Going into 2018, my two most anticipated RPGs coming to the Switch were Octopath Traveler and Lost Sphear. Well, I was hopeful for Dragon Quest XI this year too but let’s not throw any more salt in that ever-agonizing wound. Lost Sphear severely underperformed despite “decent” reviews from most avenues, and sold well under its predecessor, I Am Setsuna. Although I personally put about 25 hours into Lost Sphear, I couldn’t make myself finish it for a multitude of reasons which I will not divulge into here (check out my review if you want my full opinion on it).
Fast forward to this month and Octopath Traveler releases to both critical and financial acclaim. There is so much buzz around the game that multiple articles are still popping up each day amongst popular news outlets, even though it released almost three weeks ago. And I believe Octopath has more than earned that recognition for just its technological advancements alone. Even if you aren’t hot on the game itself, the HD-2D design is a retro RPG lover’s wet dream (give or take the depth of field part).
But the success of Octopath Traveler has me curious about more than just the future of the Octopath team itself. In fact, I find myself reflecting back on this past January and the release of Lost Sphear more than anything. I have already touched on the reasons I think Tokyo RPG Factory failed to live up to its “bringing back the Golden Age of JRPGs” motto in another article, so I won’t discuss those specifics here. What I’m really interested to know is whether the team will be allowed to take another stab into game-making, or if their time is simply up.
The thing is, even though I have been quite vocal about my general dislike of both I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear, I don’t have a desire to see anything completely fail. When it comes to games, I believe more competition is a good thing, and I’d love to see Tokyo RPG Factory or any company at that improve to the point it makes competitors take notice. And something about TRPGF that some other companies may not have is genuine passion for their craft, or at least the idea behind it. The splash screen on the front page of their website even states the following:
“Countless adventures captivated us when we were kids. Now, it’s time for us to return the favor with adventures of our own.”
It’s obvious these people love RPGs; I just don’t think they accomplished what they initially sought after. That’s not to say another try wouldn’t work out in their favor though. As they say, third time’s the charm, right? With Lost Sphear’s numbers being vastly inferior to I Am Setsuna, I’m not going to hold my breath for it though.
If they do get another chance, I think the most important thing for them is to distance themselves from the Chrono Trigger comparisons completely. Just like with Octopath confusing lots of genre veterans with the “Final Fantasy VI spiritual successor” debacle, it’s clear that using this marketing ploy involving beloved titles of the yesteryears does more harm than good. Find an identity for your product and go with it rather than leaning on flimsy, nostalgic-driven ties.
One thing I did enjoy about Lost Sphear was the improvements it made in comparison to Setsuna regarding the combat system. But I’m not so certain we’d need a third entry from the same company that uses the same kind of combat system unless they were to add some sort of additional mechanics to make it really stand out (or simply improved on some of the ones they already have).
Lost Sphear did a much better job than Setsuna with both the art and sound direction, and really solidified its distinct look and feel. While not pixel art or overwhelmingly enjoyable tunes, I can appreciate the improvements made between the first two games nonetheless. I would not be opposed to a third entry in a similar style, seeing as it would likely be an evolution from Lost Sphear (much like that was from Setsuna).
Finally, something would have to be done about the price. I failed to mention this in my last TRPGF-themed article due to oversight on my part, but our staff member Jeremy Rice (Xatres) helped remind me of this crucial point. At each game’s launch, they were charging full price for something that, at best, felt more like $30-40 titles (their prices have gone down a bit since). It will be absolutely essential for this theorized third entry to be at a lower price point in order for it to be successful. If that means scaling back the overall length or content of the game, then so be it. I understand that the team has to eat, but a level of multi-dimensional quality not yet achieved in their first two outings would have to be in their next game to merit a full price tag.
Tokyo RPG Factory desperately needs to win back the trust of consumers like myself and many others with the same mindset if they want to get the ball of success in any sort of motion. If the opportunity presents itself, I just hope they don’t play it safe by taking the same Setsuna / Lost Sphear route without any sort of substantial additions or changes thrown in for good measure.
It’s a ghost town though, both on Tokyo RPG Factory’s website and their social media. Neither medium has seen an update of any sort since right around the launch of Lost Sphear, which doesn’t bode well for their future. Sure, they could be busy on something else, but I’m not so certain that’s the reason for the silence. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be so quick as to say the team has dissolved just yet, since the front-end still exists despite appearing as a barren husk at the moment.
Do you think we’ve seen the last of Tokyo RPG Factory? Would another title from the developer interest you at all?