You don’t have to be the lieutenant of an army to enjoy a little taste of the tactical RPG genre, but you’ll certainly learn a thing or two about how difficult it can be to lead a group of soldiers to victory. The tactical RPG genre, also referred to as strategy RPG’s, has been around for years back to the days of the Sega Genesis. While the games have dramatically improved in terms of graphics and appeal, the gameplay aspect remains the same. You control a group of friendly allies as you strategically think of ways to overwhelm your opponent, before they can get an opportunity to strike back. There’s simply no time to dawdle around in these games, because any wrong decision could cost you the entire game and put you back to the beginning. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best tactical anime RPG’s around, and see who will command their way to the top spot.
10. Infinite Space
- System/Platform: Nintendo DS
- Publisher: Square Enix Holdings
- Developer: Nude Maker | PlatinumGames
- Release Date: June 11, 2009
Infinite Space came out for the Nintendo DS back in 2010 and to positive reception, as the science fiction RPG featured some really cool elements such as space simulated sequences, along with real time tactical role playing elements for added charm. The plot itself is derived from Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, which splits the actual story into two and is centered primarily on main protagonist Yuri, who must help defend the galaxy against the impending Lugovalion invasion.
Gameplay wise, what sets the game apart from most tactical RPG games is that as stated earlier, the plot is split into two which allows the player to venture through two worlds and gather information over time. You can customize the ship you control in a variety of different ways, with well over 150 options to choose from. It incorporates both a 2D and 3D approach allowing players to use the touchscreen to its advantage, while playing in real-time and optimizing your command gauge to take down enemy ships. Players can also board the enemy ship and take part in rock-paper-scissor melee styled battles, which adds even more diversity to this already entertaining title that is similar to Mass Effect.
9. La Pucelle: Tactics
- System/Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable
- Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software | Koei Tecmo
- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Release Date: January 31, 2002
Also known as La Pucelle: The Legend of the Maiden of Light in Japan, La Pucelle takes us on a journey through the kingdom of Paprica where Prier hopes to become the Maiden of Light in order to put an end to the Dark Prince and restore the balance of light and darkness to the kingdom. The artstyle is very cute and reminiscent of the more old school anime that we’ve watched back in the day, which is an added plus to an already classic title.
Using various skills and paying attention to Dark Portals which are scattered around the map, you need to come up with the right approach in order to avoid traps but to take advantage of the portals for their damage potential. If left ignored, more portals will spawn on the map adding more challenge to the gameplay. In order to close these portals and prevent further damage, you’ll need to use purification powers which in turn will benefit you since you can convert monsters that come from these portals to your side. Another cool addition is that you can also train the monsters which you can use in battle or send to the Dark World where they can fight against demons.
8. Jeanne d'Arc
- System/Platform: PlayStation Portable
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Level-5
- Release Date: November 22, 2006 [JP] | August 21, 2007 [NA]
Making great use of tactical rpg elements found in other titles, Jeanne d’Arc focuses its story around the legendary female warrior Joan of Arc, as she struggles to prevent the English from occupying France during the historic Hundred Years War in the 15th century. The game made sure to stay as accurate as possible to the overall story, especially when it came to the design of characters and their backstories.
While the game may have maintained the true accuracy of the Joan of Arc history, much of the gameplay is all fantasy based with many characters relying on magical spells to take out the enemy. As you travel around the many towns in France, you’ll engage in rock-paper-scissor styled battles with three phases known as Sol, Luna, and Stella. Managing your skills along with understanding what phases are weak or strong to one another is the true challenge of the game, plus planning the proper counterattacks and mastering the unique feature known as Burning Aura. With a variety of other unique features that can only be found in Jeanne d’arc paired with increasingly difficult battles with victory conditions, this game is a sleeper hit that we recommend trying out.
7. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
- System/Platform: Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Atlus
- Developer: Atlus | Career Soft
- Release Date: January 15, 2009
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor tells the life of a young boy who has the power to see a person's remaining life span and desperately tries to prevent as many deaths as possible with his gifted ability. It takes place in modern Tokyo as the major city that was once thriving has now been invaded by demons, and is under strict quarantine. You and your allies must now uncover the reason behind the outbreak and bring an end to it before Tokyo becomes engulfed in suffering.
In Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, you can control up to four squads all of which is led by other major characters in the game. Using summoned demons as their supporting units with up to seven abilities to be mastered, you need to keep track of stats, leveling up your demons as you see fit, along with a feature known as skill cracking to provide your squad with the advantage. You can acquire up to 24 demons in total, so making sure to always stay alert in battle and paying close attention to detail will surely get you through the game in one piece.
6. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Release Date: March 25, 2015 [JP] | October 6, 2015 [NA] | October 16, 2015 [EU]
Disgaea has been around for many years and made a name for itself with its incredibly polished anime driven art style, along with in depth gameplay that will last for hours. In Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, much of the story is centered around the theme of revenge as many of the events that occur revolve around flashbacks and rebel armies fight against each other as threats continue to plague the universe around them.
The story of Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is one which we simply couldn’t describe in a short paragraph, so we encourage you to play through the 50+ hour story to truly get a hands on experience with the game. What we can comment on however is just how brilliantly polished this game is in terms of its approach to strategic thinking, while throwing in new elements that are entirely foreign to the typical Disgaea franchise such as the introduction of a new special attack called Maougis. Characters can also use fusion skills to pair certain characters together to unleash special attacks, while new character classes such as maids with guns and dark knights making their appearance.
5. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
- System/Platform: Multi Platform
- Publisher: Square Enix Holdings | Atlus
- Developer: Square Enix Holdings | Quest
- Release Date: October 6, 1995
Enthusiasts of the tactical RPG genre will happily agree that the Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together series is hands down the most challenging, satisfying, and incredibly polished of the series to date. Famitsu named ranked it seventh in its top 100 all-time favorite chart, with various other reputable gaming outlets speaking highly of its purity in terms of tactical RPG approach, along with its groundbreaking gameplay that are timeless and can be seen in various titles today.
Crucial decision making was one of the primary reasons for what sold this game to many fans of the genre, because it really defined what it meant to play tactically. You really felt like you were commanding a team of your own because as you leveled up your characters, you could then progress onto various advanced classes and take on the more challenging foes. However, the greatest selling points of all is in its remarkable soundtrack, innovative approaches to play such as giving players the freedom to choose their own fate, with radically different outcomes depending on how you plot your way through.
4. Fire Emblem Awakening
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo Australia
- Developer: Nintendo Australia | Intelligent Systems
- Release Date: April 19, 2012
If you couldn’t get enough of Fire Emblem Fates or the all time classic Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the Nintendo Gamecube, Awakening is sure to open your eyes in many ways. Implementing the very same playstyle as you’re probably used to, Awakening takes everything you know and adds in various other elements to maintain its notorious level of difficulty high.
While not as hellishly difficult as Path of Radiance was, Fire Emblem Awakening still manages to keep you on your toes as you need to ensure that your characters are properly placed on the map in order to dish out the most damage and progress with your lifebar in tact. You must aid Chrom’s army in defending Ylisse from the Risen as well as attacks from Plegia. Classic mode focuses more on the hardcore style that many know and love, which leaves your characters permanently dead if they perish in battle, while the casual mode allows you to disable those deaths and carry on. The real fun begins once you unlock lunatic+ mode after beating lunatic mode, so gear up and get ready for a long grind in this popular 3DS title.
3. Valkyria Chronicles
- System/Platform: PS3, PS4, Windows
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega
- Release Date: April 24, 2008
Valkyria Chronicles puts players onto the tough battlefield in a fictional European world, as you must use correct judgement when taking out your enemies as small mistakes can cost you big time in the long run. Gear up and roll with your army of the Gallian Militia as you must fight and put an end to the invasion by the East European Imperial Alliance.
Winning numerous awards and spawning countless franchises such as its own anime a remastered version on the PS4 and manga series, Valkyria Chronicles is a must have title for any connoisseur of the tactical anime RPG genre because of its depth of gameplay, riveting storytelling, and overall appeal. Using proper planning as you progress through each level, making sure to take out the right enemy without alerting any others is imperative in successfully clearing missions. Going in rambo style will most surely earn you instant death, but hey who doesn’t like taking risks right? Be that as it may, the true treasure of playing through Valkyria Chronicles is being patient, carefully marking certain enemies to avoid being bombarded, while the boss battles are some of the most entertaining and rewarding we’ve experienced thus far.
2. Suikoden II
- System/Platform: PlayStation, PlayStation Portable
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami
- Release Date: December 17, 1998
Suikoden II is yet another cult classic that combines the action oriented style it’s known for, but now throws in various strategic elements to truly make this title a masterpiece. Releasing back in 1998, Suikoden II was known for sticking to its 2D roots and not following in the footsteps of its rivals. So what makes Suikoden II such a hit then? It lies primarily in its remarkable storytelling which takes you on this intimate journey of struggles, heartbreak and triumph, as you desperately try to bring down the enemy known as Luca Bright and restore peace back to the land.
While you may find yourself totally immersed in the very grandiose style of gameplay that mixes both strategic elements with traditional JRPG elements, you eventually find yourself drifting off and taking part in the various mini games it has to offer, plus allowing you to recruit over 108 characters all of which have their own unique abilities and persona. If that isn’t enough to sell you on this godlike title, over 90+ hours of gameplay along with a PSN download thanks to Konami (hopefully it’s still up on the network) should be enough to make your decision more clear.
1. Final Fantasy Tactics
- System/Platform: PlayStation
- Publisher: Square Enix | Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release Date: June 20, 1997
Final Fantasy Tactics is known by many to be one of the greatest tactical RPG’s to have ever existed if not of all time, and so it should come as no surprise that it made it to the number one spot. Final Fantasy Tactics takes place in the Final Fantasy universe, with all of the classic characters you know and love but have thrown them all into a strategic battlefield to overthrow the opposing factions in the Lion War. You control Ramza, who must now work alongside his allies to ensure the war is brought to an end.
Final Fantasy Tactics was unprecedented for its time, since many of the previous titles used 32-bit models to promote the graphical capabilities of then current systems. Tactics uses a 3D, isometric rotating playing field along with unique gameplay features that you can only get with this game. Using your tact to properly place your allies on the field, you’ll need to ensure that everyone survives and you have enough spells to cast, because the game progressively gets more challenging the further you go and is not forgiving. With the success of the original, Square Enix decided to make spin offs such as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance along with its successor Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift which was another hit title.
The Tactical Anime RPG scene will continue to flourish so long as fans continue to support it with open arms. With honorable mentions such as the classic Front Mission, to the real classic Ogre Battle, there are lots of anime style tactical games out there for you to try out. Be on the lookout also for Valkyria: Azure Revolution which is slated to come out early 2017. Perhaps we may have missed a few so let us know what other tactical anime games you enjoyed most in the comments below. Be sure to follow us on twitter as well to stay up to date on all the news ranging from anime to gaming.
As always, if you want to know about all the latest buzz straight from the bee’s nest in Japan, be sure to keep it locked here at Honey’s Anime.