The One Series Square Enix Really Needs To Revive

The One Series Square Enix Really Needs To Revive

If you asked a bunch of RPG fans what franchises they’d like to see come back from the dead, you’d get a lot of answers, because there’s nothing RPG fans like more than making lists of games they enjoyed when they were younger.

Granted, there are also a lot of dead RPGs. Gaming’s past is littered with the corpses of series that have been ignored over the past few years, and the point of all those list-making exercises is often to evoke nostalgia-tinged reactions like “Oh wow, what ever happened to that?”

For your consideration, a list of names:

  • Chrono
  • SaGa
  • Breath of Fire
  • Mana
  • Mother
  • Lufia
  • Suikoden
  • Lunar
  • ActRaiser

What ever happened to them? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any games in those dormant franchises, and for many, the chances of a satisfying comeback are about the same as the chances of me writing this column every week.

By the way, I was on vacation for a while — which is why I’ve been neglecting you, my lovely Random Encounters readers — and last week I had the lovely opportunity to fly from Sydney to Los Angeles to New York City. See, you can’t just get a flight from Australia to JFK, presumably because they need to stop and refuel along the way. So you travel ~15 hours on one flight, sizing up your fellow passengers to figure out who you’d eat first if you crashed on the island from LOST, and then you have a layover in LAX, which is basically the beta test of airports. Then you fly ~5 hours across the country, amusing yourself by watching the flight map for funny city names like Hooker Corner, Indiana, because you are twelve years old. Eventually you decide to rummage through your case of portable games, and you stumble upon an RPG that hooks you all over again.

It’s time we talk about Final Fantasy Tactics. Ah, Final Fantasy Tactics. Released in 1998 by the entity once called Square, FFT became so iconic and popular that its creator Yasumi Matsuno just raised over $US300,000 in two days because he wants to make a spiritual successor. Between the addictive grid-based combat system and the betrayal-stuffed Game of Thrones-ish story, FFT was a masterpiece, straight up.

Then, in 2003, Square released Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, a game about a guy who ruins his best friend’s fantasy. It was kind of OK if a serious step down from the Pantheon-level of quality that was FFT, and it’s more a curious relic than any sort of landmark achievement in strategy gaming.

Five years later, enter Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, a game with a dumb title and an equally dumb premise — school kid gets detention; finds magical book; teleports into fantasy world where he is suddenly an expert fighter and monster hunter. This is why you should never judge a video game by its name and premise.

Leave it to a 20-hour flight to give you a newfound appreciation for an old DS game. FFTA2, like its predecessors, is a strategy game in which you control a small team of fighters and use them to fight battles on tile-based maps. You can customise your characters’ jobs and equipment, then send them out on some 300 quests that range from the mundane (go stop this gang of robbers!) to the absurd (kill some monsters so an elite group of Curious Food Tasters can see how delicious they are).

It’s a wonderful game. Let’s break down why:

1) The classes are smart and balanced — which is something of a rarity in strategy games. Even the legendary FFT had its fair share of absurd characters, like the overpowered Ninja and Calculator jobs and the walking cheat code they named Orlandu. In FFTA2, we’ve got a ton of classes with a ton of different abilities, and you’ll want to play around with all of them — the samurai-esque Parivir, the gun-slinging Flintlock, the still-rockin’ Black Mage, etc. Square Enix has been iterating on the job system for decades now, and they’ve gotten quite good at making classes you’ll want to play.

2) The ability system is brilliant — because it’s just so unusual. In every city there’s a store called the bazaar, where you can trade in your random loot not for equipment, but for the ability to purchase equipment from now on. As you go through the game and accumulate more random loot from questing and battling, you can bring it all to the bazaar and trade it in for more powerful stuff.

All this equipment is the only way to teach your characters new abilities, so as you progress through this system, you start getting that giddy “oh cool, I can do this now” jolt of adrenaline every time you see the gold orb indicating that you can get a new weapon or piece of armour. There’s nothing quite like it.

3) The quests are nice and short — which makes FFTA2 an easy game to pick up and play for just a session or two at once. This is a welcome change from the usual trend of Everything Must Be Full Of Long Cut-Scenes And Melodrama.

4) There’s no permanent death — and while permadeath works well in the context of more serious games like FFT and Fire Emblem, this is a lighter, breezier experience. You won’t find epic melodrama or massive warfare in FFTA2 — just a bunch of dudes and gals who like to go on quests and play around with different classes. It’s still difficult, but it’s not punishing.

FFTA2 is great, and often under-looked, and worth checking out if you haven’t played it yet. Sadly, like many Japanese series, Final Fantasy Tactics has been relegated to the mobile/social dump. The phone game FFT S never even made it out of Japan.

FFTA2 is a game that deserves a sequel. A real sequel. Final Fantasy Tactics A3D: Doomed Destiny Demons, or something like that. I dunno, I’m not the guy who writes Square Enix’s titles. That must be a fun job, though. Square Enix Ridiculous Title Writer. I bet he has fun.

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


  • I was Breath of Fire to come back… Breath of Fire IV was one of the first RPGs I remember playing as a kid!

  • Also:
    Shadow Hearts (that’s never coming back though… T_T) (edit – ugh just took into account all JRPG series)

    • Man, what happened to Grandia? It had one of the best combat systems ever, but it might as well be like the series never even existed, no one’s stolen the combat or anything.

        • That sucks, I didn’t know about that at all. Designed the Lunar games as well. I guess that explains why both of those have gone silent. 🙁

          Though from the looks of things he wasn’t involved in Grandia III either. Might be why that felt flat compared to the first two.

          Still doesn’t explain why no other developers have pinched the combat system from those games though. It’s still the best turn-based JRPG combat system out there IMO.

  • I’d be happy with seeing some love for most of the series listed. More Suikoden, Lunar and Seiken Densetsu would be great if they were done well, and I don’t think anyone would object to a new Chrono game.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Grandia too, so I’d love to see it brought back.

  • Let’s go with… None of them!
    Now now guys, put the torches and pitch-folks down and let me explain.

    Personally, I’d love to see something like the Chrono series to get a rebirth, but the thing is I don’t trust Square Enix to make something anywhere close to the previous games in any series as many of the people who wrote/created/designed those games have moved on and I don’t think that any of the people left behind can carry such a legacy.

    And this is not limited to SE, I’m also talking about Capcom. Most to the minds behind great series like Street Fighter and Mega Man are gone, so the games aren’t going to be as great. The fact is that as much as I’d be happy to put money down on some of my old favorites, I’m afraid that what we would get today would only make me angry instead of happy.

  • Played a couple of thousand hours or something stupid of FF:TA, helped that I was taking the bus a lot during that period too. I was excited about the DS version that came out a couple of years back, but it just didn’t have the same feel. Felt more basic and more sluggish and just didn’t grab me, sadly.

  • Grandia was rad, and I want another Skies of Arcadia. I pumped so many hours into Tactics Advance. One of my favourite Advance games of all time.

  • I’m still waiting for Dark Cloud 3…

    It was in the planning stages. It even showed the 2 main characters for it in the Dark Chronicle artbook.

  • Bring back the Chrono Trigger! But only if you get serious writer on it to make it fun, intelligent, cohesive and not just colourful blusterous noise.

    Hell I’d even take it as a sprite based 2D game. As long as they don’t do what they did to FFVI to it.

  • The classes are smart and balanced

    Yes…. until one of your ninjas gets the “dual wield” ability. Combine that with “counter” and suddenly they become a ball of death. Virtually any melee enemy (about half the classes in the game) will get KO’d even if they initiate attack in their turn, turning the game into a cakewalk.

  • What ever happened to them? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any games in those dormant franchises, Breath of Fire has a new game coming out soon, and Suikoden has had releases relatively recently, just not outside of Japan. Earthbound/Mother 2 recently got a re-release on the Wii U store and was received very well. The Mana series had a few Advance and DS games but the quality was in decline so it was probably good that they were laid to rest.

    To be honest, as much as I love Suikoden and Breath of Fire, it’s good that the older JRPG series have been laid to rest otherwise you end up with what Final Fantasy has become. I would love to see more Shadow Hearts for instance, but Brave New World showed me that it had probably done enough. I wouldn’t mind seeing a remake of Koudelka though (The prequel to the SH series), just for the history lesson. I’m still loving the Disgaea series though, it hasn’t overstayed its welcome just yet.

    In this day and age though, with the current game design trends, I wouldn’t want people to touch the series I treasure. Besides, there are enough new series I’d like to see continued that more than make up for older ones ending.

  • “All this equipment is the only way to teach your characters new abilities, so as you progress through this system, you start getting that giddy “oh cool, I can do this now” jolt of adrenaline every time you see the gold orb indicating that you can get a new weapon or piece of armour. There’s nothing quite like it.”

    That sounds pretty much like FF9’s system… man, I miss that game.

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