The lights are on
Do you remember the series that made you fall in love with RPGs? The blindsiding betrayal of Suikoden, the stunning storybook visuals of the Mana games, and the thrilling cancel attacks from Grandia’s battle system all helped define the genre. Glancing around store shelves today would hardly resurrect these memories, since many of these formative series are absent this generation. We investigated what happened to some of the well-known RPGs of yesteryear and put our odds on their resurgence. Everybody loves a comeback, but just in case, we also provided alternative current-gen games to fill the void.
[This article originally appeared in Game Informer issue #235]
Last Seen: The World of Mana arc of the franchise spawned three US releases. The last was 2007’s Heroes of Mana, a real-time strategy RPG, which left middling impressions, similar to the other World of Mana releases.
Current Status: Besides releasing Secret of Mana for iOS, Square has kept quiet about the series’ future, but at least the company recognizes its classic titles have a fanbase.
Odds: 10:1 - Series creator Koichi Ishii, who produced or directed practically every Mana game, left Square Enix in 2007 to form his own development studio, Grezzo Games, Inc. The future looks grim with Ishii gone and the last entry’s poor reception. But there’s a glimmer of hope: Square still owns the rights, and recently trademarked “Circle of Mana.” A future entry in the series? Fingers crossed.
If you like, play: The Last Story (Wii)
Last Seen: We haven’t seen a main entry in the series since 2006’s Suikoden V. In 2009, Suikoden Tierkreis, a side story in the Suikoden world, released for the DS to a mixed reception.
Current Status: Doubt about the series’ lifespan surfaced when Konami developers told 4gamers.net in 2011 that the Suikoden team disbanded, with many moved to other projects. But Konami provided hope when they released Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki (another spin-off) on PSP in Japan this year.
Odds: 50:1 - The fact that the PSP re-releases of Suikoden I and II were never localized doesn’t show much faith in the series’ status in America. Add in the side entries not measuring up to the series’ standards, and it’s hard to stay optimistic. But maybe all this series needs to light fire again is a new main entry. You hear that, Konami?
If you like, play: Radiant Historia (DS), Growlanser: Wayfarer in Time (PSP)
Last Seen: Shining Force EXA’s release in 2007 is the last time the Shining franchise graced our shores.
Current Status: Not seeing a release since the PS2 era has made the series fade into obscurity in the U.S., although the franchise is still strong in Japan. Four additional console games have hit that region, and that’s not including a slew of mobile and arcade releases.
Odds: US: 100:1, Japan: 1:1 - The fact that the handheld releases haven’t made it over to the US speaks volumes about Sega’s view of the potential here. Reality check: While Japan received a new Shining game this year, the U.S. hasn’t seen an entry in the last five years.
If you like, play: Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (DS), Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)
Last Seen: In 2005, Shadow Hearts: From the New World altered the series’ dynamic by abandoning its main protagonist from the first games, Yuri Hyuga. This led to some growing pains with a new cast.
Current Status: Aruze Entertainment (now Universal Entertainment Corporation) owned developer Nautilus during Shadow Hearts’ run, but announced the dissolution of the studio in 2007.
Odds: 1,000:1 - We’re confident in saying this one is over, since the Shadow Hearts rights remain with Aruze. The company has since ventured in a different direction, focusing on pachinko and slot machines. At this point, we’re more likely to see a Shadow Hearts pachinko machine than another full entry.
If you like, play: Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360)
[Next Up: Ready your ARMS, entering the chaos of an MMO, and a traditional battle system with some style....]
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.