Yes, it’s that time again.
Video version can be found here.
The year is 2020 and it’s been nearly two years since my last post about Japanese games on Xbox so I figured it was high time to do another one of these. I know some of you are probably asking yourselves “Why is this guy always going on about Japanese games on Xbox?” Well, to answer your question, there are three reasons why I’m doing another one of these posts:
- If you can recall my Gaming Biases post, I enjoy Japanese games immensely and I love discussing them. As a consequence, these Japanese games on Xbox posts give me an excuse to talk more about them.
- A lot has changed since I last talked about this topic. Additionally, a new console generation is coming out very soon so I feel that what I talk about today will undoubtedly apply to the imminent release of the next Xbox.
- The people demand it! For reasons that remain a mystery even to me, my old Japanese Games on Xbox posts have been getting a lot of traffic recently (and by a lot, I mean a bunch of views by the standards of my small blog). Thus, I feel I must oblige my adoring audience with an all-new look at what the Xbox One has on offer from Japan. So, sit back, relax, and, most importantly, enjoy!
Before we properly begin, I want to make it clear that this is not an all-inclusive list of all the Japanese games released on the Xbox One over the past few years. The games I discuss down below are merely the titles which I think merit the most attention and are the most significant. Please don’t get mad if I don’t include your favorite games. In fact, should I miss any that are near and dear to your heart, please feel free to mention them in the comment section down below. Alright, let’s begin!
The last time I discussed this topic was right after E3 2018. Microsoft’s E3 presentation is what prompted me to write that post in the first place which is why I feel that it is a good place to start. Since that conference, things have been looking up for the Japanese games on Xbox department. The fun started almost immediately following E3 that year when Nier: Automata released on Xbox One in late June. Now, I’ve never written a review for this game (I should correct that mistake) but let me tell you all now that it is quite good. It was a shame, then, that it was only available on PS4 and PC. I was very happy to see it be released on a new platform. Hopefully, it was able to bring a new crop of gamers into the fold since I believe that it is well worth playing.
The next notable Japanese game release on Xbox in 2018 would have to be both Shenmue 1 and 2 in August of that year. This was interesting in many ways. For starters, this was the first time that a Shenmue game had appeared on an Xbox console since Shenmue 2 on the original Xbox back in 2002. Secondly, this was a little bizarre and a little unfair for Xbox One owners since the long-awaited Shenmue III was in development but it had only been announced for PS4 and PC (it still hasn’t come to the Xbox One just so you know). Xbox owners would essentially only get to play the first two games in the series on their platform of choice and then, should they want to play the third entry, they would have to get the game on another console or on a PC. I have never really understood the excitement surrounding the Shenmue series but I definitely felt the pain of the fans who owned an Xbox One. There’s nothing worse than seeing a series you love skip the platform you enjoy playing on.
Following on the heels of the release of Shenmue 1 and 2, Valkyria Chronicles 4 made an appearance on the Xbox One as well. This is significant since the Valkyria Chronicles series usually skips Xbox entirely. Valkyria Revolution graced the platform early on in 2017 but I really don’t count that game since it was so different from past Valkyria games and was so poorly received. Valkyria Chronicles 4 took the series back to its third-person, strategic roots and it was generally well-received both by critics and fans alike. Although you don’t need to play the first three (four counting Valkyria Revolution) titles in the series to understand what’s going on in 4, I would have liked it if SEGA had released the first Valkyria Chronicles on Xbox One since I’ve never played the series before. I mean, it’s on the Switch, PS4, and PC so why no love for the Xbox One? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
And now we come to 2019. The Xbox One was graced by many different kinds of Japanese games in that year. Popular examples include Kingdom Hearts III, Resident Evil 2, Jump Force, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Devil May Cry 5, the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, and Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. Those last two are specifically worthy of attention. The Phoenix Wright Trilogy is noteworthy because this was the first time that any Phoenix Wright games had appeared on any Xbox console ever. Tales of Vesperia is interesting because it was an exclusive on the Xbox 360. Even though it was released on other consoles this time around, it’s worth bringing up because other entries in the Tales series have only been released on the PS4 during this generation (and on PC via Steam). It was nice of Bandai Namco to bring the series back to Xbox. Although all of these titles are excellent additions to the Xbox One library, there is one series in particular that released on Xbox One in 2019 that I think was the most significant. I’m of course talking about Final Fantasy.
For the longest time, the older entries in the Final Fantasy series have only been available on the PS4 and, while releasing at a later date, on PC via Steam. I personally thought this was a tragedy since this series has played a critical role in the history of video games and, as such, I believed they should be available on as many platforms as possible. Luckily for me and Xbox One owners in general, Square Enix finally decided to bring many classic Final Fantasy games to Xbox. Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, X/X-2, and XII were all released on the Xbox One throughout 2019. I failed to mention this earlier but the three games in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy became available on Xbox One through the backwards compatibility program late in 2018. As I said, I had long been an advocate for these games being available on more platforms since these games remain incredibly popular even today. This honestly should have happened a lot sooner but hey, what can you do?
The release of so many popular Final Fantasy titles on Xbox One in 2019 made that year a tough act to follow. In spite of this, 2020 has been making a good show of it so far. That’s because a few classic games in another popular Square Enix series made their long-awaited debut on Xbox One. I’m of course talking about Kingdom Hearts I.5, II.5, and even Kingdom Hearts II.8. This means that the entire series is finally on Xbox. It’s a shame and honestly a little weird that Square Enix waited to bring these games to Xbox One after the company had already released Kingdom Hearts III on the platform but I’m not complaining. I’m just glad these games finally made it onto an Xbox console. I’ve been waiting for an excuse to play the Kingdom Hearts series and I’ve finally got one. I own most of them on PS4 already but I like to show my support for Japanese games on Xbox (I’m weird, I know). The only problem is that all of these games are a little pricey at the moment.
You all knew this was going to happen and, let’s be honest here, what I’m about to say next is the main reason why I’m writing this post in the first place. 2020 marks the first time that the Yakuza series has ever graced an Xbox console. It is truly a great and momentous occasion. If you couldn’t tell from all of my reviews of the series (and trust me when I say that more are coming) I have become a huge fan of the Yakuza series over the past few years.
As of this writing, both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami are available on the Xbox store and Yakuza Kiwami 2 is scheduled for release sometime later this year. The best part is that both 0 and Kiwami are only $19.99 a piece so SEGA is basically just begging you Xbox One owners to buy these games. I can only hope that SEGA takes the initiative and brings the rest of the games in this series to the Xbox One. While they’re at it, they should also bring both Judgment and Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise (essentially Yakuza games with different characters) to the One as well. Hell, if they want to get crazy, they can jump ahead and bring Yakuza 7 to Xbox One when it releases in the West later this year. I personally wouldn’t mind that.
One of the best decisions I think both Microsoft and its partners in Japan have made in 2020 is to put many of the games I’ve talked about in the last few paragraphs in Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass is a monthly subscription service on both Xbox One and PC which allows people to download and play a large assortment of games. Kingdom Hearts III, Yakuza 0, and Yakuza Kiwami are all in the service as we speak. Additionally, all of the Final Fantasy games currently on Xbox One are scheduled to be placed in Game Pass at some point in 2020. I think this is great because it gives people who may be unsure about these titles a chance to take these games out for a spin. This will hopefully make these franchises popular on Xbox and give Japanese companies more of a reason to support Xbox consoles in the future.
The last game I want to mention here before I move on to the future is kind of a big deal. This announcement took a lot of people by surprise (myself included) since it really came out of nowhere. This game has been out in Japan for many, many years now and, despite being announced for release in the West seven years ago, never made it to the Americas. I am talking about Phantasy Star Online 2. This game’s release alone would have been astounding enough given its disappearance in the West for seven years but its reappearance as an Xbox One console exclusive makes it even more mind-boggling. It’s also available on PC through the Microsoft Store but that’s neither here nor there. This was a big deal and is a good get for Xbox. I still can’t really believe it has released here in the West to be honest. I’m just glad that fans can finally play it and that it is on Xbox One.
Although the Xbox One has made great progress in terms of Japanese support in both 2019 and 2020, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. Popular Japanese games continue to skip Xbox entirely even today. One needs only to look at the PS4 to see what Xbox owners are missing out on. Games like Ni no Kuni, Persona 5, Dragon Quest XI, Dragon Quest Builders, and games from Platinum Games (The Wonderful 101, Babylon’s Fall) are neither on Xbox nor are scheduled to be released on the One anytime soon. Xbox even missed out on the Final Fantasy VII Remake (although I’m sure Sony paid a lot of money for that game to be exclusive and it appears it might only be for one year). This is a real shame since these are all great games that I’m sure Xbox owners would appreciate having access to. As I said before, a lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that more Japanese games come to Xbox. Luckily for us all, it seems that that work is indeed being done.
Curiously, Phil Spencer, the Head of Xbox, seems to be doing most of the work of bringing Japanese games to Xbox One himself. He has talked about Xbox’s problem when it comes to Japanese games regularly in the past but he has been particularly vocal about it over the past six months or so. Starting with the Xbox fan celebration event in London (called XO19 for what it’s worth) Phil Spencer, essentially unprompted mind you, started talking about getting more Japanese franchises on Xbox One. He said that he has been “on the plane to Tokyo” a lot more in recent years and he foresees that trend continuing for years to come. It seems that his trips to Japan have paid off given all of the games that I have discussed here today. Point of fact, the arrivals of the older Kingdom Hearts and Yakuza games on Xbox were announced at that same event. In addition, it was revealed at XO19 that Xbox personnel were working with Square Enix to bring the MMO Final Fantasy XIV to Xbox One as well.
As you can see, Phil Spencer is leading the charge in terms of Japanese support himself. He isn’t just talking the talk but he is getting results. 2019 and 2020 are proof of that. Just three months ago, in January, Phil tweeted that he was in Japan meeting with publishers and developers so hopefully that means another wave of Japanese games is on the way. Additionally, Phil talked about Japanese support for Xbox in an interview in February where he expressed his reasons for wanting more Japanese games on Xbox One (besides the fact that fans have been asking for that support, of course). He said that Japan is critical because of the “creative community there.” The interview itself is worth a listen (or a read) as Phil Spencer said a bunch of other things about Japanese games in particular which I think is important to the future of Xbox. I have to agree with his statement about Japan’s importance since most of my favorite games come from Japan and the country has always been critical to the games industry as a whole.
As I have laid out here today, 2018, 2019, and 2020 have all been big years for the release of Japanese games on Xbox. Microsoft has made a lot of progress when it comes to securing Japanese support for its gaming platforms. A lot of work still needs to be done if the company wants to compete with both Nintendo and Sony on the Japanese front but the effort is being made which is exciting to see. I can only hope that that work continues as it would be nice to see Xbox get the same love from Japanese developers and publishers as its rivals do. Only time will tell but I’m a lot more confident about the future now than I was in years past.
Thanks for reading! What are some Japanese franchises that you would like to see come to the Xbox One or even the Xbox Series X in the near future? I mentioned a few that I would like to see but I’m curious what you all are interested in as well. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you back here next time!