Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One-Off JRPGs That Really Deserve Sequels

With Final Fantasy XV quickly approaching for a release at the end of next month and Dragon Quest VII having released last month, I'm in quite the RPG mood. Correction: A JRPG mood! Sure, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest continue to get well-earned sequels, but what about the lesser JRPGs out there, which haven't had the chance to grow into prosperous franchises of their own? That's what this list of six games is all about-- those JRPGs that really do deserve a sequel based on their quality, and how it's an absolute shame that they haven't as of yet (and sadly, probably won't).

The World Ends With You (DS)

We start off this list of desired JRPG sequels with a JRPG that bucks many of the trends of current games in the genre. For one, it wasn't set in some science fiction realm or medieval world. Instead, The World Ends With You opted for a modern approach and setting, set in a fictional version of Tokyo, Japan's Shibuya shopping district. The premise was quite fresh as well, offering a three-week adventure split up between days. Our hero, Neku Sakuraba teamed up with various partners to progress through a type of game where time was of the essence. The dual-screened combat system had players dividing up their attention between Neku on the touch screen and his partner on the top screen. The World Ends With You has had several teases for a sequel, as well as an iOS port, but until a sequel is actually confirmed, then fans like myself will continue to be left waiting.

Lost Odyssey (360)

From Hironobu Sakaguchi's studio founded after leaving the Final Fantasy series and Square Enix, Mistwalker, Lost Odyssey was one of the big Japanese games exclusive to the Xbox 360, back when Microsoft felt there was an audience for its second major home console. While the game does use some throwback elements that dated the experience for some, such as random encounters and the more-traditionally-focused battle system, Lost Odyssey offered timed button presses for said battles that make the combat feel engaging instead of rote encounters. However, the big thing that made Lost Odyssey so great was not the main story but the many moving subplots that made the game's characters, particularly the main party of protagonists, feel multi-dimensional.

The Last Story (Wii)

Another gem from Hironobu Sakaguchi and Mistwalker, this time as an exclusive to Nintendo's Wii, The Last Story delivered a different kind of JRPG experience. The game was an action-RPG with various tactical RPG elements. Players controlled Zael, the main hero of the game, in real-time, and with him, they could give the other party members (up to five of them) various orders. Though the game was a bit more linear than most JRPGs, it became a more guided and focused experience because of this. (Though, opinions vary on this.) It makes sense that such a a classical JRPG experience was made in part by one of the masters and innovators of the genre like Sakaguchi, and the help of various key Final Fantasy staff such as the former series composer Nobuo Uematsu and illustrator Kimihiko Fujisaka. Truly an all-star team for an all-star game that luckily finally made it to North America when all hope seemed lost (with limited thanks to Nintendo).

Eternal Sonata (PS3, 360)

I mentioned how The World Ends With You had an atypical premise and approach to it. Well, Eternal Sonata has a unique hook to it as well, story-wise. The game delved into the mind of famous Romantic era composer Frederic Chopin, who dreamed of a fantastical land where the game takes place, as he was laying on his deathbed. Serving as a character not just in the premise, but in the actual dream as well, Chopin led a party of heroes through this fantastical land of music, entering battles that mix turn-based RPG strategy with action-RPG hijinks. The battles also used various musical elements, as one would expect but from an RPG set in a dream world of one of the most famous composers of all time, but it was a delight to see all of the same. All of these elements made for an RPG that was quite unlike anything else released prior or even after it came out.

Radiata Stories (PS2)

After the less-than-spectacular-to-many Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness on the PlayStation 4, it feels nice to look back at when developer Tri-Ace was riding a higher wave to success. After all, it was a wonderful era of home console games where making a JRPG wasn't a multi-million dollar risk. Regardless, Radiata Stories was one of the seemingly endless array of awesome JRPGs in the PlayStation 2's lineup. It featured 176 characters that were able to be recruited, though they're limited in their abilities; a persistent world where NPCs lived out their lives (sort of similar to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask), and fantastic real-time battles that pitted protagonist Jack against a group of foes for some truly action-packed battles. It was charming, it was whimsical, and it was comfort food for JRPG fans. It was Radiata Stories, and it was terrific. Definitely deserving of a sequel!

The Legend of Dragoon (PS1)

Perhaps this should have been one of the first entries to this list of one-off JRPGs deserving of sequels, but then again, some might say that I saved the best for last. Once again, opinions may vary on this. Anyway, The Legend of Dragoon released back near the end of 1999 in Japan, in 2000 in North America, and in early 2001 for Europe. Despite its lack of full critical acclaim (or a mixed reception, to be more honest), there is a considerably large fan outcry for either a remake of this PlayStation 1 original or a true sequel. While I don't have as big of a desire as some fans, yes, it would be great to see The Legend of Dragoon return to the spotlight with an upgrade or sequel. Really, I argue that a million-copy-plus-seller in The Legend of Dragoon could be a hit with today's PlayStation market. It has "potential" written all over it.

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