Posts Tagged ‘upcoming’

The 2016 JRPG Report: Quarters 3 & 4

That’s right, I didn’t forget about this little project – Quarter 3 was just such a relative non-event for JRPGs that I decided to combine it with Q4 and bring things home strong. With one day to spare…

Q3 of 2016 really could have been a big one for Japanese RPGs. With Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 originally slated for release in the third quarter, July-September was in danger of relegating the remainder of the year to relative obscurity. Yet Persona 5 only came out in Japan within this window (I realise we knew this a long time ago, but it’s still a bitter pill), and as for FF XV… Well, it was delayed again. This pair of facts, combined with the ongoing absence of smaller yet nonetheless exciting titles like Cosmic Star Heroine, left us with a decidedly lighter period of releases. At least for me personally, this allowed me to give more time to other games, most notably an old, highly revered classic. But then we reached Q4, and received two very heavy hitters alongside a decent selection of smaller but far from insignificant titles, leaving us with a lot to talk about. Let’s get stuck into the second half of 2016 in Japanese role-playing games.


Releasing in mid-July, before my very late Quarter 2 summary went up, the much-anticipated Square Enix title I Am Setsuna promised to prove a number of things – not only that the notoriously ambitious company is capable of shipping games on time, but in doing so that it might better cater to the tastes of some of its oldest fans through gameplay-first experiences. An admirable goal to be sure, and while they may have pulled it off for all I know (opinions I read/heard were genuinely mixed), ultimately all that the snow-covered, piano-scored exercise in melancholy did for me was remind me that I never did finish Chrono Trigger back in the day, and I should probably fix that.

Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t just drop I Am Setsuna straight away. I played the first two to three hours and enjoyed the instant sense of atmosphere the visuals and music provide. And yet with each and every Chrono Trigger-esque enemy encounter I was reminded more and more of how much I enjoyed the SNES gem when I initially tried it on DS seven years ago. Fast forward a few months and I finally did finish Chrono Trigger in late October. I loved every second. If I have time (highly unlikely) I might write about that experience one day. It’s not all that relevant on this page though, so for now I’ll just say a hearty thank you to I Am Setsuna and move on.

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The 2016 JRPG Report: Quarter 2

Wow, these days it’s like I blink and suddenly I haven’t blogged in a month.

Then Pokemon Go comes out and suddenly I haven’t blogged in two months…

Well would you look at that, we’re already well into the second half of the year. This of course means it’s (well past) time for part two of my 2016 JRPG Report, a look at the second quarter of the most insanely populated year for Japanese role-playing games in recent memory. If you missed Quarter 1, click on over here.

I mentioned this last time, but Q2 was indeed noticeably less intense for JRPG fans than the opening three month period. I was able to dabble in most of the notable releases within the genre this past quarter, even taking into account the dense explosion of quality triple-A videogame releases that defined May. I even managed to finish one or two along the way, in a manner of speaking, which was nice. The biggest JRPG-related struggle I faced this time around was that of classification – I came right up against that nebulous chestnut of a question “What makes a game a JRPG?” on more than one occasion.


I’ll get to perhaps the most controversial of these classification conundrums shortly, but first, to the game that contextualises it. Stranger of Sword City launched on Playstation Vita in late April (It was also supposed to release on Xbox One as it did in the US, strangely enough, but no such luck for Australians), a first-person dungeon crawling game with punishingly difficult moments and beautiful sprite-based artwork. In many ways I found it to be a more visually striking, mechanically deeper version of Demon Gaze, a dungeon crawler I had enjoyed far more than I expected back in 2014. This makes sense given they come from the same developers, but it was good to see nonetheless. Though I only played enough of the game to get a good grasp of what it is, I am glad I did, and I’d recommend it to any Vita-owning JRPG fan looking for a substantial challenge. The finely detailed art style pops off the Vita screen to make it even harder to escape the game’s punishing grasp.

Now Stranger of Sword City is a first person dungeon-crawling RPG (a subgenre that in some circles is simply shortened to DRPG), and Q2 of 2016 featured another such game – a Playstation Vita exclusive to boot. The game was not developed in Japan, but exhibits enough JRPG elements that I believe it deserves to sit in the same camp as Child of Light and South Park: The Stick of Truth, themselves Japanese Role-Playing Games in all but country of origin. The wonderful game I’m referring to is Severed.

Developed by Canadian studio Drinkbox games, Severed ‘s clever blend of strategic, fairly unique combat, fun levelling mechanics, morbidly oppressive Aztec atmosphere, eye-catching visuals and focused story make it well worth playing for the JRPG-inclined, and if you don’t have a PS Vita, the game is allegedly coming to 3DS and Wii U very soon, and has just recently launched on iOS devices. Don’t miss it.

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The 2016 JRPG Report: Quarter 1

Another post that became far longer than I intended.

I couldn’t write a 3000-word post on JRPGs to open the year without following it up, could I?

So far, there can be little doubt that 2016 has lived up to its promise to inundate players with Japanese role-playing games of all kinds. While quite a few gamers have looked at this February and March as unusually barren in the “Triple A” blockbuster market – correctly, I might add – JRPG fans have been struggling to get through the deluge of quality content relevant to their interests. And boy, have I been struggling. I knew what I was getting into this year, but I’ve had to cut and run on some absorbing games and flat-out ignore others in order to even scratch the surface of the ones I most wanted to play. Such is adult life.


It’s no real surprise that the Japanese handheld consoles have been the most fruitful homes for JRPGs early in 2016. The 3DS kicked things off with Final Fantasy Explorers, a Monster Hunter-esque game that focuses more on grinding for parts to make stronger armour/weapons than it does traditional Final Fantasy mechanics (though they also make an appearance). It was notorious for being in very short supply at retail when it launched at the end of January, but I got my hands on it and played a dozen or so hours alongside different co-op partners. The game is fun, and the ability to incrementally level up your skills and magic within the framework of a traditional FF job system offers some welcome differences from the MH formula. But it isn’t the kind of game I would play alone, so it was only a matter of time before I moved on.

Launching in Australia very quickly after Explorers, the PS Vita/PS3 received The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel in the early moments of February. Blending your standard turn-based battle style with light spatial awareness mechanics, the game presents a story in a Hogwarts-esque fantastical boarding academy with a cold military slant. It packs a schedule management system similar to the recent Persona games and its atmosphere is on point. I picked it up on Vita and really enjoyed the five hours or so that I played while up the coast on holiday, but life and other games have prevented me from going back.

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Ahead: 2015

OK, Oscars are done, our stupid movie release schedule overlap with the USA should be catching up, and the dry months of videogame releases are coming to a close. Let’s get hyped.

Well, here we are at the real beginning of a new commercial year of entertainment media, and it is astonishingly clear in terms of confirmed release dates or windows, particularly in light of the murky waters of the last two uncertain years. If I see one theme running through the suite of upcoming movies and videogames, it’s “Anything 2014 can do, 2015 can do bigger”. Yes, there are some real giants waiting to be awoken in 2015, most of which have not reached saturation point with audiences just yet. And they look positively mouth-watering. The question remains, however – will bigger equate to better in 2015? Here are my top ten most anticipated movies and games for this year.

NOTE: Because I’ve already devoted an entire post to Nintendo’s 2015 lineup, I’m going to disqualify them from my games list. Because, well, that wouldn’t be fair.


10. Chappie

Might as well start with a movie that’s actually really close to coming out in cinemas – next week, in fact. I certainly wasn’t alone in enjoying Neill Blomkamp’s Best Picture-nominated science fiction racism metaphor District 9, and I was more positive on his wealth gap themed follow-up Elysium than most people. But I do have to admit that the movies had a very similar feel, and from the looks of things Chappie is very much cut from the same cloth. It will need to do something pretty cool to stand out, and I look forward to finding out if it does.

9. Ant-Man

As the only superhero movie of 2015 that isn’t a sequel or reboot, Marvel’s Ant-Man could go one of two ways – it could expand Marvel’s ever-expanding Cinematic Universe with yet another breakout character, or it could flop and finally give the anti-superhero subsection of film critics some real ammunition. Losing a director as unique as Edgar Wright must not have been easy for the production, and it has everything to prove. Yet Marvel Studios has yet to really let fans down, and so Ant-Man well and truly has my attention.

8. The Good Dinosaur

After three consecutive years of huge (and really good) Boxing Day releases, Disney Animation Studios is taking a well deserved year off in 2015 to let Pixar take the 3D animation spotlight, with a pair of films to boot. The Good Dinosaur is half of said pair, and it seems to be taking an unorthodox approach to the well-worn prehistoric setting of animated family movies, asking the question of how things might have gone had dinosaurs lived alongside early humans with sufficiently less intelligence than themselves. It’s the less interesting of the two 2015 Pixar outings for me, but I’m ready to be optimistic about Pixar again, so bring it on.

7. Tomorrowland

Speaking of Disney, George Clooney’s Tomorrowland is also coming this year. Intentionally shrouded in an advertising campaign that seems to be giving nothing away, Tomorrowland is refreshingly mysterious for a Disney movie at the time of writing – scratch that – it’s refreshingly mysterious for any big movie in today’s day and age at the time of writing, and it seems poised to deliver a wondrous fantasy experience. I just hope that was the last of the trailers.

6. Jurassic World

Though I wouldn’t call myself the world’s biggest Jurassic Park fanatic, I definitely enjoyed the movies as a kid, and fourth film in the series Jurassic World is generating so much hype at the moment that it is taking on “event movie” status, and therefore attracting me like a moth to a flame. It hits right around the middle of the year and seems to be filled with set piece moments ripe for discussion. Oh, and Chris Pratt. count me in.

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Ahead: 2014

Here we go again, with another bumper edition of pure, distilled anticipation.

Ah, 2014. How you promise such great excuses for us to use up our hard-earned time and money. Indeed, with another typically uneventful (though wonderfully relaxing) January out of the way, it’s as good a time as any to talk about what I personally am most eagerly awaiting this year. Some of these things will be disappointing, I have no doubt, but I have reason to believe most of them will live up to the hype. So exciting are the gaming and movie offerings of 2014 that I have had to expand my third annual anticipation list article to include multiple honorable mentions. I’ve also thrown some applicable trailers onto this page, because people seem to like something to look at. Here we go.


10. Mockingjay Part One

My excitement for the next movie in the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise is tempered by the general track record of novel adaptations that insist on splitting into two parts. It’s pretty well documented that “Part I”s tend to be a little on the unfulfilling side, as they are only ever one half of a whole story. Having said that, given the surprising quality of the Catching Fire adaptation, I’m keen to see how Francis Lawrence and co. treat the very heavy Mockingjay story.

9. Wish I Was Here

Whether you happen to be a lover or a hater of what Zach Braff did through the Kickstarter website to help his latest film stick to his vision, I can quite confidently say that I am the former. So much so, in fact, that I was one of the 47 thousand-odd backers who gave money to the project. I was a huge fan of Braff’s last writer-director effort, 2004’s Garden State, and the promise of Wish I Was Here serving as a pseudo-sequel to the decade-old indie gem is too hard to pass up. Hopefully it doesn’t suck.

8. Big Hero 6

We don’t know an awful lot about Big Hero 6 yet – only that it is based on a neglected Marvel superhero license, set in a hybrid between San Francisco and Tokyo, will be released at the end of the year, and most importantly, comes from the same wide pool of talent that gave us Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. Expectations will be high for Disney’s intriguing next animation house effort.

7. How to Train Your Dragon 2

Speaking of high expectations, Disney’s number 1 competitor for animated movie supremacy is looking to come out firing in 2014 with the much-anticipated sequel to its super-charming 2010 hit How to Train Your Dragon. The trailers seem to indicate some real character growth across the board, as well as what appears to be a rather unconventional narrative structure for a family movie like this. But then again, you should never trust a trailer.

6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The next film in Marvel Studios’ ongoing lead-up to The Avengers 2 is being marketed as somewhat of an Avengers film itself, an “Avengers 1.5” if you will, considering the focus its trailers place on shots of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Nick Fury and Black Widow. But far from being the distraction it was in Iron Man 2, this choice of direction actually adds to the appeal of the movie to me, as I happen to regard Cap as the least interesting of the four main movie Avengers. Add the appearance of characters like Falcon and, of course, the Winter Soldier himself, and you can consider me hyped.

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