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Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) have made a large imprint in the video game world. The words “Pokémon” and “Final Fantasy” are enough to hold meaning for anyone who’s familiar with video games. Even if you declare yourself a sports or action-only player, you have played at least one role-playing game.

Many people outside of Japan aren’t aware of how many Japanese-created role-playing games there have been. Let’s just say, it’s more than you can imagine. With the help of Bitmap Books, you can visually see a record of games from 1982 to 2020. With over 35 contributors from a wide selection of fans and journalists, Bitmap Books’s “A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games” has 652 pages of documented information of over 600 JRPGs over the last few decades. You don’t need to be a bookworm to appreciate a book like this.

More Than a Shelved Book

A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games by Bitmap Books - Hard Cover Front and Spine

A well-designed, hardcover book may look great on your personal shelf, but it deserves a better spotlight. The book’s cover is illustrated by the talented Stephanie Sybydlo and is finished with special pantone inks and metallic silver foil details. It really pops out and is why it shouldn’t stay on the shelf. The pages printed in color are sewn into the spine, making it a sturdy and professional item to own.

The back of the book gives not only an English synopsis of the contents but also a Japanese version of the same text written in metallic silver foil and located close to the spine. It gives it a more authentic feel of being an imported book. The spine is in a vibrant red and the book title, “A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games” is also in metallic silver foil. It would be neat to see the same Japanese character treatment printed on the spine, too. With over 370,000 words inside, it is the ultimate coffee table book to equip for your home or office.

Diving into an Adventure

A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games by Bitmap Books - Inside Spread

Before diving too deep into its overwhelming documentation of JRPGs, the book provides a brief history of them. This also includes information of how localisation was handled during its release and on fan translations. The book also goes into how JRPGs have compelling soundtracks, the relationship with anime, and more.

The book is then divided into sections to organize the over-600 games. The fact that readers are introduced to games that never left Japan is a fun experience. Subgenres such as First-Person Dungeon Crawlers and Strategy RPGs receive a dedicated section along with a synopsis with a special pixel-art illustration. This is where you can find some details about games like Fire Emblem, Pokémon, Digimon, and more. Some franchises have dedicated sections that made a large impact on the JRPG genre, such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Shin Megami Tensei.

The content of each game ranges from a quarter of the page to a magazine spread (two pages), depending on the game and its popularity. Information is given on the developer, release date, and platforms the game released on. A graphic of the game’s cover art is printed in the area to give readers an idea how the game looked on retail shelves. The content itself is written quite well and contains the author’s opinions on how the game played and sold. Flipping through the pages of past favorites will put a smile on your face, and learning about games you never knew existed can be just as interesting.

In a curious omission, mobile gacha games like Final Fantasy Brave Exvius and Fire Emblem Heroes don’t receive a section nor a mention in this book. Even a page would suffice with some talk on how mobile gaming became a go-to for JRPGs. Remakes are briefly mentioned and don’t have a dedicated section either. Sorry, Final Fantasy VII fans. With how many games today are being re-made, it’s not a surprise nor a deal-breaker.

Purchasing the Highly-Rated Item for Your Inventory

Fans can purchase the book through Bitmap Books’s official website. The item ships worldwide from the United Kingdom. Purchasing the book also gives fans a digital PDF which comes with limitations. For example, each PDF page is “stamped” with your name and email address. Due to security reasons, they can’t be removed. In addition, copying and printing from the PDF are also disabled. The bottom line here is that the book is yours and yours alone.

The Next Volume?

A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games by Bitmap Books - Inside Spread

With more and more JRPGs coming out, it’s not hard to imagine that Bitmap Books would have the content to make a second volume. It would take some time to match the amount of information that was stored in this book, though.

However, there’s a massive amount of indie games inspired by JRPGs, such as Sea of Stars, that Bitmap Books could very well make a dedicated book about. Even in this volume, they already include popular JRPG-inspired games such as Undertale, Cosmic Star Heroine, and CrossCode. A new book dedicated to these indie games would and should be a future project. 

The Ultimate Book

Bitmap Books’s “A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games” is a must-own item for JRPG fans. It may not be the most up-to-date (how could it?), but the amount of content and history stored in this sturdy, hardcover book is worth having your hands on.

The book was provided by Bitmap for this article, photography, and video.

A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games by Bitmap Books - Closer Look

About Seth Hay - Editor-in-chief / Webmaster

When Seth is not designing or developing, he spends time with his family and his occasional dose of anime, sports and video games.

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