Are JRPGs Bound For Mainstream Success Again?


Indeed, if the founding of Tokyo RPG Factory and the recent (Western) release of I Am Setsuna suggest anything, it is a recognition of the popularity of the traditional JRPG formula by developers. Perhaps the generation that grew up playing Chrono Trigger and Wild Arms are the developers now responsible for the new imperative to recapture the spirit of old? There seems to be an understanding that gamers want the old flavor of the beloved 90s JRPGS pushed in a new direction. I Am Setsuna is every bit a Chrono Trigger clone, and while the game is might struggle to forge its own identity as a result of replicating that revered classic a little too closely, it’s reassuring that developers have identified traditional JRPG elements of gameplay as a priority.

We might just be in the midst of a new impetus, a renaissance of sorts, that starts with smaller JRPG developers going back to basics, and the AAA titles finding mainstream success once again.

Of course, the big agenda for 2016 are two of the most highly anticipated RPGs in recent memory, and they’re both from Japanese Developers. Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 are two very different games, developed by two studios whose dominance of the market has been acquired through very different fortunes.

Square, the genre veteran with a slightly wounded reputation, versus Atlus; the relative new kid on the block that continues to stride from strength to strength. The key similarity, though, is that both of these significant titles emerging from Japan have a real shot at penetrating the Western market with the same impact as the JRPG glory days of yesteryear.

For many western gamers, Final Fantasy is the JRPG scene. Square Enix are the clearest barometer of the JRPG climate, and after a very lukewarm reception to the convoluted Final Fantasy XIII series, the publisher has suffered a pretty serious knock to its public image. Indeed, Square Enix seem to have lost touch with what made the Final Fantasy games so beloved, and in their quest to evolve the series, they have rather left behind the style and spirit that were the very essence of their best work.

Final Fantasy XV, then, is huge chance for development team at Square to win-back players trust, and boy have they invested a lot into the game. After a tortured development period of ten years, the game has evolved dramatically since Tabata’s leadership of the project.

The difference is stark, indeed, and initial reception to that shift in tone was rather mixed. The concept of a group of stylish young men on a road trip didn’t endear itself to support from all camps initially, but, after two demos, an anime series, a CGI movie, and a launch event of unrivalled extravagance, fans of the series can be optimistic that Square Enix are determined to redeem themselves with Final Fantasy XV.

There’s certainly an immense amount of content being released to flesh out Final Fantasy XV‘s lore, but whether that will come together in one cohesive gaming experience remains to be seen. What we know for certain, is that Final Fantasy XV is likely to sell big in the West, and propel the JRPG scene right into the forefront of the mainstream for months to come.