One of the things we should be really looking forward to in 2017 is that it is going to be the year of the JRPG. The sheer quality and quantity of games in development from Japan is already quite intimidating, and there’s no doubt a bunch that will be announced in the New Year that we haven’t even heard about yet... but, of what we do know, here are ten games in development by Japanese studios that we know are worth getting excited for.
The sequel to one of the most underrated games that has ever been produced, NieR: Automata is hopefully going to be the moment that the series (which also includes the three Drakengard games) finally gets some mainstream acknowledgement. A collaboration between the series creator, Yoko Taro, PlatinumGames (the developer behind such hits as Bayonetta and Vanquish), and Square Enix, this game is going to have it all; a smart plot, excellent production values, and incredible action.
The first two Danganronpa murder mystery games were instrumental in growing the popularity of visual novels in the west. Each game in the series combines some clever storytelling that mixes anime with game theory-heavy plots for some academic value, and each is filled with gripping twists and turns, mystery and intrigue, death and a robotic bear whose black humor absolutely steals every scene that he is in. That bear, Monokuma, has become one of the most memorable villains in recent years. The third Danganronpa promises more of the same, and that is exactly what we want to see.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Here's a fun bit of trivia for you; between the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 there are just two games in the Final Fantasy series' numbered entries that you can't play on those platforms: Final Fantasy XI, which is an MMO that is just about at the end of its life; and Final Fantasy XII, which is a somewhat polarizing entry in the series. Some insist that it is the high point of the franchise, and others claiming it's the worst of the lot. As of 2017, you'll be able to decide that for yourself, as Square Enix is releasing an HD remaster of the game for PlayStation 4.
The Japanese are already happily playing the latest entry in this hyper-cool franchise, but it will be our turn to do so early in 2017. There isn't a second of Persona 5 that does not drip with the most stylish turn-based action you've ever seen in a JRPG. Beyond the vibrant visuals and incredible soundtracks, Persona titles are also known for having superb narratives that are heavily focused on the relationships between teams of universally likeable protagonists, and this makes them very addictive games indeed, that you’ll want to sit down to for weeks on end to really get sucked into the world.
Ni No Kuni 2
The original Ni No Kuni was for so many people a dream come true. With the involvement of Studio Ghibli and Joe Hisaishi, the music composer that has worked on so many of Ghibli's films, the monster collecting JRPG felt every bit an interactive Ghibli movie. Soon enough we'll get to play a sequel, and while there's not too much known about it just yet, we're confident that with a developer that rarely puts a foot wrong (Level-5) everything that we loved about the first game will be enhanced and built on to give us another exquisite experience.
Koei Tecmo's RPG studio, Gust, is one of the most beloved studios out there for the most committed of JRPG fans. Without ever quite breaking into the mainstream, either in Japan or abroad, Gust's games invariably find a dedicated audience of fans who come for the charming storytelling, beautiful music, and gorgeous female characters that are hallmarks of the team’s games. Blue Reflection is a new series that Gust will launch in 2017, and promises to mix magical girl anime tropes with quality turn-based JRPG action. I'm predicting this will be a sleeper hit of the year.
God Wars is a tactical JRPG that comes to us from Kadokawa games, and as soon as you see it in action you’ll be sold on it. This beautiful game combines traditional Japanese art styles with a story featuring many creatures and spirits from Japanese mythology. The game tells a story that the CEO of Kadokawa Games himself has wanted to tell for decades, and it’s easy to see―and feel―the love and respect that has gone into the production of God Wars.
Whenever I play a Yakuza game I get homesick for Japan. While the series is completely fictitious and set in fictitious cities, the authenticity with which the developers capture the experience of being in a Japanese city simply can't be lauded enough. In short, it’s perfect, whether you're playing darts at the local pub, walking down a small shopping strip, or simply dropping in to the local convenience store, you'll get a real sense of the vibrancy of life that goes on in a Japanese city at all times of day and night. Yakuza 0 is the first time the series has come to PlayStation 4, and I simply can't wait to see what the developers are doing with the additional console horsepower.
Resident Evil 7
It's hard to argue against the notion that Resident Evil has really lost its way in recent years. More and more it has become a series of action shooters, rather than the horror games that early installments offered. Resident Evil 7 promises to be very, very different however. From what Capcom has released so far it looks like the kind of slow burning sadistic horror of the likes of House of 99 Corpses or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the intensity of the horror that the game offers, especially in VR, is almost certain to thrust the series right back to the forefront of the genre that it helped to pioneer.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo has a new gaming console coming out next year; the Nintendo Switch. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be the game that sells the Switch to players out there. Promising a massive open world to explore, gorgeous visuals, and all the refinements that we have come to expect from a Zelda game, Breath of the Wild is without a doubt the most ambitious Zelda game to date, and considering that we haven't had a new Zelda since Skyward Sword back on the Nintendo Wii, this is very overdue indeed.
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