Monthly Recommendations – #JRPGMonth

I’m trying something a bit new. This month I won’t be doing separate weekly recommendations – in stead I’m going to do a single monthly recommendation post and simply update it with a new addition every week. This month’s theme is, of course, JRPGs. How could it be anything else, with #JRPGMonth here? Each week I’ll recommend two JRPGs – one mainstream one that I loved and one that is a bit more obscure, but just as fantastic.

So without any further ado… here are the first of my #JRPGMonth’s Monthly Recommendations!

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII receives a lot of flak for two things – a weak cast of characters and an unwillingness to pretend it isn’t linear, but I think the flak it receives is far more than it actually deserves. I think people got deterred by a long tutorial/prologue and by Hope’s… well, by Hope…. and never gave the game the chance to impress them. It features some of the best combat I’ve ever seen in an RPG, an amazing soundtrack, a very unique equipment system and a really fascinating premise.

FFXIII

I just finished the game on stream last night, I have to say I enjoyed it even more the second time around. I do recommend having a guide on hand though, because while the game is linear… there are numerous mechanics that are simply not adequately explained in-game. But if you take the time to get into the game and really give the game your all, I think you’ll be in for a real treat despite its flaws.

Guided Fate Paradox

Guided Fate Paradox is part rogue-lite, part JRPG, and all hilarious. The game features a ridiculous and absurd plot in which a teenage boy is chosen to be God by a group of misfit angels and has to explore rogue-lite style dungeons in order to grant people’s prayers so he can learn more and become strong enough to tackle the evil threatening the universe. Ya, I never said it was ordinary.

GFP

But it is in the customization systems that this game truly shines. You can spend ages configuring the various equipment and passive bonuses, as well as managing your inventory and angel partners, and it is an incredibly satisfying experience when you step into a dungeon with just the right setup and know you’ve got it right because you aren’t struggling too much with the first few floors.

And don’t forget, this game’s sequel is slated for later this month, so what are you waiting for? Go get your hands on this quirky Rogue-Lite JRPG so you can go into the sequel fully aware of the story so far!

We’re back with the second wave of recommendations in #JRPGMonth’s Monthly Recommendations. This week’s additions include a game whose sequel I’ll be playing on stream this week and what I consider to be one of the best hidden gems in the JRPG World.

Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky

The Atelier games have fast become a staple of my gaming library, and with the next one only hours away(tomorrow, to be precise), this seems like the perfect time to recommend one of my favourite games of last year: Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. The Atelier series has always been limited by weak casts, but Escha & Logy features the best in the series by expanding on some of Ayesha’s stronger characters and by adding a good set of protagonists. Additionally, the music in this game is masterful.

But the core of any Atelier game is the crafting… and it gets better with every installment. Which means Escha & Logy is the best yet, naturally. The crafting is dynamic, varied, and so integral to the game. It’s just incredible.

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

This week’s second recommendation is Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky – also known as LoH: TitS. This ages old JRPG was released several years ago for the PSP at around this time of the year… and it went largely under the radar. Which is unfortunate since it is one of the best JRPGs I’ve played in the past decade. And it’s really in every way. The musical score is great, the gameplay was a fantastic variant on the standard turn based JRPG combat, and the story was interesting… but there was one thing that XSeed did with Legend of Heroes that everyone should take heed of.

This is the gold standard for localization. There has never been a game so well localized as this one… the translation was nearly flawless, references were made relevant, and there were a ton of just little touches that showed how much Nihon Falcom cared about making this game fantastic… and how much XSeed cared about bringing it to us in the West.

 

Are you ready for the third Monday’s #JRPGMonth recommendation? Well I sure am!

Persona 4: The Golden

In honour of me getting a PlayStation TV, I’d like to recommend one of the best Vita JRPGs of all time, possibly the best: Persona 4: The Golden. Sure it features a great story and some of the most interesting characters the genre has ever seen, but the most fascinating thing Atlus has managed to accomplish is making turn based combat exciting.

Combat in Persona 4: The Golden

Don’t get me wrong, I love the strategic elements of turn based combat and am really glad that companies out there still create games using it, but it is not the most exciting combat style known to man. Persona 4 combines amazing battle themes, a variety of exciting mechanics and animations, and a cheerleader – a character whose sole purpose is keeping you hyped up during battle – to keep the combat exciting despite being turn based.

 

This week’s additions are two classics that deserve to be remembered.

Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics is probably the greatest SRPG ever made. As is always the case, the most important part of any RPG is always the story… and Tactics introduced us to the dynamic and unpredictable world of Ivalice. This strange story unfolds amid a world beset by political problems and puts one of the greatest characters the genre has ever had deep in the middle of intrigue of every variety. It’s a story that will keep you guessing, but continually provide enough information to bait you along. A true masterpiece. Sadly, if I speak too much about it, I’ll just end up ruining it for you.

But if it was just a good story, it wouldn’t really matter. A good story has to be held up by presentation and gameplay or it might as well just be a book. Fortunately, Tactics is a winner in every category with a unique art style, a captivating soundtrack, and some of the best gameplay the genre has ever seen. In my eyes, Tactics is the gold standard for SRPGs and to date none have managed to live up to it.

Azure Dreams

Azure Dreams is a game that few remember sadly, making it somewhat hard to find. This PS1 rogue-like JRPG featured the town of Monsbaiya which was home to the famous Monster Tower. The Monster Tower, a monolithic ~40 floor structure that contained one of the most prized treasures of all: Monster Eggs. You see, while monsters were dangerous, if raised from birth some could be very useful. So these eggs were highly sought after. There were only a few problems: a person could only enter the tower alone and unencumbered, and the tower changed its appearance for every person who entered. This made venturing into its depths extremely dangerous – venturing into a monster filled labyrinth that changed its appearance every time you braved it alone with minimal supplies is not for the faint of heart. Our protagonist is unfazed by this, eager to brave the depths of the tower that so captivated his father – who disappeared in the tower years ago – and search to see if he could strike it rich to save his poor family from poverty… and maybe find his long-lost father in the process.

The gameplay in this game is a pretty standard turn-based roguelike but features a few unique twists. First, if you choose to hatch monsters yourself, you can tame them to be your familiars for later attempts at tackling the tower… since unlike you, they retain their experiences when leaving the tower. So you can gradually get stronger by constantly leveling your familiars. Secondly, you can only bring a few items – familiars included – with you into the tower. Any more than 5 and the tower says ‘nope’. And finally, the tower isn’t the whole game… you can use the riches to invest in the town building up different facilities such as a library, a pool, and even improving your family’s house. As you invest in the town and climb the tower, you’ll even begin to cultivate various romance options. Altogether, it’s a fascinating game… the only catch is finding a copy to play.

 

Here we have the final week of #JRPGMonth recommendations, and I’ll be brief – since I don’t have much time to write with the constant streaming happening right now on my twitch channel.

Xenogears

So as to avoid spoiling anything, I waited until after I posted yesterday’s list to recommend this gem. Xenogears is my favourite JRPG ever made. The best of the best. I loved everything about this game, from the incredible love story to the engaging and satisfying combat; from the music to the cinematics. It was the Playstation’s finest, and it has stood the test of time.

Record of Agarest War Zero

Agarest Zero is one of the most strategic games I’ve ever played. For all that it’s a bit perverted and some of the content is a bit geared towards the lowest common denominator the story itself is actually very interesting and the gameplay is amazing if you’re looking for something a bit more pensive and thoughtful rather than action-packed. I’ve said this before, but I have spent 15 minutes planning a single turn before trying to get everything just perfect. It’s a great experience.

 

Hope you’ve all enjoyed #JRPGMonth – it’s been a great time and I hope we can do it again sometime!

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