With the unbridled success of Octopath Traveler, it’s become clear that there is a market for classic JRPGs on the Switch. That’s good news for Atlus, since Shin Megami Tensei V has been in development for Switch since at least January 2017. But there are so many other active and dormant JRPG series that could find a happy home on this machine! Below are a few classic RPG series that deserve new sequels and would fit perfectly as Switch RPGs.
Breath of Fire
Capcom released Breath of Fire 6 for Japanese mobile devices in 2016, and do you know who played it? That’s not a rhetorical question—I have no idea if anybody played that thing. The game looked soulless in screenshots, not anything like the proud series that began life on Super Nintendo. Worst of all, it was a free-to-play multiplayer game, and it ceased operations in just over a year.
Releasing Breath of Fire VII (returning to traditional Roman numerals) for Switch would be a perfect fit for two reasons. One, this could be the series’s big chance for redemption, a mea culpa for the colossal failure of 6. It could go back to having turn-based combat and a rich narrative, and it would be a perfect fit for the HD-2D treatment since Breath of Fire III and IV employed sprites in 3D environments as well.
Two, Capcom has maybe its best relationship with Nintendo since the GameCube era right now. Street Fighter and Mega Man collections are selling well, and Capcom is currently working on a cloud version of Resident Evil 7 for Switch. Now is the time for Capcom to be taking risks with Nintendo, and Breath of Fire VII hot off the heels of Octopath Traveler would be a very calculated—and worthwhile—risk.
Phantasy Star Online 2 continues to have its fan base internationally, but the core Phantasy Star series never received a new entry after Phantasy Star IV for Sega Genesis. Unlike in most RPGs, Phantasy Star IV offered a definitive ending to the whole series, wrapping up loose ends from previous games. So would it really be a bad thing if this series never revived?
Yes, of course it would be! The reason is that Phantasy Star’s sci-fi setting is so compelling and unique in the JRPG space. Not content to take place in just one world, this series has you traversing the whole solar system and using giant vehicles to cruise across the land when walking on foot isn’t enough. Phantasy Star was Mass Effect long before Mass Effect, but with a very specific ‘80s/‘90s anime flavor to it.
If this series were revived for Switch, it could be a perfect marriage of new and old, just like Octopath. You start by (1) retaining Phantasy Star IV’s tight, character-driven narrative (and all of its anime melodrama!), (2) expanding the game’s turn-based, combo-centric battle system, and (3) keeping the amazing techno soundtrack style of IV. You then combine those elements with modern, Xenoblade Chronicles X-style sci-fi/anime graphics to create big, beautiful worlds that bring out the full imagination of the Phantasy Star universe. In essence, it would become a very Japanese answer to Mass Effect.
Why should this hypothetical new game land on Switch and not PlayStation 4? Well, honestly I would be in favor of both, but launching on Switch might be the better move for Sega due to less market saturation. PlayStation has plenty of RPGs and plenty of sci-fi games. But if a game like this landed as a Switch exclusive, it would become a killer app in an age where such things are becoming rarer, and Nintendo would help market it as such. This is why a new Phantasy Star would fit perfectly on Switch.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals for Super Nintendo had the best-crafted dungeons of any RPG I’ve ever played. Every single dungeon had its own unique puzzles, and they were all fun to solve. On top of that, the narrative was improbably memorable due to snappy dialogue and the fact that the villains were basically gods. This formula of “puzzle dungeons plus snappy narrative” should have been easy to milk for great sequels, yet Lufia has a strange history.
The first Lufia didn’t have puzzles at all but was a pleasant romance story. The third Lufia (for Game Boy Color) ditched puzzles in favor of randomly generated dungeons, but at least it had a good story. The fourth Lufia (for Game Boy Advance) was a dull side-story that didn’t even feature the evil gods. And the final Lufia title (for Nintendo DS) was a remake of Lufia II, but it was a puzzle-heavy 3D action RPG with a radically altered storyline.
To all of this, I ask—why? Lufia II had a simple, perfect formula, but no one has bothered to try replicating it (except maybe the Wild Arms people). A new Lufia that just stays true to the formula of II would make for a fantastic game, even if made on a budget and not done in the HD-2D style. And the Switch is the perfect home for high-quality budget games. Plus, if you don’t have the time to finish a puzzle now, you can just put the Switch to sleep and carry it with you to where you’re going next.
The only problem is that developer Neverland actually closed down a few years ago, so it’s unclear to whom we should be writing our begging letters.
Honorable mentions (and why they didn’t make the cut)
Shigesato Itoi has expressed no interest in creating Mother 4, and he’s the heart, soul, and voice of the series. I think it’s better for people to create their own beautiful works inspired by this series rather than to continue making Mother games without the man responsible for its artistry.
The Lunar games are easily some of my favorites ever, and they had some of the strongest effects on me in my formative years. But much like with Mother, the people most responsible for Lunar have basically moved on from the series. If my choice is to let this series pass away peacefully or to continue to suffer through travesties like Lunar: Dragon Song, I choose the former.
This is going to sound harsh, and feel free to disagree with me, but—I just don’t think Square Enix has the talent on hand to pull off another Chrono-caliber game. Chrono Trigger might be the greatest game ever made, and Chrono Cross (for all its quirks) is a pretty outstanding RPG too. The only way Square Enix could maybe pull off a third Chrono is by placing its Dragon Quest team on the job, and by pulling scenario writer Masato Kato and composer Yasunori Mitsuda back into the fold. I don’t see that as very likely.
What are your dream Switch RPGs?
I know there are some classic RPG series that I didn’t mention at all here, like Grandia, Suikoden, and (if we allow strategy RPGs) Shining Force. And that’s because I only have so much space! But I’m eager to hear from all you like-minded RPG lovers. I want to know if you agree or disagree with my assessments, and what your own dream Switch RPGs are. Let’s get this discussion going and make our voices vocal to the developers!