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Veteran Member - Level 13
Or: How Digital Sales Could Save the RPG.
I'm an old-school rpg nerd when all is said and done. That's not to say that I don't enjoy the newer-school games that Bethesda, CDProjekt RED, Bioware, and others have been making, just that many of my favorite rpg memories occurred playing series that no longer exist. With the next-gen announcements of the past few months I've started allowing myself to hope against hope that some of these titles may end up seeing the light of day again.
What's going to follow (in order of how likely I think a release will occur) is a list of five titles I'd love others to get a chance to fall in love with just like I did for their predecessors.
A New Persona title.
Atlus's Persona series is one of my all-time favorites. In the past six months I've been able to replay both Persona 3 FES, which I downloaded on PSN, and Persona 4 Golden which is really the only reason I own a Vita. Both games are fantastic and hold up well to the ravages of time that all games (and media in general) have to deal with. While an rpg, both also feature very intricate simulation features as you're spending your days maxing out social links with other characters in the game while nights focus on leveling up your party in randomized dungeon levels.
A new or current-gen announcement, whether it be for Persona 5 or a re-imagining of the entire series would get me psyched up in ways that are difficult to describe. Atlus games are known for their simple beauty when it comes to their art style and processing power could be used to add all sorts of detail to the randomized dungeons. Imagine loops, multi-part paths, elevation changes, in short, all the fine little details most random games miss could be included to up the ante for the night portion of the game. The dayside aspects could benefit from new technology also with all of the social aspects MS and Sony are including in their new systems. Building up social links with other real players and trading information and equipment could be the least of the improvements brought to the simulation side of the game and that's not even mentioning the ease with which they could include co-op into the series with four or more gamers making up the party while digging further and further into whatever near-endless random dungeon they come up with next.
Odds of release? I'd say about 85%, maybe higher. Atlus knows a cash cow when they see it and while I couldn't begin to speculate on whether it'll be 5, a spin-off, or a re-boot, I'd bet my last dollar on gamers seeing another Persona game in the near future.
Another Final Fantasy Tactics.
Final Fantasy Tactics and its two Game Boy sequels ate up as much of my spare time as any three other games I can think of outside of the Civilization series. The original PS1 release is still in my all time top ten games and I bought a GBA (seeing a trend here?) just for the opportunity to play some more. With its addictive mix of maxing out stats and rotating jobs depending on the task at hand it is easily one of the best turn-based rpgs ever made. While there were certainly exploits the player could take advantage of such as leveling by attacking and then healing your own party or stealing the equipment of a new story-related character to give Ramza both Save the Queen and Excalibur with the 'two swords' upgrade, the battle system itself provided a challenge while remaining accessible and fun.
While it seems much more likely that a new FF Tactics game would release on either the Vita or 3DS, a full, console re-imagining of the title could eventually occur as well. In my mind they'd expand the job system to give gamers even more options, take a cue from the Valkyria Chronicles games in regards to player movement during battles, and add a level of shine and polish never before seen in the genre with the power the newer systems will offer. I would also imagine clan-like leaderboards keeping track of everything from side-quests completed to jobs held, to win-loss ratios of battles fought using the social aspects that we keep hearing about.
Odds of release? At least 70%. It may end up being a while, but Square does listen to it's fans, just not fast enough for many of us! It would be a little on the 'niche' side of things for a AAA release, but a handheld or downloadable title is almost assured, eventually.
Another .hack adventure.
.hack is one seriously messed up game. It's got an amazing premise. You're playing as a kid playing an online MMO. Then things in the real world start getting a bit crazy and the game bounces back and forth between leveling up in the game within a game and slowing unraveling the mystery of the story told. While I've got less experience with the .hack titles than any of the others I'm mentioning today, I love the idea and had a ton of fun with the two or three I did get a chance to play.
I always considered the .hack games to be really good, low-budget science fiction rpgs. Because of this I could totally see either Live or PSN getting a downloadable take on the series in the coming years. It what looks to be a continuing trend, games with lower budgets/sales expectations will continue to migrate towards smaller, digital releases and I'm hoping this is one that eventually sees the light of day. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record (they were big disks that played music/just look it up if you're too young!) in regards to the social integration with the new consoles, but how cool would it be if the single and multiplayer aspects were blended together with players sharing the 'MMO' while having largely individual experiences in the 'real' world?
Odds of release? I'd say 50/50 with almost no chance for a retail version. It seems like the game would be a good fit for the next round of consoles but I can't even remember the last time a .hack game came out so it'd be a pleasant surprise if it did happen.
Another Suikoden game.
I've played heck out of some Suikoden games over the years. While I never got a chance to play the fifth in the series which released on the PS2, Suikoden 4 is yet another of my favorite rpgs. Like all others in the long-running series, it was largely about gathering the 108 stars (or characters) of destiny to fully round-out your party. Yes, there were literally 108 playable characters although twenty or so only filled a supporting role during battle. At times in 4 you would have as many as twelve or sixteen (I forget) members broken down into three or four parties, each with their own ship. The battles could get quite intense and, while relatively simplistic, the ship-to-ship combat was well-done and fun.
Suikoden's yet another title that I'd love to see make the jump into the next generation, but also one that I don't see as very likely. While Konami could surprise me, it seems that the days of niche, japanese-style rpgs are dwindling and I just don't see this series drawing much of an audience with all of the other options available anymore. I just imagine a pirate themed Suikoden title with the deep rpgs systems the series is known for and the (or better) graphics of Assassins Creed 3 during the ship-to-ship combat. It would be awesome and you all know it!
Odds of release? Less than 40% in this gamer's eyes. While I could certainly see a digital version appear at some point, the odds of us seeing a AAA, retail released Suikoden title again seem very slim.
Something from the Xenogears/Xenosaga lore.
Xenogears is one of the best games ever made. And not just rpgs, but ALL games. The Xenosaga trilogy brought some of the most compelling story aspects that I've ever seen in a game together, but somehow botched the overall presentation of the series with erratic and ever-changing game-play elements. Either way, sci-fi, leveling up, and philosophy fit together like... I can't come up with an analogy that's not food so we'll just go with peanut butter and jelly. Or baseball and beer, either one works!
The odds of this one happening are lower than the rest for a number of reasons. First off, SquareEnix owns the rights to Xenogears while Namco-Bandai owns Xenosaga (I believe). Getting the licensing figured out would be difficult enough, but the sales of part three of the Xenosaga trilogy suffered after the second in the series added a terrible combat system and removed much of the leveling found in the first which really alienated fans. I'd still love to see a high-def makeover of the series as it's really worth slugging through the slow parts just to hear the tale of Kos-Mos.
Odds of release? Around 25% and I'm feeling generous. While many a gamer would weep at the news of being able to play another game featuring our favorite android/prophet/killing machine, Out of all the titles mentioned here I've heard the fewest whispers about this one. Whether it's a cursed IP or not, it's got a chance (albeit a small one) at seeing new life on Live/PSN in the next few years.
So these are the five rpg announcements I'd most like to hear in the coming months. All of the series mentioned could benefit from either a re-imagining or sequel and in this day of ever-ballooning budgets the digital space could allow publishers and devs an opportunity to bring us some more old-school rpg goodness with dramatically less financial risk to the company. It all comes down to profits, but done well, each of these games could be a money maker for their respective company and a soothing balm to those of us who are tired of playing in first person or having to worry about command wheels or squad controls when playing our favorite rpg.
What lesser known games would you guys like to see announced?
Surely I'm not the only one re-discovering the joys of old rpgs due to digital versions being available!
Just remember that for every FF 13 with an enormous budget there's a Bastion quietly toiling away in the corner, making it's own mark on the industry.
Thanks for reading ya'll! Have a good one!