9 | Valkyria Chronicles | PS3
Great Japanese RPGs are hard to find on platforms like the PlayStation 3, but Valkyria Chronicles is one of them. Sporting some of the most beautiful graphics on the PS3, the war for Gallia plays out like an anime series, complete with individual episodes and a large cast of characters.
But what helps Valkyria Chronicles really stand out is the strategy involved. Teams must be assembled from a variety of different soldier classes, which each play out like a strategic puzzle. The soldiers comprise a wide variety of colorful characters, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, it's that sort of character that helps Valkyria Chronicles stand out. And did we mention that it's gorgeous?
8 | Persona 3 Portable | PSP
Anyone that's made it through the gauntlet of adolescense that is high school is no doubt familiar with its many trials and tribulations: fitting in, finding a group of like-minded friends, dealing with awkward teen romances, fighting off apocalyptic forces of evil hell-bent on scorching the earth's surface and wiping out all life... Oh, to be young!
Persona 3 Portable takes Atlus' outstanding third entry in the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona franchise and shrinks it down into a slick, streamlined package that many consider to be the game's definitive version. Not only does P3P make exploring Iwatodai a much less time-consuming affair, but it introduces a novel new twist in the form of a playable female protagonist, complete with her own unique social links and romance options. P3P remains a stellar entry in the PSP's library, and one of the best role-playing games available on Sony's handheld.
7 | The World Ends With You | DS
Taking place almost exclusively in a parallel pugatory-like dimension of Shibuya, Tokyo, The World Ends With You starts off as a particularly grim mystery. The main character Neku finds himself trapped in the "Reapers' Game," and only by shelving his apathetic teenage attitude can he restore himself back to life. Working with other "players" in the game, Neku has to learn not only how he died, but how he can help his fellow players Shiki, Beat, Rhyme, and Joshua escape the Game.
Aside from its decidedly dark subject matter, The World Ends With You futher separates itself from the RPG pack with a very unique art sytle and combat system. Designed by Kingdom Hearts creator Tetsuya Nomura, the game's fashions, buildings, and general art are modeled right from the streets of real-life Shibuya. But the real gimmick is the combat, which requires players to swipe, stratch, draw, trace, and flick their DS stylus across the system's touchscreen. Through a variety of difficulty tweaks, players can power down (or up), giving "The Noise" an advantage in battle, but bigger loot drops. With all that innovation and talent, The World Ends With You is still one of the most finely designed DS titles around.