With the latest launch of consoles into the 8th generation of gaming, we decided it was look back at the 7th generation and ponder its contributions. It's easy enough to see that many of the genres we have grown to love have ultimately evolved over the course of these many years, some more than others. But one that seems to have taken one of the largest leaps is definitely the JRPG genre.
From generations past, we've seen it go from text, to menus, to stories, to voiced cinematics. We have also seen its slow, thought-out tactics evolve to fast-paced action, which has sometimes led to the lines between RPG and Action RPG being blurred. It means that this past generation saw the line of what a classic JRPG is, become harder and harder to see.
While a part of the market screams for change in the JRPG genre, we look to the past to limelight those that chose to keep the heart of a JRPG in check, and also helped to evolve the genre to where it's at now. Here's to the Greatest JRPGS of the 7th Generation of Gaming.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice (PS3)
NIS has managed to capture an entire fandom with its Disgaea series thanks to its never failing formula of insane grid-based turn by turn strategy. It's also impressive that despite this, each release adds substantial changes to the visual, customization, or core mechanics.
Disgaea 3 is no different. Its gameplay was some of the best and well-designed tactical gameplay you can find on the market. With a huge roster of characters, limitless damage potentials, globs of classes to choose from, no restrictions on class changes, and even gear levelling, the potential gameplay time is countless.
The cherry on the top is the well executed dialog. Disgaea is known for its off the wall stories, but Disgaea 3 seemed to know from the start where it was going. Offering some very witty exchanges, it made for many laugh out loud moments.
The World Ends With You (DS)
If there's any game to get on the Nintendo DS or indeed 3DS now, it's TWEWY. Square Enix managed to make a truly unique game, and not just in gameplay. The setting is very different from the norm, taking you straight into a modern day Tokyo setting where you're forced to play a twisted game of survival.
One can't discount the slick gameplay though. Using the stylus in a very interesting way, you attack enemies using pins bestowed with powers. Later in the game, you also have to juggle in D-Pad combinations to survive as well. Even the most gimmick hating person can find this strangely addicting.
Adding in this new take on combat, mixed with an interesting setting, throwing in some good plot development, and you have a game that shouldn't be missed.
Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
Easily one of the most overlooked, yet most highly regarded games of this generation.
Set in a fictitious World War II setting, you're quickly joining a small town militia as it defends its fragile homeland from two colossal warring nations. An interesting twist is the sci-fi element of a rare bloodline of Valkyria who are the key to tipping the scales in favor of one nation.
What sets Valkyria Chronicles in the must-play category is easily its addictive gameplay. Combat is turned base on a large battlefield. The key thing is that each unit has its own stamina, ammo, class, and cost. Each time a unit is selected, the game switches to a third person view and you are then strategically placing them to deal the most damage, or defend the most efficiently.
Another great feature is how the game handles each unit. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. At first it seems alienating, but after some time, it's truly what makes them special and stand out. One character may be allergic, one may be a lone wolf, or one may be trigger happy. It means you have to become more invested with your team, and really understand what makes them tick.
The Last Story (Wii)
Some of the greatest elements are often lost in newer JRPGs, but Mistwalker manages to bring some of that flavor back with The Last Story. It comes from the creative mind of Hironobu Sakaguchi and is supported by masterful music composing of Nobuo Uematsu "“ it's a recipe for a great JRPG.
The story follows Zael, a mercenary with ambitions to become a knight. After a routine job goes bad, Zael is bestowed a great power from an unknown source, giving him the ability to do the impossible and turn the tides of battle in his favor.
The gameplay itself is strangely addicting. It's a third person slasher at face value, but underneath is a strategic gem. At any point you can draw in enemies to Zael as well as command your party to execute attacks to tip the scales. Mix in some unique battlefields and you get a nice package that keeps you engaged to the end.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (PSP)
Released on the PSP, this hefty title is anything but portable in size. Its meaty and packed with fun and adventure that offers hours of gameplay. It's one of many chapters, self-contained, but grand in scale, offering a saga of infinite possibilities.
The story follows Estelle, daughter of Cassius Bright who is a legend amongst the people of Liberl. One night, Cassius returns home late carrying in a wounded boy named Joshua. While little is known about the boy, he's adopted into the family as one of their own. Years later Estelle and Joshua recruit into the Bracer's guild, an organization that keeps peace and serves the people.
The charm in Trails in the Sky is in its characters and world. Developing as your complete many tasks that unlock the world's secrets. Its combat is a turn-based, almost grid style, and offers a tactical system that often focuses on turn placement and forcing turn hijacking. This all in a complete package makes for a very fulfilling experience.
Final Fantasy XIII (PS3/Xbox 360)
While claimed as a huge departure from the Final Fantasy roots, there's no denying the massive appeal of this game. Featuring an expansive story, large world, beautiful visuals, and most notably a creative new combat system, it attempted to usher in a new era for the venerable franchise.
The central focus of Final Fantasy XIII's story is the fal'Cie. They are god-like beings that live alongside the populous of Cocoon and Pulse. Being marked by one of these fal'Cie, Lightning and her partners are tasked with destroying Cocoon or face being turned into a mindless monster.
The game's combat system utilizes a sort of pre-designed gambit system. Depending on which role your characters are set to, they utilize abilities learned in order of priority. Before battle, you can assign roles to each character in sets called Paradigms, then while in battle you can shift between each one. It's this simple, but complex design that makes the newest Final Fantasy franchise shine above the competition in this area.
Tales of Vesperia (Xbox 360)
While the debate may still be floating on which of the two Tales titles takes the cake this generation, and they are all two amazing games, Vesperia's overall design cannot be discounted. With a great cast of characters, fun combat, vast open world, tons of side content, and great visual design, what more can a fan ask for?
The story takes place on the planet of Terca Lumireis, where people utilize objects called "blastia" for various resources and power. You play, for the most part, Yuri, who is an unconventional hero who seeks out his own justice for the weak - even if it means getting his hands dirty.
Combat in the game is done in real time and once engaged, your players are spread out on a field with the enemy. Depending on who the player is targeting, your character is locked into a path towards the enemy. You can execute long melee combos, or cast techniques and spells with a limited mana pool. It's a fast-paced and fun combat system that ever evolves depending on which of the many characters you choose to play.
Eternal Sonata (PS3/Xbox 360)
One of the most artistically gorgeous games to hit the 7th Gen, and sadly another one of the less talked about JRPGs in the generation. Eternal Sonata mends beautiful musical scores with rich and colorful environments, all while painting an odd, but entertaining tale of FrÃ©dÃ©ric Chopin's dream escape while on his death bed.
In his dream world, he meets Polka, a girl with powers that sadly is an omen of her inevitable death. She, along with others, join together to question the Count Waltz's poisonous leadership in distribution of deadly remedies. It's an interesting world, seemingly out of Chopin's control, but all the more accented by the amazing art design.
Even if this game is beaten by others when it comes to presentation, the combat is still creative and fun in itself. Each side takes turns using up a meter on the side of the screen. Movement and attacks both drain it down, and combos are key to dishing out the highest damage. There's also an interesting Dark and Light manipulation to the battlefield itself that can change abilities and even change enemies. It's a constantly evolving system that never grows stale.
Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
If you're looking for a beautiful, yet solid classic JRPG, look no further than Ni No Kuni. For this title, Level-5's amazing skills in game design were partnered up with the master animation company Studio Ghibli "“ it creates a fantastic experience.
Combat in Ni No Kuni is an active battle system with cooldowns and casts. You can cast spells as Oliver or a companion, or you can send out captured familiars who can attack or cast spells themselves. Familiars can be found throughout the world, hold unique skills, and have different attributes that can be enhanced by feeding and leveling.
The story follows Oliver, a young lad who is dealing with a difficult hardship. He's greeted by a fairy king who promises to help him with his struggle if he comes with him to another world. A magical world where an evil sorcerer named Shadar breaks the hearts of its citizens, locking away their emotions.
Monolith Soft changed publisher for the latest iteration into the Xeno franchise, and it helped create one of the greatest JRPGs of the generation. While some feel it may have been limited by its placement on the Wii, it still managed to pack more content and depth than any other 7th Gen console title. It really made you question so many shoot for so much less.
Xenoblade takes place upon the lifeless bodies of two colossal beings. The residents of this oddly placed civilization face regular attacks by mechanic beings called Mechonis. From this setting, the hero is bestowed a special blade that is the only thing able to strike down the Mechonis.
With story in place, the game itself begins to shine. Exploring its massive world is only outshone by its very unique battle system. Locking onto a target, you can execute a variety of attacks that can deal damage, cripple, knock down, heal party members, or dish out other hazards. It's simple, but gets increasingly complex later on.
Even with the closing of this generation, there's still plenty to come. While Wii, DS and PSP are nearly extinct, PS3 and Xbox 360 titles are sure to be around for some time. Perhaps we'll see Persona 5, Lightning Returns, or Tales of Zestiria dethrone one of these winners.
That said, this wraps up this list of the Greatest JRPGs of the 7th Generation! Didn't see something in this list that you really liked? Don't fret! A list can only be so long and everyone's experiences are vastly different. So tell us in the comments below what you liked, or give us your top 10. We look forward to seeing what you have to say!