Switch Ports: My Top 10 Most Wanted RPGs (Part 2)
If you haven’t checked out the first half of this two-parter, then I strongly advise you to read that before continuing onward (by ‘strongly advise’ I actually mean only if you’d like to do so. Sure, it would be nice and all. I’d certainly appreciate it. But please, don’t feel any obligation).
I’ll just briefly recap spots #10-6: I discussed Parasite Eve, Earthbound, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy Tactics, and The Last Story. Good? Okay, good.
Now let’s get comfortable again and jump back into… number five!
5. Breath of Fire III
Release: April 30, 1998
Square may have dominated the RPG landscape during the tender years of my childhood (as evidenced by their prominence on this top ten list) but they weren’t the only developer of high-quality role-playing franchises throughout this period. Enter Capcom’s Breath of Fire. Though Square published the series’ first two installments on the SNES in the West (of course they did), it was Breath of Fire III for the Playstation that really grabbed my attention.
There are some moments, whether set in motion by visual or auditory stimuli, that continually stick with us throughout our lifetimes despite the immediate surrounding context fading into relative obscurity. The opening section of Breath of Fire III, when the game’s dragon-born hero, Ryu, falls off a train and wakes up in the forest abode of two thieves, Rei and Teepo, is one such moment for me. Without a doubt this is largely owing to a graphical aesthetic that I absolutely relish and a musical score by Yoshino Aoiki and Akari Kaida that I will forever savour as it partially defined my introduction to JRPGs.
With regards to the art direction, it is very similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, released a few months earlier, with isometric environments that can be rotated 360 degrees while the characters themselves are fairly simple two-dimensional sprites. And a song that continues to permeate my thoughts when I think of my all-time favorite game tracks, the theme of the Cedar Woods, set the stage perfectly for what would become an epic quest spanning dozens of real-life hours and in-game years…
Except, sadly, I never finished it. I must have approached the 30-hour mark when, having at that age no grasp of the concept I now understand to be ‘commitment’, got bogged down by the grind and felt myself unable to slog through the game any further. It was either that or I felt the crushing weight of puritanical guilt, which my parents had instilled in me from birth, when the game—despite its ‘Teen’ rating—featured a fully naked woman (!) onscreen and I decided that I couldn’t carry on in good conscience. It may sound like I’m kidding but in truth, while I don’t actually recall why I never completed the game, I think it really was due to both reasons, though primarily the former. You can watch the NSFW scene for yourself and determine how silly this must all seem to me now, in retrospect.
A funny anecdote (you might call it an ‘RPG confession‘) about the game’s female nudity: My folks had some pretty strange standards for what they found acceptable in games when I was growing up. It was apparently okay to blast away Stormtroopers with laser guns in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire but ramming cop cars in Driver on the Playstation was a big no-no (my father flipped a lid when he saw me playing that). Of course, that didn’t stop my brother and I from playing what we wanted, but we always had to be careful with certain games, i.e. not to play them when my parents were around–which made ‘Save Points’, especially in RPGs, a real thorn in my side at times.
Now, to illustrate what an awful younger brother I was, there was a Vegeta action figure that I really, really desired but didn’t have the funds to purchase with my paltry weekly allowance. However, my brother had enough money (do you see where this is going?). At this point I must have already moved on from Breath of Fire III because I did what no good sibling would ever do and extorted my brother, who was playing through the game at the time, demanding that he buy me Vegeta or else I would tell our mother about the game’s nudity! Yes, I know, it was terrible. To make matters worse, even after I got the toy, the prudish sense of deviance that I mentioned earlier eventually overwhelmed me and I told our mother about the birthday suit spectacle anyway!
Fortunately, I don’t think much came of it. I’m pretty sure my brother still kept the game anyhow and I got the Vegeta doll (a win-win?). Of course, I’ve since reformed from the conniving ways of my preadolescent youth and it’s an episode that my brother and I have shared a good laugh over numerous times in the interceding decades.
But back to the point: I don’t know how well Breath of Fire III would hold up now but, if for nothing else except nostalgia’s sake, I’d love an opportunity to go back and finally finish the damned game.
What are the chances? Most regrettably, following Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter on the PS2, Capcom has basically only made use of the franchise for some unmemorable, Japanese-only mobile spin-off games. There was one more ‘mainline’ game, Breath of Fire VI, but it was a far retreat from the series’ glory days, being a microtransaction-heavy MMORPG that released on Windows, Android, and iOS in 2016 (and once again, exclusively in Japan), and performed so poorly that Capcom ceased services just over a year later.
We did see a re-release of Breath of Fire III on the Playstation Portable in 2016 and the first two games are currently available on the Nintendo Switch Online SNES library (I really should get around to playing them), but otherwise I see no reason to think that we’ll get a Breath of Fire III port on the Switch—or even a new traditional Breath of Fire on any platform—for quite some time, if ever. In other words, I’ll continue to dream but rest in peace, my dear friend.
4. Persona 5
Publisher: Atlus USA
Release: April 4, 2017
Platforms: Playstation 3 / Playstation 4
Not once have I ever played a Persona game. However, I’ve seen and heard enough of the series’ fifth entry to know that I’d buy it in a heartbeat if it ever came to the Switch. I find the game’s stylish animation to be tremendously appealing and its acid-jazz soundtrack, composed by Shoji Meguro, is overall some of the best music I’ve heard in years, in video games or otherwise. Go ahead and try to tell me that this song isn’t stuck in your head after giving it a couple of listens. I know, you can’t.
But it’s not merely the artistic flair of the game’s trendy presentation that has me wishing for a Switch version of Persona 5. Sure, traversing a modern-day Tokyo with real-world locations that were vividly recreated as set pieces for the game’s gorgeous locales sounds fantastic, but it’s P5’s distinctive flavor of combat and storytelling, combined with social sim aspects and making for what appears to be a totally immersive and spellbinding 100-plus hour epic, that really has me yearning for a Switch port.
What are the chances? At this point I really have no idea. When Joker (the game’s playable lead) was first revealed for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at The Game Awards back in December, 2018, and the enhanced edition of Persona 5 was still under development (Persona 5 Royal), I fully suspected that a Switch announcement was imminent. Here we are, over two years later, and that has disappointedly not turned out to be the case. The only Persona that we lowly Switch owners have hitherto received is Persona 5 Strikers (released February 23, 2021), something of a cross between the original and the Dynasty Warriors series. That might be all well and good for some, but as Strikers is a sequel I need to play the original first!
But all is not yet lost. The Nintendo Switch has two upcoming Shin Megami Tensei games set to release this year, a remastered port of Shin Megami Tensei III and a wholly new entry into the series which is currently scheduled to arrive as a Switch exclusive. This is significant because the Persona games began as spin-offs to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, meaning… If all of these Switch titles sell decently enough, then I think it is still possible–if not likely–that we will see Persona 5 on the Nintendo Switch within the next… couple of years? Or, as one higher-up at Atlas put it when asked in 2020 about the future of Persona 5 on the Switch, ‘I am a strong believer in ‘never ever giving up on hope.’’’ Indeed.
3. Final Fantasy VI
Release: October 11, 1994
Platform: Super Nintendo
Published stateside on the SNES as Final Fantasy III (hence the box art), this sixth instalment may lack the flashy aesthetics of the franchise’s later releases and yet it consistently remains one of the most popular Final Fantasy games, frequently cited at or near the top when longtime fans are polled about their favorites in the series. FFVI marked a change of direction in more ways than one. It was the first mainline FF that saw series’ creator Hironobu Sakaguchi step aside from directorial duties. It also introduced a dash of steampunk to a franchise that had formerly known only magical crystals, mages, and airships, packed with human-controlled mechs that ran on ‘Magitek’, or technology fuelled by magic. All of these themes would be expanded upon and become commonplace in follow-up games but at the time it was a radical makeover in Square’s approach to Final Fantasy.
Unsurprisingly, the game’s score was the brainchild of Nobuo Uematsu and continues to bang. FFVI also brought together a trio of game design artists who would go on to become legends in their own right: two of its Graphic Designers were Tetsuya Takahashi (founder of Monolith Soft and creator of the Xenoblade Chronicles series) and Tetsuya Nomura (character designer responsible for such beloved icons as FFVII’s Cloud Strife and Sephiroth, Kingdom Heart’s Sora, and a highly respected game director whose most recent work includes the Final Fantasy VII Remake on the Playstation 4).
FFVI’s Image Designer was Yoshitaka Amano, a noted manga artist who was the main character designer for the Final Fantasy games until FFVII and has more or less handled the promotional art for every game since the series’ debut. It’s no wonder that the end result of such collective talent would remain as relevant today as it was when it first released. Even graphically speaking, though a product of its time, the game still looks great in my opinion (in stark contrast to the hideous looking 2014 Android/iOS ‘remake’).
Needless to say, despite having owned the game on three different platforms at various points in my life (the SNES original, the Playstation port via Final Fantasy Anthology, and most recently, the version included on the SNES Classic), I’ve still only made one attempt at playing through FFVI. Even then, I made it a dozen or so hours into the story before getting distracted and losing interest for some reason (who knows at this point). In short, I need a way to play this game again!
What are the chances? The game’s been ported to various platforms before, such as those previously mentioned, along with the Wii Virtual Console (and Wii U and 3DS Virtual Consoles, though only in Japan), in addition to an updated version that landed on the Game Boy Advance in 2007. Since it was also included among the SNES Classic Edition’s excellent roster of games in 2017, I’m hoping that Square is simply giving FFVI some breathing space before an eventual launch on the Nintendo Switch, either through its Online SNES service or a physical release (perhaps bundled with FFV?!).
I can’t see any good reason to not bring it over sooner or later, though, I just hope they give us a direct port rather than some ‘enhanced’ version that turns out to do little more than destroy the fidelity of the original. Thus, given its enduring popularity, Square Enix’s disposition towards the Switch, and the wild success of the Switch hardware in general, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this one is likely.
2. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Release: May 13, 1996
Platform: Super Nintendo
I still get warm and fuzzy when I think about the mere fact that this game exists. ‘What if you take peak Square, say between the years that they released Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII, and give them Nintendo’s biggest IP to turn into an RPG?’ It remains a proposition that, to my ears, sounds more like the stuff of daydreams. And yet we live in one of the many possible universes in which this is what actually happened.
Nintendo and Square collaborating together in tip top form? Check. A superb cast of characters, featuring hilarious writing, and an excellent soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura that contains some great takes on classic Koji Kondi tunes (and even a few from Nobuo Uematsu’s catalogue)? Check. An adorable chibi Mario that you just want to squeeze? Check. And speaking of appearances, Super Mario RPG’s almost claymation-style pixel art is every bit as pleasing on the eyes today as it first was back in 1996.
To be sure, I didn’t know about the game way back then, as it would be another year or so before I really got into gaming, and a couple more before Square was a name that I thought to be synonymous with the term ‘RPG’ (and by that time the notion of Nintendo and Square working together again really was the stuff of fantasy). However, I did eventually get a copy of Super Mario RPG for the SNES and I recall loving every minute of it. Regrettably—yes, you know what I am about to say—I didn’t finish it. Again, I have no remembrance as to what the cause of my failure was this time around.
Like the previous two SNES titles mentioned on this list (Earthbound and Final Fantasy VI), the SNES Classic also included Super Mario RPG. Naturally, you might be wondering at this point why I didn’t simply purchase one so that I would have immediate access to some of my most sought-after games? In fact, I did buy the SNES Classic! …But given my preoccupation with the Switch at the time, I kept it sealed, believing that these games would eventually come over to my favorite console-handheld in the near future.
Worse yet, since then I’ve moved halfway across the globe to Japan’s northernmost main island and left my SNES Classic sitting in my parent’s basement back in America. Thus, the only way that I will ever get the chance to replay this treasured offspring of Square and Nintendo’s pre-breakup lovefest is if the latter decides to do another port. Nintendo, if you’re listening, it’s me, Nestor. There’s no platform that I’d prefer to play this on more than the Switch, so… um… pretty please?
What are the chances? That Nintendo will ever read my petition? Zilch, of course. But that we’ll get Super Mario RPG in due course? I’d say they’re fairly decent, if not likely. We’ve already seen Nintendo bring Super Mario RPG over to the Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Consoles, along with the above-mentioned SNES Classic. Although Nintendo recently concluded their months’ long celebration of Super Mario’s 35th anniversary, which would have seemed as good a time as any to re-release Super Mario RPG, we do have the game’s 25th anniversary approaching (May 13, 1996, though its original March 9th launch in Japan has already passed by, once again, without a word from Nintendo). And even though Nintendo is set to focus on all things Zelda for the remainder of the year (in celebration of that series’ 35th anniversary), I remain optimistic that we have not seen the last of chibi Mario in the era of the Switch.
1. Chrono Trigger
Release: August 11, 1995
Platform: Super Nintendo
The inventor of Final Fantasy, the architect of Dragon Quest, and the artist responsible for the creation of the manga Dragonball walk into
a Japanese bar an izakaya…
Okay, I don’t know if that setup really works, but the point is that if you put Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii, and Akira Toriyama—a ‘dream team,’ you could say—in the same room, and asked them to develop a game together, what would you expect to be the result? Oh, and for good measure, let’s throw in Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda (names you’ll at least be familiar with if you’ve read through the preceding entries on this list) to handle the game’s soundtrack. I mean, seriously, how could anything else transcend such a combination of brilliance? For many, few games have, as the RPG born from the meeting of these exalted minds was the Super Nintendo classic, Chrono Trigger.
Visually, the game is 16-bit eye candy. The graphics prove as much as anything that art direction in video games is equally if not more important than raw power and sheer ability to imitate the real world. The story, as I recollect, never contained a dull moment, helped by fantastic writing and fast-paced adventuring that took you to exciting places during various epochs of the game’s fictitious version of Earth. The characters were unforgettable while the battle system was fairly typical in terms of what one would expect from a traditional JRPG, meaning it was—needless to say—a lot of fun. And then there’s the Mistuda/Uematsu-produced soundtrack, which is as timeless as you might envisage. Simply listen for yourself.
I wish I could say that I beat Chrono Trigger but once more my foolishness got in the way. Though I formerly owned both, I don’t remember whether it was the SNES version or the one included in the Final Fantasy Chronicles compilation that Square released for the Playstaton in the U.S., but either way I breezed my way to the final boss in 15-20 hours or so, soaking up every second of it, and then got my ass handed to me.
I’m pretty sure that I found Lavos’ difficulty staggering, and inexplicably, convinced myself that I had gotten close enough to the end that actually completing it didn’t really matter. I also felt a deep sense of disappointment that I had reached the conclusion (or near it) so quickly, feeling that the one major flaw of the game was its brevity. I left my conquests unfinished with a bittersweet impression.
It was years later when I learned about the abundance of content that I had missed, including the game’s multiple endings. Although Chrono Trigger is pretty short for an RPG, I still unjustly undervalued its worth based on a rather vapid criticism. Considering what the title represents in the annals of gaming history, and how fondly I recall the time that I did spend with it, and that I was so close to being able to say those four words to my future children and grandchildren—i.e. ‘I beat Chrono Trigger’—this is without question my single most wanted Nintendo Switch port.
What are the chances? Among the titles here that I’ve determined to be likely eventual Switch ports, whether in the near or distant future, Chrono Trigger may as well sit at the top. Obviously, the extremely reliable source of information that I’m primarily basing this conclusion upon is the feeling inside my gut, so you should probably take it all with a grain of salt. But why precisely do I detect such good vibes concerning Chrono Trigger’s chances?
Look at it this way: Square Enix clearly knows what Chrono Trigger means to the gaming community as they’ve continually poured resources into updates and ports. We saw it grace the Playstation with additional cutscenes, the DS with two new dungeons and a new village, and then there were the mobile and Steam versions which were… eh, apparently not great.
Okay, that aside, it seems that Square Enix cares enough to keep this classic relevant, though, why they feel the need to ‘enhance’ it with inferior additions, like the PC port’s poorly received graphics filter, is beyond me. The game was quite good when it launched! Sure, some games benefit greatly from revamped graphics and even some gameplay modifications, but I don’t think Chrono Trigger is one of them.
Basically, my ask is simple: I just want a port of the original! And if Square Enix wants to bundle it together with Chrono Cross to justify a $50 price tag, you know what, that’s fine by me. A compilation featuring both Chrono games would be my ideal world (assuming that it’s impossible for the once much-discussed third instalment, Chrono Break, to ever be resurrected), and hey, maybe that’s what the hold up on the Switch port is all about?
More likely, however, is that they’re re-evaluating how to move forward with future versions of the game considering the mixed reactions that the 2018 Steam iteration received before a number of patches ‘fixed’ its most outstanding issues. Either way, I’m banking on finally defeating Lavos by this year’s end. Yep. That’s my bold prediction. Let’s check back in eight months or so to see how much of my foot is in my mouth.
Well, there you have it: The full rundown of My Top Ten Most Wanted RPGs on the Nintendo Switch. There were other titles that I wanted to include, and the 11th spot would have easily gone to NieR: Automata. The Dragon Quest series, particularly VII-IX, deserve honorable mention as well, and if we are being very charitable with the term ‘RPG’, then I would have liked to include all of the handheld Legend of Zelda games (though the one I most desire to revisit is Ocarina of Time).
Of course, no matter how persuasively Timothy Taylor argues his case, I’ll never consider any of the Zelda games outside of maybe Zelda II to be true RPGs (maybe). But that’s a debate for another day (if it turns out that there’s an ‘officially correct’ definition here and he’s in the right, then I’m throwing Harvest Moon 64 into this batch of honorable mentions too).
While Playstation and Super NES RPGs overran my wishlist (8 of the 10!), it was the latter that took the top three spots, which begs the question: Which console had the best RPGs? Or is it a moot point, as you believe something other than these two systems contained the most high-quality RPGs? (At least we can all agree that it wasn’t the Nintendo 64). And what about the games that made my list? Did I cover the ones that you also hope to see make it on to the Switch, or did I miss something? What are your top 10 most desired ports?
Let us know in the comments! Ciao!