Do you remember the series that made you fall in love with RPGs? The blindsiding betrayal of Suikoden, the stunning storybook visuals of the Mana games, and the thrilling cancel attacks from Grandia’s battle system all helped define the genre. Glancing around store shelves today would hardly resurrect these memories, since many of these formative series are absent this generation. We investigated what happened to some of the well-known RPGs of yesteryear and put our odds on their resurgence. Everybody loves a comeback, but just in case, we also provided alternative current-gen games to fill the void.
[This article originally appeared in Game Informer issue #235]
Last Seen: The World of Mana arc of the franchise spawned three US releases. The last was 2007’s Heroes of Mana, a real-time strategy RPG, which left middling impressions, similar to the other World of Mana releases.
Current Status: Besides releasing Secret of Mana for iOS, Square has kept quiet about the series’ future, but at least the company recognizes its classic titles have a fanbase.
Odds: 10:1 - Series creator Koichi Ishii, who produced or directed practically every Mana game, left Square Enix in 2007 to form his own development studio, Grezzo Games, Inc. The future looks grim with Ishii gone and the last entry’s poor reception. But there’s a glimmer of hope: Square still owns the rights, and recently trademarked “Circle of Mana.” A future entry in the series? Fingers crossed.
If you like, play: The Last Story (Wii)
Last Seen: We haven’t seen a main entry in the series since 2006’s Suikoden V. In 2009, Suikoden Tierkreis, a side story in the Suikoden world, released for the DS to a mixed reception.
Current Status: Doubt about the series’ lifespan surfaced when Konami developers told 4gamers.net in 2011 that the Suikoden team disbanded, with many moved to other projects. But Konami provided hope when they released Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki (another spin-off) on PSP in Japan this year.
Odds: 50:1 - The fact that the PSP re-releases of Suikoden I and II were never localized doesn’t show much faith in the series’ status in America. Add in the side entries not measuring up to the series’ standards, and it’s hard to stay optimistic. But maybe all this series needs to light fire again is a new main entry. You hear that, Konami?
If you like, play: Radiant Historia (DS), Growlanser: Wayfarer in Time (PSP)
Last Seen: Shining Force EXA’s release in 2007 is the last time the Shining franchise graced our shores.
Current Status: Not seeing a release since the PS2 era has made the series fade into obscurity in the U.S., although the franchise is still strong in Japan. Four additional console games have hit that region, and that’s not including a slew of mobile and arcade releases.
Odds: US: 100:1, Japan: 1:1 - The fact that the handheld releases haven’t made it over to the US speaks volumes about Sega’s view of the potential here. Reality check: While Japan received a new Shining game this year, the U.S. hasn’t seen an entry in the last five years.
If you like, play: Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (DS), Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)
Last Seen: In 2005, Shadow Hearts: From the New World altered the series’ dynamic by abandoning its main protagonist from the first games, Yuri Hyuga. This led to some growing pains with a new cast.
Current Status: Aruze Entertainment (now Universal Entertainment Corporation) owned developer Nautilus during Shadow Hearts’ run, but announced the dissolution of the studio in 2007.
Odds: 1,000:1 - We’re confident in saying this one is over, since the Shadow Hearts rights remain with Aruze. The company has since ventured in a different direction, focusing on pachinko and slot machines. At this point, we’re more likely to see a Shadow Hearts pachinko machine than another full entry.
If you like, play: Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360)
Last Seen: In 2009, the strategy/RPG Wild Arms XF changed things up for the franchise by being the series’ first portable game. However, 2007’s Wild Arms 5 was the last numbered entry in the series.
Current Status: Media.vision had their hands tied working on the Chaos Rings games for iOS and Valkyria Chronicles III for the PSP. A rumor circulated about a Wild Arms 6 announcement at Tokyo Game Show in 2009, but nothing ever materialized.
Odds: 25:1 - With Media.vision working on other projects, the series appears to be on the back burner. A new entry depends on Sony, since it owns the franchise, and we’re not sure if Wild Arms’ sales are up to Sony’s expectations.
If you like, play: Legends of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (PSP)
Last Seen: The .hack G.U. series ended with Redemption in 2007, but the .hack world still lives on in anime and manga, even in North America.
Current Status: The .hack series hasn’t been abandoned – a fighting game called .hack//versus is currently in development for PlayStation 3 (though no North American release plans have been announced). Japan also received a PSP title in 2010 called .hack//link, which was closer to the series’ RPG roots.
Odds: 25:1 - .hack still has gusto in Japan, and the fact that the anime and manga have so much to build off opens the door for new video game concepts. But the real question is whether the series still has a place stateside.
If you like, play: Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii), Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PSP)
Last Seen: The series vanished after Grandia III’s 2006 release, which kept pace with its furious combat but let down players with annoying characters and a vapid story.
Current Status: The last we heard anything about Grandia was the announcement of an MMO in 2004. The title changed production hands a few times, and eventually saw an open beta release in 2009. Grandia Online never debuted in North America, though, and Japanese servers were shut down in September.
Odds: 75:1 - With Grandia Online shutting down and developer GameArts working on GungHo’s Ragnarok titles, we’re not likely to see a new Grandia any time soon.
If you like, play: Penny Arcade’s On The Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness 3 (Xbox 360, PC)
Breath of Fire
Last Seen: Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter for the PlayStation 2 (2003) is the series’ last outing. The game was a departure for the Breath of Fire series, which divided critics and fans.
Current Status: Capcom is open with how it feels about the potential of the series. In 2009, Capcom USA vice president of strategic planning Christian Svensson confirmed on Capcom’s official message boards that series is a “resting IP.”
Odds: 100:1 - In a 2008 interview with 1UP, former Capcom executive Keiji Inafune said, “There are currently no plans on making a new Breath of Fire game.” Finances seem to be at the root of it, with Inafune citing a lack of resources and a flagging market as the reasoning. If Mega Man Legends 3 can’t even see life with Capcom, we’re not hopeful for a new Breath of Fire.
If you like, play: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Nintendo DS)