Switch Turns Four – Part One
Over the course of March, the SwitchRPG team will be creating and sharing a variety of Switch RPG content in honor of the console turning four this month! First up, Ben’s picks!
Four Most Surprising Switch RPGs
This category is all about games that have turned out to be pleasant surprises. The initial unease may have been due to it being my first foray into a series, or it could have stemmed from a less-than-ideal experience in previous franchise outings. Either way, these games have left a positive, lasting impression on me.
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland
As you’ll soon discover, the Switch has provided me with a lot of “firsts” in terms of franchises I have never played before, one being the Atelier series. I took a leap of faith with this series as it didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy from the outset. And I’m glad I did because it has turned out to be one of my favorite franchises of all time.
The varied and well-developed characters, deep synthesis system, and addictive gameplay loop quickly converted me to a diehard fan that has played virtually every game that has come to Switch thus far. While Rorona is by no means my favorite entry of the series – one of the two Ryza games would have that honor – it remains forever ingrained in my mind for being my first Atelier experience and just surprising the heck out of me.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Let’s get something out of the way: I’m not the biggest fan of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. While I enjoyed it to an extent, it was more due to it being one of the first major RPG releases on the console rather than the actual content itself. I didn’t dislike by any means…I just wasn’t head over heels for it. Regardless, I still wanted to give its predecessor a fair shake. Surprisingly, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition completely “clicked” with me – something that simply wasn’t the case with XC2.
In spite of my decades-long background with JRPGs and a brief obsession with Dragon Ball Z in high school, I’ve never been a big fan of the anime aesthetic or the tropes that come along with it. The Switch has changed me, however, and one of the earliest examples of this was with Disgaea 5 – a game I was really worried about hating, but ultimately grew to love. It helped that I was a tactical RPG fan prior, and that the game felt quite similar at its core to some of my favorites, like FFT and Tactics Ogre, but still.
While that love hasn’t translated as well to some of the earlier entries in the series – many lack QoL features that I find essential these days – Disgaea 5 left a lasting impression that has me pretty doggone hyped for Disgaea 6 later this year.
Rune Factory 4 Special
Piggybacking on the aforementioned anime “hate train,” I was really worried about disliking Rune Factory 4. I had never played the series before, but knew that I liked life/farming sims with RPG elements thrown in to spice things up. Rune Factory 4 had this in spades – a staggering number of progression paths for various activities, all of which tie back into increasing player power. This game is alarmingly addictive, and if it wasn’t for some serious RNG frustration in the back portion of the experience, it would be a near-perfect life/farm sim RPG in my eyes.
Four Most Disappointing Switch RPGs
Now that we’ve had a little bit of fun, it is time to take a bit of a detour – a minor rant, if you will. Gaming experiences and tastes aren’t created equal. Something that Player A enjoyed immensely may be hot garbage according to Player B.
Some games, no matter their accolades, may not sit well with everyone…but this is what makes us all unique! How boring would the gaming community be if we all agreed on the same things? With that in mind, don’t be upset if some of your own favorite games end up on the following list. Truthfully, these games are here because I found certain aspects disappointing – not necessarily bad.
Square Enix subsidiary Tokyo RPG Factory was created with nostalgia seekers in mind. With franchises like Final Fantasy gradually turning away from their traditional roots, Tokyo RPG Factory was aiming to capitalize on what they (and many others) have left behind. Their debut title, I Am Setsuna, was generally well received and garnered anticipation for their eventual followup title, Lost Sphear.
While I wasn’t smitten by Setsuna, I was nonetheless eager to see what Tokyo RPG Factory would do next. Lost Sphear was one of the earliest RPG releases on the Switch and also the very first game I covered for the site back in 2018. Although I didn’t hate it, I found it to be severely flawed and was ultimately let down overall. I commend the team for moving on from this style of game to a fresh design with Oninaki, but it doesn’t sound like that was well received either…Time will tell whether Tokyo RPG Factory gets another chance.
Romancing SaGa 2
It’s no secret that I’m the resident SaGa fan here. I’ve been playing the series close to three decades now, so it might surprise you that I don’t “fanboy” out on all of their games. I found the long-awaited Western release of Romancing SaGa 2 to be pretty disappointing.
While clearly a game well ahead of the curve in terms of mechanics and design, it is something I found to be, well, not all that enjoyable to play. This isn’t about it being unapproachable or difficult either – I love SaGa and its quirkiness, but this particular entry just didn’t do anything for me. Still holding out for some version of Romancing SaGa on Switch, however.
I’m not a fan of all Metroidvanias, but I’ve loved Metroidvania RPGs ever since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. When I first heard about this medieval adventure in that same vein, starring a robot piloted by a fish, I couldn’t wait to play it. Unfortunately, I found it to be generally underwhelming as it failed to really differentiate itself from similar offerings beyond the unique aesthetic and cooling mechanic. Many of the things that showed promise – an interesting premise, equipment bonuses, and talent tree – ultimately felt lackluster.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Before you go full-on keyboard warrior on me, let me be clear: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is by no means a bad game. Was it ultimately disappointing to me? Yes, because it didn’t single-handedly convince me that the series was worth keeping an eye on.
As alluded to earlier, my initial enjoyment of this game stemmed more from it being one of the earliest major releases on the platform rather than from it having things that spoke to me. Unlike its predecessor that I absolutely adored, this game had too much fan service, anime cringe, and the combat system took far too long to develop into something interesting. XC1’s combat may be more simple on paper, but feels far more engaging and fluid right out of the gate and doesn’t take dozens of hours to flesh itself out. Don’t get me started on the cast here either.
Four Most Anticipated Switch RPGs
This category is straightforward – games I’m excited to dive into later this year and beyond!
SaGa Frontier Remastered
The original SaGa Frontier has sat comfortably in my favorite games of all time for over two decades now. The announcement of a remaster blew my mind, as I never expected it to receive the treatment it appears to be getting. Updated visuals that maintain the iconic look, alongside some additional content that was cut from the original – what more could a SaGa fan ask for? I’ll be diving deep into this in a little over a month now and I simply cannot wait.
Rune Factory 5
One of the best adventures I went on in the relatively suck butt year that was 2020 was Rune Factory 4 Special. I never expected to enjoy the game as much as I did, which is exactly why I’m so hyped for the next installment. The new perspective and fresh coat of paint here have me hyped beyond belief, and I cannot wait to lose dozens of hours in this game!
Diablo II Resurrected
Before I lost countless days – not hours – in the online worlds of Azeroth (World of Warcraft) and Vana’diel (Final Fantasy XI), I battled the denizens of hell in Diablo II’s Sanctuary. This gritty hack-and-slash RPG taught me to love randomization in both the environments themselves, as well as loot tables. I can’t really can’t express how excited I am about the long-awaited remaster, and I’m certain that through Blizzard’s painful experience with Warcraft III: Reforged, and Vicarious Vision’s guiding hand, that it will be a massive success. Fingers crossed.
Project Triangle Strategy
Horrible placeholder name aside, this upcoming tactical RPG feels like the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre – titles I’ve held in high regard for many years. Based on the demo, it is the closest to those experiences that I’ve ever seen and has some insane potential to be an exceptional tactical RPG upon launch next year. But please, please change that name!
Four Switch RPGs You Might Have Missed
The following titles are games you might have heard of, but have possibly overlooked, forgotten, or even avoided for whatever reason. Regardless, these are smaller releases that I feel are well worth your time.
Boot Hill Heroes
Boot Hill Heroes is a pleasure from start to finish, going above and beyond where others have simply tried to do “just enough,” or perhaps have attempted to only ride on the success of their inspiration. This is much more than “Mother in the Wild West” – it is a polished experience that very much does its own thing, combining a refreshing setting, engaging combat system, and intriguing characters with familiar elements that Mother fans may find comforting.
As a fan of both ’90s DOOM-esque shooters and RPGs, Project Warlock was a real treat. It has very few faults, and those are easily outshined by its many qualities. Sometimes, you just need to blow things up without being bogged down by a deep narrative, and Project Warlock provides this alongside some meaningful, satisfying RPG progression systems.
Who doesn’t like an underdog story? Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition has all the charm that you’d expect from the 16-bit classics, with some integrated modern sensibilities that collectively bring out the best of both worlds. What I love most here is that it proves that a game with genuine heart behind it can overcome any hurdles or preconceived notions that might come its way, regardless of its origins. Simply put, Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition is one of the best in its class on Switch – and it’s cheap!
My Time At Portia
If you can get past its graphical and technical shortcomings, My Time At Portia is a lot of fun. The Switch version has some awful performance issues at launch, but it has since been patched and is now in far better shape. Still, it may not be the most polished of these types of games in the Switch catalog, but it remains immensely enjoyable to play.
There are many things to do, sights to see, products to craft, and relationships to cultivate – really, there are hours upon hours of content for those that enjoy multi-layered, but easygoing grinds. You have to be in it for the long haul though – nothing in Portia comes without an equal amount of effort put in first. While the price might seem a bit high to some, rest assured, there is lots of quality content available to fans of crafting/farm/life simulation RPGs.
That’s it for my lists! What did you think about my picks, and how would you have chosen games differently? Let me know!
Some great picks! I played Atelier Ryza and loved the series, so I’m definitely going to go back and play some of the other games at some point. I also agree that Xenoblade 1 is much better than Xenoblade 2, though I did like both. I haven’t played the Rune Factory series, but I feel like it’d be right up my ally, so I’m definitely looking forward to Rune Factory 5 this year. My other most anticipated RPGs would have to be Disgaea 6 and Ys IX! Two of my other favorite series.
Cannot wait for Disgaea 6 or Ys IX either!