Top 10 Games by Spike Chunsoft [Best Recommendations]

We all know about major Japanese game developers like Nintendo, Namco, and Square-Enix. They’re the tastemakers of the industry; the ones who create the biggest and best games that delight us daily. These are the companies that constantly hog the spotlight and generate the most hype for their upcoming major releases that promise us the world with gorgeous visuals, gigantic, sweeping narratives that will let us experience the full gamut of human emotions, and mind-blowing set-pieces that will change the way we interact with video games forever.

But, what of the smaller studios out there? After all, very few people only play the biggest and most epic games. Sometimes we just want to experience quieter, more human stories, or indulge in just a bit of fanservice from our favorite franchises. We need smaller quality games so that blockbuster fatigue doesn’t set it in. Smaller, lower budget games can be just as memorable as the major games in the gaming canon because they’re not as tied down by appealing to a widespread audience. They get a bit more room for creativity because they’re looking to appeal to a specific niche, either because they acquired a major license or because they just want to put out a quality game, investors be damned.

So we thought we might highlight one of the stalwarts of smaller-scale development in Spike Chunsoft. Believe it or not, they’ve actually been around about as long as many of the biggest names of game development. It’s a company that actually has a very long history, partially because it formed from two very diametrically opposed companies, with the Spike side known more for hot-blooded action and fighting games, while Chunsoft was focused more on visual novels and RPGs. We have their entire canon to go through, both from before and after their merger, so let’s get to it!

10. J-Stars Victory Vs. +

  • System/Platform: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft
  • Release Date: June 30, 2015 (US)

We’re sure at some point in your life, you’ve gotten into discussions over who would win a fight between Goku, Naruto, and Luffy. Well, while it’s doubtful that argument will actually be settled with this game, you can certainly play through that scenario envisioned by countless fanfiction as much as you’d like. Even better, you can even pair up your favorite Shounen Jump characters on the same team and get some truly wild battles set up. Want Kenshiro and Kenshin to go up against Yusuke Urameshi and Ichigo Kurosaki? Joseph Joestar and Gintama vs Gon Freecs and Frieza? The sky’s the limit!

Actually, J-Stars isn’t even that new of a concept. There have been plenty of Jump crossover fighting games that have come out over the years, even going as far back as the NES. But J-Stars Victory Vs+ is the first one to see an official, widespread release outside of Japan. The amount of content is insane, with four different story paths in the single player mode and tons of extra characters to unlock. If you’re a hardcore Shounen Jump fan, then you’ll find yourself losing hours.


9. Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate

  • System/Platform: Nintendo DS, Playstation Vita
  • Publishers: Spike Chunsoft, Aksys Games (US)
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft
  • Release Date: July 26, 2016 (US)

While the title makes it seem like Shiren is a standalone title, it’s actually part of a larger franchise referred to as Mystery Dungeon. This one in particular, is actually the fifth game in the Shiren subseries, which has been going on for as long as the Super Nintendo! In fact, Tower of Fortune originally came out on the DS in Japan before getting ported over to the Vita several years later, where it finally saw a worldwide release.

If you’re the type of RPG fan who likes a tough challenge, but is more concerned with tactical gameplay than stat distribution, then Shiren might be a fun change of pace. You’re not going to find much difficulty with the actual combat; once you’re in an encounter, the battle essentially plays out on its own and you just wait to see how it turns out. It’s more about the thrill of survival. Leveling up is effectively only a temporary means to an end, as death means you start back at square one. Instead, you need to be more concerned about how you’re positioned on the playfield, avoiding enemies when possible and only engaging if absolutely necessary.


8. One Piece: Burning Blood

  • System/Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft
  • Release Date: May 31, 2016 (US)

Caught up on the manga or anime of One Piece? If so, then Burning Blood won’t be treading any new ground for you. The story mode is simply a retelling of the famous Marineford, told from various different perspectives. However, if you’re not up-to-date on One Piece, then Burning Blood can give you a quick recap of what is arguably its most important arc. It is, at the very least, one of the reasons they’re still putting out so many One Piece games!

That being said, what makes One Piece: Burning Blood really stand out is the combat system. While most 3D fighting games follow a Tekken or Soul Calibur mold, with a camera that gives you a full view of both fighters on the screen, Burning Blood places the camera firmly behind the player. While this might seem like an odd choice, positioning the camera like this actually frees up the range of movement of the characters, rather than movement being locked into mere side-stepping. This helps you feel more involved with the combat, which works well with its high kinetic action.


7. 428: Shibuya Scramble

  • System/Platform: Wii, Playstation 3, Playstation Portable, iOS & Android
  • Publisher: Sega (Wii), Spike (Playstation 3, Playstation Portable, iOS & Android)
  • Developer: Chunsoft
  • Release Date: December 4, 2008

Shibuya isn’t the place it once was. Getting more dangerous these days, what with the kidnapping you’ll have to solve. But, as you investigate, you’ll discover that there’s much more under the surface than it seems. You’ll take control of 5 completely separate characters, from an investigator working on the case, to a seemingly unrelated medical researcher. You’ve got 10 hours to close the case. Get cracking!

There’s a good chance you haven’t heard about 428: Shibuya Scramble. This is because the game never saw a release outside of Japan! However, it was quickly revered as a classic of the Visual Novel genre due to how deftly it handles your choices. Your actions playing as one character will affect how a character’s story will play out. 428 weaves an intricate web of interplay between its various ongoing plots, boasting a whopping grand total of 85 different endings! Frustrated you can’t play it? Don’t worry, Spike Chunsoft has announced they’ll be bringing 428 over themselves in 2018 for the PC and Playstation 4.


6. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2

  • System/Platform: Playstation 2, Wii
  • Publisher: Bandai, Atari (US)
  • Developer: Spike
  • Release Date: November 7, 2006 (US)

Almost every small-scale Japanese developer at some point works their rounds to put out a Dragon Ball Z game. Both Spike and Chunsoft were no exception to the rule, but we’re giving the edge to Spike’s Tenkaichi 2 due to the wealth of content it provides. Somehow Spike managed to cram over 100 playable characters into this game; from your beloved mainstays, like Goku and Vegeta, to the much more obscure, like Zangya and the Hildegarn. There’s a crazy amount of playtime time for any hardcore or casual Dragon Ball Z fan here.

However, what really sets apart Budokai Tenkaichi 2 specifically is the Wii version of the game. The control scheme really makes the game, as, rather than requiring a button input for special moves, it actually forces you to make the motions that the characters make using the Wii remote. Look, we’ve all cupped our hands together and thrust them forward in a futile attempt to shoot a Kamehameha. Budokai Tenkaichi 2 will let you fulfill that fantasy after years of shame. Need we say more?


5. Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon

  • System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: The Pokémon Company
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft
  • Release Date: November 20, 2015 (US)

Ever wonder what it would be like to actually be a Pokémon and not just train them? The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spinoff series answers that question for you. After choosing who you start as (from a selection of over 20 different Pokémon), you’ll find yourself thrust into a village of Pokémon, having lost your memories, but sure you were originally human. You’ll join up with Serene Village’s Exploration Society, taking on missions and slowly discovering who you once were.

Pokémon mixed with the Roguelike genre seems like an odd combination. Roguelikes are notoriously some of the most hardcore RPGs you can find, while Pokémon games are made to be fun adventures for kids and adults of all ages. But, in a way, that’s also what makes it a perfect mix. Attaching the Pokémon license to the genre, allowed the developers to re-analyze the genre, and brought down the difficulty to a level where anyone could play, making the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games the perfect gateway game into the genre. Super Mystery Dungeon in particular, is notable because it was the first to incorporate all Pokémon up to X & Y; a massive 720 Pokémon in total!


4. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

  • System/Platform: Playstation Portable, Playstation Vita, Playstation 4, PC
  • Publisher: Spike Chunsoft, NIS America (US)
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft
  • Release Date: September 2, 2014 (US)

Hajime Hinata always idolized Hope’s Peak Academy. He was finally lucky enough to be accepted into the school and looked forward to spending his idyllic high school days among the elite of society. Upon arriving, though, he discovers himself instead stranded on an island with 15 other students. A weird black and white bear called Monokuma then informs the students that if they want to get off the island, they’ll first have to kill someone. However, once someone dies, all the other students get the time to investigate and hold a trial. If they figure out who committed the murder, then the killer is executed, but if not, then the killer escapes and all the remaining students will die instead.

Without delving too deep into spoilers, Danganronpa 2 is, in essence, a story about redemption. How do we forgive those who have done just the absolute worst to humanity that you can imagine? The game allows the option, in between investigation sequences, to fraternize with your fellow classmates; but how can you even trust them when you know that they may very well stab you in the back? The story might get a little too wild past the point of believability at times, but its ending message is so sincere and powerful that it’s hard to deny that its heart is in the right place.


3. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

  • System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Vita, Playstation 4, PC
  • Publisher: Spike Chunsoft, Aksys Games (US)
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft
  • Release Date: October 23, 2012

Sigma was just a regular grad student until he found himself locked up in an elevator with a strange girl by the name of Phi. A weird cartoony rabbit called Zero III pops up on a nearby screen and tells them that if they don’t break out soon, the two of them will die. After escaping, the pair finds themselves in a giant, warehouse-type facility along with 7 other prisoners. Zero III explains that if they wish to escape, they’ll need to play something he calls the Ambidex Game. Effectively, they’ll have to choose to trust or betray one another, and whoever reaches 9 points first will win the game. However, betraying someone who chose to trust them will net the betrayer more points while the poor fool who chose to trust will lose points, and whoever has a score of 0 will be killed.

While Danganronpa revels in the dark and twisted, Virtue’s Last Reward tells a tale that’s disturbingly cold and detached. Characters don’t die in a terribly brutal fashion, but rather are just pricked by a needle and it’s almost like they’re just falling asleep. But once you get past the initial shock, you’ll find there’s much more going on than a psycho getting their jollies in. Depending on your choices during the Ambidex Game sections, you’ll discover complete different story paths and gain more and more background on the history of the various characters and what shaped them. Much like its predecessor; Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, you’ll only get the full story by uncovering every single story branch.


2. Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

  • System/Platform: Super Famicom, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Chunsoft (Super Famicom),
  • Release Date: February 17, 2009 (US)

Yeah you’re reading that title right. Way back in the 1980s, when Chunsoft was first getting started up, they cut their teeth doing the technical work for the Dragon Quest games while series creator Yuji Hori wrote the stories and designed the gameplay systems. This continued all the way through the 90s up until Square Enix changed direction and began outsourcing development to Heartbeat instead for Dragon Quest VI and VII. However, Chunsoft’s input into the creation of one of the biggest names in JRPGs cannot be ignored.

Out of all the Dragon Quest games we could have chosen, we went with V because many of the trends we take for granted in modern games actually originated from it. While including dating sim aspects into RPGs (Japanese or otherwise) is en vogue right now, Dragon Quest V was one of the first to actually allow the player to choose who they wanted as their bride, which would affect how the story would play out. Not only that, but it also allowed a rather novel gameplay mechanic where the player could capture wild monsters to fight alongside them in combat, a feature that would later become its own subgenre of RPG with the Pokémon franchise.


1. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

  • System/Platform: Nintendo DS, iOS, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC
  • Publisher: Spike, Aksys Games (US)
  • Developer: Chunsoft
  • Release Date: November 16, 2010 (US)

It’s been a rough day for poor Junpei. He was just minding his own business before he was suddenly kidnapped by a gas-masked killer who goes by Zero. Now he’s locked up in a sinking ship and told that if he wants to escape, he, along with seven other kidnapped persons, will have to play something Zero calls the Nonary Game. Effectively, they all wear a watch with a different number on it from 1 through 8, and in order to get through doors, their digital roots will have to add up. If anyone tries to break the rules, there are bombs planted in all their stomachs and will explode if they try anything funny.

What makes 999 (as it’s referred to by its fan base) so special is difficult to explain without getting into spoilers. However, 999 challenges how we view narrative in games. In order to get the full story, you’ll have to play through every single path in the game. Other visual novels provide multiple paths largely as a means for the player to have their own unique story, or to end up with their pairing of choice. Even when you get an ending in 999, you haven’t really “beaten” the game until you’ve completed every path. If you never played it when it came out on DS, they recently had a re-release on the Playstation 4, Vita, and Steam, but if you do have the opportunity, do try and seek out a DS copy. You won’t regret it.


Final Thoughts

Spike Chunsoft may be a small company, but they are on the rise. Recently, they’ve expanded into publishing their own games in the US, so this list isn’t by any means the end-all, be-all. Did we miss anything? Have your favorite moments from the games listed above you’d like to share? Please, comment below and let us know!

Matt Knodle

Writer

Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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