It is absolutely fair to say that Xbox has been growing in regards to its RPG reach. With their recent acquisition of Zenimax Publishing and their studios, Xbox is building a massive portfolio. From Bethesda Studios with Fallout and Elder Scrolls, Obsidian with Outer Worlds & Pillars of Eternity, Playground Games with the Fable reboot; as well as many other studios who have a history of RPGs. They are definitely right now the platform for western RPGs, however, they are still lacking in one key area and that is JRPGs. More JRPGs need to come to Xbox, as well as Japanese titles in general as it grows in popularity in Japan.
JRPG history on Xbox:
Life On The OG Xbox:
So have JRPGs always missed the green machine? Actually no, JRPGs had a very strong relationship with Xbox at the beginning of its life. There were actually quite a few Japanese titles in general that appeared on the original Xbox. Shenmue 1 & 2 were one of the most notable. While being a more open-world detective story, it did have some very lite RPG elements in its learning martial Arts moves.
Another large Japanese title that was on the original Xbox was the Fatal Frame series. Fatal Frame, known as Project Zero, was one of the biggest horror games around. Being hugely popular in both Japan and the west, it was a great addition to its lineup.
One of the most notable JRPGs that were on the original Xbox was actually a series that has not been part of the console since. And that is Shin Megami Tensei: NINE a spin-off of Atlus’s flagship series. This is was actually one of the many games that never made it to the west. Taking place between the first and second game from the SNES era, it was Japanese on release. And since then, the SMT series and its spin-offs both Persona and Devil summoner have seen limited releases, if at all, on the Xbox platform. So there is a demand by many to get the newer titles and remasters on the platform.
Not to mention one of the biggest online MMOs in Japan Phantasy Star: Online was on the original Xbox. After the death of the Sega Dreamcast, Sega and Xbox’s relationship was very close. And with other classics such as Ninja Gaiden Black, Otogi 1 & 2, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Jet Set Radio Future, and more; Japan has always been a core part of Xbox, even if some titles were locked to Japan.
The Golden Era Of The Xbox 360:
So after some really great titles in its early years, what about its second console? Well, the Xbox 360 era was actually seen as the golden era for JRPGs on the platform. So many classics and well-loved games were on the Platform during this generation, as well as a few highly praised exclusives.
One the first that comes to mind is two classics from Mistwalker, starting with Blue Dragon. Blue Dragon was one of the first games to come from Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, and composer, Nobuo Uematsu. These two long-time collaborators were going to set the world on fire again with their new IP. And Blue Dragon was absolutely fun. While it was not a massive blowout, it still inspired manga, anime, and other adaptations. The core concept of Blue Dragon was your traditional JRPG, but the main cast uses blue shadows to fight. With each shadow acting as a different class.
Now the Second game that came from Mistwalker was a huge success and loved by fans. And that game was Lost Odyssey. Stepping away from the chibi art style of Blue Dragon, and going with a more adult-oriented style similar to more modern Final Fantasy games. And again while the gameplay was standard compared to other JRPG titles of the time, it was praised heavily for its story. From the political intrigue and war to its concepts of parallel worlds. This was one of Xbox’s big titles that were a part of its backward compatibility program that launched a generation later.
Tales Of Vesperia
Another Icon of JRPGs that was on the Xbox 360 was from Bandai Namco with Tales of Vesperia. The Tales franchise was a long-running series, well before it was on the Xbox. And this one was exclusive to the Xbox platform and has been the only one since. Still, it is arguably one of the best in the franchise. With its combat feeling more like a fighting game than its traditional turn-based predecessors. Add in a highly enjoyable cast, Looking at best dog Repede, and a highly enjoyable story. It’s obvious why we saw a Definitive remaster of the game released back in 2019 for its 10th anniversary.
Resonance of Fate
SEGA also had a fantastic JRPG on the platform themselves with their under-rated Resonance of Fate. The game came out at the same time as Final Fantasy 13 so it was against a juggernaut. But Resonance of Fate really was unique with its gameplay focusing on a squad of 3 Main characters with more guns than a call of duty character. Focused on fast-paced action and a unique take on chip damage. Where certain guns do massive amounts of temporary chip damage; however, you will have to use a separate gun to make it permanent.
Add in a custom weapon mod system that allows you to add an ungodly number of barrels on a handgun it gives a lot of freedom and fun. Not to mention the team’s Tri attacks where you can slide and shoot an enemy into the air to juggle them; before shooting them with another to slam them down for massive damage it creates a very unique dynamic. We saw this title get a re-release with 4k resolutions and HD textures in 2018, but only on PS4 and PC. And with it not a part of Xbox’s back compat program it is a missing gem from a golden era.
And these are just some of the games on the Xbox 360. You had Catherine & Persona 4 Arena Ultimax from Atlus, The original NieR. Which has since gotten a highly praised sequel with NieR: Automata; and a re-release of its Japanese story with NieR: Replicant. You had Titles like Infinite Undiscovery and The Last Remnant from Square Enix. We even had Star Ocean: The Last Hope and Magna Carta 2, it was truly a great time for Japanese enthusiasts and JRPG fans.
However, it wouldn’t last into the next generation.
The Dark Times Of The Xbox One:
It is no secret that riding high after the success of the 360 that many thought that its new generation was going to be huge. And it was… but not for the right reasons. Its E3 showcase was such a massive letdown. Choosing to focus on the console’s media capabilities and not its gaming capabilities. And combine this with some very choice words by former Xbox head, Don Mattrick, and it sealed its fate as a horrible launch.
The community felt like they were not respected at all. Tie this with reports of Don Mattrick’s very aggressive business style. From major micromanaging of studios, pushing deadlines and rushing developers, and more. These were actually some of the reasons that Xbox’s relationship with Japan actually fizzled. Many devs were not willing to put their games on a console that was not selling in Japan. Alongside the fact that the Xbox One actually launched a year later in many Asian countries and other countries worldwide. It was safe to say that its foreign presence was very very shallow.
The Drip Feed Situation:
And this lasted the majority of its life span throughout the generation. Only garnering a few large titles being multiplat releases. One of those titles was Final Fantasy type-0 HD. This title in the long-running franchise was a big win for JRPG fans on the platform. The game brought some much-needed Japanese support to the platform. And while it received mixed reception across the board, it was still thoroughly enjoyed by fans worldwide. As it was what lead to the excitement for Final Fantasy 15, with its demo Episode Duscae.
Many were seeing a slow change, a release here or there, but nothing major. That all changed when in 2018 Square Enix finally announced Kingdom Hearts 3 on the E3 Xbox Stage. Long-time fans were so excited to see the game after waiting for almost 15 years. It was the First time the series was on Xbox; despite the spin-off of the main series getting re-released on PS4 with its “The Story So Far,” collection. But they would come eventually.
Things changed as we also saw the announcement of Sekiro and its debut, for fans of Dark Souls-style games from From Software. We also saw the return of Dante with Devil May Cry 5 announced, the debut of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, more anime-inspired titles, and more. It was more than 7 years and an entire generation before Japan and other Asian countries started to focus on the green box again. Many attribute this to Phil Spencer and his team’s dedication to building up their focus in Japan.
And that all leads to where it is now.
Xbox now and the future:
Xbox has really turned around its appeal in Japan. While the support has come way late in the Xbox One’s life cycle, it is making headroom. And there has been plenty of games within the past 3 years alone. SEGA has overhauled its support and relationship with Xbox bring the fourth entry to its alternative history war game, Valkyria Chronicles. Along with its turn-based JRPG spin-off Valkyria Revolution. While it didn’t receive the remaster of Valkyria Chronicles 1, there is still hope we may see those one day.
SEGA massive Support:
Xbox was also the debut platform for Phantasy Star Online 2. With its long-running history in japan, it had yet to come to western audiences. But, when it launched, it was a console exclusive to the Xbox platform and on PC. And while it is now on all platforms, its new overhauled redone game, New Genesis, is again an Xbox exclusive console launch title. As well as, even released the remaster of Shining Resonance. One of the last entries in SEGA’s Shining series.
But probably one of the biggest shocks was that they brought their now flagship beat ’em up crime drama, Yakuza, to the platform. Not only has Yakuza, seen a massive surge in popularity, and become a flagship for its Gamepass service. With the announcement of Yakuza 0, Kiwami 1 & 2 being the first to appear on the service. Now the entire series including its most recent release Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which I reviewed, is all in Gamepass. And has been a large promotion and so successful even Sega has commented on it.
Square Enix Surprise:
Square Enix had even changed their stance when it released all its Final Fantasy games on the platform and even put them in Gamepass. From 7 all the way to 9, and recently putting the X & X-2 HD collection. They brought NieR: Automata to the platform, albeit, 2 years later it was still a welcome edition. But the biggest surprise from them was the fact that they released Dragon Quest 11S: the definitive edition on Xbox. Marking a first for that series ever being on Xbox and it debuted in their Gamepass service. Shortly followed by their spin-off title, Dragon Quest Builders 2, both saw massive engagement and celebration from fans.
And now even more devs are slowly starting to bring things over. Spike Chunsoft recently announced Ai: The Somnium Files sequel, Nirvana Initiative. Bringing a cult detective investigative visual novel to the platform. As well thanks to Xbox’s ID@Xbox program they are helping smaller devs bring their titles to the platform. Most notably is the team working on Eiyudon Chronicles, a kickstarted game from the creator of Suikoden. This spiritual successor was actually shown during the Xbox’s E3 showcase this year getting its own segment. Not to mention the recently launched Cris Tales as a love letter to JRPGs; and the upcoming Astria Ascending made from former Final Fantasy and NieR: Automata veterans. Note, all of these games are coming day one to Xbox, thanks to Xbox Gamepass.
Couple this with the fact that Phil Spencer actually helped Xbox have a direct showcase at Tokyo Game Show in 2020. He opened up with a speech speaking on how important the Japanese market is; and ensuring they launched the Xbox Series X and S with the rest of the world. And it seems that this support has paid off. Jeremy Hinton, head of Xbox Asia, said in an interview with IGN that Japan is their fastest-growing market. The launch of the Xbox Series consoles has been popular not just in Japan, but Korea and Taiwan as well.
Part of this can be attributed to the tied ecosystem and cross support. Thanks to their cloud saves and Gamepass Ultimate integration you can play on all devices. In a region where mobile and PC gaming are important, it’s very easy to see the success. You can see that they have been rebuilding much of what was lost in the Xbox One era.
There is still work to do:
Now, while there has been plenty of moves to show growth and support. Now there is still work to do, as it is still a slow process to get titles on the platform. Square Enix with their change on releasing some of their titles on Xbox is still picky and choosy with what comes to the platform. NieR: Automata took two years to be released on Xbox after its PS4 launch and exclusivity.
As well as not having released any of its Mana series which have seen multiple re-releases on Playstation, PC and even mobile devices. Not Trials of Mana or especially Secrets of Mana. On top of this, they announced a remaster of the Last Remnant that was released only on PS4. This is despite the original being an Xbox 360 only exclusive a decade prior which has not received the back compat support.
Not to mention that they even recently saw the release of NEO: The World Ends With You. And after a recent re-release of the original DS game on Switch. It released its sequel on both Switch and PS4. Square is notorious for releasing questionable games that are direct sequels without releasing the previous titles on that platform. This was also followed by the fact the game didn’t sell well in Japan. This was also seen with Kingdom Hearts on Xbox. While most platforms already had the 1.5, 2.5, & 2.8 final mixes; the Xbox did not get these titles until a year after they released Kingdom Hearts 3.
SEGA for all its love and support with Xbox also has work to do. I previously mentioned that they re-released a 4K HD remaster of Resonance of Fate. However, this edition was only released on PS4 and on Steam. With no hints, if it is coming to Xbox. Nor has its original release been given support with the backward compatibility treatment either. It is currently locked to the 360. So to enjoy the game fans will have to go a bit retro just to play it.
Another title that recently came out was the newest entry in the Sakura Wars franchise. Sakura Wars was actually the sixth entry in the series, as well as, being a soft reboot. With it being a reboot it would’ve been the perfect time to bring it to more audiences. But it came out as a PS4 exclusive and those wanting to check it out will play it on that platform.
And while I would like to mention Fist of the North Star: Paradise Lost. The video game adaptation coming from the Yakuza dev team, Ryu Ga Gotuku, I understand this could be a licensing issue. However, the fact is it is still a PS4 exclusive, and time again we have seen anime titles also kept off the platform. Speaking of beating up, Virtua Fighter 5 is a staple in the fighting game community. And while PlayStation has been seen as the de facto console for fighting games; there has been a massive growing community on Xbox. And with the recent release of the Ultimate showdown, it was almost 10 years since the original final showdown was released on the 360 and ps3. Now fans can play that through back compat or as an in-game arcade machine in Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Although there is still room for improvement, SEGA has truly been one of the best in terms of support. But Atlus, one of their subsidiaries cannot be spoken about in the same light. Atlus has been one of the most notorious for its lack of support on the Xbox. While I previously mentioned that they released Shin Megami Tensei: NiNe on the OG Xbox, that never made it west. And that would be the only time the series was ever on the platform. While Atlus has their mindset that they need to focus on one platform still, from when they were smaller, they don’t have to now. They have the backing of SEGA on their side and have seen massive growth.
Persona alone has achieved new levels of popularity, in large part, to the success of Persona 5. While they did release an extended edition with Persona 5 Royal, that was still on PS4 only. However, its direct sequel, Persona 5 Strikers, was released on PS4, Switch, and on PC. Even Steam received the re-release of Persona 4 Golden as well. The series has grown well that even SEGA wants to focus on growing the brand into a global brand.
But they still only develop for one platform. Even with the enhanced version of Catherine, which was on the 360, the Full-Body edition was only on PS4. It added major story elements and even a new romance option, but it ignored its Xbox fanbase. I personally have been vocal about Atlus bringing more of their titles over, mainly their recent Persona releases and Catherine Full body; but I digress, they are one studio that there needs to be significant work with.
Bandai Namco is the go-to company when it comes to anime games. They are an absolute Juggernaut in the industry. That being said, they are one of the companies with the biggest issue when it comes to supporting the platform. While being one of Xbox’s biggest partners, they tend to skip Xbox a lot. They tend to release games on all platforms, skipping Xbox only. Mainly this is with many anime games. Outside of major recognizable games like Dragon Ball, One Piece, or My Hero Academia; they often leave many other anime titles off the platform.
Like Captain Tsubasa, being an anime-style soccer game, or Little Witch Academia a side-scrolling RPG with dungeon crawler elements. Or even Tokyo Ghoul Re: Call to Exist, an action RPG game set in the Tokyo Ghoul universe. Not to mention that they have kept all the Gundam games, most recently Gundam Versus Extreme Maxiboost off Xbox. And this is knowing that Gundam is one of the most highly recognized franchises around. Not to mention the most recognized mecha of all time. And as I mentioned previously most of and many of the Tales games. Like the well-loved Tales of Berseria or Zestria.
For fans of the classic series .Hack G.U. they released Last recode. Last Recode was a trilogy collection rerelease of the ps2 games on both Playstation and PC only. But one of their biggest games is the God Eater series a popular action RPG series. While there is an improvement, there needs to be more push for their multiplat releases to not skip Xbox. Especially with anime titles, as anime now tends to be extremely recognizable.
Nis America and Spike Chunsoft:
Now, I have talked about the big publishers that need work but they aren’t the only ones. There are many smaller publishers or devs that skip Xbox that need work as well. NIS of America is one of the most notable, as they don’t do anything with Xbox. Even when they have released games on Xbox, they tend to not mention them in marketing. This happened recently with R-Type 2. But they have other games they have not released, such as their Disgaea series. They also announced Monark, a game of former Persona devs, will be on all platforms except Xbox.
Plus with their partnership with Nihon Falcom, they helped to publish their titles. Namely their Ys, Trails, and Legend of Heroes series. Now, Xbox did get Ys Origin on its platform, but that is the only Ys game it has gotten. Not any of the remasters of Ys or recent releases like Ys: IX Monstrum. And especially not a single game from the Trails series, like the Trails of Cold Steel series.
I mentioned Spike Chunsoft earlier was releasing the next Game in the Ai: Somnium Files series. Now would be a time to release the first game before the sequel. They also announced that they are bringing their flagship series, Danganronpa, to the Switch with a collection. But it still is missing Xbox, they have released the series on Playstation and PC. With the fact that it is coming as a collection, this would be the perfect time to release the Visual Novel/Investigation murder mystery series on Xbox.
ArcSys & XSeed:
And these are just a few of many developers and publishers that need to do more to support Xbox. ArcSys is a massive developer making some of the best fighting games out there. But they are subject to their publisher. They recently released Guilt Gear Strive, which has been locked only to PC and Playstation.
Xseed is known for its Senran Kagura series as well as the Akiba Strip series. And they recently released a remaster of the first Akiba Strip which would be a great time to expand the audience of that series. They have not helped to release any title on Xbox since the 360. Mainly Killer is Dead & Deadly Premonition, both titles from Suda 51. They only just announced that the newest Story of Seasons, Friends of Mineral town; and the next entry from the Rune series, Rune Factory 4 are coming to Xbox at E3 this year. Not only that but it has even ported the first 2 No more Heroes games to both Switch and PC. Playing more like an ARPG, but coming from Suda 51 and his history it would have fit with his previous titles. But again the title and ports skipped out on the Xbox platform.
As you can see there is still more growth for JRPGs and Japanese titles on this platform. And really Asian games in general. So many potential partnerships and titles that could entice and intrigue the community are skipping the platform. While Xbox has made excellent strides in improving their relationship there in Asia. There is still so much more that can be done. And I hope that Phil Spencer, Aaron Greenburg, Jeremy Hinton, & Sarah Bond continue to put in the work there. To continue using all the resources, programs, and help they can provide to bring more devs and publishers to the ecosystem. All I know is that JRPGs need to come to Xbox and the future is looking better. But for now, we will have to wait and see.
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