When I first bought the Nintendo DS, I never thought it will be a platform filled with JRPGs. Unlike the PS2 era, where JRPG was abundant on the console, JRPG genre seems to be a sleeper and largely ignored by the console players as WRPG (like Mass Effect and Elder Scroll) and shooters (like Call of Duty and Battlefield) took the spotlight. This article serves to give mention to those sleeper JRPGs, and for now I will concentrate on the DS only.
Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings (Think & Feel, Square Enix, 2007)
Sequel to the Final Fantasy XII, and rather than calling it an RPG, it gameplay is more RTS-like. The system simple enough for everyone to enjoy, though the game itself may be hard at some point. Nevertheless, there is no reason not to play this game. Vaan took the spotlight in this game, lucky him!
Final Fantasy IV (Matrix Software, Square Enix, 2008)
This game has been re-released so many times, and there's a reason for it. It might be considered as one of the best Final Fantasy ever to some, but lets leave that discussion somewhere else. If you haven't played FFIV yet, this is the version you are looking for. Everything is rendered in 3D model instead of the classic 2D. Voice acting is also included.
The World Ends With You (Jupiter Corporation, Square Enix, 2008)
The reason why I bought the DS in the first place. Engaging narrative, deep characters, great use of touch screen and dual screen, and a lot of power ups to collect. You know what? Just go play this game if you have a DS. Seriously, why you haven't played this yet? You are missing out! This is one of the games that defines the DS.
Chrono Trigger (Square Enix, 2008)
One of the games that is regarded as the best game of all time; it is great as it is timeless. You owe yourself to check this game out yet if you haven't. It was at the time where Square Enix (known as SquareSoft back then) at its prime. Also, Akira Toriyama worked on the character design, more reasons to not miss it out.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (h.a.n.d. Inc, Square Enix, 2009)
Now how many Kingdom Hearts have we've seen in the past years? Nevertheless, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 is still a good game, despite the bizarre title. Nope, you won't see Sora in this game, but you'll get to spend your time with Roxas, during the time he was in Organization XIII. You will not miss much if you decide to skip this, but it is a visit into Roxas's past that worth it, albeit a bit repetitive in term of gameplay.
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor (Atlus, 2009)
A game NOT from Square Enix, and why, it is a very good one. The music is forgettable, but the gameplay and story is not. It is a hybrid of strategy game and the traditional RPG. There are a lot of Demon to collect, and team-building is the most essential part of the game. The story is about a group of teenagers who got trapped in Tokyo after an incident involving demons happened, and you have seven days to decide what you are going to do. I've played this game three times, and I enjoyed every single moment of it.
Golden Sun Dark Dawn (Camelot Software, Nintendo, 2010)
The last Golden Sun game was on GBA, and it was during 2004. To be honest Golden Sun Dark Dawn didn't bring anything new in term of its gameplay. It is almost the same thing as what you've played on the GBA. But you know what? We didn't care. That didn't stop Golden Sun Dark Dawn from being great. The enhanced graphic, new characters, new story and a very colorful world to explore make this third game in the series worth playing.
Pokemon White/Black (Game Freak, Nintendo, 2011)
Since the first Pokemon game ever released, Game Freak haven't changed much with the core system of Pokemon. A young boy/girl goes on a journey to be the very best trainer, get to choose one of the three different starter Pokemon, catch Pokemon, train them, battle with Gym Leaders, defeat bad guys, challenge the Elite Four and the Champion, and become the Pokemon Champion. Sure, it is basically the same game every time, with a bit of improvement here and there, but that's what we love about Pokemon. There are a lot of Pokemon to choose from, a lot of moves to teach/learn, weakness to exploit, breeding, and more. Pokemon is a joy to play with, and there's a reason that it is a staple to each Nintendo's portable system.
Radiant Historia (Atlus, 2011)
If there's only one game that I can choose to be the best JRPG on the DS, I will say it is Radiant Historia without a doubt (OMG ATLUS!!!!). It is one of the most memorable game I have ever played in years, and it is an instant classic. The game revolves around Locke, a soldier who is given a power to travel through time. What unique about the game is that it is easy to understand and it does not make the story to be convoluted and confusing with its time-travelling theme. The story is very engaging, and the pace sets you in place that you want to know what happened, from the start until the end. Unlike some other game, the end of this game really feels like the end. Finishing this game really satisfy me, and it was a journey unlike any other, especially on the handheld system. I strongly recommend you to play this game.
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor 2 (2012)
This game just came out, and I am still playing it. Nevertheless, I want to recommend this game to JRPG lovers who have DS (or 3DS). Might as well be the best game you've played on a handheld for this year. Even though is has "2" on its name, it is not a direct sequel to the first Devil Survivor. It shares the same core gameplay however, and that's a good thing.
Some other JRPGs to check out:
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelations
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey
If you know more of other JRPGs in the DS, please do let me know in the comments. Also, shout out to Hizamy Ropiee for giving me an idea to write this. Thanks!