#JRPGJuly 2023 – Week 3 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 heat outside has caused our staff to get some time in with JRPGs so let’s see everyone’s progress!

Joshua Carpenter


Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2

I made it through Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 this week and the ending I got was traumatic. Fuga is notorious for the Soul Cannon, a weapon that can wind any boss fight in a single blow but at the cost of the life of one of the children piloting the tank. The Soul Cannon has changed slightly in Fuga 2 as the AI in the Exo-Taranis will randomly pick a kid to put in the canon if the tank’s HP gets too low. Once that happens, players have twenty turns to win the battle or the AI fires the cannon.

So, despite a couple of close calls, I made it through the game without using the Soul Cannon. However, I didn’t have a high enough friendship level with a key story character and that led to a chain of events where several of the kids didn’t survive. I was crushed by the ending scenes where the surviving children are moving on without their friends. Despite the depressing ending, I enjoyed every moment with Fuga 2 and now I’m even jumping back in for another playthrough to chase the true ending.

Jervon Perkins

Final Fantasy X-2

For the third week of #JRPGJuly, I decided to give Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission a shot. The premise is quite intriguing for me, as a big Yuna fan. Shortly after the events of X-2, our heroines Yuna, Rikku, and Paine are given individual invitations to a strange tower where they’re meant to make their way through to the top and receive a specific message. I’m not 100% sure what the message is as I’ve tried to get myself to play this for years because I wanted that sense of satisfaction that comes with completing it yourself. But here’s the problem: as much as I love Yuna, Last Mission is a chore to play.

It’s a strange roguelite experience, in which you take control of one of the girls, who comes equipped with her starter Dressphere, and make your way up the tower. I chose Yuna with the Gunner sphere. The tutorial isn’t very helpful, forcing players to read through a random NPC’s instructional dumps of information. There are YouTube videos, but so far I haven’t found one that specifically gives me the guidance that helps make the game easier. I’m thinking I may watch a full playthrough of it and then mimic the streamer’s actions as best as I can, as floors are procedurally generated. At this point, there’s no finishing this or getting a 100% for X-2 by the end of July. But that’s fine. There’s always next summer to continue.

Anna Marie Privitere

Persona 3 Portable

The road to #JRPGJuly games is paved with good intentions?  While I’d intended to dive considerably deeper into Octopath Traveler II this week, instead I spent a bunch of time streaming Persona 3 Portable and the rest of the week was consumed with supporting a friend with some scary life stuff.

It’s interesting how the many social links in P3P hit differently at different points in my life.  When the game first arrived fifteen years ago, I identified with a lot of the social links struggling with family and adulting, such as Yukari (Lovers) and Bebe (Temperance); in this more recent playthrough, I find I’m empathising with Akinari (Sun) and Mutatsu (Tower) so much more.  It’s one of the things I think that makes the social links system so interesting — with many different personality types, ages, and motivations, there’s always someone to click with.  Though I’m hoping Fuuka sees a serious makeover in the upcoming remake.


Jon Jansen

Trails in the Sky FC

Bathhouse scene! Just another example of Trails in the Sky FC being a “hardcore” JRPG. This does play into one of the weirder parts of the game for me with Joshua and Estelle’s relationship. It’s one of the few things that I’m not quite enjoying. It’s an odd relationship that feels too forced compared to FC‘s other, much more interesting plot points.

Nevertheless, Tita might be my favorite side character so far. She’s young and confident and shares similar flaws to Estelle. Watching how Estelle cares for and treats Tita is revealing a lot about Estelle and I’m predicting that it could lead to positive character development for Estelle. That’s one of the strengths of Trails in the Sky FC. The conflicts in these regions have continued to generate great character development for both Joshua and Estelle. Even if the larger plot hasn’t been explored enough due to this being a three-part series, the happenings in each of these regions are enough to keep the story engaging. I’m excited to finish up chapter three and head into the final chapter!


Casey Pritt

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition

My two-player co-op run of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition plods on! It was hard for my spouse and me to find time to play this week, so we’re currently one dungeon shy of finishing year two. That said, after running through Tida, I can confidently say we’re both enjoying the game quite a bit more. There are still bumps along the way (like my Switch crashing at start-up during our most recent session!); however, the promise of new locales to explore and new equipment to facilitate more complex character builds is certainly intriguing.

Unfortunately, I have no progress to report for Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven this time. Because I tend to complete games at a slow pace, I honestly didn’t plan to finish either of my picks before the month’s end. But that’s not the point of #JRPGJuly anyway! It’s all about playing, appreciating, and sharing JRPGs with the community. That said, there’s still one whole week left, and I’m not about to let it go by without putting in my fair share of gaming!

Ryan Radcliff

Castle of the Underdogs: Episode 1

July has been a good month for beating RPGs. I ended up completing Castle of the Underdogs: Episode 1. The way the game joked about everything I half expected the credits to be a fake-out. The game actually isn’t completed yet, so it only lasted a few streams. I will have to come back to this game once it is finally completed because I was having a blast playing it having just unlocked the recruitment section! I also needed a new RPG to stream during the early morning Sunday streams, so I looked in my Steam backlog and loaded up Ara Fell. This game has that old-school charm I always seem to gravitate towards, so I believe I will enjoy this adventure. It was a busy gaming week and I even found time to finish Octopath Traveler II. More to come next week!

Robert Sinclair

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny

I’ve been plugging away at Disgaea 6, mostly just doing things in Item World. I’m glad that the Demonic Intelligence — i.e. auto battling system — exists because it really does lessen the tedious bits of grinding. I’ve been dealing with a really bad cavity that needs a root canal and the associated pain has been pretty bad, so I haven’t been able to focus on much else. It’s hard to have fun when your mouth hurts constantly.

Robert Albright

Mary Skelter: Nightmares

After finishing the Galaxy Fraulein Yuna games last week, it was time to pick some new games. First was Mary Skelter: Nightmares, the first game in the Mary Skelter series. Although I’m not a big fan of horror or thriller games, I love the world concept and the character designs. Made by Compile Heart, the best way I’m able to describe this game is a bloody mess: everything in the game revolves around blood. You play as Jack, who along with his childhood friend Alice, wants to escape the “Jail”, a city that has been absorbed underground. Demons, called Marchens, are there to torture humans and sometimes eat them. Despite referencing fairy tales, the game is not for those who want something cutesy and fun, because although it’s very pretty the game’s setting is dark and gruesome. If you’re curious, check out my nearly 12-hour stream of the game on Twitch.

Also around this time of year, I always return to one of the most classic of all JRPGs, Final Fantasy I. It’s a pretty short game and one I try and play at least once each year, so I booted up the Pixel Remaster version and started going to town. This time my party was a bit different from most of my playthroughs: I used a Thief, Black Belt, White Mage, and Black Mage. By going without a fighter, it’s been harder to keep my characters alive. I’ve also been popping into Final Fantasy XIV to help a few friends out.

And last, but not least, I continued through my playthrough of Atelier Iris 2: Azoth of Destiny. I made slow progress and I’m still very early in the game, but it’s a fun experience. I had forgotten the importance of the equipment crafting system in that game due to the inheriting of skills. Next week I’ll most certainly see more of that story playing out.

Cassandra Ramos

Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2

I started up Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 and may already be halfway through the game. I was a little worried that I might be bored with the gameplay since I had replayed the first game only a few months ago in preparation for an RPG Backtrack episode. Fortunately, this is not the case, as I am enjoying Fuga 2 quite a bit. It feels good to get back into the flow of the game, traveling across the Free Lands of Gasco, getting into battles with automated war machines, and engaging in various activities with the children during intermissions aboard the tank. It is interesting that I went from one strategy JRPG this month to another, very different strategy JRPG.

The combat has so far not been too difficult, but enemies aren’t pushovers either. Battles keep me on my toes and I’m always considering the best skills, weapon types, and characters to use at any point, being careful to only switch in different characters when necessary. Other than the returning Soul Cannon, which can destroy any enemy at the cost of permanently losing one of the children, there is a new super weapon called the Managarm. It isn’t quite as powerful as the Soul Cannon, but it also doesn’t kill anyone, although it does knock out the chosen child. This can be used to prevent firing the Soul Cannon, as the tank’s AI will randomly select a character and begin the countdown all on its own if its HP dips below a certain amount. This is as nerve-wracking as its sounds. I actually got the Deluxe Edition of the game, mostly for the soundtrack, but one of the included items is “Dummy Energy,” which allows for one free use of the Managarm without knocking out a character. I misinterpreted the other consequence of using the weapon; I thought that only the child whose energy was used for it would not receive EXP, but rather, every character doesn’t receive any. I found this out the hard way by early use of the Managarm. I wish I hadn’t used the Dummy Energy so soon. Oh well.

There are two amusing things I want to point out: I can’t help but compare the antagonist Jihl to the Pokémon Mewtwo and there are a lot of mysterious characters in Fuga 2. Even Jihl was shrouded in mystery, although he was revealed not too far into the game.

Sarah McGarr

Final Fantasy XIV

Note: Spoilers for Shadowbringers

Last week I got to the post-credits portion of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, and this week I’m still in post-credits Shadowbringers. How much more content can there be before I get to Endwalker? My friend says “one more fight”, but I am continuing through the story from its post-launch patches. It’s like they could’ve delayed the credits another six hours.

The Ascians are no easy match. However, I am thankful for friends getting me through some really tough fights. Sometimes using the Trust party is fine, but it makes the fights take too long. Because I didn’t want to spend another hour in a dungeon, I did the big Warrior of Light dungeon fight with some friends and it was much quicker, despite us wiping within the first five seconds. Now if people would stop leaving so fast that I can’t give them a commendation, that would be great.

There has been much emotion this week to the point where I almost feel bad for the Ascians. I know they just wanted to bring their friends back and are deeply afraid of being forgotten to the point where they will literally destroy worlds, but come on, that’s going a bit far, don’t you think? You saved your star, but at what cost? Zodiark’s not going to give your people back. So glad we Scions can actually see through that and save our worlds.

A lot of crying happened, but it was mostly made ok by later goodness. If you’ve completed the expansion, you know why. I don’t really want to — even with sufficient spoiler warnings — go into a lot of the major things that happened within the last two days of playing. Rest assured, though, that it is worth it. Along with some humor, mind you.

Ryan McCarthy

Shin Megami Tensei V

This week I finished the Demon King’s Castle in Shin Megami Tensei V and as the first “proper” dungeon in the game, it’s… eh. While I get what it was going for, punctuating the end of the Chiyoda section of the game, the dungeon itself suffers from being too long, having a confusing map layout, and an annoying gimmick involving wind-blowing wall traps that get tiresome by the end — especially one part where it’s easy to get turned around and end up having to start back over from the beginning of the room if you are not careful. Battling is still quite enjoyable and the two bosses proved fairly challenging, particularly the one in the second Stratum that doesn’t have a Leyline point before it, but the tedium of the dungeon did blow the wind out of the game’s sails quite a bit. It feels jarring after 40+ hours of almost exclusively outdoor areas since the dungeon by necessity feels lacking in terms of verticality, and the monotony of the rooms and corridors contained within it don’t help things either.

I also finally started Ys Origin, which I’m not that far into. As players select one of two playable characters at the start, I decided to go with Yunica, since she seemed closer to the playstyle I was familiar with from Ys: Oath In Felghana. So far, it’s the same enjoyable mix of action RPG goodness, light platforming, and exploration. Yunica seems like an endearing character who is easy to root for, as she comes off as someone who still has something to prove, still being an appetence knight and all. The normal difficulty feels well balanced so far, with the first boss feeling manageable while the second one took me several tries to get through. While Oath in Felghana‘s story was simple and straightforward to a fault, Origin‘s story has a bit of mystery to it that has me intrigued.


Sam Wachter

Octopath Traveler II

Octopath Traveler II continues to be such a fantastic, if grindy, experience. At this point, I’m 45 hours into the game and I am at the stage where I’ve unlocked most of the final chapters, with the exception of Hikari, Osvald, and Agnea. Now nearly every chapter requires my characters to be around level 45, and unfortunately most of my characters are between 30-40. I definitely have some grinding to do!

I really enjoy the game’s boss fights, particularly the ones in Throné and Ochette’s chapters. I finally encountered the train boss that I kept seeing folks share photos of across social media. I am all for fighting trains, but that boss fight sucked so much. Also, how was the boss able to just pull a new train out of his butt after every time I broke him? I call shenanigans.

Regardless of how grindy the game is, I’m still having a great time. I don’t think I will have the game finished by the end of the month, but I’m going to try. I’m going to be so sad when I start completing storylines!

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 X (or whatever it happens to be called today)!


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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