on their journey. JRPGs characters usually have a name and are already known in the game world, and they tend to have developed personality traits at the start of the game.
The second biggest difference is the combat. In most JRPGs combat is either turn-based or something called active-time battle (where time flows during the combat but the player has to select commands from the menu), where you have limited time to issue commands for the next combat turn. But, even in those titles that feature real-time combat, encounters with enemies always play out as events separate from the roaming mode on the game map, they play as separate scenes. This, special event type of combat isn't mandatory, as Final Fantasy XV, and many other games, feature classic combat encounters that are the same as those in Western RPG titles, all along with real-time combat. Another feature that can be found in most JRPGs is a huge amount of grinding, but this became a regular feature of many Western MMORPG games.
Aside from gameplay differences, Japanese role-playing games were released mostly for consoles, and only a handful of them was available on PC, but that changed dramatically during the last decade. Nowadays, JRPG lovers don't have to play their favorite type of games on consoles since most new titles are coming out on PC as well, a huge achievement for PC since in Japan you'll hardly see someone playing on their computer. But, Steam and digital game distribution made PC more popular than ever before.
And if you like to play JRPGs you probably want to know which are the best titles available for PC right now. Well, stay with us and find out. We omitted FF XV from the list because the game came out just a month ago and is the first choice for every JRPG fan. But, once you finish FF XV, these are the games you should play next. Bear in mind that we tried to include modern titles, so you won't find FF VII or
A natural recommendation. A sequel to one of the best JRPG games in recent years, Ni No Kuni 2 came out for the PC as well as for consoles and blew the mind gamers. It features a deep and satisfying story that will make you laugh and will shed your eyes with tears. Its selection of characters is top-notch; they are believable, well written and full of charm, and you will love them all.
And what to say about its graphics, with the game looking like a superb animated movie that flows right before your eyes in real-time fashion. The visuals are stunning and show how a game doesn't have to feature photorealistic assets, along with 4K textures in order to amaze gamers. The campaign spans over more than 50 hours during which you'll visit diverse locations filled with interesting quests and otherworldly monsters, and the combat takes a turn and embraces real-time mechanics similar to those found in Final Fantasy XV, taking the game closer towards classic RPG titles. If you want a superb and modern JRPG that features amazing visuals, intriguing story and superb gameplay look no further because Ni No Kuni II is one of the best JRPGs of this generation.
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is, without a doubt one of the best Final Fantasy games ever to be released. It follows the story of Vaan and his company of odd characters who must take down the invading forces that held their kingdom of Dalmasca in chains. The game came out for the PS 2 many years ago but it recently had gotten remastered for PC and can be found on Steam.
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age looks excellent if we take its age into account. Aside from the natural limitations such as the size of maps and characters and object details, the game looks more than decent, especially when played in high resolutions, past the Full HD mark. The story is grandiose as is every story from the most known JRPG game series, with quality voice acting that puts it above most other similar titles. A full cast of characters received professional voiceover making the game one of the few titles where English version sounds better than the Japanese one.
Although the story, visuals, and excellent voiceover are some of the game's strongest qualities, the combat is what makes it truly excellent. Unlike its predecessors, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age features seamless combat system (another title that ditched the old mechanics of separate battles scenes) that may look like a full auto combat that plays by itself, but actually, it is much more. You see, the player doesn't have to participate in it at all; with right management, every encounter will be automatically resolved. You can give commands to individual party members, but the goal is to tweak your party AI in order for them to be maximally effective during fights. When you manage to construct a robust system of AI behavior patterns, all you have to do during fights is to sit back, relax, and issue commands from time to time, to attack a specific enemy or heal a party member.
Overall, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is a must-play for every JRPG fan and now it can be played in all of its grandeur on PC in 4K resolution.
Valkyria Chronicles is a bit of different take on the classic JRPG formula, and it belongs in the tactical JRPG subgenre. In this game, that takes place in the fictional continent of Europa (based on Europe) during the years before the World War II, you have to battle forces of the Eastern Imperial Alliance that invaded your country called Gallia. The game came out for the PS 3 in 2008, but in 2014 SEGA decided to release it for the PC, giving the platform one of the most original JRPG titles ever.
The game's visuals are the thing of beauty. Valkyria Chronicles utilizes a special graphical engine called CANVAS that makes it a beautiful art piece, with objects and characters looking like they are paintings in motion, and you really have to see the game in motion to fully realize just how beautiful it is. This is the reason why the game is as attractive today as it was a decade ago when it was originally released.
Combat is a mix between a classic third-person shooter and a strategy game. You control your squad and move them in real time, but the combat itself is turn-based. Your turn lasts until you use up all available actions, and then is enemies' turn to move and attack. Just check out the embedded video and you'll realize what we are talking about. The campaign is huge and excellent; the story is well-written and filled with interesting scenes and touching moments, and Valkyria Chronicles' set of characters brims with quality. The gameplay and combat are gradually getting more and more complex as you recruit more and more units into your squad, making the game challenging and interesting from start to finish. A true JRPG gem.
I am Setsuna is for those who want to play a classic JRPG that wasn't released during the 90's. The game looks and plays like old titles that were popular during the golden age of gaming, during the times when Super Nintendo and later the original PlayStation were the main console choices. You and your party move through the world map that looks cartoony, like maps in old Final Fantasy games (think Final Fantasy IV), and is dotted with forests, villages, towns, dungeons, and other objects. Your party looks huge compared to the map, another feature taken from JRPG titles of the past.
Graphics are pretty nice, with detailed characters, environments that look like they are made out of crayons and originally designed enemies. You won't find anything groundbreaking, but the game looks decent enough to be more than likable when it comes to its visual identity.
The story revolves around a girl named Setsuna and her fate that involves a sacrifice and a good old fight against ancient evil, and while not being very original is good enough to keep your attention during the game's lengthy single-player campaign. There are lots of different characters but most of them can easily be placed in one of the classic molds, so they aren't very memorable.
The best thing about I am Setsuna is its combat, which is a mix of real-time and turn-based mechanics, which works excellent in this type of game. The player has to give characters battle commands in time, before the timer counts to zero and their turn ends. This makes for some excellent and strategic battles but the downfall is the fact that they often are too easy. If you're a veteran player you will most certainly find right combinations of powers, attacks, and spells that will destroy most enemies in just a couple of turns. Despite its flaws, I am Setsuna is an interesting title that tries recreating classic JRPG looks and mechanics while offering modern visuals.
There are many Tales games but just a handful of them are available on PC, and the best of the bunch is Tales of Berseria. To be honest, this one is probably the best one in the whole series, which is excellent news for PC gamers. The story revolves around a tale of revenge that leads the game's main character called Velvet through many breathtaking scenes and we have to say that the game's story is pretty interesting and, let's say mature, and is one of the better stories when it comes to JRPG titles.
Visuals won't win any prize, but the game does feature lots of different environments that, while not looking stunning, are pleasing to the eyes. The game's characters and enemies are cell-shaded and look like they are taken from some anime, which definitely is a good thing. They are detailed, with enemies being original and well designed.
The best part of the game is its combat. While encounters play as separate scenes, the combat itself isn't turn-based, which is expected with this kind of battle mechanic. Instead, fights play in real-time, are fast-paced, and look more like they are part of some Devil May Cry game than of a JRPG title. You can complete all kinds of combos by chaining attacks, making Tales of Berseria one of the best JRPGs when it comes to combat mechanics. If you look for a game that features more than a solid story, lots of different environments, originally designed enemies, and a fantastic, fast-paced real-time combat, this game could be a perfect choice. When you complete this one, if you want to stay in the Tales universe, you can check out Tales of Zestiria and Tales of Symphonia, the two games from the series that are also available on PC.
Ys Origin is a hidden gem when it comes to JRPG titles on PC. It was originally released in Japan for PC (yes, it is pretty strange for a game made in Japan to be a PC exclusive) back in 2006, with the English version coming out on Steam in 2012. The game serves as a prequel to other games from the series (there are eight of them in total) and it tells a story about the origins of the series' backstory and we can say it's pretty interesting, no matter whether you played other games or not.
The game features a classic top-down perspective and it features solid visuals that look more than decent even today. One of the best features found in Ys Origin is the fact that you can play the game as one of the three main characters, and with each playthrough you will find out more about the world and the game's story, which is a great form of motivation to beat the game with all three main characters.
Combat is fast paced and extremely fun. You can combine moves into combos and have huge fun while battling enemies. Further, each of the three available characters has their own unique fighting styles making playing each character a completely different experience, just increasing the game's replay value. Ys Origin is an excellent JRPG game that, while not featuring huge AAA production that includes grandiose graphics or fully voiced characters, offers dozens of hours of pure fun, excellent combat, three completely different characters to play with, and an awesome story. What more do you want? When you finish with this one you can dig into other Ys games, most of which are available on PC.
While each game we have shown so far is available at the moment, we have a couple of titles that aren't here yet, but we urge you to mark their release dates because both should be excellent additions to already more than solid JRPG PC library.
The first one is Disgaea 5 Complete, a PC version of the best title of one of the best JRPG series of all times. Disgaea games feature cool characters, crazy stories, over-the-top combat and practically endless playtime. While you can find two other titles from the series on PC (Disgaea and Disgaea 2), you should wait for this one, which should land on PC on May 7, 2018.
The second JRPG title to look for is the latest entry in the cult classic Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest Xi returns the classic gameplay, signature turn-based combat, and a huge world to explore. The story revolves around a new hero with a sole mission of saving the world. Graphics look amazing - not a surprise since the game utilizes Unreal 4 engine - and the English version should feature full voiceover, something that Japanese version lacks. Dragon Quest XI is set to release on September 4 for PC.