Summer is upon us. A time where the beaches are populated with wild teens and the cinemas are overly crowded due to Hollywood’s cash cows. It is undoubtedly a season of massive spending, nonetheless, a very exciting one. For gamers or general enthusiasts of geek culture, summer does not mean intense social gathering, new clothes to shop, or traversing foreign culture. Summer simply means new releases from our beloved game developers. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying than spending hours and days, playing the very game you have waited for a year or two (or even more in some cases).
With games like Overwatch and Uncharted 4 successfully captivating the substantial portion of the community, 2016 is shimmering with great potential for the industry. However, while surely many games from different genres will contribute to the aforesaid success, the spotlight blazes primarily to a rather forgotten genre, that is Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG).
JRPG is a star to the Japanese gaming industry, or more accurately ‘was’ a star. The genre took the worldwide market by storm in the late ’90s with classic titles such as Final Fantasy 7 and Chrono Trigger. Despite constant effort in duplicating the overwhelming success, no other titles have managed to prolong the maturation of the genre. As a result, JRPG fell into obscurity, maintaining its domestic interest at best. However, 2016 could be the year of a resurgence.
This summer, three great leaders of the JRPG genre, Square Enix, Atlus, and Bandai Namco, promise the gaming community with the embodiment of the genre’s evolution in the form of Final Fantasy XV, Persona 5, and Tales of Berseria respectively. Look no further and read to attain an in-depth look at each title.
“I have waited half of my life for this.” That was a literal statement declared by many of us who were awed by a trailer released by Square Enix on E3 of 2006. Final Fantasy XV began its development 10 years prior under the title Final Fantasy Versus XIII serving as an exclusive to the now irrelevant PlayStation 3. Whilst more footages were released in the subsequent years, information were generally scarce putting the fans hopelessly in the dark. Rumors of continuous conceptual shifts resulting in development issues started to emerge. Some analysts also hinted on the possibility of cancellation, until E3 of 2013. 7 years after it was first announced, a trailer broke out showcasing changes in concept, gameplay, platform, and name. More information came in steady since then, with the long-awaited confirmation of release date alongside two downloadable demos.
The people at Square Enix have truly created a fully immersive game, where Final Fantasy XV’s climate, ecology, infrastructure, and terrain are transforming into the gameplay itself. In a nutshell, Final Fantasy XV is an action role-playing game. The game eliminates all established formulae, thus exhibiting polarizing gameplay to its predecessors. Players are able to traverse freely around the connected environment of Final Fantasy XV. Neglecting the series’ orthodox of a turn-based system, enemy battle and encounters take place in real time while still maintaining the same degree of strategical approach.
Final Fantasy XV tells a story of prince Noctis Lucis Caelum as he journeys with his trusty friends to retrieve back what belongs to him, and ends the never-ending war between the kingdom of Lucis and Niflheim. As Noctis said, “Sorry to keep you waiting,” the game is set to release on September 30th, 2016 on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
You can watch the game trailer here.
Despite its slow start, with the release of Persona 3 and Persona 4, the Persona series has achieved a sheer amount of global fanbase, establishing itself as a worthy contender to the JRPG giant Final Fantasy. P3 and P4’s massive popularity resulted in substantial brand extension. From infinite merchandises, anime and movie adaptation, to numerous spin-offs, Atlus did everything in their power to capitalize on the franchises’ success. The reception to Persona’s portfolio is generally positive, however, fans’ demand for a new entry to the franchise is at its peak.
Rumors of a new Persona games being in development have floated for years, yet none come to fruition. 2013 marks the first time fans were given hope for the long-awaited entry through an extremely cryptic teaser trailer. Originally announced as a 2014 Winter release, Persona 5 faced multiple delays due to the development of a new specialized engine that will elevate players’ experience. A bulky amount of information has been released since 2015, culminating on May 2016, where Atlus announced Persona 5’s summer 2016 release.
Gameplay-wise, Persona 5 adopts the general mechanics of Persona 3 and 4, while the new engine adds a more dynamic feel to the overall aesthetic. The player assumes the role of a silent protagonist, experiencing the life of a high school student living in Tokyo. However, true like any other Persona series, there are mysteries to be solved, monsters to exterminate, and Personas to capture.
The story of Persona 5 starts with the protagonist being unjustly charged for a crime, putting him into a probation, subsequently transferred into Shujin (prisoner) High School at Tokyo. The protagonist later stumbles upon a supernatural app that leads him to manifest the power of Persona. The encounter enables him and his growing companions to become “Phantom Thieves of Heart,” branding themselves as outlaws. Through heists and exploits, the group is determined to eradicate the corrupt heart of adults, thus restoring the society in the process. Persona 5 is set to release exclusively on the PlayStation 3 and 4 on September 15, 2016.
You can watch the game trailer here.
While still having a healthy amount of followers both domestic and in abroad, Bandai Namco’s Tales series is undoubtedly the lesser known entity as compared to the two juggernauts. Unlike Square Enix and Atlus, however, Bandai Namco has been releasing Tales titles at a very constant pace, with 2014’s Tales of Zestiria being the most recent. The Tales series’ spectrum ranges from mediocrity to outright masterpiece within the genre. However, the series constantly lacks the publicity it needs due to being overshadowed by both Final Fantasy and Persona. The upcoming Tales of Berseria is a literal definition of an underdog.
The Tales series has always excelled at creating an innovative and dynamic gameplay. Since its humble beginning, Tales differentiate itself with an action-oriented real-time battle system as opposed to the standard turn-based system. Tales of Berseria will accommodate the further enhanced Bandai Namco’s signature system under the name Liberation Linear Motion Battle System. As with any other Tales series, Tales of Berseria encourages free exploration and mastery in connecting skills during combat. The game will also introduce the franchise’s first female lone protagonist.
The story of Tales of Berseria takes place at Midgand Sacred Kingdom and follows the female protagonist, Velvet Crowe, as she journeys as a pirate alongside her crew of misfits to find an end to the Deamonblight, a disease that transforms people into their violent state, making them immune to any rational sense. Tales of Berseria is set to release on August 18, 2016, on PlayStation 4 and the PC.
You can watch the game trailer here.
Based on the current promotional materials, all three games look absolutely promising. The conceptual designs of the respective games’ mechanics exhibit the developers’ efforts in bringing JRPGs to a new era, by captivating new audiences while still satisfying the old. If these three games fail at reinvigorating the genre, I am clueless as to what will. It is truly a great time to be a fan of gaming, nonetheless. So if you are excited about at least one of these games, prepare your cash to attain them at day one, and consequently, lose track of all things that matters.