Five Dead JRPGs That Should Be On Kickstarter

Kickstarter is now officially a thing.

Not that it wasn't before. Since its launch in 2009, the crowdfunding website has evolved into an extremely effective financing tool for business ventures, creative projects, and auteurs of all kinds. It has facilitated the relationship between creators and their fans, both giving us access to the people who make things we love and allowing more people to make things we love.

But over the past few months, something's changed. When Psychonauts creator Tim Schafer earned $US1 million in under 24 hours and shattered Kickstarter records, you could feel something snap. His point-and-click adventure project raised a total of $US3.3 million in one month. Then, this week, designer Brian Fargo brought new life to Wasteland, raising over a million (and counting) for a sequel to the 1988 post-apocalyptic roleplaying game. 1988. Gamers came out in full force to revive a game that's old enough to get drunk.

It might not be a game-changer, but Kickstarter has certainly proven that it can make a splash, especially when it's used to revitalize old genres and appeal to nostalgic fanbases. So why not use it to bring back some dead JRPG series?

Here are five suggestions.

5. Breath of Fire

Capcom's reputation with fans has taken a few hits lately. Between sudden cancellations of beloved properties, on-disc downloadable content controversies, and cooperative woes in Street Fighter X Tekken, there's egg all over the Japanese studio's collective faces.

What better way to earn back fan cred than to revive a beloved RPG series like Breath of Fire? There's very little risk in launching a Kickstarter campaign for the dragon-heavy series. And different donation tiers can receive different downloadable bonuses when the game is inevitably financed. We all know how much Capcom loves DLC.

4. Mother

I know we never saw Mother 3 locally. And I know creator Shigesato Itoi has stated multiple times that he doesn't want to make a fourth game in the quirky, poignant series.

But come on. If we can raise up enough money, put it in one of those oversized bags with a dollar sign on it, and dump it on Itoi's desk, he can't say no.

3. Phantasy Star

Publisher Sega has released several multiplayer RPGs under the Phantasy Star label in recent years. Its next one, Phantasy Star Online 2, will be out for PC this year and Vita in 2013.

But the real Phantasy Star — the set of single-player sci-fi epics that challenged Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest for RPG dominance back in the early 90s — has been gone for almost two decades. Give us a Kickstarter for Phantasy Star V, Sega. You know you want to.

2. Lunar

We've seen a bazillion remakes of Lunar: Silver Star, the first game in this Game Arts-developed RPG series, but we never saw a true threequel. Which is a real shame, because Silver Star and its follow-up, Lunar: Eternal Blue, were both tremendously charming. The series was stuffed to the gills with quirky humour, lovely music, and top-notch writing. I think RPG fans would come out in droves to support a third Lunar.

1. Suikoden

As an unabashed Suikoden devotee, I'd probably kill for another great game in this Konami-developed series. With politic-heavy storylines and addictive, gotta-catch-em-all-style character recruiting, the Suikoden games are up there with the genre's best.

And sure, Konami has released two new Suikoden games, including a recent title for the PSP that we'll probably never see. But they're not *real* Suikoden games. They're spinoffs. They take place in entirely different worlds, with entirely different characters than those in the series' five main entries.

Like both Lunar and Phantasy Star, this is a series that has veered way off track. Save it, Konami. Save it, Kickstarter. SAVE US.

This Week in JRPG News

What To Play This Weekend

Something new: Tales of Graces F, which some say has the best combat of any Tales game thus far. Look out for Kotaku's official review of this new PS3 role-playing game next week.

Something old: Breath of Fire III, Mother 3, Phantasy Star IV, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, and Suikoden II. Yes, all of them. It's the weekend.

Your Questions Answered

Every week, I post several reader questions about JRPGs.

Reader Matthew Reis writes:

This question has actually been bothering me for a while. I love Suikoden and Suikoden II. I still own the PS1 discs and will only part with them when they are forcefully pried from my cold, dead hands. I also own Suikoden III and Suikoden IV, which I have never actually played. I know we all have unplayed games sitting around, and I think the reason I have yet to play 3 & 4 is due to the legacy that 1 & 2 have built up over the years. I guess my mind just can't fathom how 3 & 4 can come anywhere close to 1 & 2 in quality.

So my question: should I even bother to play Suikoden III and Suikoden IV, or should they remain shrink wrapped on my games shelf, a reminder of a series that once shined so brightly?

Suikoden III is a great game. It can feel a little bit sluggish, not unlike many RPGs, but it's filled with great stories and moments and characters. Like a clan of talking ducks. There's a clan of talking ducks.

Suikoden IV is certainly the black sheep of the series, and it's certainly mediocre compared to the other four numbered titles. But it's not a bad game. There are some infuriatingly slow boat-sailing sections, and you might walk away wondering whether or not the plot actually made sense, but it's a fun 20-25 hours. And hey, it's still Suikoden — which means you get to collect characters, build up a base, play mini-games, and do all of those other little enjoyable things that series fans have grown to love.

Play Suikoden III. If you have extra time, play Suikoden IV too.

Reader James McEneely writes:

Do you feel that the progress made in graphics has damaged the story-telling ability of RPGs? I often feel like the budget of games NOW is focused on graphics, and then whatever they have left is sort of dropped into a rusty coffee can for a writer to scrounge. Games like Final Fantasy XII, which had such a good premise and looked gorgeous (for a PS2 game) caused me to rage, while games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana caught you in a death-grip and immersed you headfirst in the story until you finished.

Good question, James. But I don't think it's a matter of budget, as many gamers assume. I don't think Japanese RPG studios are getting together and saying "hey, let's put more money into graphics than story!" I think it's a matter of style. It's more difficult to tell a great story when you're busy worrying about which direction to point the camera or how to write shorter lines so your animators don't have to spend as much time on each character's lips.

Perhaps more importantly, old RPGs left a lot to the imagination. Chrono Trigger's characters had nuance and subtlety because its developers didn't have the graphical tools to do otherwise. Secret of Mana's story was simple, unobtrusive and powerful — because it didn't have a lot to say. Lifelike graphics are wonderful for eye candy... and terrible for storytelling.

Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.


Comments

    Definitely a big +1 to all these games. Have many great memories playing these. Take my money already!

    The only one of those I'd play again is Suikoden. The others I'm not as big a fan, but I love me some Suikoden.

    Glad that Phantasy Star is on the list. Phantasy Star IV is the greatest JRPG of all time. No exceptions.

    Phantasy Star, Lunar and Suikoden have all had or are having recent outings, even if they have been remakes or not full JRPGs or not available in English.

    How about Skies of Arcadia or Grandia?

    I'd love love LOVE another entry in Quintet's creation series from the SNES (Soul Blazer, Illusion of Time, Terranigma). They were published by Enix so come on Square, do it! Terranigma is one of my all time favourite games, along with Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger.

      I cannot approve of this comment hard enough.

    What?! How have I never seen this weekly article before? Brilliant!

    >You never saw Mother 3 locally
    BFD, *we* never saw Earthbound locally! Do you have *any* idea what we missed out on? Of course you do!

    Kickstarter should fund a port of Mother 3 to DS or 3DS in English. I adore that game, but if Itoi doesn't want to make a 4th one, the 3rd one is a masterpiece anyway.

    Mother 3's fan translation is spot on.

    Apparently, Baldur's Gate III may get the Kickstarter treatment one day.

    As much as I loved Phantasy Star (all of them), I'd much rather some of the guys from the team that made Shining Force and Shining Force 2 to launch a kickstarter for a real, turn-based sequel (I'm not including Shining Force 3 because we never got it in Australia, and all of its parts have never been effectively translated from Japanese).
    The two games that have a claim on the greatest number of hours in my life are Shining Force 2 and Fallout 2. Both turn-based. Both brilliant.

      But we did get part 1 of Shining Force III. Also, the guy's that made the first three games (plus the two Game Gear games and CD) are now Camelot Software Planning of Golden Sun and Mario Tenis/Golf fame.

    While I would kill for another Suikoden and Breath of Fire game, my guess is licensing issues are what prevents these kinds of things from happening. There's been a few instances of devs that originally worked on a game wanting to do another game in the series but cannot due to the license being held by someone else.

    The idea of such a big company as Capcom or Konami picking up kickstarter to fund new games, even small prequels is totally preposterous. However, things like Lunar, property of small, deceased companies are a much closer hope. A title that was sorely missing from this list and falls in that category? Lufia.

    Dear Author. The following does not make sense.

    "Kickstarter is now officially a thing.

    Not that it wasn’t before."

    Your quest is to learn how to write well. Take some of the other staff with you.

    Forget JRPGs, Kickstarter needs old-school space sims brought back to life.

    Suikoden all the way.

    Suikoden II is easily one of my most played PSone games. Still play it every so often to this day.

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