When it comes to gaming there are many different kinds of genres. You’ve got Simulation, Action-Adventure, Platformer, and many others. One of the genres I find most unique, and my favorite is Japanese Role-Playing Games known as ‘Jrpg’. So for this article, I decided to mention five Jrpg games that you should play once or revisit. For this article, I tried to skip over the obvious choices like games in the Final Fantasy series, Skies of Arcadia, Pokémon games, Chrono Trigger, etc. You may have heard of some of these and some you may not have, so let’s get into it!
5. Grandia 3
When it comes to this Jrpg, Grandia 3 follows two games that are absolutely amazing. Grandia 1 and Grandia 2 are touted as a couple of the top Jrpg’s of all time. Grandia 3 was met with a mostly positive reception even though it was the first mainstream Grandia title not to release in Europe. Released in Japan in 2005 and in North America in 2006 it features Yuki and his companions in a beautiful 3D world. The group fights their way through obstacles using a battle system in the same style as the other Grandia games, with some slight tweaks.
Grandia 3 revolves around Yuki, a 16-year-old boy who dreams of becoming an ace pilot like his idol, the legendary Sky Captain Schmidt. Yuki and his friend Rotts build their own magic-powered aircraft in an attempt to fly over the ocean. Unfortunately, they become sidetracked due to the intervention of Yuki’s mother, Miranda. When Yuki and Miranda meet Alfina, a beautiful young girl with the ability to communicate with Sacred Beasts, the god-like guardians of the planet, they are thrust off into an adventure. The party ends up meeting four other characters who become playable at certain points in the story.
The first is Alonso, a sailor who dreams of completing his map of the world. Second, you have Ulf, a simple man who rides a dragon named Shiba. Next is Dahna, a cynical cartomancer with a hidden soft side. The last one is Hect, a sullen musician from a troubled village. This is a game I personally have enjoyed and definitely recommend.
4. Star Ocean: The Second Story
The next Jrpg on the list is none other than Star Ocean: The Second Story. It is an action role-playing video game developed by tri-Ace and published by Enix for the original PlayStation. A remaster of the game was later released and the PSP, and eventually again on the PS4 and PS Vita. Second Story gives the player the choice of playing as either Claude or Rena. Their journey evolves and ends differently depending on the choices you make while playing. The Second Story‘s gameplay is similar to that of most RPGs. This means the player goes from town to town and dungeon to dungeon, following the main story while venturing off and exploring the side quests.
Since this is a “Star Ocean game” it features some deviations from the normal RPG format. Battles take place in real-time and are way more action-oriented. Players have manual control over their character, as opposed to choosing options from a menu. Second Story features an in-depth skill system. Different batches of skills are actually sold in shops and once unlocked this way they must be learned by using your skill points. Some skills raise a character’s statistics, some unlock special abilities, and some provide bonuses in battle like being able to counterattack.
Star Ocean: The Second Story takes place in S.D 366 (A.D 2452) which is twenty years after the first game. The story follows your group which has recently been commissioned as an Ensign in the Earth Federation. On your first mission, you find a mysterious device and disobey the orders to keep away from it. You end up being teleported away to Expel and that is where the story truly begins. There are 86 possible endings even though some say 87, just depends on how you count them. An excellent game to get plenty of hours of enjoyment.
3. The Legend Of Dragoon
The next Jrpg on the list is The Legend of Dragoon. When it comes to this game many people have been clamoring for a remaster and updated version- even Associate Editor of LOGNET Joseph Repko. At one point this game was touted as Sony’s potential “Final Fantasy Killer.” The Legend of Dragoon was developed by Japan Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the original PlayStation in 1999 in Japan, 2000 in North America, and 2001 in Europe. The story is set in a high fantasy world called Endiness and follows a group of warriors led by the main protagonist Dart.
This Jrpg used turned-based mechanics and real-time commands with the feature known as a Quick Time Event. Thanks to the use of realistic CGI cutscenes, the game drew a lot of attention from the press. After release, the game would always be compared to Final Fantasy which lead to mixed reviews. There are nine playable protagonists in the game and the main protagonist is Dart, a warrior who is searching for the Black Monster. Then we have Shana who is Dart’s childhood friend and love interest.
Next up is Rose who teaches Dart how to fight as a Dragoon. Then we have Albert who is a king and Lavitz his loyal knight. Another is the beautiful Meru who is a dancer from a flower town. Then we have Kongol who is the last of his species alive in the game’s world. The last two are Haschel, who is an elderly man searching for his daughter, and the magician Miranda. I do hope we eventually get an updated version of this game, but I will be revisiting The Legend of Dragoon sometime this year.
2. Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Next up on the Jrpg list is Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Covenant takes place in 1915 which is six months after the events of the first game. During the height of World War I, German Army lieutenant Karin Koenig is drawn into a conflict between original protagonist Yuri Hyuga and the secret society Sapientes Gladio. While playing this turn-based Jrpg you get to explore various locations with a growing party of characters. Four characters take part in turn-based battles against a variety of enemies, with actions relying on a timing-based system dubbed the Judgement Ring.
The Judgement Ring is utilized for combat, buying at discount, and selling at a higher rate. This is one of my favorite elements in Covenant. The game’s worldview combines alternate history with elements of Lovecraftian horror. The main protagonists are Karin Koenig mentioned above and Yuri. Yuri is the main protagonist of the first Shadow Hearts. Following the events of Shadow Hearts which culminated in the death of his lover Alice Elliot, a depressed Yuri buried Alice in Domrémy-la-Pucelle. Where he has been taking it upon himself to defend the town from the War.
During their journey, Karin and Yuri are joined by a large cast including Gepetto who is Alice’s uncle. Yuri and Gepetto are by far my favorite characters. Then we have Blanca who is an intelligent wolf-like dog. We also have Joachim Valentine who is a muscle-bound vampire obsessed with wrestling. He will use any huge object as a weapon. Then the lovely Lucia who is a fortune-teller and who is like a fictionalized version of Anastasia Nikolaevna. Last on the list is Kurando Inugami who is a very skilled swordsman from Japan. This game is number two on my top five favorite video games of all-time list.
1. Suikoden 2
The last Jrpg you must play once or revisit is my favorite video game ever Suikoden 2. I actually think you should play all the games in the series because they are that good. When I talk about my top five games of all time, I have to say the whole series is number one. The games would take at least three spots in the top five. Suikoden 2 was developed and published by Konami. It was released in 1998 in Japan, 1999 in North America, and in 2000 in Europe. Suikoden 2 features 108 recruitable main characters and other recruitable characters not relevant for story purposes. You can also use over 40 of these characters in combat. Suikoden 2 takes place years after the events of the original Suikoden game.
It revolves around an invasion of the City-States of Jowston by the Kingdom of Highland. The player controls the silent protagonist Riou who is the adopted son of Genkaku, a hero who saved the City-State of Jowston in a war against Highland years ago. Riou and his best friend, Jowy Atreides, each gain one half of the Rune of the Beginning, one of the 27 True Runes of the Suikoden setting. Then they become caught up in the intrigues of the invasion and the dark fate of those who bear the halves of that Rune. In Suikoden 2 there are regular battles in which you use up to a party of six characters.
You also get to experience Duels in which the protagonist fights another person and you must select attack, defend, or wild attack. You pay attention to what the opponent says to determine the correct option. There are massive strategic battles where characters can be mortally wounded and no longer used rest of the game. To me, this is the only perfect game I have ever played. From the story to the music which is perfect at making you understand the importance of a situation, or how you should feel. Even as a kid I understood the situations in-game because of the music. I could go on for hours. I highly recommend this Jrpg game and it has nothing to do with my bias.
Like I said in the beginning these are just five of the many excellent Jrpg games out there. Even to this day I still have my Ps2 with which I can play all these Ps1 and Ps2 games. Anytime I want to take a break from the games of today, I can pop any of these games in and get countless hours of enjoyment. I feel Jrpg and Rpg games tend to have some of the most amazing stories that draw you into the character’s world and allow you to experience it. I do hope that we can eventually get some remasters of a bunch of old Jrpg games for our current consoles. Game Pass and PlayStation’s Upcoming Service would be perfect for these.