The Five-Year Switch RPG Tour – Part One
Over the course of March, The SwitchRPG team will be sharing their five favorite Switch RPGs – one per year – in honor of the console turning five. First up, Ben’s picks!
Favorite: Disgaea 5 Complete
The Switch’s debut year was by no means incredible in terms of RPG content. While we did receive both indie and AAA gems in the form of Golf Story and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 respectively, there really weren’t a ton of system-selling releases in the RPG space beyond that.
There were many notable ports, however, and one of them in particular really caught the attention – surprisingly – of this diehard Final Fantasy Tactics fan, that being Disgaea 5 Complete. Despite being a massive fan of JRPGs from the very beginning, I’ve never been a huge fan of the anime aesthetic and many of the tropes that go along with it. I had very little expectations from this game going in, but what I ultimately discovered was a surprisingly deep, impressive experience that allowed me to look completely past the stylistic decisions. As a result, Disgaea 5 Complete became one of my most played titles of 2017.
Not-So-Favorite: Heroes of the Monkey Tavern
I’ve always admired first-person dungeon crawlers. As a kid, I spent hours with Shining in the Darkness and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun despite lacking a deep understanding of how these kinds of games work. Alas, it would be many years before I’d play another DRPG thanks to my MMORPG obsession for over a decade. So, when I heard about Heroes of the Monkey Tavern being on the Switch, I was excited to try it.
Unfortunately, it didn’t provide the “warm welcome” back into the subgenre that I had hoped to find, instead feeling a bit clunky and unintuitive. Perhaps it was a natural part of me shedding years of DRPG rust from my fingers, or maybe the game really isn’t all that great. Either way, it soured my experience with the game for good.
Favorite: Atelier Rorona – The Alchemist of Arland
2018 is where things really started to pick up on the Switch RPG scene. Octopath Traveler was easily the standout release of the year, Diablo III: Eternal Collection was a sight for sore eyes of the action-RPG loot fan, and Moonlighter was one of the most interesting and unique takes on any game, let alone the roguelite genre. And as much as I enjoyed all of these, none are in the running for my absolute favorite of the year.
Choosing the antiquated Atelier Arland subseries – more specifically, Atelier Rorona – over Octopath Traveler may be considered heresy in the eyes of many, but it introduced me to a series that has become one of my favorites of all time. While I wouldn’t advise newcomers to go back to these older games nowadays, its three-part arc revolving around time management and a deep crafting system has changed my perspective on gaming forever.
Not-So-Favorite: Fantasy Hero ~ Unsigned Legacy
Prior to the launch of Diablo III, I was really wanting a Diablo-like experience on the Nintendo Switch. I had heard that Fantasy Hero ~ Unsigned Legacy featured a gearing system in the same vein, so I had to try it. Well, that was a mistake. Poor translation, dated graphics, and some badly-designed systems resulted in Fantasy Hero ~ Unsigned Legacy being one of my worst gaming experiences of 2018.
Favorite: Romancing Saga 3
After seeing just what the Switch was capable of in 2018, 2019 was certain to be another amazing year for the console. And an amazing year it was, with the likes of Dragon’s Dogma, The Witcher III, Tangledeep, Shadows of Adam, Dragon Quest Builders 2, Atelier Ryza, and many more titles culminating into an incredible year.
But the one that stood out to me the most was Romancing SaGa 3. For the first time, Western fans of the SaGa series were able to experience this SNES-era JRPG with an officially localized translation. Romancing SaGa 3 proved to be a little more forgiving than its predecessor, while retaining the essence (obscurity and all) of what the SaGa series is all about, and it worked quite well. This entry continued to build the hype train that would eventually lead us to a slew of SaGa entries coming to Switch in the years since.
Not-So-Favorite: Feudal Alloy
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of my favorite games of all time. Because of that, I am always cautiously optimistic about anything released in a similar mechanic vein. Few Metroidvanias lean into the RPG side of things enough for me personally, so when I discovered that Feudal Alloy had meaningful RPG mechanics and featured fish-piloted robots in a medieval setting, well, I couldn’t wait to play.
Feudal Alloy is by no means a bad game, but it’s not a good game either, at least based on my experience at launch. Despite featuring a fresh and unique aesthetic, the nuts and bolts were marred by questionable design decisions and the fish-centric narrative simply did not go anywhere interesting (even though it seemed intriguing at first).
Favorite: Rune Factory 4
Like 2019, 2020 was a stacked year for Switch RPG fans. From smaller releases, like Ara Fell and Project Warlock, to bigger entries such as Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and the Atelier “Dusk” trilogy, there was something for just about everyone to enjoy.
The world I spent the most time in was not Xenoblade (though I absolutely adored this game). Rune Factory 4 was my first foray into the series and it instantly made me a fan. Its iconic multi-pronged progression system made virtually even the most minute of tasks still feel rewarding. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a near-perfect experience for me save for the RNG-filled, rage-inducing nonsense towards the end of the game. Hopefully, that part is resolved in the highly-anticipated followup, Rune Factory 5, coming later this month.
Not-So-Favorite: Treachery in Beatdown City
Like Feudal Alloy, Treachery in Beatdown City is not a bad game, it was just not fully realized at launch (and still might not be). This unique spin on the beat’em up RPG formula, in fact, has a ton of potential, but that means nothing if it isn’t capitalized upon. Had this been released with a bit more polish, and not ended abruptly and with rumors of paid additional content, then we may have had an entirely different story on our hands. Maybe it’s time to check back in with this one to see if any improvements have been made…
Favorite: SaGa Frontier Remastered
With several successful years now under its belt, expectations were high for the Switch RPG scene in 2021. Fortunately, the console continued its tradition of providing a ton of quality content for all types of RPG fans. There were a slew of great releases in 2021 – Atelier Ryza 2, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, and Diablo II: Resurrected, to name a few – but only one game could take the crown.
SaGa Frontier Remastered is not here just because the original was and is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s also not just here because the remaster was handled so well that it should be considered the new gold standard for remasters. It’s here because of something far more important; it is proof that the return of any RPG – no matter how quirky, old, or niche – is possible.
Not-So-Favorite: Legend of Mana
After riding the high that was the surprisingly good Trials of Mana Remake in 2020, I was sorely disappointed by the arrival of Legend of Mana “Remaster” on Switch. Whereas SaGa Frontier Remastered was the epitome of a remaster done right, Legend of Mana proved to be the antithesis of that. Legend of Mana is just one of those games in need of a full-on remake – not just a remaster.
While it is aesthetically pleasing, core mechanics are in dire need of rejuvenation, especially when viewed under a modern lens. While I’m a huge supporter of remakes and remasters in general, they don’t always hit their mark and that was certainly the case here.
2022 (So Far)
Favorite: Rise of the Third Power
Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition was one of my favorite games of 2020, so it was no surprise when its successor, Rise of the Third Power, claimed the spot for this year. It has an interesting narrative, great characters, a solid battle system, a lengthy (25+) campaign that also doesn’t wear out its welcome, it’s aesthetically pleasing – the whole package. Rise of the Third Power will most definitely be one of the best budget-friendly RPGs to come out this year.
Not-So-Favorite: Egglia Rebirth
After feeling bitter about my experience with Legend of Mana, I decided to give Egglia Rebirth – a game in a similar vein produced by some of the same developers – a try. While I only played a couple hours of this game, that was enough time to already see the writing on the wall – mobile roots were not shaken off enough despite the fresh coat of paint design and new price tag.
Speculative Favorite: Rune Factory 5
Based on what we know so far, the Switch will easily have another standout year in 2022. Atelier Sophie 2, Rune Factory 5, Triangle Strategy, Live A Live, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3, are just some of the things we know about, and there are sure to be even more surprises to come soon.
But out of all of them we know about so far, I’m certain that Rune Factory 5 will demand all my free time later this month. If it’s anything close to as good as Rune Factory 4 was – hopefully without RNG issues – then it will definitely be a top contender for my favorite Switch RPG experience of the year.
That’s it for this list! What did you think about my picks? Stay tuned in the coming weeks for even more content surrounding our Five-Year Switch RPG Tour!