Happy RPG Day, Japan!

Final Fantasy XIII is so 2009 (for Japan, anyway). We’re in January 2010 and today in Japan three RPGs are hitting store shelves, so hopefully the majority of genre fans are finished with the Square-Enix juggernaut and ready to move on the next best thing. Why do we care? For a couple reasons, really. First off, eventually all these games are coming here. One has a solid release date, one has a release month and one is still up in the air. Secondly, two of them are PS3 exclusives and one is a cross-platform title available on the PS3, this means you can import, since PS3 games are region-free. Let’s take a look at what Japan is getting today and what will hopefully be sitting on our own store shelves the first half of this year.  Keep in mind, again, that all three of these titles are releasing in Japan today, January 28.

End of Eternity ~ Developer: tri-Ace | Publisher: Sega
For the first time, tri-Ace teams up with Sega instead of Square-Enix for this new IP (I think Squeenix is allergic to new IPs now or something). This game has a completely different name in non-Japan territories, so we’ll be looking for Resonance of Fate over here. This RPG drops you on Earth in the distant future, where the planet’s environment has been drastically changed for the worst. In fact, mankind has poisoned their planet and almost wiped themselves out because they had a hard time adapting to the changes and shielding themselves from them. Those who are left built this huge device called Basel. It functions as a giant atmospheric purifier and theoretically will be able to cleanse the entire planet. In the aftermath of the environmental changes and the building of this Basel, society begins reforming around this device, building up a city in the immediate vicinity, which is a livable area.

Within this city, a caste system, of sorts, has been formed. You have the upper class, which lives on the upper half of the Basel, while the lower classes live in the districts around the base of the tower (remind you of anything else in RPG gaming history?). Life seems pretty normal and, for the most part, hope is strong that this device will be able to eventually render more areas of Earth inhabitable once more, regardless of what walk of life you’re living.

That is the setting, but the plot revolves around something that happens to this Basel – it begins to malfunction. Remember, this is the device that is helping the remaining members of humanity to survive, so if it has problems, naturally everyone is worried. And thus begins the journey of our heroes – Zephyr, Vashyron and Reanbell (they changed her name to Leanne in non-Japan versions for some odd reason).

While the story is definitely a highlight of any RPG, the battle system is another aspect that gamers clamor for. The battle system revolves around the theme of movement. You have freedom of movement, much like a standard action-RPG, but you set up various paths that your characters will run on the battlefield when they attack. When you activate that path, the characters move along it, and you can fire off various attacks and abilities. Through these attacks, you build up resonance (thus the title of the game?). Resonance is used to unleash massive team-based attacks. Another aspect of Resonance of Fate is the fact that it dumps the swords and shields aesthetic for more of a steam-punk feel in its art direction, giving the characters various firearms as weapons instead. Is your interest piqued? You can import it now for the PS3, or wait until March 9 and buy it here for either the PS3 or Xbox 360. Want a better look at the game? Check out our past coverage below.  (Yes, I’m spelling out the numbers so they’re easier to click.  Don’t judge me!)

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Last Rebellion ~ Developers: Nippon Ichi Software, Hit Maker | Publisher (NA): NIS America
No Earth-based game here. Last Rebellion takes place on Junovald, a world governed by the will of two gods, Meitilia and Formival. One is the god of death and destruction, the other is the god of life, birth and creation. Meitilia, the former, blessed two types of people, Blades and Sealers, granting both special powers based around the theme of destruction. On the other hand, Formival, the god of life, which is made out to be an antagonist in this story, is capable of reviving anything that is dead. Any creature that is facing death can allow their souls to escape from their body and be controlled by what are known as Formival’s Soul. These creature’s souls are then manifested into powerful monsters called Belzeds, which require the skills of both a Blade and a Sealer to destroy.

As luck would have it, the game’s protagonists comprise both halves of that death-dealing team. Nine is a Blade and Aisha is a Sealer. When a major threat arises from the Balzeds in their home kingdom, they’re called upon to deal with the threat, because their skills together are supposedly the only way to handle these big baddies.

There really aren’t any truly unique aspects to the battle system here – it’s pretty much your standard turn-based battle with some quirks thrown in. Each enemy has various regions on their bodies you can target to hamper their ability to retaliate. For example, you can take out their legs to slow their movement. In addition to that, both Nine and Aisha share the same turn, so deciding who should go first and with what abilities is often a strategic element during battle.

Last Rebellion has a “sometime in February” release date in North America, but it is nearly February, so I’m beginning to have my doubts. It seems to be the less covered game of the three I’m discussing because it doesn’t have a unique setting or battle system and it doesn’t let you take girls’ clothes off. But, it is a PS3 exclusive and can indeed be imported if you want to go that route. Take a look at some screens from the game here to spy out its art style and special guest star.

Ar Tonelico III ~ Developer: Gust | Publisher: Namco Bandai
Last, but most certainly not least, is Ar Tonelico III. While the other two games above are new IPs, this one is the third game in a franchise that most definitely has a sizable niche following. If you can snag them, the previous two games reside in the PS2’s library. This, however, is the first Ar Tonelico title in full 3D. A large part of these games revolve around the Reyvateils, girls who can sing in a special language known as Hymmnos. They use this singing to attack in various ways, depending on the actions and input from the player. Songs can deal damage, buff your party, hamper the enemy and just about anything else you can think of.

I don’t know a whole lot about the specific story or setting in this game, but it isn’t linked to the narrative of the previous two games, although it is likely connected thematically. The main character is Aoto, who starts the game as an apprentice construction worker, of all things (hey, at least it isn’t cliché, right?). Naturally, he falls into the company of the game’s two main Reyvateils, Saki and Finnel.

Just like the previous two games, Aoto can “dive” into the Cosmospheres of the girls to craft Song Magic. The Cosmosphere is basically the girl’s subconscious mind. Diving depends the bons between the Reyvateil and Aoto, giving her more power as Aoto helps her deal with her internal conflicts and struggles. Connected to this system is the one everyone is talking about. Various aspects of a girl’s personality reside in her Cosmosphere, and the player can choose to have the Reyvateil fight in the clothing of one of those personalities. Depending on how the girl is dressed, you have different Song Magic preferences. Many screens have shown us exactly what happens when these girls “power up” – they lose a considerable amount of their clothing. If that isn’t a system seller right there, I don’t know what is! Good work, Sony!

There is no mention of a release date for Ar Tonelico III outside of Japan, but I’m pretty sure NIS will be bringing it to North America sooner or later. Again, if you can’t stand the wait you can import it, as it is a PS3 exclusive, as well. For more info, check out our coverage of the game.

I’m actually looking forward to all three of these games when they are released outside of Japan, especially the unique aspects of Resonance of Fate. It’s a shame Sega chose to release that game on the very same day as Final Fantasy XIII. While I applaud their balls of steel, I worry that it was a bad idea for a new IP – one that deserves to have more people play and appreciate it. Having it battle neck-to-neck with FFXIII will not help it in the least.

To Japan I say happy RPG day! For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to get our hands on some of these awesome titles. Are you a JRPG fan and looking forward to any of these? Let us know in the comments!

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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