Friday, July 25, 2014

5 JRPG Franchises We May Never See on Consoles Again

Although it is a niche market, role playing videogames (rpg) have always captivated the minds of many gamers around the world. Be it, because of their epic stories, likable characters, secrets to unlock or a deep sense of strategy, this genre is one that may never die. Still, not everything is peachy as Japanese rpg games are still having problems getting into the home console market. This side of the genre has not experienced any type of console boom since the beginning of the previous generation when Microsoft got a lot of j-rpg exclusives for the Xbox 360. Nowadays big scale console j-rpg games can be counted with one hand mostly because most of the fan favorite franchises that rpg gamers would love to see in the current generation have been abandoned, changed completely or downsized to a handheld or casual mobile game. These are 5 of those sagas that we may never see again unless some kind of miracle happens.

Note: This list focuses on the games that are very unlikely to make it to a home console. I know that some handheld titles are superb, but the focus here will be big scale console experiences like Nino Kuni, Tales of Xillia or the Persona series. 

Final Fantasy IX Battle
Some will say that turn based battles are slow, but I think that the ATB system makes them fun.
1) Final Fantasy Games (Turn based - Classic Style)

Final Fantasy can basically be called the banner flag of the entire genre. The problem is that the franchise has changed in such a drastic way that many fans won't even recognize it as the saga they knew and loved. Evidence of this change came with the creation of Final Fantasy XIII. That was a time when the creators themselves admitted that they had been influenced by games like Call of Duty a, thing that is still daunting to many players out there. Another thing been that infamous moment in 2008 when the president of Square Enix gave a warning to all employees about the company focusing on mainstream experiences or "facing the consequences". All of this became a wave of change that basically washed off an entire saga away. Up to this day even though Square Enix has pledged to go back to their roots, it is very unlikely to see a full scale turn based FF game ever again on consoles as we did on previous generations.

Shadow Hearts
The Koudelka/Shadow Hearts franchise sort of gave a new face to the genre at the time.
2) Shadow Hearts

Shadow Hearts is an j-rpg series that started with Koudelka which was an horror styled rpg (PS1) then, the game got its name changed to Shadow Hearts and spawned 3 games (keeping the dark undertones that identified it) and making it a series. This is another one of those j-rpg franchises that died off with the PS2 and basically disappeared. Reasons why don't see it nowadays are that its main publisher Midway, went bankrupt and was bought by Warner Bros. Also to put a little more salt in the wound, Shadow Hearts developer, a company called Sacnoth (later known as Nautilus) doesn't exist anymore as it was dissolved by its owner Azure (a pachinko machine company).

Grandia 2
Grandia 2 was one of the games that helped the Dreamcast have the initial success it did.
3) Grandia

Grandia was one of those j-rpg games with great visuals, an intuitive and fun battle system and stylish game play. The first Grandia game was made in order to compete to the rpg giant Final Fantasy VII (appearing on both the Sega Saturn and the PS1) and later on, it became one of the most cherished franchises on the genre. The first two Grandia games are considered classics, but many fans believe that from that point on the series went into a downward spiral that killed the franchise popularity as gamers felt that Game Arts was stepping away from the original formula that made the game so popular. Another heavy blow was that the series original creator died in 2011 so the basic essence of the game may had died with him. Up until now there have been no announcements or even comments regarding the revival of this great series. It is important to mention that even though the first 2 Grandia games were the ones that people see as classics, the third one was not bad and it was just a casualty of the decrease in popularity that the series was suffering.

Breath of Fire IV
This was one of those with tightly packed towns where you had to play with the camera at all times.
4) Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire was Capcom's contender to the crown back in the j-rpg days, having its own best titles through the 16 to 32 bit eras. It had good anime styled graphics, an excellent story and well developed characters that made us feel like they had a very deep sense of purpose, all in an environment that had a kind of Celtic mystical mood. The series took a dive in Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter (which was praised in Japan, but shunned in America because it went too far from the original formula) and after that, gamers never heard of a new classic Breath of Fire game again. Capcom announced that they would be releasing Breath of Fire 6 in 2014, but the game looks nothing like the original and many fans fear that it will just be a casual mobile game with the Breath of Fire name on it. Right now, as half of Capcom is at sale, there is a slight possibility that an rpg-focused studio could get the rights to the game and make it right again, but it is still a very long shot.

Legend of the Dragoon Gameplay
A game that looked beautiful back in the days where pre-rendered backgrounds were still the rage.
5) Legend of the Dragoon

Legend of the Dragoon was one of the most acclaimed j-rpg games on the PS One. It had very advanced visuals for its time (exploiting the pre-rendered background trend), a long and interesting storyline and quality aspects that rivaled those of the Final Fantasy games of the time. The game was supposed to turn into a series and get a sequel, but for undisclosed reasons, Sony broke up the group and just cancelled the project in order to relocate resources. Now at our present day and after almost 15 years since it was first released, Sony hasn't shown any interest in reviving the franchise other than a PSN re-hash of the original game. Even Shuhei Yoshida has expressed that the game is one of his best memories in the time he has been working at Sony as he was part of the original team, but not even Yoshida seems to be able to bring this great j-rpg back from the grave.

Tales of Vesperia
My hat is of to Namco, because they have never given up on their Tales saga.
Wrapping it up:

Even though this list looks very pessimistic, I have to tell you people that this list was much larger. This article began with 10 j-rpg games that we may never see on consoles, but was later on reduced to 5 because half of them got at least mentioned or referenced meaning they could still come back, like Wild Arms for example. The j-rpg side of the genre is slowly gaining its strength back and it may be just a matter of time before we see it blooming again. Let's just make sure that we put our money where our mouths are and support the games when they come out.

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