12 Of The Best Japanese RPG Intros

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Final Fantasy XV's opening theme is memorable for all the right reasons, it definitely sets the scene and the tone of the game. You immediately get that it's a roadtrip tale of brotherhood and friendship. If you look very closely you'll see a subtle nod or two to the past games introductions too.

The opening cinematics in the JRPG's especially during the PlayStation 1 and 2 eras of RPG's became a tradition with many being memorable enough to still make us nostalgic and strike the right emotional chords 20 years later.

Here I have listed some of the more memorable cinematic openings that still have the emotional impact today as they did back then.

Tales of the Abyss 

Tales Of The Abyss is one the best games in the series, and had an excellent story that pulls the player in from its early stages with it's great cast of characters and cutscenes.

This beautiful anime introduction really helps to set the tone of the game, and expectations for what is come. It's fun, exciting and introduced you to the heroes of the story who grow and develop greatly throughout the massive story. None more so than the main protagonist Luke, who starts out as quite an unlikeable and overly privileged brat but is in a way broken down as character and is rebuilt as a hero who learns how to put others before himself.

Grandia III 

The Grandia series has been on my favorite series lists ever since I played the first one on the original PlayStation, and its sequel on the Dreamcast. The stories really drew me in and the battle system was one of the best I'd seen in a turn based RPG. While Grandia 3 didn't quite have the great the storyline of the first two games it was still a fun fairytale in its own right and did a fine job of taking you on a rather grand adventure. It's battle system was definitely more refined.

The introduction to Grandia 3 is rather beautiful from a visual perspective and the song is extremely catchy, so be warned it may play around in your head for a while afterward. The cinematics give you a good idea of what to expect from the game, especially with the protagonists ambitions to take flight.

Chrono Cross 

Chrono Cross was developed as a spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger, where instead of time travelling we're given a new direction with parallel worlds instead and it does a great job of intertwining the world's events and stories.

Chrono Cross has one of the most beautiful opening cinematics, and contains some of the most stunning music that really hits all the right emotional notes. The cinematics do a great job of introducing all the lead characters within the game.

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete Complete was remastered from the Sega CD original with added characters and scenes it was then ported again to the Sega Saturn and the PlayStation. It's a light hearted tale but at it's center is a story of love, heroism and adventure.

The amazing introduction sequence has certainly stood the test of time from its 1992 origins and shows a good glimpse of what to expect from the game's story and overall themes -- this is especially true for the relationship between Luna and Alex. The character designs and video sequences were by Toshiyuki Kubooka and rightly received a lot of praise from critics and fans alike.

Final Fantasy Tactics: War Of The Lions 

Final Fantasy: Tactics is a tremendous tactical JRPG, and the remaster on the PlayStation Portable War Of The Lions really showcases what kind of great storytelling Square-Enix is capable of. The events take place in Ivalice the same setting Final Fantasy XII and Vagrant Story the game is full of twists, turns and political intrigue.

The beautifully cell shaded opening cinematics look like they've been hand drawn which helps set the game apart from other games in the FF series. The cinematics provide you with a great opening and show you glimpse of some of the characters you encounter in the game.

Final Fantasy VII 

Final Fantasy VII marked a new era for the FF series and helped push JRPG's into the mainstream. Like many others it was the first game in the genre I had ever played and I love the JRPG as much now as I did back then.

This introduction still gives me nostalgic goosebumps; it provided the player with a sense of scale and that you were about embark on a huge journey. As the camera slowly pans out showing the massive world around you -- something we saw again in the FInal Fantasy XV intro. During the intro we get a first glimpse at Aeris/Aerith as the flower girl and the bustling cyberpunk metropolis of Midgar, before it thrusts you straight into the action as the hero Cloud.

Lost Odyssey 

Lost Odyssey was a dream team collaboration that was written and directed by the father of Final Fantasy Hironobu Sakaguchi at his own development studio Mistwalker. The soundtrack was by the famed Final Fantasy composer Nobou Uematsu, and Feelplus was also brought in for the gameplay mechanics. Feelplus were made up by a large part of the original Nautilus team that worked on the Shadow Hearts series, and was a true traditional Japanese RPG in every sense of the word. For many fans it was a Final Fantasy game in all but the name.

The opening cinematics in the game showcase an absolutely epic battle sequence that give the player a idea of what the lead character Kaim is capable of and the kind of a warrior he is. Similarly to FF7 you're thrust straight into that action about 3 minutes into the sequence.

Lost Odyssey for me was one of the reasons to own an Xbox 360 but it was unfortunately doomed to obscurity on a platform that was once only associated with space marine shooters in the West. As a result many gamers missed out on a game that I can't recommend enough. If you're a fan of traditional JRPG's then you owe to yourself to play this game.

Xenogears

Xenogears is an intelligently told science fiction JRPG that deals with different religious practices particularly Gnostic spirituality. The plot relies heavily on the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Psychological issues such as dissociative identity disorder also play a major role in the game's plot. If this makes the game sound complex and way ahead of its time back in 1998, it's because it was.

The intro here is a stunning mix of CGI and anime which gives you a small but intriguing taste of what is to come in the journey ahead in this sci fi universe.

The Xeno name lives on in Monolith Soft's current Nintendo series Xenoblade and the Xenosaga trilogy prior to that on Playstation 2.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant

The dark and gothic Shadow Hearts series started back on the original PlayStation with Koudelka but the real stand out title was Shadow Hearts: Covenant it was set after the events of the first Shadow Hearts game and takes place in an alternative earth during the early days of the first World War.

The opening reintroduces us to the protagonist Yuri who is a Harmonixer in demon form fighting off soldiers there to exorcise him. The cinematography is really well done, and has a really filmic and cinematic feel to the entire scene, and sets up a fantastic story full of twists and turns in an original setting. It also gives you a glimpse of the the most interesting protagonists the JRPG genre.

Suikoden II

Suikoden 2 is without a doubt one of the best RPG's ever made, the story is full of betrayal and loss, and the music is amazing. The villain Luca Blight is one of the most evil, bloodthirsty and sadistic antagonists you'll see in any game.

The intro for this game is quite basic in its animation showing more or less static images of some of the key characters with Luca Blight in particular standing out. There is some CGI animation and it carries quite a bit of impact in line with the beautiful music that tells as much of tale the scenes on the screen. There's a standout scene that symbolises hope in amongst all the ruins of a war at around 1.15 seconds. Beyond the great intro Suikoden 2 is a game every RPG fan young or old should play.

Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII is when Squaresoft really started to show a mastery of the CGI cinematics we first saw in Final Fantasy VII. It still holds up well today and showcases the flair and the art style the developers became known for.

Perhaps what the opening is better known for the is music. The Latin choral piece is called "Liberi Fatalli" that translates to "fated children" remains one of the most recognisable pieces of music from the Final Fantasy series and is still played regularly on the Distant Worlds orchestral tours to this day.

Suikoden III

Suikoden 3 continues the series legacy of the 108 Stars Of Destiny and its near perfect yet mature storytelling and character development.

The opening for Suikoden 3 is a favorite of mine just slightly edging out FInal Fantasy VIII. The music is by Japanese band Himekami and the song is called Exceeding Love. The animation and the music really help show the game's different protagonists, characters, races and it's serious tone. Showcasing conflicts of war and love it captures the mood of the series perfectly.

Do you have a different opening cinematic which you consider the best? If so let me know below.

Published Feb. 14th 2017

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I got my start at Gameskinny now I run my own website https://games2entertainment.com

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