The PlayStation 2 was loaded with RPGs. Players could choose numerous titles from the Tales, Final Fantasy, and Persona series—just to name a few. However, there were few Western RPGs on the PS2. In contrast, the original Xbox claimed Knights of the Old Republic, Morrowind and Fable.
The two consoles were worlds apart—east and west. Players had to choose one or the other—if they couldn’t afford both—depending on their preferences.
A number of articles were written on the topic. IGN’s Jeremy Dunham called the popularity of JRPGs on the PS2 “Sony’s love affair” with the genre back in 2005. Years later, a PSM3 UK article asked “Are JRPGs dead?”
What happened to JRPGs is easy to explain. The flood of lackluster titles within the genre and the hype machine driving their sales drowned players who were already spoilt for choice. Most games did too little to differentiate themselves from the pack, and those that did were roundly criticized for being “too different”—Final Fantasy XII a prime example of a game undeserving of the criticism leveled against its innovative combat system.
If one were to ask today if the genre is dead, the answer would be “No, but…,” with such a caveat being enough to portend its dwindling popularity.
JRPGs may not have the same standing on the PlayStation 3 as they did on its predecessor, but that shouldn’t preclude RPGs from appearing on the console and dominating the bestseller lists should they make a comeback.
We take a look at a few games that would have a home on the platform if they were to be remade, and how they could make full use of the current generation of technology as they cater to today’s gamers.
#5 Knights of the Old Republic
Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic was originally released on the PS2’s competing platform—the Xbox. To this day, it is held as the best Star Wars game ever produced and remains playable on both the Xbox and the PC despite its age.
Apart from the obvious fact that the graphics don’t hold up to today’s major titles, its D20-based RPG system show their obvious age. They aren’t as streamlined as the systems in current generation games. Some might argue that current systems are “dumbed down”—a phrase no game designer likes to hear. The fact remains that the D20 system was obtuse, and filled with irrelevant statistics that did little to influence the player’s control over the game and the performance of the player character. Games like Baldur’s Gate and KOTOR were filled with statistics that had no purpose. Subsequently, it’s no surprise Bioware’s newer titles are free from these burdens.
A remake of KOTOR may well be in competition with Bioware’s own science fiction property, but the popularity of Mass Effect proves—more than anything—that the game would succeed.
#4 Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII is among the best JRPGs ever made, and fans have been yearning for a remake of Final Fantasy VII—arguably the best FF title—ever since the PlayStation 3 was announced.
Its turn-based gameplay is simple—perhaps too simple for today’s audiences, if the reception towards Blue Dragon are any indication. While the game could arguably benefit from an overhauled turn-based combat system, Square Enix would have to walk a fine line between making the game “better” and preserving its classic feel.
The only other obvious improvement that could be made for Final Fantasy VII would be to bring the audio-visual presentation up to par with Final Fantasy XIII and the Advent Children movie.
#3 Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics was re-released on the PSP in 2007 as War of the Lions. The new FFT added a bunch of new characters into the game, and also included new cinematics and a completely rewritten translation. However, it did little else. The interface remained unchanged, the graphics untouched, and the game performed just as poorly as it did on the PlayStation. It was a disappointment to players of the original game who were expecting much more.
A remake of Final Fantasy Tactics on the PS3 would have to be improved with high definition graphics while retaining Akihiko Yoshida’s art direction. The game would be well served by the class system featured in the Tactics Ogre remake. Much of the tedious gameplay elements would have to be removed and the game’s script would benefit greatly if it were tied into the continuity of Final Fantasy XII.
#2 Vagrant Story
Developed as a standalone title in the Ivalice setting, Vagrant Story was largely unappreciated by the gaming public despite its well written story, filled with characters whose personalities were thicker than two sheets of paper.
With elements of puzzle solving, strategy and an equipment crafting and modification system, Vagrant Story was an RPG like no other. Its battle system somewhat resembled Fallout’s VATS targeting system, allowing the player to chain abilities and attacks on individual body parts with elements of the rhythm game for added interactivity.
Vagrant Story would do well with today’s audience, which has become more receptive of hybrid games than players a generation ago, who expected too little from the games they played and balked at any game that transcended genre conventions.
#1 Chrono Trigger
Square Enix is a maker of games, but it is also a killer of dreams—for when the company sent a cease and desist order to the developers of Chrono Resurrection, the Chrono Trigger Remake Project and Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes, it was as if a million souls cried out and were suddenly silence. Please pardon the Star Wars reference.
A remake of the game, if not a complete sequel, would have to be developed from scratch to differentiate itself from the recent Chrono Trigger port to the Nintendo DS. It goes without saying that the team behind the Chrono Trigger remake project had the right idea to remake Chrono Trigger as a current generation RPG. After all it’s already done. Square Enix would do well to take a cue from them.