Just to clarify: when I say these are JRPG names you may never see again, I'm taling about full-budget console iterations. Finding these titles on portable devices still isn't impossible…at least, I hope it isn't.
But the chances of seeing any of these games on the PS3 (or PS4) seem to be dwindling fast. In the case of one series – Star Ocean – we have seen one entry this generation but in fact, it could very well be the last. Looking at the lay of the land, JRPGs seem to be perishing when placed against Western heavy hitters (which is part of the reason they're being relegated to handhelds).
Anyway, being a fan of the PS1 era of JRPGs that continued into the PS2 era, I'm sad to see the following go:
The first was one of several Squaresoft titles in the PS1 era to become an instant timeless classic and to this day, RPG buffs will often place Xenogears in their top five of all time. The Xenosaga series was an off-shoot but I really enjoyed these titles, especially the first one. Featuring a slick sci-fi presentation and one of the coolest characters in RPG history, IMO (KOS-MOS), Xenosaga was heavy on story and theme. The turn-based combat – a staple of all these franchises, as you'll see – was also deep and engaging throughout. The ending to the first Xenosaga was great.
4. Wild ARMs
The first was an early PS1 title and to this day, I remember why I loved it: it gave you the chance to meet and become familiar with three well developed characters, and those characters were with you throughout your adventure. No constantly switching parties, which I always hated . It also had a fantastic magic system, if I remember correctly, which consisted of Crests and a bunch of different elements. A traditional RPG in every sense of the word, it was another series that thrived on story and presentation. Wild ARMs 3 adopted an interesting Western theme on the PS2 and it was great. But after that, the series went downhill.
3. Shadow Hearts
You won't find a game with a better turn-based mechanic: the Judgment Ring in Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Shadow Hearts: From the New World was absolutely amazing; it combined strategy with reflexes and offered a more in-depth and urgent style that is more often found in hack 'n slash styles. Plus, the dark environment, great characters, and a totally unparalleled atmosphere made both adventures memorable. You wanted to do everything, see everything, and revel in the twists and turns. Although I thought I'd hate the Judgment Ring on first glance, I was very, very wrong… I got really addicted to the combat.
It annoys me that these two games – Legend of Legaia on the PS1 and Legaia 2: Duel Saga on the PS2 – didn't receive more appreciation from critics and gamers. It was turn-based and it allowed you to input fighting game-like commands (high, low, left and right strikes), the combination of which would result in either a simple series of attacks or one bad-ass combination. I still remember cheating and looking up the Miracle Arts on GameFAQs…heh. I particularly liked the characters and the worlds we traversed in these games; they just never got boring. Neither title got anywhere near enough love; no chance we'll see Legaia again.
It just isn't fair. Bar-none the second-best RPG franchise of all time next to Final Fantasy in my opinion, and it was going strong in the PS2 generation. Most agreed that the fourth installment wasn't up to snuff, but it was a strong return to form with Suikoden V . The first three titles are all amazing and not just three of my favorite RPGs, but three of my favorite games of all time. Recruiting the 108 Stars of Destiny could become an obsession if you weren't careful, and the combat and storytelling (especially the branching character plots of Suikoden III ) were just so damn absorbing.
By the way, free hint for those reliving the classics and playing the original Suikoden : if you're going for 108 Stars, NO name on that stone tablet can be grayed out…not even Gremio's. Yes, he has to die as part of the storyline, but… 😉