Japanese Action-RPGs in the past have always taken backseat to Turn-Based RPGs. Whether it was Final Fantasy VI, or the very popular Chrono Trigger, Turn-Based influenced RPGs were always the ones to go with. But as of lately, Action-RPGs have become more and more popular within not only the gaming community, but also game developers. Several RPG series have seen transfers into more action oriented battle systems, with even the most beloved Turn-Based RPGs seeing recognizable action additions. But despite only being sought after more recently, Action-RPGs have been around since the eighties. And with each passing year, it seems as though there is always a new grand addition to the rising franchise. Here are the top ten greatest Japanese Action-RPGs that rise against the rest.

Despite a lack of flair that most tri-Ace titles have, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time not only survived a long development Hell, but lived to show everyone that even the most flawed of games can prove to be very entertaining. Expending several elements from previous Star Ocean titles fans grew to adore, Star Ocean 3 makes up for it for making the adventure a lengthy, and very challenging endeavor. Also, a fury system, which plays out like stamina, prevents an button mashing that fans of Action-RPGs have probably grown accustomed to. With what easily could be over 1000 hours of gameplay to 100% everything, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, while flawed, is easily one of the most memorable Action-RPGs available.

While Brave Fencer Musashi does borrow heavily from some other games out there, most notable Zelda, it still holds together to create an immensely entertaining piece of gaming gourmet. With a cute and very satisfying storyline, Brave Fencer Musashi grabs attention with its great sense of humor. But also adding to the mix is the ability to use your sword to fuse and learn the abilities of the enemies you encounter. And even though the main quest is short, and there isn't much to do afterwards, this is a game that you'll want to play through again and again, even if each playthrough is years apart.

How many people have heard of this game? Probably very few. But that doesn't prevent Car Battler Joe from being one of the most addicting hybrids out there. Instead of showing off a combat of swords and serpents, Car Battler Joe finds itself in a mix of Twisted Metal and Pokemon. You'll take on quests to earn money or parts to build upon and improve your combat machine. In these quests, you'll take on a third-person perspective, where you'll gain the ability to drive around the map and blow every other car or object you see to bits. Its a shame the main quest isn't longer.

Some call it a Zelda clone. Others haven't heard of it. And while it certainly borrows some elements from Zelda, to call it a Zelda clone would be wrong. Crystalis is more indepth, intelligent, and lengthy than either of the Zelda titles for the NES. But despite lacking the difficulty the NES Zelda titles had, Crystalis more than makes up for it with its large world, stupendous soundtrack, and its atmospheric storyline. The controls may be a little wonky, and one playthrough may be enough, but Crystalis still adds up as one of the few games on the NES to match up against Zelda.

Tales of Phantasia set the stage for several series that fans have come to love. Not only did it start the very popular Tales series, but it is also the precursor to another popular series, the Star Ocean series. Utilizing a Line-Based Motion Battle System, Tales of Phantasia moves at a blistering pace, even if the game doesn't always run at a consistent framerate. And even though the player is restricted to an occasionally glitchy 2D plane, the game is still hurried along with a good storyline, great music, and a flow of gorgeous locales. Too bad the rest of the Tales series doesn't live up to the original.

Secret of Mana, the sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure, is an Action-RPG longtime remembered by several RPG fans out there. But what made it so special was not the inclusion of the very intuitive and easy to use ring menu system, but of course, the addicting multiplayer. Up to three players could play with each other at once, traveling through caves, mountains, temples, and more. The addition of the multiplayer set the stage for what could have been several fun Seiken Densetsu (Mana) multiplayer titles, but no other title in the series has had the same profound effect that Secret of Mana has.

The direct sequel to Star Ocean: The Second Story, Star Ocean: Blue Sphere may be a dumbed-down sequel, but it is a fun one. And with the fact that it's a GBC game, it makes it even more acceptable. Instead of Star Ocean: Blue Sphere containing a free-roaming battle map that Star Ocean fans have grown to love, Star Ocean: Blue Sphere is shows off a battle system very reminiscent of Tales of Phantasia. But the battle system itself takes a backseat to the fantastic character customization, with players earning points at the end of each battle to add to a wide variety of statistics. And these statistics can be put to further use to the fun Item Creation minigames, which adds more to the overall experience. Too bad this wasn't released outside of Japan.

Another Action-RPG, another tri-Ace title. And while Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is not solely an Action-RPG, and more a hybrid of both Turn-Based and Action, that doesn't stop it from being one of the most strategic and intensely satisfying games around. Playing out like a mix between Star Ocean and the original Valkyrie Profile, VP2 grants the player the ability to strategically plan your attacks before going in for the kill; something sorely missing from most of the entire RPG genre to this day. This, mixed with the very high difficulty of the game, the incredibly complex skill system, and the fantastic story combine to create the best packaged Action-RPG on the PS2. Even if it isn't exactly a normal game.

Front Mission is a series typically known as a Strategy RPG series. But that doesn't stop Front Mission: Gun Hazard from being the standout in the entire series. Formulating a Side-Scrolling Action-RPG format, Front Mission: Gun Hazard proves that gigantic changes in gameplay form can lead to a very satisfying experience. The gameplay is fast, the story is intense, and the ability to build your own mech in a fairly long campaign creates the best Front Mission game yet. If only this game was released outside of Japan, everyone could see how truly spectacular this game really is.

tri-Ace. What else can be said about tri-Ace that hasn't already been said? They are probably the best Action-RPG developers out there. They aren't only afraid to add innovative additions to their RPGs, but they do so without making them feel cluttered or uninteresting. Such is evident with Star Ocean: The Second Story, the greatest Action-RPG of all-time. While it does feel more like an expanded version of the original Star Ocean, that expansion evolves to create the most satisfying Star Ocean entry yet. The battle system is fast-paced, easy to figured out, and challenging enough to keep the player interested. With only a few minor flaws in the game itself, Star Ocean: The Second Story will last players for perhaps over 100 hours on one file alone. And with the inclusion of another side to the story, each with different characters, that only adds to this gameplay juggernaut.

There ya go. The ten greatest Japanese Action-RPGs. And while it's certainly debatable, and there are several other notable Action-RPGs worth mentioning, these ten stand alone as the most memorable and well-made ones around. In a world where Turn-Based once reigned supreme, Action-RPGs are beginning to surface and and be looked at as its own respected and cult-favorite genre. And with reason, too. They are just fun to play.

List by The_Mana_Legend (05/14/2007)

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