Thursday, August 28, 2014

General RPG Lists: Most Needed Sequels

In the world of RPGs, and just about every other video game and general form of media, sequels are not exactly hard to find. If a game sells well, it’s almost assured that there will be a sequel made for it. Hell, it may get a sequel even if it’s not especially successful. Arc the Lad, from what I’m told, has a pretty small following in Japan, and is obscure enough to be virtually unknown to the rest of the world, but somehow managed to live long enough to have 5 titles (or at least 4.5, depending on how you want to count AtL: End of Darkness). Yes, sequels and prequels are not exactly in short supply with RPGs. You can find good sequels to good games (Fallout 2 to Fallout 1), bad sequels to bad games (Megaman Star Force 2 to MMSF1), bad sequels to good games (Chrono Cross to Chrono Trigger), good sequels to bad games (Icewind Dale 2 to ID1), great sequels that are even better than the good games they come from (Shadow Hearts 2 to SH1), terrible sequels that are even worse than the bad games they come from (Xenosaga 3 to Xenosaga 2), prequels that are so great that they actually retroactively make their lousy predecessor better (Lufia 2 to Lufia 1), prequels that are so lousy that they actually retroactively make their great predecessor worse (Valkyrie Profile 2 to VP1), sequels that are absolutely necessary as a continuation of a story in progress (Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 to SMTDDS1), sequels and prequels that are completely unnecessary, hastily tacked-on trash that adds nothing of value to their predecessor (every spinoff to Final Fantasy 7), sequels that are some of the finest games in existence (Suikoden 2), sequels that are some of the very most vile and worthless games in existence (Final Fantasy 10-2...blech, just acknowledging its existence makes me nauseous), RPG sequels to game series that aren’t typically RPGs (Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood), RPG sequels to series that aren’t even games (Sailor Moon: Another Story), RPGs that, I shit you not, are sequels to fucking Space Jam of all things (Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden), and, by far most prevalent, series continuations that have little to nothing to do with any of the games that came before them (the Grandia series, most of the Final Fantasy series, the Shining Force series, most of the Tales of series, the Wild Arms series, most of the Dragon Quest series...the list goes on).

Still, for all these countless sequels, there are still some RPGS out there that deserve, even need a sequel that they have not yet gotten. And today, I’ve put together a list of the 5 RPGS I think are highest on that list. Enjoy.

Note Before We Begin: For the purposes of this list, I’m only talking about direct, setting-and-plot-and-character-related sequels/prequels. Essentially, a game that makes use in a significant way the ideas and canon of its forebear. Additionally, I’m not counting game series that are currently still being actively worked on. I’m super excited about the prospects of additional titles in the Fallout and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, for example, but I’m pretty sure Bethesda’s working on Fallout 4 and I know Atlus is developing SMTP5, so they’re not gonna make it onto the list. This list is for games that need a sequel and do not, at the current time, look like anyone is going to give it to them.



5. Treasure of the Rudras

One of a surprising number of nigh-unknown RPG gems produced by Squaresoft back in the days of the SNES, Treasure of the Rudras was very inventive in the way it told its story, having 3 separate world-saving quests occurring simultaneously over a few days’ period, each tying in small ways to the others, all of which culminated in a final chapter of the heroes banding together to stop the cause of all their problems. The thing is, though, that the awesome twist of the game is that after defeating the supposedly evil gods and goddess, (SPOILER ALERT) the heroes learn that these seemingly malevolent deities were acting in the interests of preparing for the return an unknown, monstrously destructive force known as the Destroyers that it took an army of gods, most of whom died in the process, to drive off. The game ends with a prophetic vision of the future, a warning of the world’s oncoming doom if its people are unprepared to meet the Destroyers’ power, and the heroes nonetheless clinging to hope that the Destroyers can be stopped without the immoral methods of the gods they just defeated.

Well, I want to see more! I want to see a sequel set in the future, in which the Destroyers make their return! The storytelling method of multiple plots and protagonists occurring at the same time is handled flawlessly, the world itself is decently creative and has some interesting concepts, and while Treasure of the Rudras is a satisfyingly complete game, that ending does set the perfect conditions for a sequel. Of course, given that it would probably be SquareEnix doing the sequel, maybe we’re better off going without. Square wasn’t even particularly good at sequels back before it lost all artistic integrity whatsoever, after all--remember, Chrono Cross was made back in the Playstation 1 days, and Final Fantasy 10-2 was almost fully developed by the company before they became SquareEnix. Still, if someone skilled were to make a sequel to TotR, some company that valued writing quality, had respect for the original, and possessed the basic self-respect as storytellers and artists that so many companies like SquareEnix lack, I would definitely welcome it.


4. Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch

I found this very obscure indie RPG to be quite entertaining. Yes, it was a bit choppy to play at times, but the humor was pretty solid, even if some of it was dated internet memes, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. But the damn thing is only half of the story! The game ends at a clear halfway point, with the journey still in progress and much left unresolved. I hate it when a story goes unfinished, so I hope that someday I’ll see this one concluded.


3. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura

There is just so, so much more that can be done with this game’s setting. AOSaMA is a Dungeons and Dragons-style game of humans, dwarves, orcs, ogres, and the like, except with 1 very distinct difference from most D+D copies: it’s set in a D+D world’s industrial revolution. Take the classic tabletop fantasy races, themes, magic and such, put it in a steampunk setting, and you’ve got a hell of a great backdrop for whatever story you want to tell. AOSaMO created a terrifically engaging world and played it up very well, but so much more could be done with it. Despite all the fascinating ways to play the D+D-in-Victorian-style-steampunk-society-and-also-with-industrial-factories theme, the game’s focus inevitably comes back to the conventional magical D+D stuff--in many ways, AOSaMA’s main story wouldn’t change all that much if you were to just set it in a regular fantasy medieval setting, as you’d expect from D+D-styled stuff. As immensely creative and well set up a world as Arcanum’s is, it almost seems like the main plot has no interest in it. The gameplay at least makes good use of the setting--it’s very intricate, and I love that you can have an Invent Clockwork Battle Bots playstyle--but in all the ways that really matter to me, AOSaMA doesn’t make very much of its setting.

Well, I want someone to take another crack at it. Take that great steampunk D+D setting and make the most of it this time! Don’t just make the question of half-orc laborers’ rights a minor sidequest that can be skipped altogether--put it in the spotlight; it’s fascinating! Don’t just make the question of what’s lost by replacing an appreciation of the natural with an awe of the man-made a background thought occasionally lamented by small NPCs and some elves--make it a major theme of the game! Give better examination to the plight of countries that don’t modernize quickly enough! Give more emphasis to the social roles and dynamics created for gnomes, ogres, elves, half-elves, dwarves, and so on! Continue the loose end of the gnomes’ experiments to create their manservant meatshields that the original game never really went anywhere with! There are just so many ideas you can use the steampunk setting and society to explore with this concept in a sequel. I mean, hell, ANY steampunk and/or industrial revolution backdrop would be new and interesting to base an RPG around by itself, without even considering the D+D spin on it.

To me, letting Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura be the only title using its setting and ideas is as criminal as it would have been to never make another Fallout game after the first. More so, because Fallout 1 used its setting to great effect, while AOSaMO could have done so much more. Please, someone, some passionate, creative developer somewhere, indie or big studio, dig up the rights to this gem, dust’em off, and make this sequel happen.


2. Anachronox

Oh Anachronox. Fun but at times surprisingly deep, as creative with its plot as it was with its humor, filled with memorable and enjoyable characters and set in an equally memorable and interesting galaxy...the fact that Anachronox is so obscure is a damn crime, that’s what it is. Unfortunately, Anachronox ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, with the threat to the galaxy still at large and with misfit protagonist Sly Boots and his equally askew teammates striding forth to continue their journey to save reality.

Not to say that Anachronox just drops you unceremoniously with its cliffhanger, the way Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch just cuts out suddenly...Anachronox may be only part of a story, but it ends at a good stopping point, and feels like a complete game. It’s like Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1--there’s obviously more story to come, but the game’s conclusion is still a great place to cut out, a transition from one major part of the story to another.

But, good stopping place or not, the fact is that Anachronox is still an incomplete story, and what’s there is compelling and really damned neat. Now that Sly has faced his inner demons and come out ahead, I want to see him tackle his problems with new gusto, yet the same snarky mouth, and I want to see more of the nutjobs that follow him, too. Anachronox was a neat story in an interesting universe featuring a fun bunch of characters, and it’ll be a damn crime if we never get to see it concluded.


1. Threads of Fate

What a fun game Threads of Fate was. Decent story, some really heartfelt moments (in Rue’s story), and somehow, even though she was a remorseless brat and totally as much a villain as the game’s actual evil-doers, every single moment watching Mint is a ton of fun. I don’t know what it is about her, but somehow she manages to embrace the role of being insufferable and loathsome without actually being insufferable or loathsome at all. Like Princess Elise from My World, My Way, only much more. Mint is so damn lovably hilarious, dry, conniving, and bratty.

Anyway, I’d be happy under normal circumstances to see another game following Threads of Fate, but ToF ends (if you complete both stories to see the secret after-ending clip) on a slight cliffhanger. I mean, its story is ended, yes, but at the same time, there’s now the promise of a new adventure for Rue and Mint to engage in, and I’d definitely like to see it. I want to see more antics from Mint, and I’d also like to see what Rue’s like now that he has Claire back.

What makes me most anxious for that sequel, though, is that Threads of Fate is very imbalanced as a story. I’m going to get into why this is in a later rant, but suffice to say here that despite supposedly being a story equally split between Mint and Rue, the overall story focus of ToF is upon Rue, and it’s his story that we come away from the game feeling is the true, canon version of the game, and which is recognized in that final, secret after-ending clip. And hey, don’t get me wrong--if I have to choose between Mint and Rue’s stories which should be the true one, Rue’s gonna win every time, no matter how incredibly amusing Mint is. And that’s why we need a Threads of Fate 2--because now that Rue had a game which gave him the major plot spotlight (plotlight?) and fulfilled his wish, I think it’s only fair that Mint properly have her time to shine, silly villainess or not. It’s been many years since ToF was released, so it doesn’t look hopeful, but all the same, this seems to be the age of revivals, reboots, and unexpected continuations, so I’m still holding out hope for a Threads of Fate 2.


Honorable Mention: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2

What happens after the end of Knights of the Old Republic 2? I think it’s safe to say that just about everyone who played KotOR2 wants to know. While an amazing game in itself, Knights of the Old Republic 2 was a true transition piece, a game whose ultimate plot goal was a preparation for the next title. In the end, it’s revealed that much of what happens in KotOR2 is meant to conclude the KotOR setting of the regular Star Wars Republic, to either give it the structure to continue to exist through its new Jedi Order sweeping the remains of the old away (if you play Light Side, or Neutral), or to seal its doom for good (if you play Dark Side), so that the next game can take place in Sith space with the question of the Republic behind one. More than that, it’s revealed that this journey of the Exile has ultimately been for the purpose of sending the Exile to follow Revan into Sith space, to be his ally in settling the matter of the Sith once and for all, and much of what we’ve seen in KotOR2 will contribute to that--the Mandalorians, the HK series, Atton, HK-47, and T3-M4 are all implied to be the force that the Exile has unwittingly rallied to assist Revan. Everything is set for Revan, the Exile, and these allies to take the fight to the Sith in an epic conclusion to the Knights of the Old Republic trilogy.

Too bad that never actually happened. But it SHOULD! We need to see the greatness of Revan and the Exile combined, we need to see them strike into the true heart of the Sith, we need to see how the intricate plans of Darth Traya to raise support for Revan turned out...everything in KotOR1 and 2 has led to the moment that we see the Sith beyond Republic space, the true threat that has been lurking in the shadows all along, and I want to see it, damn it!

The reason this is an Honorable Mention and not part of the regular list, though, is that there is 1 major caveat to my wanting to see a sequel. I would only want to see a KotOR3 that acknowledged and built off of KotOR2 as seen with the Restored Content mod, which I did a rant on a little while back. The Restored Content mod is just what it says--it brings content that was cut from the game back into it, important stuff that was meant to be in KotOR2. Without it, the ending of KotOR2 is lame and doesn’t make much sense, several plot threads are never resolved, and the game is really just incomplete. A lot of the things I mentioned above regarding KotOR2’s transition to the next game are incomplete, or missing altogether, from the vanilla (unaltered) release of Knights of the Old Republic 2, and can only be seen in their intended form with the Restored Content mod. I don’t really know how KotOR3 would accomplish this, since they’d have to make sure the audience was up to speed with this enhanced history of KotOR2, but it just wouldn’t be right to continue the series without all of KotOR2’s greatness accounted for.



Well, that’s that. Normally this is the part where I have something to say in summary of the list, some lasting note or remark to make, but...don’t really have anything today. Oh well. See you next time.

13 comments:

  1. The closest games I can think of to Treasures of the Rudra with the split story feature are Live A Live and Suikoden 3, though they aren't quite the same ( well, Suikoden 3 might be, but I haven't completed it yet). According to Satsu, the translator of Energy Breaker, that was meant to use a similar "choose your protagonist" thing too, though it was scrapped due to deadlines. It's kind of a shame other games don't use it too; Breath of Fire 4, though somewhat different as you see the antagonist's perspective instead of a party member's, had a neat feature that let you play as the villain at certain points. I doubt the antagonist would have as much depth if that feature was cut out.

    Also, my memory might be failing, but I thought Threads of Fate was regarded as a platformer more than an RPG and didn't have a huge focus on the story? I haven't actually played it yet, but that's what it seems like on forums like Gamefaqs.

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    1. Yeah, there are other split stories out there, but they do tend to be fairly different. Most are like Threads of Fate or Star Ocean 2, wherein you pick someone at the beginning of the game and see them through to the game's end, seeing the whole story from their perspective (although in SO2's case, the change in perspective amounts to almost nothing at all). Live A Live is a bit different from that in that the whole story is only accessible once you've played through all the characters, like Treasure of the Rudras, but they're all very separate stories that tie in only at the end, so it's still not the same. But there are a few more like Treasures of the Rudra, and yes, Suikoden 3 is one of them--the events of the 3 (or 4, depending on how you see Thomas) protagonists are all essentially occurring within the same time frame, and they do all connect to each other. Still, I think TotR did it better than any other case I've seen, with the major character parties not only bumping into each other and interacting with one another, but also acting as witnesses to the others' actions as they occur--such as the way Surlent and Sion's parties will notice the recovery of the world's environment as Riza goes about saving the planet, and not really understand what's happening but be glad for it.

      And yeah, BoF4's split perspective with Fou-Lu was terrific. I'd say that it's the biggest feather in the game's hat, the way they handled showing how Fou-Lu goes about his own journey and why he comes to the conclusions he does about humanity. BoF4 is otherwise an unremarkable game punctured by a few really great moments, but the whole thing with Fou-Lu and forming his opposite stance to Ryu to make him a great antagonist really sets it apart.

      Eh, I've always seen ToF listed as an RPG. It certainly also is a platformer, of course, there's no reason a game can't be both, Dust: An Elysian Tale and several Castlevanias prove, but I think it's got more than enough RPG elements to justify its being considered an RPG. Everything's still stat-based, stats can be upgraded (albeit not in the traditional way of just leveling up), there's inns and save points and HP and MP and all that jazz, different items to equip, dialogue boxes, a strong focus on story and characters...all the usual JRPG stuff.

      But then, I count Legend of Zelda games, Soulblazer, and the Startropics titles as RPGs, too, so my opinion on that doesn't always match up with the rest of the world.

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    2. Yeah I still don't understand why you consider Zelda an RPG, but I just decided to not that argument with you. Lol

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    3. Well, the most common argument I've heard about Zelda not being an RPG is that it has no level up system, which would mean that Moon: Remix RPG Adventure and Final Fantasy 2 aren't RPG either..

      I am curious about whether Arpy considers Radical Dreamers (the small/decent game Chrono Cross was based on) an RPG too, though, if he played it.

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    4. There are a lot of things that can qualify a game as an RPG, but I think it's far too hard to nail any concrete number of them down as being qualities that an RPG can't lack. I mean, going with what you've mentioned, The Legend of Zelda games have no level-up system (which I don't think is entirely accurate),* but if you disqualify it for that, then there are other games, games whose RPG status isn't even questioned, which would likely be up on the chopping block as well. Illusion of Gaia, for example, has only the barest hint more of a leveling system than TLoZ does, but no one seems to question it as an RPG. Deus Ex 2 has even less of one than the Zelda titles do--in fact, even I have trouble calling DE2 an RPG; I only do so more for the sake of convenience since the DE series is meant to be an RPG series--and no one questions it. You cut Zelda from the title of RPG, you definitely cut DE2.

      Likewise, there are games that DO have a level-up element which everyone, myself included, agrees are not RPGs. Several games in the Command and Conquer series have a feature where your units can be promoted if they've successfully survived enough encounters, promotions which increase their basic combat abilities just as a level up would. I don't think anyone would claim that the C+C games are RPGs. I think there are also multiple racing games in which you can upgrade your vehicle's performance with the money you win from races (I can't name any specifically, though, because racing games, like all sports titles, have absolutely no worth whatsoever to me). No one would claim them to be an RPG, even though they have just as much claim as any other with that system.

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    5. Leveling up just isn't a safe way to determine what's an RPG. I don't think there is one, honestly. Plenty of people claim that it's all about stat-based gameplay, but sports games have that up the wazoo, yet no one would think of them as RPGs. Some are purists and claim that an RPG has to be about actual Role Playing as far as designing your character's abilities and giving choices that affect how the plot is progressed, but that would foolishly cut out something like 80% of all RPGs and leave them without a genre--and most of the remaining games that qualified still don't really qualify (Mass Effect games, for example, are considered "true" RPGs for their role playing elements in Shepard's decisions and actions, but when you step back, regardless of how Shepard gets from the beginning of the game to its end, the same major, overall plot events are going to happen and the destination is still going to be the same). And so on and so forth--any criteria a person can bring up for what essentially constitutes an RPG, there are a good handful of well-established, unquestioned RPGs that don't fit the bill, AND a good handful of well-established, unquestioned non-RPGs that do. Some people reduce the matter to a list of RPG elements and say that a game has to hit a certain number of them to be an RPG, and I guess that's alright, but it still seems only a little less arbitrary than my own judgment, and you can usually still find examples of games that defy this method and are considered RPGs, and games that fit this method and yet are still not considered RPGs. In fact, I once discovered that according to 1 expert's list of RPG qualities, several Legend of Zelda titles fit the bill with room to spare, which annoyed him quite a lot.

      So me, I just go with my gut. Leveling up, stats, role playing elements, shops and equipment, story focus, text boxes, overworld maps, and all that jazz, it all gets considered, but since no method I've seen has been able to concretely include all clearly defined RPGs and exclude all clearly defined non-RPGs, I don't see the point in using one. Such things are only the pretense of order, not genuine. If you ask me, instinct and common sense seem the only reasonable way of defining an RPG.

      That said, I tried playing Radical Dreamers a few times in the past, and each time I just lose interest immediately. All-text games were never my thing to start with, and my only prospective reward to dealing with the tedious format is being able to see the prototype for Chrono Cross. No thank you. As for whether it's an RPG, eh...I guess it is, if you count those old text-only games like Zork as RPGs. Haven't really given it much thought, but I suppose there's no reason not to. Sure, RD's an RPG, at least until I one day finish it and potentially change my mind then.



      * The increase of HP thanks to Heart Containers could be seen as a leveling system--you get half of them as a reward for beating bosses, much as you would experience points, and the other half for exploration and plot advancement, much as you get skill points in Deus Ex 1 and Karma points in Shadowrun Returns. You can get upgrades to things like defense and MP in some Zelda games, too. How does one define leveling up? Just as RPG definitions are flimsy, the aspects used in those definitions aren't adequately concrete, as well.

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    6. Overall, I'd say that RD certainly isn't bad considering it was made in three months and wasn't anything Square paid its employees to do. It's definitely a chore to go through, though; you get a better experience watching an LP or something since its hard to tell where you're going.

      Text adventures a la Zork and Ace Attorney usually aren't considered RPGs, and while RD does have encounters, there's no separate interface for battle or anything you'd expect a turn-based RPG to have, so it's hard to call it a battle in the traditional sense.It might as well be classified as a hybrid text adventure/RPG, though.

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  2. Good list.

    Admittedly I can't really think of many games myself however maybe someday.

    Also damn I gotta around to starting Threads of fate someday I have a copy but haven't played it yet.

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  3. Still need to play Threads of Fate and Treasure of the Rudras.

    Imagining a KoToR 3 makes me wistful and sad.

    Someone mentioned Energy Breaker. That game is glorious.

    I may still be playing F3 and F:NV when F4 comes out. Not that I'd mind a third flavor of crack.

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  4. I may be alone here, but I think Golden Sun is in DIRE need of a sequel, if anything, to make up for Dark Dawn.
    Dark Dawn could have followed in The Lost Age's footsteps, in establishing a more serious tone, offering some non-linear gameplay and encouraging world exploration, and offering somewhat of a challenge.
    For some reason, Camelot decided to throw all of that away, and leaving us with even MORE of a cliffhanger ending than before.

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  5. 4/5 of those have cliffhangers, or at least sequel hooks to continue a story, which makes sense. Have you played Trails in the Sky? That game had one of the most brutal cliffhangers I've ever seen (in a good way, mind you; its sequel is also getting localised for GOG and Steam this year).

    Tons of foershadowing and world-building, too (the first Trails in the Sky game hinted at an event that would occur in the fourth).

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    1. I can't say I'm familiar with the Trails in the Sky series, but the fact that it's on GOG (and that you're saying it won't stay a cliffhanger for long) invokes some interest from me. Sooner or later it shall go on one of GOG's awesome sales, I'm sure, and when it does, I shall be sure to snatch it up.

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    2. Just a general warning if you do get it, the first game is slow paced and requires a lot more reading than your standard game does (http://operationrainfall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/1378428490599.jpg for reference) so it might struggle with holding your interest.

      There's no guarantee about getting the third in the sub-series either, but 1&2 tell a complete story by themselves (with the third serving more as a prologue for the next trilogy in the series).

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