RPG Grind Time – The Nintendo Switch And Its Promise For RPGs

by Kimberley Wallace on Feb 15, 2017 at 09:00 AM

Confession time: I wasn’t really that excited for the Switch, especially before its big reveal. I felt let down by the Wii U, which collected dust aside from a handful of games, and I didn’t see much on the Switch to garner my enthusiasm outside of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which I could play on the Wii U. So imagine my surprise when I tuned into the reveal and saw Nintendo grabbing plenty of my favorite RPG franchises for its latest console. Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Shin Megami Tensei. Fire Emblem Warriors, a Musou Fire Emblem/Dynasty Warriors crossover. Square Enix’s smaller, gorgeous-looking RPG, Project Octopath Traveler. Suddenly, I had unexpected excitement for the console. 

This was only the beginning. It was also revealed that a brand new, mainline Fire Emblem game is in development for Switch, which is a big deal considering this is the first time the franchise has been on a home console since 2007’s Radiant Dawn for Wii. Bandai Namco then confirmed plans to bring its beloved Tales series to Switch. As of late, the Tales games have mostly been released on Sony platforms and PC. The last time we saw an entry hit a Nintendo home console was 2008’s Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, again on Wii. We also know Dragon Quest XI is making its way to the platform, which is exciting considering English-speakers missed out on X, an MMORPG that came out on a plethora of platforms in Japan. Oh, and let’s not forget The Pokémon Company's chief executive told The Wall Street Journal that it will make games for Switch, so some sort of Pokémon game is in the works. This just makes me giddy. 

An interesting observation is that many of these franchises, such as Fire Emblem, SMT, and Dragon Quest, have subsisted and even grown on handhelds while home console development costs rose. Now they return to the living room via the Switch. This actually makes sense considering the Switch is supposed to be the best of both worlds, letting you take your game on the go or play them on the big screen in the comfort of your own home. A bonus to these games’ presence on Switch is it allows them to have a bigger spotlight and I couldn’t be happier about that. It also gives these franchises an opportunity to expand their scope; a new platform often affords developers more chances to experiment and stretch their creative muscles. 

I’m curious how the Dragon Quest series will evolve since its MMORPG debut and what lessons the team has learned for XI. I can’t imagine it didn’t impart some wisdom on creating a larger, more intriguing world and making sure players had plenty of fun things to do. I want something more in line with the scope and ambition we saw with Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. Will Fire Emblem be able to make building your headquarters and team up feel even more grand on the big screen? How much more exciting will navigation be in SMT? After all, we got a slice of exploring different Tokyo districts in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, which I adored. Time will tell.

With these series making the jump from handheld back to console, it has also makes me wonder what other franchises might follow. Maybe this opens the doors for series that got their start on handheld, such as Bravely Default or Etrian Odyssey, to grow their scope with Switch. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo moves forward with the Switch, especially in the months after launch. In my opinion, it needs a solid showing at E3, signaling that plenty of games are coming to the console – in the near and distant future. People want proof there’s longevity here. As an RPG fan, I’m of course interested in how it continues to expand its RPG library down the road. 

Even more so, a big question remains: Will the Switch eliminate a separate handheld device entirely for the Big N, or will we still see a pure handheld system to follow? I’ve been thinking more and more about these things as we get closer to launch. Nintendo’s handhelds have been an important place for niche RPGs, after all. The Switch could either make that better or hurt that market, but I can’t imagine Nintendo would entirely turn its back on its lucrative handheld market. The $300 price point for the Switch doesn’t make it an ideal option for everyone, so a less-expensive, purely handheld system makes sense.  

If we look back at the Wii U, 3DS, and even their predecessors, both solid and novel titles have been available for the RPG audience, ranging from Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE to Xenoblade Chronicles. The Switch having so many RPGs in the works so early is promising. As long as the console can draw a solid number of adopters, this could be a very good thing for RPG fans. My biggest worry is that the Switch will pay for the Wii U’s failures, or even worse, repeat its mistakes. For now, I’m optimistic. My biggest hope is that we see a few new RPG franchises and even the return of some beloved ones (Mana!) in the future.