Tales of Berseria is finally out in the west. Why should that stop you from playing other games though? Here’s a handful of games to play instead!
Chrono Trigger is the mac daddy, big papa, that cool kid in High School, some other phrase or such to delineate that this game is the utter best. If you make a list about JRPGs to play this one should always be there. Seriously, this game does just about everything right. Great story, characters, solid gameplay and amazing technical achievements for its time.
It’s almost not fair that this game is a thing. It was pretty much destined to be amazing from conception. Seriously, some of the guys who worked on it include Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy, Yuji Horii, creator of Dragon Quest, and Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball. These three dudes just decided one day “Hey, want to make one of the best games ever?” Then they did. If you haven’t played this game just do it, go, now.
I’m one of those twenty-something year olds whose taste in games was heavily influenced by this one. Did I know that something that combines Final Fantasy with Disney was going to be the thing that did it? Hell no. But it did and here we are. If you haven’t played this series you’re in for a doozy. It’s got tight action rpg combat, a wonderful (albeit cliche at times) story, big shoes and a cast of new and known characters that all mesh together wonderfully.
Which is one of the weirdest things about the series. Never would I have thought that I would be so engrossed into a series where Donald Duck says, and I quote:
“Look Sora, it’s Sephiroth!”
This is also the same series where Mickey Mouse goes on a murderous rampage after believing Goofy to be dead via falling boulder. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I completely understand. But if you’re at all on the fence I highly encourage you to give them a shot.
I do have to admit one thing though, the original Kingdom Hearts is lacking in the tight combat department as well as the “gummi ship,” mechanic used to travel between worlds and the second in the series Chain Of Memories is very, very niche. But hey most first games in series have a bit of roughness to them and sometimes developers take gambles on game design and they fail. Every game beyond that one though is absolutely fantastic.
This is in my oh so humble opinion, the best Sci-Fi JRPG you can play. It’s a massive space opera that takes you on a journey filled with aliens, androids and enough Christian themes to make the Pope blush. Don’t let that deter you though if it would. As I said they are just themes, the game isn’t trying to convert anyone or anything. At it’s heart it’s a story about humanity’s fight against the alien race known as the Gnosis.
It’s not much of a fight though more of a slaughter, because the Gnosis can phase through all physical objects and rip your soul right from your body. So humanity has to develop a way to truly fight them. This comes in the form of an android named KOS-MOS which can create a field that makes the Gnosis tangible. Without going too deep this puts you in the shoes of Shion, the Chief of the department developing KOS-MOS and her fight for survival.
That fight comes in the form of a classic turn based RPG style with some impressive strategic elements. For instance each character can charge up to 6 action points. Each character has 2 different basic attacks available (square and triangle) and a special attack (circle). These attacks can range from basic hits, to elementally charged moves that hit enemy weak points. Saving action points allows you to perform combos as well. This is how you deal big hits in one turn. Chaining together multiple attacks and finishing off with your special attack for massive damage.
Combine all of the above and you’ve got yourself a really solid JRPG series.
Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
What can I say about this game? Story wise it’s one of the most finely crafted games I’ve ever seen. The combat is quite easy, but never unenjoyable. Requiring nothing but a basic understanding of a slightly more advanced rock, paper, scissors elemental weaknesses chart.
But that’s not the draw of this game. You can spend hours going through a single town reading every bit of dialogue for every character and feel engaged, or at least I did. This isn’t just a world revolving around your main characters. This is a world where every NPC is living a life just as your playable characters live theirs. You can talk to the woman in the first town who owns the shop for instance and find out that her son is single. Talk to the son and you find out that he’s friends with your main characters and annoyed that his mother is always trying to find him a girl. After you progress through the game a bit, the mother has left the town to find a daughter-in-law in a neighboring town. With no luck she gets on the airship back and meets a woman whose dream is to run a shop. You might be able to allude what happens next.
That’s just a vague recollection of one of the many side stories too. The game is filled with them and it’s world building is so much richer for it. So give this one a shot if story driven games are your thing.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
This one might not be truly considered a JRPG, but I believe it takes a lot from the genre and makes it it’s own. Which is a wonderful game with JRPG elements.
Princess Peach is missing again and it’s Mario’s job to go find her. Like the title says though, this isn’t your favorite plumber in 3D. No, once again he’s made of paper. The only lead he has for the Princess though is a map she left behind. With this map, Mario embarks on a journey to find seven crystal stars in hopes that they will lead him to his end goal, the Princess.
The overarching premise isn’t what drives this game to be on the list though. It’s the wonderful sub-plots, humor, mechanics and simplistic yet enjoyable combat that make this title so good. On your quest to get the stars you encounter all kinds of enemies known throughout the series as well as allies. Some of them including a girl Goomba with a thirst for adventure, or a Bob-omb who was once a famous sailor, but has since vowed to never sail again.
With your motley crew in tow you traipse around whimsical world doing battle, making use of various abilities and items that reward you with proper timing. Or solving paper based puzzles that may require you to fold yourself into a paper airplane or simple turn to slip through cracks in walls. Whatever the situation you find yourself in, it’s always enjoyable.
These are just a handful of my recommendations, take them how you will. If you think something else should be on the list, let me know in the comments!