As Microsoft looks towards the future of gaming and worldwide platform growth, the company’s historical shortcomings in noteworthy markets remain embroiled in community conversations. Despite an arguably valiant effort early on, Xbox hasn’t consistently supported or embraced Japanese developers, publishers, and players. These inconsistencies from the gang in green have unfortunately resulted in inconsistent support from a significant number of beloved Japanese franchises.
However, fixating on past failures doesn’t change the current situation with Xbox in Japan. Regardless of the arduous uphill battle the team faces, Microsoft is committed to reinventing its image and appeal with Japanese partners. The dedication demonstrated in recent years has been nothing short of commendable, and it’s honestly reinvigorated my optimism surrounding titles that have skipped Xbox in the past.
The speculation floodgates are blown wide open after the recent Xbox announcements for Persona, Ni No Kuni, and the long-rumored collaboration with Hideo Kojima. The infamous quotes from Phil Spencer and Satya Nadella regarding the company going “all in on gaming” evidently extend to Japan as well. Considering the wild possibilities of this budding new chapter in an exceptionally tough market, we decided to highlight the other JRPG franchises we want on Xbox.
The Legend of Heroes
When inquiring with genre enthusiasts and Xbox community members, one JRPG series continuously percolated in forums and threads: The Legend of Heroes. Over the span of fourteen titles from a host of distinctive subseries like The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Nihon Falcom and its development partners have garnered a passionate audience of players and delivered some of the most critically acclaimed JRPGs in recent memory. With flashy combat inspired by all-time classics, and an impressive assortment of memorable figures, it’s not surprising the enthusiasm for The Legend of Heroes has endured all these years.
Another legacy standout that’s established a respectable modern following is Ys. With the first entry debuting in 1987, the Ys franchise has been providing action-centric JRPGs to fans for over 30 years. While struggling to achieve the same commercial success as contemporaries like Final Fantasy, recent releases like Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana have potently rekindled interest in the storied series.
As it stands, Ys Origin is the only offering available on Xbox, and that’s likely due to the publishing efforts of DotEmu. Similar to The Legend of Heroes, mainline Ys titles are also distributed by Nihon Falcom, so hopefully, moving forward, we’ll see Xbox establish a stronger working relationship with the company.
Shin Megami Tensei
Considering the flourishing relationship we’ve witnessed between Xbox and Sega in recent years and the tremendous marketing push supporting Persona 5 Royal launching on Xbox Game Pass, players are hopeful for increased Atlus presence on Microsoft’s console. Shin Megami Tensei is a relentlessly weird JRPG franchise that’s amassed a cult-like fandom since its early beginnings on the Super Famicom. In what could be lovingly described as “Pokémon for nihilistic adults,” the latest release, Shin Megami Tensei V, further establishes the series as must-play JRPG material.
This next JRPG franchise omission is personal. The Mana series from Square Enix has presented gripping, beautiful worlds bursting with unforgettable characters. Its stories of love, insecurity, and change are genuinely human and touchingly effective. Secret of Mana on SNES set the gold standard for action-RPG combat, and its influences on the genre can still be felt today. Additionally, Legend of Mana is easily one of my favorite video games of all time.
While the budget and support for the series notably dwindled in the 2000s, recent entries like Trials of Mana reestablished the importance of the IP and landed as one of Square Enix’s best-selling JRPGs in years. I have literal skin in the game when it comes to getting the Mana series on Xbox.
The continued success of the Atelier series further proves the energized demand for classic JRPGs. Koei Tecmo has wholeheartedly embraced the ravenous community secured throughout its staggering 23-game run. Casual audiences may consider this franchise a bit more niche than others on our list. Still, cursory search results instantly divulge why titles like Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream are so widely revered. Since its inception in 1997, Atelier has supplied fans with nearly one title every single year. That’s a whole lot of options for Xbox JRPGs.
Many readers are screaming, “THERE’S NO WAY THIS EVER HAPPENS,” but hear me out. I have no illusions of mainline Pokémon titles coming to any non-Nintendo consoles. However, with the franchise’s expansion into the free-to-play and mobile space, I wonder if there’s potential for experiments to exist on rival platforms.
Pokémon Unite seems an excellent contender for notable multiplatform performance, considering that crossplay already exists for Switch and mobile players. I’m of the mindset that all major free-to-play multiplayer experiences should prosper on as many platforms as possible. Though, I’m unsure Nintendo shares the same sentiments.
Currently, Xbox players can earn achievements for one Disgaea title. Disgaea 4 Complete+ is available on the Xbox Store for PC. Unfortunately, there aren’t any entries from this tactical role-playing franchise on Xbox consoles. Nippon Ichi colorfully carries the torch passed from predecessors such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. These cherished SRPGs are known for stuffing their games to the brim with content, characters, and engaging combat. Hopefully, moving forward, Xbox can strategically secure these titles for Xbox fans.
The prospects for fans of the confidently strange survival-horror/JRPG fusion Parasite Eve haven’t been encouraging. The franchise has been entirely dormant since the release of Parasite Eve 2 in 1999. In a fascinating development, Square Enix recently filed a trademark for “Symbiogenesis,” which internet sleuths speculated could be a codename for a Parasite Eve revival.
Sadly, it was announced that Symbiogenesis was actually a confusing NFT project from the publisher. Recent remasters like Chrono Cross suggest Square Enix is at least interested in revisiting PS1-era titles that failed to find an audience, so maybe there’s still hope for Parasite Eve.
Lost Odyssey/Blue Dragon
While the community has passionately questioned Xbox’s Japanese support over the past decade, Microsoft genuinely delivered compelling exclusives from influential figures at the start of the Xbox 360 generation. Lost Odyssey was a critically acclaimed JRPG from the creator of Final Fantasy, and Blue Dragon was a whimsical turn-based collaboration with famed artist Akira Toriyama. Both titles launched to positive reception, which only amplified the questions from fans. Why weren’t Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon secured as ongoing franchises for the Xbox platform?
Xbox’s relationship with Final Fantasy is complicated. When Final Fantasy XIII was announced for Xbox 360, it was an enormous win for the platform. Historically associated with Nintendo and PlayStation, the thirteenth entry in the iconic JRPG franchise marked a momentum shift for Microsoft. For years, multiplatform support for Final Fantasy seemed assured, and Xbox even partnered with Square Enix to bring almost every available tile to Xbox Game Pass.
Unfortunately, the exclusivity arrangements for Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XVI have disrupted the momentum for the series on Xbox. Initially, marketing material suggested Final Fantasy VII would be a timed console exclusive for PlayStation. However, two years after its release, an Xbox version still needs to be confirmed.
There’s work to be done
There are dozens of other standalone titles and esteemed Japanese franchises not included in our list. Time and time again, we’ve seen Japanese-developed releases come to every platform except Xbox. Dedicated fans of JRPGs who prefer to play on Xbox hardware have certainly made their voices heard. The leadership team at Microsoft understands this is an ongoing problem and is actively working with partners like Square Enix to repair these business relationships.
Thanks to the hungry, ambitious efforts Microsoft of Microsoft and the value-driven appeal of the Xbox Series S and Xbox Game Pass, the brand has seen remarkable improvements in Japan. Xbox has also positioned full-time employees in the region dedicated to establishing exciting new partnerships. Microsoft still has a towering mountain to climb, but they seem better prepared than ever before.