It goes without saying that there's a strong JRPG following here at PSXE.
However, as the years have passed, the genre's popularity has declined (and unfortunately, so has the quality), and gaming has become more and more mainstream. There was a time when most all video games were made by Japanese companies, but no longer.
What we're seeing is a chasm between long-time JRPG fans – specifically, those who enjoyed the heights of the sub-genre and credit JRPGs with delivering some of their most memorable experiences – and the JRPG virgins. Essentially, they're either members of a younger generation who simply don't understand the appeal, or older gamers who never signed on to the JRPG craze in the first place. But if you are a JRPG lover, and you're adamant in your belief that certain games in the genre deliver that which can't be delivered anywhere else, what's the one title you would recommend? Remember, you're dealing with someone who, while mildly curious, has never touched any such title.
I think it would have to be something that still retains a little of what they know (i.e., Western influences) while still remaining true to the JRPG structure and style. You also have to consider that the JRPG's heyday was some time ago; the very best titles will appear significantly outdated by today's standards. And that can be difficult to promote. It's actually a much more difficult task than it may seem on the surface, isn't it? Me, I'd go with Final Fantasy XII . It's a late-gen PS2 game that certainly does appear dated, but it has some of that open-world exploring that's so common these days, and the combat is a blend of real-time and turn-based elements. We still see that system today in games like Dragon Age , so it wouldn't seem too archaic. It's actually incredibly fluid and deep.
One might also want to recommend Lost Odyssey , but I'm not sure pure turn-based would fly with today's crowd, regardless of age. Eternal Sonata isn't a bad option, though, because it's unique, the combat is a blend, and there are distinct Japanese styles that you don't find anywhere else. The writing isn't too bad, either. Oh, and don't forget about Vagrant Story , although I still say that's closer to a standard action/RPG rather than a JRPG. Still, an amazing story and a compelling atmosphere… Which game would you choose in order to bust a JRPG virgin's cherry?