It’s a little known fact amongst a lot of gamers that RPGs do not begin and end with the Final Fantasy series of games. Back in the day, when I was playing on the Playstation and Playstation 2, there were an awful lot of RPGs that were released that, while great games, failed to set the world alight. Some of the games that have stuck in my memory are even older than that, with experiences that I first enjoyed on the Super Nintendo. For the purposes of this article though I’m going to leave out games that have absolutely zero chance of being remade for the Xbox One. As much fun as it would be to play A Link To The Past, there is no way that Nintendo would allow that to be remade for Microsoft’s black box, so even though it had a massive effect on me as a younger man, it won’t appear in this list. But other than that, here, in no particular order, are the five RPGs that I’d like to see remade that don’t include the words “Final” or “Fantasy”.
With a storyline that encompasses the complexities of time travel, and charges the hero with building a team of companions from various different periods of history, Chrono Trigger seems to have all the bases of a JRPG covered. Cute graphics, a bonkers but coherent story, and a baddy so bad that you feel personally responsible for taking him out of commission, add up to a completely unmissable experience.
I think the reason this game stayed with me so much is that in the run-up to my wedding, 16 years ago, I had found an emulator that allowed me to play Chrono Trigger on my work laptop. In those days, these machines had more utility as a doorstop than as an actual computer, but it would run the Chrono Trigger rom that I had managed to obtain; completely legally, just so we are clear! So its possible that I associate the game with the happy period in my life, completing it, this time round, on the honeymoon! This went down really well with the wife, as I’m sure you can imagine…
Memorable characters are what is at the heart of Chrono Trigger, with the cave-person Ayla from 65,000,000 B.C. and her immense physical strength, a frog who has a sense of valour, and many more adding up to make a game that was greater than the sum of its parts. Beating Lavos and saving the world, after all of the twists and turns of the narrative still stands as one of my proudest completions.
Dragon Quest VIII
The Dragon Quest series have a long and storied history, but the only one I have played for any length of time was the eighth entry in the series – Dragon Quest VIII, no less.
With the subtitle of Journey Of The Cursed King, this pretty much sums up what the game was about. Dhoulmagus, a court jester, casts a spell on the castle of his employer, King Trode. Trode is transformed into a troll, his daughter Medea into a horse, and the rest of the castle inhabitants into plants. The only survivor is a silent hero, who we play as, as we set off to find Dhoulmagus and break the curse.
Along the way, we are joined by three companions, including Yangus, a bandit with an amazing Cockney accent, and Jessica, a mage who is seeking her own revenge. With a massive story, including capturing and training monsters to fight on your behalf in a Monster Arena, and with many twists and turns along the way, this is a game that is hugely memorable.
The cel shaded graphics were bright and beautiful, the fully 3D fighting screen was a revelation at the time, and the skill tree was the first I’d played that allowed you to choose where to spend the points, developing the characters in the way you wish. Dragon Quest VIII really grabbed me, refusing to let go until I had beaten it – its still a source of sadness that I never managed to capture a King Metal Slime for my team!
Secret of Mana
Ah, Secret of Mana. Whenever you look at a list of “Top X RPGS” this game turns up, and it’s worthy of a place in the top flight of RPGs.
I first played this back in 1993 on my Super Nintendo while I was at University. I can neither confirm nor deny that a good portion of my grant (remember those?) was spent on this cartridge…
Instead of the traditional turn based RPG, this was my first experience of the “Action RPG”, where there was no waiting for your turn, you could unleash an attack whenever your power bar was full, and of fights that felt much more fluid; more more vibrant than Chrono Trigger, say. Add in the most ridiculous fast travel mechanic ever, where the heroes were fired out of a giant cannon and had to pay for the privilege, a great story and some fantastic Mode 7 flying graphics – that at the time were bleeding edge – and the scene is is set for a wild ride.
Having weapon levels that increased as you used them, and that can also be upgraded even more as long as you can find the weapon orbs in dungeons and get them to a blacksmith, made me want to try and get all the weapons maxed out, which would almost be the work of a lifetime.
Sadly life and studying got in the way of my Secret of Mana career, but if I was able to go back I for one would be a very happy boy.
Parasite Eve 2
I never managed to find the original Parasite Eve in the UK, despite reading about it in game magazines and being fascinated by the mix of survival horror and RPG that it promised. Whether the second game, the imaginatively named Parasite Eve 2, was put on a much wider release I’m not sure, but it did appear in the local game shops so I picked it up.
And boy oh boy was I glad I did.
While the story is the typical bonkers Japanese RPG fodder, involving an FBI agent who is a member of M.I.S.T. – Mitochondrial Investigation and Suppression Team – it turns out that in the first game, the mitochondrial DNA that is passed down through the female line of descent could be controlled by an entity known as EVE, and people can be controlled by using this DNA, becoming Neo-Mitochrondial Creatures or NMC’s. With me so far? Good, because in the second game things get a lot weirder!
Basically, in Parasite Eve 2, someone is creating Artificial NMC’s, and Aya must track down who and where this is happening. The game played out again as an action RPG, with attacks being possible whenever you wanted, but it is the setting and the whole lore that stuck with me. There seemed to have been a conscious decision to make the game more about fighting rather than just surviving, as the only way to succeed was to make Aya strong enough by levelling up to have a chance of surviving later on.
The way the story unfolded was fascinating, and I think nowadays we need more games that rely on telling a great story rather than being all about the latest whizz bang graphics.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga was a game that I took a punt on when I saw it in a game shop, knowing nothing about it. Back in 2006, when it came out, I was playing on my Playstation 2 and looking for something new, something different from the Gran Turismos and God of Wars to play. And boy was this that game.
Playing out in an almost artificial world, The Junkyard, a combat simulator program that was shared between six tribes, one day – for some reason that was never made clear – The Embryon, the tribe that we play as, were infected with a demon virus, which allows them to transform in battle into a demon form. It transpires that the other tribes have also been infected, and the mission is clear; in order to ascend to Nirvana, the other tribes must be devoured.
Yes, in order to appease the demons within, enemy tribes have to be beaten, and then eaten.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga plays out in a traditional turn based style, with some tweaks. Landing a critical hit gave the team another turn, but if you used an attack that an enemy resisted, you lost a turn, so remembering what you were fighting and what they were weak to made up a big part of the story.
Wandering The Junkyard, fighting in random battles and obviously taking in scripted boss battles was always interesting, despite the almost minimalist design of the simulator. Both this game and its follow up were, at the time I played it, the strangest, most Japanese games I’d ever played. A virtual world, eating enemies, trying to get to Nirvana? Weird, but oh so much fun to play, and a compilation of both games would be most welcome.
So these then are my choices for the RPGs I’d like to see remade that don’t include the words “Final” or “Fantasy”. Obviously there are many more, with games like Vagrant Story and Xenogears narrowly missing the cut. There is such a wide array of games that appeared back in the day, on Super Nintendo or the various Playstations, that almost everyone’s list will be different. This is mine, what is yours? Let us know in the comments or on the usual social channels.