Japanese RPGs have had it rough in the past ten years, give or take. Following a boom period in the 90s, with classic after classic touching down on the PlayStation from the likes of Square Enix, Capcom, and Konami, the HD generation led to the downfall of the console JRPG. Very few series saw new entries on the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360, with few sequels to the biggest names and several failed attempts to establish new IP.
Many JRPGs would migrate to the Nintendo DS and PSP for a chance at success with smaller development budgets, with many fading into obscurity and high aftermarket prices. But even worse, many game series that included all-time classics ended up moving to mobile instead, effectively driving nails into their respective coffins. With recent news of yet another JRPG classic fall from grace (potentially, probably), I thought it appropriate to pay some respects to several great games that were reduced to unpopular mobile territory in failed attempts to resuscitate.
Let’s start with Breath of Fire, because we’re not doing these in any particular order. Also, because I feel like Breath of Fire got it worse than perhaps any other series. These games were awesome, starting back with the original on Super Nintendo and leading through Breath of Fire IV on the PlayStation. The latter, in particular, is still one of the most visually-impressive games on that platform. But things got tough with Capcom, as they tend to do, and the fifth game ended up being sort of a roguelike hybrid that the more traditionally-inclined fanbase wasn’t interested in. What followed were years of silence, that concluded in Breath of Fire VI, a numbered game, being released on mobile as a freemium game. It failed and shut down in Japan well before anyone could even start asking about a localization.
How about Star Ocean? This series actually has managed to survive through the current gen on consoles, but the most recent entry on PS4 did not do so well after its release. Now a new mobile game is out, featuring the usual character collection mechanics one expects from a mobile game based on a long-running franchise. But since the Star Ocean franchise is in such dire straits now, who knows what could happen? I certainly didn’t see anyone I know talking about the mobile game. It’s a lot to ask for fans of a niche series to buy into something like that when the likes of Fate: Grand Order and Fire Emblem Heroes exist.
Finally, the game that sparked this article. Sony’s mobile division is soon launching a mobile game based on the Wild Arms series. Sound familiar? Yeah, Wild Arms and its sequel are known as some of the best RPGs on the PlayStation. Meanwhile, there were multiple sequels on the PlayStation 2, but only because companies like XSEED stepped in to publish them in the west when Sony, publisher of the series in Japan, apparently had no interest. And based on how quiet the property has been since the PS2, I fear another Breath of Fire situation is on our hands. Could this mobile game, which is called Wild Arms: Million Memories, save Wild Arms? Or will it die in obscurity like so many other mobile games meant to drag money out of so-called “whales?” I wouldn’t be surprised if the game never even gets localized.
The number of quick mobile cash-ins on once-popular franchises is sad to see sometimes. For every Final Fantasy spinoff, there are three other games that you never hear about, sad attempts at reviving something that was once great. Even ports of legitimate good games like Valkyrie Profile: Lennneth just sort of show up on the App Stores and get ignored since they cost more than a dollar. There is hope, though.
The PlayStation 4 has seen several niche JRPGs gain footing they may not have been able to grab on the PlayStation 3, Vita, or god forbid a Xbox platform. The Nintendo Switch is doing a ton of work in that respect as well. I mean, come on, Valkyria Chronicles is even back! Perhaps, while we may never see another Breath of Fire or Wild Arms, there is yet hope for something else on the horizon. Can somebody check on Lunar?