I Cry Every Time A Legendary JRPG Series Goes Mobile

Image: Square Enix (Star Ocean: Anamesis)

Over the weekend, Square Enix held a live Star Ocean event in Japan that brought together fans of the RPG series with creators and voice actors for a day of livestreamed festivities. Fans hoping to get news on a new Star Ocean for consoles had their hopes dashed, though, as the spotlight was firmly pointed on the mobile game.

As a fan of JRPGs, I find that this pivot to mobile has become frustratingly common.

A new Star Ocean game isn't coming any time soon, Star Ocean 5 producer Shuichi Kobayashi has said. Instead, he said, fans should focus on Star Ocean: Anamesis, the series mobile game which has been out for just over a year in Japan. It's just the latest example of a once-beloved series getting relegated to smartphones.

Towards the end of the event, Star Ocean 5 producer Shuichi Kobayashi acknowledged that while the crowd was likely hoping for "one more piece of information" - Star Ocean 6, in other words - they wouldn't get it that day, but asked them to keep playing the mobile game Star Ocean: Anamnesis, which was released in 2016 only in Japan.

"Please wait a little longer," Kobayashi said, in remarks translated by Siliconera. "Rather, keep believing in it while playing Anamnesis. I'll also do my best. I'll do my best, and I'm sure all your support will be a huge strength for us."

Certainly, I would want Square Enix to take its time with a potential new Star Ocean console game, given how terrible the last one, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, turned out to be.

Still, it's disappointing to see yet another once-great series - Star Ocean: Second Story on PS1 and Star Ocean: Till The End of Time on PS2 remain standouts in their respective console generations — be relegated to a free-to-play smartphone MMO that will probably never see the light of day outside of Japan. It's a too-familiar story these days.

A month ago, Konami announced it was working on a new Castlevania. This one would be called Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, an action game with co-op for up to four players.

It was a nice bit of news to get early this morning, except that it turned out the game was being developed for iOS, not Switch, PC, or any of the other modern consoles. Although the game is currently undergoing a closed beta in Japan, there's no release date yet and no sign of whether it will ever come to Europe or North America.

While the series' former lead producer Koji Igarashi is about to release a spiritual successor for consoles called Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon on May 24, this is not the same as seeing Dracula and the gang return in a proper Castlevania game. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, arguably the last in the series to fit that bill, turns eight years old this summer.

In 2008, Capcom said it had no plans to bring back Breath of Fire. Then in 2016 it released Breath of Fire 6 on smartphones making many people who played it wish Capcom hadn't changed its mind. Screenshot: Capcom (Breath of Fire 6)

Wild Arms has laid dormant for even longer. The western-themed RPG series that helped defined the genre's golden age on PlayStation 1 hasn't had a proper follow-up since Wild Arms 5 on PlayStation 2 in 2007. In 2016 ForwardWorks, a mobile game studio of Sony's, revealed Wild Arms: Million Memories last month for iOS and Android, which will release sometime later this year in Japan.

For someone who's awaited the series' triumphant return, or really any return at all, for over a decade, the news was bittersweet. I'm glad to see series producer Akifumi Kaneko is coming back to supervise the story for the new game, with ForwardWorks claiming it will stay true to the earlier games, but can't get too excited given the platform and the lack of any existing plans to localise it. I want to play these games after all, not just hear about their review scores in Famitsu.

It doesn't always work as a low-stakes way for bringing classic series back either. Breath of Fire got the same treatment in 2016 with the mobile-only free-to-play MMO Breath of Fire 6. Rather than allow the series to live on in a modern form, the game tanked, with Japanese servers shutting down last fall. It was never released outside Japan, either.

OK, so maybe a triple-A console game release isn't in the cards for these series anymore. But I'd much rather see Breath of Fire, or Star Ocean, or even the Mana series get the SaGa: Scarlet Grace treatment instead. After a decade of only mobile entries in the SaGa series, this game first released on PlayStation Vita in 2016, with Switch, PS4, PC, and, yes, mobile ports coming this year and a North American version following sometime after.

It's understandable that Square Enix and other companies are hesitant to invest in ambitious sequels when mobile games have become so lucrative, but Scarlet Grace proves there might be a happy medium to be found somewhere in between.

It would sure be better than another heavily monetized Final Fantasy mobile game or subpar Mana remake.


Comments

    It's companies becoming lazy and wanting more $ for less effort. An ex friend of mine who works in the industry who used to be passionate about games said to me a few years back something like "Mobile gaming is the way of the future, it's cheaper to make, easier to make and takes a few months as opposed to years of development and you make the same amount of profit." He seemed confused when I spoke of having a passion for gaming as well as enjoying games outside of trying to making the quickest $. I don't think I ever spoke to him again as I was quite disgusted with this attitude. His dismissive "Oh I'm in the industry thus I know better than you" attitude pissed me off as well. It was also kind of sad to see someone who used to enjoy video games as a kid and who was genuinely excited to get a career in gaming revert to this stance.

    He's gone on to make very successful mobile games and of course I agree there is a market for them.... but seeing his loss of passion for mainstream gaming still irks me to this day.

    Last edited 23/05/18 3:35 pm

    Yeah I am saddened by this too.
    For years I have wanted a Secret of Mana either remake or sequel that is good and as epic as the original (even thinking through a scenario of SoM in the styling of Breath of the Wild)
    I have also wished that Capcom release a proper Breath of Fire sequel on the consoles in the vein of the original 4 (Dragon Quarter was cool, but I still pref. BoF2 over the others).

    Other JRPGs that I would love to see are a new rendition of Terranigma and the Illusion of Time. Man the SNES just had the right stuff I guess. Hell I even love Secret of Evermore and I know a lot of people didn't.

    Star Ocean: The Second Story was just amazing for it's time. It still holds up well today.

    With the Vita dying a slow death and the Switch being a hard buy, you're surprised that Japanese developers are taking to the biggest install-base in a country that's borderline almost entirely mobile?

      Japanese players (and consequently developers) have actually been adopting the Switch very quickly, it's not a "hard buy" at all.

    On the flipside, Sega are doing another Sakura Taisen finally, and it's not on mobile. Neither is the new Valkyria Chronicles.

    Also, to be fair, Star Ocean was good, Star Ocean 2 excellent, but after that the decline set in - SO3 is a fantastic game but the ending wrote the franchise into a corner that they can't escape from unless they retcon it, SO4 was an atrocity and SO5 was a huge disappointment, feeling like a low-budget mid-PS3 era game. So to be honest, if we're judging off recent efforts, I don't want a new Star Ocean. I'd happily take one that was on par with 2 or the first 80% or so of 3, but I'm not sure they're capable of delivering that any more.

      My only experience with Star Ocean was struggling for a couple hours to play/enjoy it on the 360 before taking it back in disgust. Ever since I've always wondered why anyone gives any shits about the franchise, so it's nice to hear that it was an unusual abomination and not indicative of the rest of the series. Looks like the earlier ones are available on PS4... worth a look, y'reckon?

        The PS4 port is basically the PS2 game running on PS4. I honestly don't know how they go now and it will depend a lot on whether you like Tri-Ace's games to begin with, though IIRC you don't mind Tales?

        Fun fact: the developer Wolf Team that made the very first Tales game, Tales of Phantasia, split up after making that game because their parent company had been acquired by Namco. Those that stayed went on to make the Tales studio, those that split off formed Tri-Ace and made the first Star Ocean. Both ToP and Star Ocean are absolute technical masterpieces, pushed the SNES to the absolute limit.

        The other thing to bear in mind if you're looking at Star Ocean is that the games until the PS4 re-release of SO4 were dub-only and the English dubs are so dire that I'm surprised no one was arrested for war crimes.

          Er, PS3 re-release, not PS4. (Replying rather than editing so it doesn't go to moderation queue)

          Enh, Tales series actually kinda shit me. The first few I tried, anyway, because they were all cutesy child-focused stuff. ('Kids save the world because everyone knows children/teens are better scions of destiny/elite soldiers than fully-grown, experienced veteran adults' is one of my least favourite tropes.) Berseria's actually the first Tales game that's piqued my interest, and it was basically all around the 'villain protagonists' hook (though I'm sure the shades of grey don't actually come into it at all). Perhaps absurdly, I preferred the anime to the game. Was also less of a fan of the kind of the combat mechanics that kept popping up. Themes aside, I've rented, grown bored/frustrated with, and consequently abandoned Eternia, Symphonia, Vesperia, Hearts, Graces, and Xillia. Just... couldn't get that one to really stick. Zestiria and Berseria had me curious about the series again, though.

          Could just be that thing where I like the idea of the thing more than the actual thing. Like FF13. I've bought and returned that fucking thing three times, and attempted to start it god knows how many. Ended up abandoning it - hating it - every time. Never learn my lesson.

          Trails in the Sky (only Legends one I've played) is the one I loved the shit out of. And it was really mostly thanks to the attention to detail in their world/environment, specifically NPC text. Every single NPC appeared to have a name, and lengthy, unique dialogue specific to the NPC, which changed after almost any advancement in the plot. That was just... mind-bogglingly impressive to me. Was having a slightly rough time with how dense appreciating this has made the game (for me). It's going to be god damn years before I finish the series, at this rate.

            Symphonia was fantastic. Although it was the whole "children save the world" premise, it had really great twists that raised their personal stakes and made it emotional raw. In the end it was not so much about destiny (in fact the whole "destiny" bit was shown to be clever manipulation) but about going to the bitter end to save your loved ones.

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