Earlier this week, Nihon Falcom had a broadcast celebrating its 40th anniversary along with revealing info on upcoming new projects. The company has steadily gathered popularity outside of the east in the past few years. Once a niche company, Falcom is becoming a well-known name within the JRPG community. With titles such as Ys IX and Trails of Cold Steel IV releasing soon in the west for PC and Switch, fans have much to experience from their intensive library with a list of the top 5 best Falcom JRPGs.
To celebrate this milestone, we’re going to look at some of the best JRPGs from this company. Also, consider this list to be my recommendation into which Falcom JRPGs you should try out. I wish I could fit in more than five, but it will probably be repetitive given the majority of Falcom’s IPs.
5. Tokyo Xanadu eX+
Xanadu is a unique JRPG. It was released on the PlayStation Vita in 2015. Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is the name of the enhanced port that was released for PS4 and PC in 2017. The best way I could describe this JRPG is if Persona had real-time action combat similar to Ys. There’s also a social simulator where you spend time with friends and raises your friendship level, hence the Persona comparison. However, the similarities end once we get straight into the combat, which is the best part of Xanadu and its gameplay. It’s a fresh take on the type of genre since Persona is strictly turn-based, and sometimes the combat can be repetitive there. The fast and fluid gameplay meshes well with the dungeon crawling.
The modern setting is fairly different from Ys and Legend of Heroes. It’s refreshing to deal with a more urban environment in a Falcom JRPG, especially when the lines between Ys and Trails start to blur. Xanadu has the potential to branch out into different styles that Falcom can make use of. If you’re a fan of JRPGs with school settings like Persona and Trails of Cold Steel, Tokyo Xanadu is a title I recommend fully. The gameplay is stellar, and the shift in tone and style gives players a unique experience in comparison to the other JRPGs.
4. Ys Seven
Ys Seven is a classic. I consider this entry to be important to the series as it introduced many of the features seen in modern titles. Mechanics like party combat and flash guards would end up as a stable in modern games in the franchise, thanks to Seven. Despite being a decade old, the game still plays smoothly, and it’s a perfect entry point for newcomers.
The story is simple and sweet, which is a given for the majority of the series. Once again, you play as Adol as he adventures through the Kingdom of Altago and gets wrapped into a plot to save the Kingdom from a catastrophe. Many recurring and new characters join Adol in his journey, adding variety to the gameplay. Each character has a unique playstyle that can allow you to make use of enemy weaknesses. The soundtrack is amazing, perhaps one of Falcom Sound Team jdk’s best OST to date.
3. Trails of Cold Steel II
With four titles in the series, it was difficult to choose which one to put on the list. Each entry is good in its own right, but there’s a special place in my heart for Trails of Cold Steel II. It improved upon the first game with its story and gameplay, adding to a more enjoyable experience overall. Its narrative is one of the best in the Trails series, offering a satisfying conclusion to the original Class VII.
The gameplay is more refined from the former, allowing more options in battle. Cold Steel II‘s pacing is more focused on the action than the bond building, which is a boon. In the previous title, I found the focus to be too reliant on the school sections and side quests. That problem would be fixed here, given the shift in tone and attention toward combat. If you found yourself wanting more after playing Cold Steel I, I implore you to try the sequel.
Honorable mention goes to the rest of the Cold Steel series as they’re all worth playing, especially if you’re already deep into the Trails series. They’re the most recent in the Trails series, and we have the last chapter arriving in PC and Switch next month. They’re all available on PS4 and PC; Cold Steel III and IV are also Switch titles.
2. Trails in the Sky FC/SC
This might be cheating a bit, but it’s difficult to count FC and SC of Trails in the Sky as separate entries. Each of their stories cannot work without experiencing the other. These two RPGs are lengthy but rich in story and world-building. Estelle is a lovable protagonist, and it’s almost impossible not to care about her story throughout FC and SC. The same goes for many of the other memorable characters in the Liberl arc. The emotional journey through both games makes it impossible to leave one or the other out of the list together.
Trails in the Sky is an important JRPG as it laid the groundwork for the rest of the Trails saga in the Legend of Heroes. The AT combat system is a personal favorite of mine. It’s a fresh take on turn-based combat, and it allows the player to use strategy to control the flow of battles. The system is then refined and used in later titles. That is why I had to place these games above Trails of Cold Steel, despite my preference. It’s a must-play for fans of the genre along with the rest of the series. Trails in the Sky and its sequel are on both PSP and PC.
1. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Ys VIII is debatably a masterpiece, the best Falcom JRPG I could recommend. It took the Ys formula from past entries in creating an incredible experience. The story is one of, if not the best in the franchise so far. The smaller and more focused cast and setting made it easier for me to care about all of the characters and their conflict. The Isle of Siren was graphically beautiful to travel through, and it never felt like a dry experience. Dana’s story felt engaging, keeping the plot interesting. I’ve never felt so invested in a narrative in this genre before this, making Ys VIII special enough to be number one on the list.
The emotional story was the icing on the cake of a stellar JRPG. Ys VIII retained its fast and fluid gameplay, improving upon the previous entries. The battle system was accessible to newcomers, but it gave a challenge to veterans in higher difficulties. Easy to pick up, difficult to master. Speedruns of Ys VIII is always impressive to watch. The battle system is incredible, and it gives me hope that Ys IX will also be an enjoyable time.
What did you think of this top 5 best Falcom JRPG list? What are your favorites? Are there any games you believe should make the list? Please let me know in the comments!