Some RPG series have been dormant for many years now. During the Super Nintendo, PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras these series were seen as some of the best and most innovative. A few of these series have seen some spin-off games or Japanese only titles recently, while others haven’t had a new release in over a decade. These are the Top 5 RPG series that need to make a comeback.
Starting life on the original PlayStation back in 1995, the Suikoden series is well known for it’s focus on political storylines, ability to recruit 108 characters and three different types of combat, including turn-based party battles, one-on-one duels and large scale strategy war battles. Suikoden II is probably the most critically acclaimed in the series, while the last mainline instalment was Suikoden V released in 2006. It would be amazing for Konami to release Suikoden VI and bring back the epic storylines and intense battles.
Developed by Game Arts, the original Grandia is seen as a classic released on the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. Grandia featured one of the best turn-based battles systems ever made, that allowed your characters to counter or even interrupt enemy attacks. The rest of the series followed on with this great system, but despite an online entry recently the last mainline entry was Grandia III released on the PlayStation 2. I would love to see a Grandia revival capturing the sense of imagination, spirit and adventure of the first game.
3. -Wild ARMS-
Like a few of the series on this list, the first Wild ARMS game was released on the original PlayStation. Published by Sony, Wild ARMS was notable for having an “Old West” theme and characters that used firearms as weapons. While beginning with a traditional turn-based battles system, later entries changed up the formula to incorporate a Hex System allowing characters to move around a grid when fighting enemies. With 5 main games and a tactical RPG spin-off all releasing on past PlayStation systems now is the time to bring Wild ARMS 6 to the PlayStation 4.
4. -Dark Cloud-
Level 5 has created some fantastic RPGs over the years, but their very first was Dark Cloud for the PlayStation 2 back in 2000. A sequel, Dark Chronicle was released a couple of years later improving on everything from the original featuring action RPG battles, city-building system mechanics and a magical cel-shaded art style. With the last game released over a decade ago, many fans have waited long enough for a 3rd Dark Cloud game.
5. -Breath of Fire-
The oldest series on the list, Capcom developed the first game for the Super Nintendo back in 1993. After a sequel on the SNES, the series moved to the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 and really hit it’s stride. The battle system is turn-based and the main protagonist of each game is named Ryu who can transform in different types of dragons. The last entry Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter was released in 2002 and brought some unique design elements to the series. Despite a sixth entry being announced in Japan for smartphones, RPG fans would rather a console game returning to the style of Breath of Fire IV.
Suikoden II is a turn-based RPG for the PlayStation that showcased a magnificent political narrative, over 100 playable characters to recruit and featured three different types of combat.
Set years after the events of the first Suikoden game, this sequel improves upon the good ideas of the original and blends them into an impressive and epic RPG. Released in an age when 3D was the next big thing and developers were pushing themselves to understand the new technology, Suikoden II featured a 2D world with highly detailed and expressive character sprites that works very well to convey the emotional narrative. This is a fantastic looking 2D RPG.
The story focuses on the invading army of Highland lead by the destructive Prince Luca Blight and the various City States of Jowston. The two main characters fight both together and apart against Highland to bring peace to the land. The relationship between the silent protagonist and childhood friend Jowy is the highlight of the story and the character development and plot twists are extremely emotional. Rarely are characters written with this much depth and complexity. The scope of the narrative allows for an unbelievable 108 unique playable characters to recruit to your party, with many memorable and unique faces.
The Suikoden series is known for utilising three different types of combat and the second game uses them all wonderfully. The regular turn-based battles allow for up to six-characters with unique partner attacks and magic rune spells. The second combat system is one-on-one duels, with each character choosing between three attack options and the winner decided in a rock-paper-scissors style. The last combat type is massive grid style tactical battles similar to the Fire Emblem series. The stakes are higher in these battles and if characters are killed they stay dead in the storyline. Suikoden II has a plethora of game play features and also includes great mini-games such as the addicting cooking competition.
Just like the rest of the game, the music of Suikoden II is epic and ambitious. The “Opening Theme” sets the standard hitting magnificent highs and lows, while the ethereal “Reminiscence” is a beautiful melody. With all the quality soundtracks from the PlayStation era RPGs, Suikoden II stands tall with the best of them.
Suikoden II is a classic and rare RPG. If you wish to play an RPG with an intriguing story, over 100 characters to recruit and massive battles then you should play Suikoden II.
I have written before that I prefer turn-based battle systems over action orientated ones, but some designs are better than others. Back when turn-based was the popular choice for RPGs, many developers came up with extremely creative ways to add new mechanics to the traditional systems. Some relied on deep character customisation, while others added team attacks and summons spells to make battles more epic and interesting. The following games made combat fun with game play ideas that were well implemented and developed.
Regarded now as a classic, the second game in the Suikoden series build on the foundation of its predecessor and offered tradition RPG battles, Scissors, Paper, Rock style one-on-one duels and massive scale grid-based strategy war combat. The variety was great and the different combat styles fit in with the story, but even the regular battles were full of strategy and new mechanics. Firstly your battle party could consist of up to 6 members out of a possible 108 recruit- able characters, offering a lot of diversity in how you customised your party. Another mechanic that worked well in turn-based battles was that your characters would overlap their attacks resulting in more intense combat and the ability to combine certain characters attacks. The range of options in Suikoden II kept the game feeling constanly fresh and new.
Final Fantasy VII
The Final Fantasy series has made a name for itself by reinventing its battle mechanics in each new iteration. The seventh installment saw the implementation of the Materia System. What seems at first like a simple way of equipping your characters with magic, actions and stat boosts, becomes a system that enables you to link Materia into infinite combinations. Weapons and armour come with empty slots to fill with Materia that you can purchase or find on your quest and many of them come with linked slots. Combining the Lightning Materia with an All Materia means you can cast a spell that targets all enemies, but if you also combine it with HP Absorb, then you will also regain health when you cast the spell, but then if you also use the W-Magic Materia you are able to cast that spell twice and regain health each time, then if you combine it with MP Absorb… you see where this is going? The Materia system is simply the best customisation system utilised in any RPG, as it is both intuitive and simple to learn, but extremely complex and dense all at the same time.
As the most recent game released in this article, it proves there is still plenty of ways to make turn-based battle systems relevant in the modern era. Radiant Historia places enemies on a 3-by-3 grid and your characters can knock the enemies around the battle field or stack them on top of each other to allow your other characters’ attacks to hit multiple targets at once. The most interesting addition though, is the ability to manipulate the turn order of battle. When it is your characters’ turn you can opt to swap it with any other character, so you can exchange your turn with an ally that can heal the party when desperate, or you can even give up your turn to the enemy in a strategic ploy to line up your characters turns together to enable you to perform a combo attack. These strategies become very important in boss battles and are often the deciding factor between winning and losing.
There are a number of features that can keep combat engaging, fun, strategic and challenging. Over the years RPG mechanics have evolved, but I often think that designers should take a note from battle systems of past and see how they used creative features to expand upon an old formula and make it feel new and exciting. What have been some of your favourite battle systems in RPGs?