9 JRPGs to look forward to in 2016

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Regardless of the whispers from your circle of friends and the general gaming climate in the West, JRPGs are far from a dead sub-genre. What used to be one of the largest chunks of console gaming now makes up only a fraction of the industry's earnings, but that doesn't mean developers aren't still hammering out new titles that are worth paying attention to.

2016 is set to be one of the larger years for Japanese-developed RPGs in recent memory, with several titles making their way West from both large and small developers. This year features a number of older series continuing to push forward and new IPs trying to make their name among one of gaming's most difficult crowds.

All of the games we're going to feature in this list are slated for a North American release sometime this year, though some of their exact release dates are yet to be announced. Nonetheless, if you're a fan of JRPGs, you can take solace in the fact there are so many options to choose from in 2016.

STAR OCEAN: Integrity and Faithlessness

Platform: PlayStation 4
Release date: Summer 2016

I don't think I would have bet on 2016 being the year a new Star Ocean would be released, but it's turned out to be -- over seven years after Star Ocean: The Last Hope saw its initial release on the Xbox 360.

Integrity and Faithlessness will be the fifth mainline entry to the Star Ocean series -- and developer Tri-Ace and music composer Motoi Sakuraba are back at it again for Square Enix's sci-fi fantasy action RPG series. It just wouldn't be the same without them, right?

Fans are hoping this fifth entry will bring Star Ocean's (sort of) glory days back, and it just very well might. The game has so far been revealed to have six simultaneous party members, a fast-paced action battle system, and the return of the Private Action, event, and item creation features fans of the series have come to expect.

Hype for this game is so far lukewarm, which is understandable considering the polarizing opinions of the third and fourth games. Here's to hoping Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness goes above and beyond the fanbase's expectations.

Tales of Berseria

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Release date: TBA 2016

Perhaps the release most fitting to come after Star Ocean in the list is Tales of Berseria. After all, the first entries to both series were worked on by much of the same development team and both have maintained their own action battle systems through the years.

The Tales of Berseria looks to be a more series entry to the series compared to last year's Tales of Zestria. And once again, the battle and skill systems are changing, tossing out the SC system from Zestria and even the old TP system for something called the Soul Gauge.

A new Tales of release is always welcome, even if the series has some serious ups and downs. There's certainly something to be said of the sense of adventure the Tales of games still give today, and we're getting more of them than ever. Let's just cross our fingers that Berseria's combat isn't disappointing.

NieR: Automata

Platform: PlayStation 4
Release date: TBA 2016

Director Taro Yoko's NieR was the definition of a modern day "sleeper hit", with much reviewer reception being lukewarm while the game itself garnered a dedicated and obsessive fanbase, and for good reason.

NieR was and is most certainly a spin-off of Drakengard, a little-known action RPG series known more for its ability to confuse and disgust its players than delight them. NieR itself is very unique, meshing a variety of features together one really would expect with a story that's hard to forget.

NieR: Automata's announcement last year was a massive surprise, not only because it was unexpected but because of its developer: Platinum Games.

If you play Japanese games, you know Platinum -- the studio absolutely knocks it out of the park when it comes to action-oriented games. With Yoko Taro and Platinum working together, it's hard to imagine NieR: Automata not being everything fans could want and more.

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: Summer 2016

The Dragon Quest doesn't sell amazingly here in North America, but that doesn't mean we can't get at least some games in the series. Square Enix apparently agrees to some extent, with Dragon Quest 7 and 8 getting localized Nintendo 3DS ports this year.

While Dragon Quest 8 is certainly a stellar game and very much worth the purchase, Dragon Quest 7 is no release to scoff at either. The game's initial North American release on the PlayStation was met with a lukewarm reception, in large part due to its two hour introduction with no action whatsoever and dated graphics for the time.

The long, boring introduction has been cut from the port and new content added, meaning Dragon Quest 7 will finally be more accessible to the less-than-determined crowd.

Dragon Quest 7 one of the longest games in the series and is an absolutely touching and expansive adventure. If you've never given it a shot, it's more than worth picking up once the Nintendo 3DS version releases later this year.

Nights of Azure

Platform: PlayStation 4
Release date: March 29

Nights of Azure isn't your typical Gust-developed fare. Combat is action-oriented and smooth, the world isn't bright and cheerful, and it's not 50% "cute girls doing cute things" -- but it's Gust. It's not going to be triple-A quality.

Regardless, Nights of Azure should be on the shopping list of most action JRPG fans, with the game primarily focused on the button-mashing action. It's a Gust game, so expect lots of same-sex implications between the two female characters.

There really isn't much else to say here, but this is definitely a candidate to fill the action JRPG void in the first half of 2016.

Bravely Second: End Layer

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: April 15

Handhelds are where it's at for more traditional turn-based RPGs these days, and Bravely Default did an astounding job of bringing a new classic Final Fantasy-style experience packed with job classes, charm, and an engaging battle system to the modern market without being too derivative of Square Enix's flagship series.

Bravely Second: End Layer promises to bring that successful mix of old and new back, and judging by some reviews from Europe's earlier release it seems to fulfill that promise. North American Nintendo 3DS owners will be able to get their hands on this baby soon enough.

Final Fantasy 15

Platform: PlayStation 4
Release date: TBA 2016

It's hard not to add an upcoming Final Fantasy game to this list considering the infrequency of mainline entries to the series and how iconic it is, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pensive about it after Square Enix has spent so many resources on Final Fantasy 13's spin-offs and trying sell us Lightning.

But I digress: Final Fantasy 15 is coming this year and regardless of whether you're a classic or modern Final Fantasy fan, it's something to be excited about.

Final Fantasy 15 has been in development for the gaming industry-equivalent of an eternity and as with the past few iterations to the series it's changing up the battle system and world from its predecessors. It's bound to be full-on gorgeous and massive, two adjectives JRPG fans rarely see together these days.

Fingers crossed to 15 being the Final Fantasy we've been waiting for, and that it signals the end of (or at least lessens) Square Enix's Lightning obsession.

7th Dragon III Code: VFD

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: July 12

A turn-based RPG with combat akin to a dungeon crawler, a base-building feature, and.. dating? Let's have at it!

7th Dragon III Code: VFD is the first in the previously Japan-only series 7th Dragon to make it to the West, and it promises to be more expansive than its predecessors, with loads of features and some top-notch visuals for the Nintendo 3DS.

Rumor from Japanese fans is that this is a relatively easy game -- which is great for anyone not familiar with difficult modern dungeon crawlers like Etrian Odyssey. 7th Dragon III Code: VFD looks to make up for the lack of (supposed) combat difficulty with extra features, like being able to date your party members and build a base.

We don't get a ton of SEGA RPGs these days, and this series is popular in Japan. Hopefully this will partially quench the dungeon crawling thirst while we wait for an Etrian Odyssey 5 localization.

Persona 5

Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Release date: 2016 (Summer)

It's been how long since we've gotten a new mainline Persona game? Eight years? It's about time we finally got a new one, isn't it?

The Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series Persona exploded with the release of Persona 3 on the PlayStation 2 and only garnered more attention and fans with the fourth entry to the series. Both the third and fourth Persona games are considered some of the best JRPG gaming on the PlayStation 2, if not ever (by some).

Persona 5 has been added to a lot of wishlists over the years -- and it's almost time, with the game's rumored release date sitting in Summer this year. It's not far now, and with the game's overall style leaning more toward Catherine than the PS2 games and the return of Social Links, we're sure to be in for a treat on all counts.

Published Mar. 23rd 2016

Associate Editor

Ashley spends all her time playing games, cooking, and studying languages. It's a miracle she's not burned out on the whole thing after being a game addict since '89 (I'm old, deal with it). Classic annoying Sega kid, still hasn't let go of Sonic and prefers arcade-style games. Final Fantasy and SaGa rock whatever it is you like, chump.

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