The holiday season is for blockbuster games that will dominate every wishlist Santa Claus is given. Meanwhile, spring is filled with major games that missed the holiday rush and are ready to dominate from February to May. Summertime means long days open for dungeon-crawling, turn-based battles, and level-grinding, and this year in particular role-playing games have taken over the season. Starting with I Am Setsuna and taking us all the way into September, this is a bonkers time of year for anyone who loves grinding for XP in a dungeon.
Let’s take a closer look at the most intriguing Japanese role-playing games that are dominating the summer. And obviously, we’ll start with the high-profile throwback that leads the charge…
I Am Setsuna
Made by a relatively new developer within Square Enix's Tokyo offices, I Am Setsuna was just released on the PlayStation 4 and PC, and the first reviews have been real positive. I Am Setsuna tells the tale of a poor girl destined to be sacrificed at a sacred shrine, and you control the mercenary that leads Setsuna on her tragic journey. In both art style and gameplay, I Am Setsuna is a throwback to classic 1990s JRPGs like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, but with the superior technology of today. If you miss when Square Enix used to make games like this, then get excited because now Square Enix is making games like this again.
7th Dragon III Code: VFD
It's hard to a fan of Sega role-playing games if you have no Japanese fluency. Over the last five years or so Sega published a handful of well-reviewed RPGs in Japan without releasing them in North America, including an entire trilogy of games in the 7th Dragon series. The class-based combat and slick, anime-style visuals seemed destined to remain unlocalized, so consider it a shock that the third entry in the trilogy, 7th Dragon III Code: VFD, actually got a U.S. release this July. And despite being the third part of a trilogy, it eases you into the story enough that it's not obvious, and you're ready to enjoy every experience point on your 3DS.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
This June release is still one of my favorite games of the year, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions is the last great game on Wii U, making it stand out even among such a strong crop of summer RPGs. This crossover between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem brings out the best of both series with dense, multilayered combat and rich stories following an engaging set of characters. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE's bright colors and catchy soundtrack will draw you in, but it's the story that will keep your Wii U on for dozens and dozens of hours.
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
The original Shin Megami Tensei IV remains one of the best RPGs on the 3DS, so it's easy to get excited about returning to the end of the world once more for the next entry. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is a brand new side story that follows new characters through both the medieval world in the skies above and the post-apocalyptic Tokyo below, giving players the choice to either save the world or cause its doom, all while capturing demons like a Pokémon master from Hell. Whether you played its predecessor or this is your first ever SMT game, Apocalypse should be a great introduction to the series on 3DS when it arrives September 20 (right before the end of summer on September 21).
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
Much like 7th Dragon, Dragon Quest is a long-running series that also seemed dead in the United States. Since 2011, multiple new Dragon Quest games and remakes have ignored North America, but that's finally changing with the launch of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past on the 3DS. This September 16 release is a remake of the PlayStation original that was famous/infamous for being one of the biggest JRPGs ever made. Reportedly the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII streamlines a few things while also adding new gameplay and plot points to the tale of a young boy traveling back in time to rediscover his lost world. Be sure to set aside about 100 hours for this one, as it'll be a great, old school send off to a summer full of role-playing games... Just in time for Final Fantasy XV on September 30.