Switch Ports: My Top 10 Most Wanted RPGs (Part 1)
While I am not the first person over here at SwitchRPG to write about past RPGs that I would like to see brought over to the Nintendo Switch, inspired by Kierra Lanier’s great article about 10 upcoming RPGs that arrive this month, as well as the HD remasters of two Playstation classics from Square Enix, Saga Frontier and Legend of Mana, which we’ll receive on April 15th and June 21st (respectively), it got me thinking: What ten RPGs would I most like to see ported to the Switch?
With the exception of a single game on the following list, I’ve either never had the opportunity to play these classics or have never completed them (spare me your sympathies!). In every instance in which I have had some experience playing them, it’s been well over fifteen years since I’ve had any contact whatsoever. Thus, even getting the chance to relive certain memories one more time would for all intents and purposes be like encountering each one of these games with a fresh pair of eyes.
Nota bene: The order that I’ve chosen to list these games is simply the order that I would most like to play them, not necessarily a ranking of how great I think they are (from what I can remember), and based on a variety of subjective factors that have as much to do with nostalgia as they do with how much enjoyment I derived from them all those years ago, despite not seeing them through to the finish line. For each title I’ve also included the subsequent information: developer(s), North American publisher, year of its original NA release, and the platform(s) on which it first arrived (excluding later ports and editions).
With all that said, grab a pillow, a blanket, or whatever to make yourself comfortable, and let’s get to it!
10. Parasite Eve
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts
Release: September 8, 1998
At first glance it would be easy to assume that with Parasite Eve Square was simply trying to cash in on Capcom’s groundbreaking foray into the ‘survival horror’ genre, having released its terrifying and highly successful Resident Evil (1996) a couple of years earlier before following suit with Resident Evil 2 at the start of 1998. But, of course, Square being Square, any effort that they were bound to make at producing a survival horror game would have to include role-playing aspects and that’s more or less what we got with the original Parasite Eve (or is it the other way around?): a game that is essentially an action-RPG with survival horror elements, set in present-day (then 1998) Manhattan, New York City—apparently the original setting for what would become Midgar in Final Fantasy VII.
I don’t know if it was that the game was too scary or that I just stunk at it as a kid, but I loved watching my older sibling play through Parasite Eve while never actually having made much of an attempt at pursuing Aya Brea’s investigative leads myself (Aya is the game’s cop/lead protagonist whom my 11-year old self thought was a total babe). Still, I was able to see most of it from beginning to end, and whether it was the superb recreation of NYC using FFVII-style pre-rendered backgrounds, its cinematic cutscenes, or a memorable soundtrack scored by Yoko Shimumura (known also for her work on Super Mario RPG, along with the Mario and Luigi and Kingdom Hearts series), this is a game that I would love to revisit at least one more time—specifically on the Nintendo Switch.
What are the chances? Square (now Square Enix) has only returned to the series a couple of times since the 1998 original that got my prepubescent palms all hot and sweaty, following it up with 2000’s Parasite Eve II and 2010’s The 3rd Birthday, both of which seem to have deviated further and further away from their forerunner’s RPG roots. However, when Square Enix’s Yoshinori Kitase (co-director of Chrono Trigger and the man who was at the helm of FFVI-FFIII, FFX, and had a role in the creation of The 3rd Birthday—in other words, he’s a big deal) was asked about a return to the Parasite Eve series in 2020, he said: ‘I don’t know of any plans right now, but it would be a waste not to use those characters’. Given that, and the fact that we have never seen a Parasite Eve game on a Nintendo console up to this point, I’m going to write this one off as currently unlikely (insert sad emoji).
Release: June 5, 1995
Platform: Super Nintendo
Earthbound is one of those games that I constantly idealize and fall in love with at the thought of playing, but never was able to really get into it despite repeated undertakings in the late 90s/early 00s when I scored a physical copy of it (the game was a hot commodity even then). As remains the case today, I adored the game’s modern suburban setting, its goofy, lighthearted characters and situations, and yet, for whatever reason, I quickly lost interest every time I tried to give the game a serious playthrough. To be sure, that was years ago, and it would be different now!
I mean, it’s not only one of the Super Nintendo’s most-beloved RPGs, but also the result of a collaborative effort between such illuminaries like Nintendo’s great, late former President (and Sapporo’s very own) Iwata Satoru, who was a lead programmer on the title, as well as Tsunekazu Ishihara, who went on to found Creatures, Inc. and now runs a little business called The Pokemon Company (I think they might produce a card game or something?).
What are the chances? Nintendo’s been pretty reluctant when it comes to the Mother series (Earthbound was Mother 2 in Japan), having never localized Mother 3 for an English-speaking audience despite the endless pleas of gamers from all over the globe since its 2006 release on the Game Boy Advance. We also saw the 25th anniversary of Earthbound’s North American release pass by last summer without a word from the House of Mario (though that didn’t stop series’ creator Shigesato Itoi from offering up a commerative project of his own).
However, the vocal persistence of Earthbound’s understandably aggrieved fanbase has proven effective in the past, or at least enough so that Nintendo made Earthbound available on both Virtual Consoles for the Wii U and the New Nintendo 3DS, in addition to the North American and European versions of the Super NES Classic Edition console which released in 2017. With this in mind, I have to believe that an eventual release of Earthbound on the Nintendo Switch Online SNES service is likely (I mean, they’ve given us Super Earth Defense Force and Joe and Mac 2, for crying out loud!), and is simply a matter of when. Will it be this year? Or—if the Switch is really only halfway through its life-cycle—in four years? The only thing I know is the sooner, the better.
8. Chrono Cross
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts
Release: August 15, 2000
This is the one game on my list that I beat back in the day when it was released and honestly… I recall virtually nothing about it. I know that it sported a vibrant, gorgeous look (at the time), had a really complicated story (again, at the time–hey, I was like twelve!) involving parallel worlds or something, had a really fun and innovative battle system in which you could choose three party members out of literally hundreds of recruitable characters (okay, there was actually only like 44 other playable characters apart from the game’s leading star, but still that’s… a lot!), and most memorably, the game’s soundtrack. Ah, yes, who can forget that phenomenal opening track, which accompanied an equally unforgettable introductory cutscene featuring the feisty, bewitching thief, Kid, or the soft melodic touch of the acoustic-driven, ‘Radical Dreamers.’ I was immediately a fan of Yasunori Mitsuda’s compositions (also the leading mastermind behind the brilliant soundtracks for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and its DLC, Torna: The Golden Country) and searched all over Napster (ask your parents, kids) for his work before finally snagging a copy of the game’s original soundtrack from this new service that had taken the world by storm but a couple of years prior called ‘eBay.’
What are the chances? Even though this highly anticipated sequel to Chrono Trigger divided some fans due to its departure from that beloved SNES classic, it was still extremely well-received and sold moderately well. Or rather, that would seem to be the case unless you’re Square Enix, who’s all but gone silent on the possibility of a sequel in the intervening twenty years since its release, and worse, has never made much effort to revive this enduring classic in the form of ports or enhanced editions. One would think a remastered version would almost be a no-brainer by this point but apparently unless your name is ‘Final Fantasy VII’ you get very little love in that household. While I am marking this one down as ‘unlikely,’ I’m not entirely hopeless; after all, we are (as mentioned) getting Saga Frontier Remastered and Legend of Mana this year on the Switch! But yeah… probably not Chrono Cross anytime soon (insert double sad emojis).
7. Final Fantasy Tactics
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: January 28, 1998
Tactics isn’t your typical Final Fantasy game, and though it holds cult status among the tactical-RPG crowd, venerated by some corners as one of the greatest games ever made, it was unfortunately largely overshadowed by the much more successful Final Fantasy VII which had released in North America a few months earlier (don’t worry, FFT, you’re not the only one). For me personally, it was one of those titles that was always on my radar but on no occasion did I actually sit down and play it.
It’s odd because tactical RPGs are the sort of games that sound great to me on paper but when I come to think of it, I can’t say it’s a genre that I’ve ever really dipped my toes into prior to Fire Emblem: Three Houses. There have been some that I’ve been tempted to purchase on the Switch but I simply haven’t felt persuaded at their ability to really execute the vision that I have when I think of an ideal tactics game (FE:TH was wonderful where combat was concerned, everything else, well… zzz…). On the contrary, I would jump at the chance to play Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s got the isometric maps with cutesy sprites from a bygone era that I will never cease to love and came out when Square was at the peak of their legendary SNES-Playstation output. If I am going to play any tactics game, then this ought to be it! It’s like they say (er, someone says), go big or go home, right?
What are the chances? To put it bluntly, not great. Square Enix showed some interest in the series with a couple of handheld sequels in the 00s, an updated port of the original on the PSP in 2007 called Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, which then went to iOS in 2011, and even a brand new Tactics game that released exclusively for mobile devices in 2013 and apparently… let’s simply say that it did not turn out well (you can read all about this, including the past, present, and future of the series, here, in an excellent feature by our very own Ben).
Other than that, though, the franchise, and particularly the original, appear to be somewhat dead in the water from the perspective of their proprietor. I suppose I’ll just have to take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one longing for the original to see the light of day on the Nintendo Switch, and actually there is some cause for optimism: the bright minds behind Square Enix’s excellent 2D-HD retro-RPG Octopath Traveler are bringing us Switch owners a new tactical role-playing game in 2022, Project Triangle Strategy (insert jokes here), and it looks very good. There’s also a demo for it currently available on the Nintendo eShop, which I’d recommend except that I haven’t myself found the time to try it out yet… yeah… sounds great on paper though!
6. The Last Story
Publisher: XSeed Games
Release: August 14, 2012
I’ve written elsewhere about a long hiatus that I took from video games, principally between the years 2007 and March 3rd, 2017. One of the titles of which I was regrettably wholly unaware during this forlorn period in my gaming life is The Last Story. The breadth of my knowledge about this 2012 JRPG is sadly countable on one hand: 1. It generated positive reactions from critics. 2. It was somehow a Wii exclusive. 3. It has an alluring dark fantasy art style. 4. It has the names Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu printed on the box cover, whom, if you’re not familiar with, then I must sincerely inquire: Do you even RPG, bro?
But in all seriousness, to notice anything that involves the dynamic duo of Sakaguchi and Uematsu makes my heart skip a beat, given that these two geniuses were the cause of so many blissful childhood experiences and lasting memories, Sakaguchi having fathered the Final Fantasy series before overseeing many an RPG during Square’s heyday, while Uematsu composed the soundtracks for nearly every Final Fantasy game prior to FFX-2 (as a side note, FFXV’s music was handled by the aforementioned Yoko Shimumura). I’ve yet to play any of the games that Sakaguchi developed after he departed from Square Enix to found the studio Mistwalker, and perhaps none is so coveted by yours truly as this final—I mean—last, um, story-fantasy.
What are the chances? If I would have been asked this question a few weeks ago, I may have optimistically said something along the lines of ’50/50.’ After all, Sakaguchi and Uematsu are close to wrapping up both parts of their latest collaboration, the Apple Arcade-exclusive (pooh-pooh) Fantasian, of which Part 1 dropped on April 2nd. Further (and less relevant), the remake of another RPG from 2010 that had previously only called the Wii home landed on the Switch in 2020 in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and sold nearly 2 million copies by the year’s end.
At a minimum—and sure, I’m being wishful here—it could have signalled to the necessary parties that there’s an appetite for Wii-era RPGs on Nintendo’s latest platform! Alas, in an interview with VGC posted on March, 21, 2021, when asked directly about the possibility of a Last Story remaster/remake, Sakaguchi replied:
‘To be perfectly honest, there aren’t any plans for any remakes at the moment. Although they’re called remakes, the amount of effort and resources it would command means the difference is basically nil between [developing] a remake versus a completely new game, and I would personally find myself more attracted to the idea of coming up with another original story or world, or building something new.’
True, he didn’t leave out the possibility of a direct port (which I’d happily accept!) but it doesn’t sound too promising. Unless some third-party developer or publisher decides to step in with the intention of fulfilling my hopes and dreams, I guess that’s that!
And with that, we conclude Part 1 of Switch Ports: My Top 10 Most Wanted RPGs! We’ve only made it through half of the list but if there’s one takeaway worth mentioning thus far, it’s that Playstation titles by Square totally reign supreme, as yet taking up three of the five available spots here. Will this trend continue into Part 2? And what RPGs would you like to see make it on to Nintendo’s platform? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned as I return next week to discuss the five RPG ports that I would most like to play on our favorite console-handheld hybrid!
Part 2 (Updated 4/15/2021)