A list of my Top Ten Favorite Japanese Role Playing Games in descending order:
10. Dark Cloud
Unlike most of the other games in my top 10 this one has more of a hack and slash style and only one character can be used at a time. The game’s world building is what makes it so unique, collecting pieces of the destroyed world and rebuilding are a fun way to spend time. While the cast was so-so there were a few characters I really enjoyed for one reason or another, Toan was a good enough character that I hardly ever felt the desire to switch out for another character.
9. Eternal Sonata
While Some aspects of the game are cheesy to say the least, there were many areas of the game that went into darker depths such as the fact that the character Chopin is dying and the game is set in his final dream. The game also has an extensive and interesting cast of characters all with names based on musical terms, instruments, or dance styles.
8. Tales of Graces f
Yet another of those games that appears cute and innocent on the outside while full of tragedy and dark themes on the inside, though this fact is most apparent much later in the game it can be seen throughout. While I found the childhood arc to be annoying and hard to want to play through I can see why it was in the game, it is during this arc of the game that you can form an understanding of how the characters got to where they are. Some of the characters were very enjoyable and watching how each other party member interacts with Sophie can be quite entertaining.
7. Tales of The Abyss
I think many of us who have played this game can in some manner or another relate to Tears changing feelings towards the lead character Luke, I found him so annoying and bratty at first only to find myself admiring how hard he tries to change later in the game. By the end of the game I found myself crying over the suffering and deaths of characters that I had hated earlier in the game, something that I almost never do.
6. Fire Emblem Fates
To be honest I had never once played a Fire Emblem game until I came across this one, it had immediately caught my eye and so I found myself pre-ordering both Birthrights and Conquest the week before it was released. I enjoyed creating my own character, building the relationships between characters, and customizing my castle. There are so many great characters in the game no matter which of the paths you choose, while I personally found the characters in Birthright more enjoyable and less cliche the characters on the Conquest path had their own charm too.
5. Atelier Iris: eternal Mana
This game will always have a special place in my heart as the very first Atelier title I got to play. When I had first obtained a copy of the game for PlayStation 2 at about 12 years old I spent a long time collecting materials and creating items, the synthesis system is so fun and at the time it was unique. The alchemy system is very different from what we see in modern Atelier titles, Alchemy in atelier Iris requires the use of elements and you also must have a partner mana that corresponds to each element needed in the creation of the item you want to create. The battle system was turn based and commands were listed in a circle, Three characters can be used in battle while the opposing side can consist of much larger numbers. The cast of characters may be full of cliches at first glance but there is far more to each character than it immediately appears.
4. Odin sphere Leifthrasir
With this one it was more the gameplay and graphics that won me over than anything else but the story is captivating and the characters are all unique. The game’s two dimensional hack and slash gameplay is what makes it so exciting, while the original Odin Sphere was already great this remake makes the game shine with a revamped battle system. Not only has the battle system been improved, there is also a great number of improvements to the game’s already enchanting graphics. In this time full of half-hearted remasters and ports this should be the standard.
3. Stella Glow
This is practically the spiritual successor to Ar Tonelico that I have dreamed of, much like the Ar Tonelico series this game features a cast of unique girls who each have the ability to use magic through beautiful songs and similarly it also has some very minor dating sim elements. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I first picked up this game but I got way more than I was hoping for. I took a likely to almost the entire cast of characters by the very end of the game of course with a few that I favored over all of the others, I very much enjoyed the fact that each of the girls had their own unique songs that matched their personalities and even better was that the songs in battle also had vocals. Though tactical style battles have become very commonplace in 3DS role playing games something had made it more enjoyable in this game.
2. Final Fantasy IX
This place has an extra special place in my heart since it is one of the very first games I have ever played and enjoyed. This is the very game that got me interested in Japanese role playing games in the first place, though I had previously played Final Fantasy 7 it just didn’t quite resonate with me but I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the genre or the series. After seeing a copy of the game at a local shop I knew I just had to have it, From the cover art to the plot summary on the back of the case it had piqued my interest and a week later I had received a copy of the game as a gift. I enjoyed the world, the settings, and the characters instantly and ever since it has been my favorite Final Fantasy of all. Some of you may have noticed that I reviewed the Steam Remaster and put together an article detailing some of the game’s secrets. Between receiving my first copy of the game and purchasing the Steam version I have played the game more than ten times with each time feeling like a new experience.
1. Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia
While I have put in over one thousand hours total across all gameplay sessions into Final Fantasy IX it met its match after I had received a copy of Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia in 2007 as a birthday present. I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful box art and art book included with the game but once i put the game into my PlayStation 2 the game had my full attention. No matter how many times I have played the game it seems that there is always something new to be discovered whether it is a different ending, recipe cards that I missed, missable scenarios, or cleverly hidden treasures. The cast of characters is very enjoyable with my favorite characters being Shurelia, MeiMei, Ayatane, and Lyner. I have over two thousand hours invested in the game over six or seven play throughs.