#JRPGJuly 2023 – Week 1 Round-up

Welcome to another year of everyone’s favorite monthly gameathon. #JRPGJuly was created as a community game-along by Anne Lee @ Chic Pixel, and hosted by MDi. Once again, the RPGamer staff is showing their support for the event by playing some JRPGs. If you’re participating make sure to use #JRPGJuly or share your feelings over on the RPGamer Discord server.

The first week proved to be busy for our staff, let’s see everyone’s progress!

Joshua Carpenter


Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2

The Little Tail Bronx series has been a passion project for developer CyberConnect2 for over twenty years. Solatorobo: Red the Hunter was my introduction to the series and it became one of my favorite games on the Nintendo DS as it has a colorful, vibrant world with some unique combat involving a mech suit for lifting and throwing enemies. Given it’s lack of sales, I was probably one of the few people that was eagerly anticipating the next game in this universe. Fuga: Melodies of Steel has a interesting hook — if players don’t do well in battle, there is a cannon that can defeat any enemy but at the cost of one of the children piloting the tank. Whenever one of the battles wasn’t going well, I had a pit of tension in my stomach at the thought of stuffing one of the cute anthropomorphized cats and dogs into the cannon.

Since Fuga was one of my favorite games of 2021, I’ve been dying to play Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2. The kids are back and once again are piling into giant tanks to travel across Gasco to save their friends and homeland. While I enjoy the story and characters, the combat is what really pulls me into the Fuga games. The tank has three turrets where players are able to equip three different types of weapons — machine guns, grenade launchers, and cannons — that do successively increasing damage at the expense of decreasing accuracy. The enemies all have weaknesses to certain weapons and exploiting those weaknesses pushes enemies back in the turn order. It means that every encounter is filled with strategic choices: do I focus on the supporting enemies or do I focus on the tanks that are going to do serious damage? The encounters are well balanced and give the experience an appropriate amount of tension. I’m almost halfway through the Fuga 2 and I’m enjoying it just as much as the first game.

Jervon Perkins

Final Fantasy XVI

My first #JRPGJuly update is off to a great start. I’ve completed Final Fantasy XVI! It was a very enjoyable experience. I’m terrible at action-based video games, so the assistance rings were a godsend to me. At times, the game feels like a gauntlet as you face multiple boss fights in a row within a short period of time. I don’t think I would have enjoyed these fights without the rings. As a whole, it was a return to form for me. In my opinion, Final Fantasy XV does not hold up well, and I’m still irritated that the final DLCs were canceled, further aggravating my dissatisfaction. Due to the action-based combat and focus on one specific character instead of squad-based attacks, I feared it wouldn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game. I was wrong, and I’m glad I was.

Anna Marie Privitere

Octopath Traveler II

In some ways, I’m not sure why I waited so long to start Octopath Traveler II. I enjoyed the first game minus the final boss — a dungeon without saves and no way to back out is absolute nonsense — but it may be that I’d simply played over 100 hours of Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent and had my fill of the series. Break time is over now! Time to dive right in.

Probably to no one’s surprise, I’ve chosen Ochette as my primary character, and in her story the fox is my chosen companion.  I was tempted to select Throné, or perhaps Osvald, as their path abilities and stories both interested me greatly, but I can always sweep around and grab both for my primary party since they’re not too far away from my starting point.

I didn’t get much time invested in this week, only a couple hours, but it feels really good to be immersed in that world again.  After two other games, it feels like a comfy blanket, and I can’t wait to dive into the meat of the story.


Jon Jansen

Trails in the Sky FC

If it wasn’t for the intimidating entry point to the Trails series, then Trails in the Sky FC would be my favorite JRPG. I love the grid-based combat. I’m amazed by the massive world that is filled with so many meaningful interactions. I am constantly blown away by the sounds that follow Estelle and Joshua. And as I enter Zeiss, I find another mystery awaiting the guild, and I’m eager to continue engaging in its story. This is exactly what I look for in an RPG and hope the final few chapters bring me the same joy.

Casey Pritt

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition

My spouse and I are making our way through Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition this month. I spent quite a bit of time playing the original Gamecube version, although not to completion. My spouse had never played it before now, and I must say this whole experience is giving me a lesson in rose-tinted glasses! Although aspects like the world, art style, and music are as excellent as I remembered, its systems and menus — already clunky in 2004 — take some real time to get used to.

During character creation, we chose to play as a pair of the otherworldly Yuke race. After a somewhat tedious start in which we made eight characters each (one for every different family occupation in the starting village), we finally got into the dungeons, where the real fun begins! Because Yuke are natural-born magicians, our primary means of dealing damage involves combining magical abilities to create powerful spell fusions; practicing the requisite coordination and timing kept things interesting throughout the first year of the story. Next week, our journey continues into year two, and I’ll also set aside some time to play my second JRPG, Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven.

Ryan Radcliff

Castle of the Underdogs: Episode 1

I have played Castle of the Underdogs: Episode 1 twice, both being showcased early on Sunday on our Twitch channel, and I have enjoyed what I have seen so far. The game has a fun premise, and while the Minecraft engine would normally turn me off, the script is filled with witty dialogue and references to tons of other games. I even played a Donkey Kong mini-game to reach the top of a hill. It seems to borrow tons of ideas from Suikoden, such as a castle that acts like a home base, six people in parties, unite attacks, and recruitment. Tune in Sunday to see where the game takes me next and what other hijinx we will uncover! Oh I also beat Final Fantasy XVI and surprisingly enjoyed it more than I initially expected. I still wish it was turn-based, but oh well. At least the characters were interesting!


Robert Sinclair

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny

I’ve spent the first week of #JRPGJuly playing around in Disgaea 6, and it has been, for the most part, an extremely positive experience. From what I’ve seen, this entry has had mixed reviews, and I can sort of see how it could put some people off, but it really has grown on me. At first, I was turned off by the giant starting numbers for everyone’s stats. Having stats of 10,000 at level 1, I felt like that was to purposely inflate numbers and try to be deliberately ridiculous, but after playing for a while I see how this allows tweaking of enemy threat levels. It’s not just a matter of giving more or less HP, but they can make something stronger or weaker by changing the base stats by up to thousands at the low end and possibly millions at the high end. It offers much more range than a standard 100 HP or the like.

I decided to play around with the Demon Intelligence (the AI fighting for you) and had a laugh at the AI charging straight into combat and stopping on Ally Damage Geo panels and just dying. It’s great when it’s used on stuff that doesn’t require the player’s attention, but is far from able to replicate actual player strategy. After over-leveling in the item world, all the story stuff isn’t worth any effort, so AI does it pretty well. All in all, I think it’s a pretty nice quality of life feature that I’d like to see brought back and maybe tweaked a bit. Kind of like having Final Fantasy XII gambits in the Disgaea series. I would love that.

Robert Albright

Galaxy Fraulein Yuna and Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists

It’s the first week of #JRPGJuly and so far things are going decently. Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Final has been much more enjoyable than the previous entries in both the writing and the gameplay. I did hit a wall and needed to grind. However, due to issues with my computer, I had to change my approach. I’m currently in Chapter 4 making my way to the Machinate Empire and looking for the 3 Wise Men. The game is as quirky anime as it gets. One of the really cool things is that as characters level, their abilities get stronger, while also costing more Energy Points to use, and the area of effect also changes.

I also booted up Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists to check it out on one of my off-days, covered on our Twitch channel. It’s a very chill game about trying to build up a city using characters from across the Atelier franchise. It does go back to the older Atelier games with players having to complete tasks within a time limit, and I’m sure that as the game progresses those tasks will get harder to attain. The early game has been fun and just a nice way to relax.

Cassandra Ramos

Fire Emblem Engage

I will admit that I wasn’t too keen on Fire Emblem Engage when it was first announced. It seemed odd to me that after the success of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the next game would feature characters from across the series as its main hook. Fire Emblem: Awakening had the Einherjar units, but Awakening was supposed to be the ultimate culmination of the series since it was feared that it would be the last Fire Emblem game. It made sense for Awakening to have lots of fan service for the older games; Engage not so much. So far, Engage won’t be going on my list of most favorite Fire Emblem games, but I am enjoying it and the game has its merits. The gameplay is a welcome throwback to earlier games in the series, with more nuanced and detailed battle maps. I do wish that there were more winning conditions than just to rout the enemy or defeat the boss. I like how the weapons triangle has been altered and made more important. A weapon advantage doesn’t just result in a stat boost, it can also disarm a unit, leaving them vulnerable to attack as well as preventing a counterattack. A part of me finds Engaging — the fusion of a unit with the spirit of a character from a previous game — to be a bit silly, but it is great to use in a pinch. There are already some outrageously-dressed characters, so a few glowing capes isn’t a big deal.

I’m at the start of chapter 23 as I write this, and I believe I don’t have many chapters left to go. The plot has been rather lackluster, with much of it feeling like a rehash of Awakening, although chapter 22 did surprise me. There are some attempts at deeper politics, such as Brodia’s history of fighting with Elusia over land, but the world of Elyos is nowhere near as detailed as Fódlan from Three Houses. The characters are also not nearly as deep as the characters from the previous game, but I do enjoy the support conversations. They still explore more of a character’s background and personality, even if some are more shallow than others. My favorite characters so far are Yunaka for her cheerful facade hiding a dark past and Amber for being a legend-loving goof. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish the game by next week, but I shall see.

Sarah McGarr

Final Fantasy XIV

Note: Spoilers for Shadowbringers

As someone who likes to complete all sidequests, having to ignore them to get through story pains me so. I tend to do all sidequests that open in an area before moving on with story. I think I’m near the end of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. Not really sure, but things have truly heated up story-wise. From the moment I saw the Crystal Exarch, I had one thought: it must be G’raha Tia! Then… it was revealed to me. My husbando has come to my rescue! I could see in his face his love for me! And just like when I was just barely starting to trust Emet Selch, he goes and hurts my husbando IN THE BACK! I literally screamed. Then cried. Then had to take a break.

The jerk took my man and ran away while I was sitting there, writhing in pain. So not only am I reeling from that development, but I’ve got this other quest I’m working through about Lamitt; learning her history is really interesting, while Giott gets to throw helmets on sin eaters. It’s probably the first time I used Repose in a very long time.  This expansion is leaps and bounds above Stormblood, which I found incredibly slow and lacking interesting characters.

Ryan McCarthy

Shin Megami Tensei V

Considering that I’ve been having a rough time with playing games for a while now, #JRPGJuly has gotten to a relatively decent start for me. I didn’t start Ys Origin like I had hoped to, but I made a bit of progress in Shin Megami Tensei V. After cleaning up the remaining sidequests and Miman in the Shinagawa area, I finally made my way over to the third major region of Da’at: Chiyoda. I felt like the game started to become a bit rote once I had finished the mandatory story progression in Shinagawa, as enemies encounters stopped feeling like much of a threat after a point thanks having a well-leveled party set-up.

Thankfully, Chiyoda is where the game finally stepped back up as it refused to let me rest on my laurels. I ended up wiping out a couple of times due to being ambushed by demons that took advantage of my current elemental weaknesses, just enough to keep me on my toes. One of the most exciting things about enter a new region is that due to the Abcesses that plagued each area before taking care of them, I can’t rely purely on the minimap to navigate the area and thus have to pay attention to my surroundings to figure out where I need to go. I’ve also gained a couple of additional demons to the party, including Dionysus, whom I obtained by helping him take care of Black Frost in a sidequest. Where I currently stand, SMTV hasn’t been much to write home about when it comes to the story but the systems are still quite enjoyable to engage with.

That’s all for this week. Let us know what sort of progress you’re making in your #JRPGJuly game in the comments or on Twitter!


Joshua Carpenter

Josh joined RPGamer in 2017 and is currently the Features and Editorials Director. This involves reviewing games and occasionally opining in opinion format.

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