Friday, November 8, 2019

General RPG Lists: Most Inaccurate Titles

As a genre, RPGs have quite a few traits more signature to them than any other gaming type. Sometimes these are good, such as RPGs’ strong focus on storytelling and compelling character development. Others are a bit more quirky such as frequent highly strange casts, and an inordinate fondness for certain annoying, lazy storytelling tropes. Of the latter, quirkier characteristics is the way that RPG titles tend to be weird, nonsensical gibberish.

It came to me the other day when I was browsing the catalogue of Good Old Games, seeing what I could find on sale, and I realized that I could tell far more often than not whether a game was an RPG just by its title alone, without having to even look at its title art, let alone its actual store page. This genre just absolutely loves its fanciful buzzwords that make a game sound much cooler than it actually is (you can’t tell me SquareEnix picked the title “Revenant Wings” in earnest for its rinky-dink little handheld FF12 sequel), its lazy use of an important character’s uncommon and interesting-sounding name as a title (such as Lufia, Arc the Lad, and Alundra), and its use of “The Legend of” as a title opener (The Legend of Dragoon, The Legend of Grimrock, The Legend of Legaia...there are so many goddamn Legend games!). Or they combine a couple of these tropes, such as with Eternal Senia. Hell, sometimes it gets so bad that an RPG will throw fanciful buzzwords, uncommon names, and Legend titles all together into a single entity (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword)!

There’s also that tendency to just add -ia to the end of any given semi-interesting word, and call it a day, like Grandia...or add -ia to the end of something that isn’t already a word, and still call it a day (what the hell is a Zenonia, Alphadia, or a Mana Khemia?). Namco is very fond of doing this, both ways, in its Tales of series.

And then there are the RPG titles that are just too fucking stupid to belong to any other genre. What besides an RPG would want to name itself something so absurdly redundant as Divine Divinity? Or Tales of Legendia? You do realize, Namco, that you basically just named the game “stories of stories”? For that matter, who but SquareEnix would decide to be so edgy-quirky that they feel the need to name installments of their franchise with math equations and decimal fractions, as is the case with Kingdom Hearts?

And let’s not forget how long these stupid titles can get. If it means using a name to boost sales, no amount of franchise, sub-franchise, and sub-sub-franchise naming is too much! What other genre, may I ask, regularly sports titles as long as Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Raidou Kuzunoha Vs. The Soulless Army (that title is longer than some fanfics I’ve read), or has multiple installments of a game series that is already a numbered installment of a series, like Legend of Heroes 6 and Shin Megami Tensei 4 each having 2 games in their scope?

Still, beyond meaningless fancy vocabulary, inventing meaningless fancy vocabulary by abusing suffixes, a frankly bewildering taxonomy, more Legends than you can find in an actual book of fairy tales, outright stupidity, and a lack of creativity so profound that they just consult a list of the Most Popular Baby Names of the 1700s to come up with a title, there is 1 naming convention for RPGs that stands out as especially weird to me: the fact that they so often have absolutely nothing to do with their game. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when so many RPG titles seem to be created by some asshole in Marketing cracking open a dictionary and picking the first unusual word he sees on the page, but there are a LOT of RPGs out there whose names are completely inaccurate for them! Not just in the “this title doesn’t actually mean anything” way, like Grinsia or Stella Glow, but in the “This title is an outright lie” sense.

So today, I’m gonna make a list of the most inaccurately titled RPGs I know of. Why, you may ask? For reasons. Secret reasons. Good reasons. Sexy reasons. Reasons that definitely have nothing to do with my completely having run out of actual ideas for rants, let me assure you.

5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

I mean, it’s half accurate, I guess, in that Zelda is, indeed, in this game as much as any other of the series (meaning not very much; this whole series’s accuracy is somewhat questionable when its namesake averages about 5 - 10 minutes of screen time per most installments). But “A Link to the Past”? In what way? Link travels between regular Hyrule and the magical realm where the Triforce was kept, but they exist at the same time. There’s no time travel. Is it supposed to be talking about some connection with past events or legends, or something? Because it doesn’t really have much of that, either, no more so than any other RPG, or even any other Legend of Zelda title. Nintendo obviously really wanted to use some wordplay for Link in the title, and clearly didn’t care whether it actually made any sense for the game.

4. Most Fire Emblem Games

This whole series is named for a plot device that only shows up in 4 of its titles. That means that 80% of Fire Emblem games have nothing to do with their own series! True, the clarifying titles, like Three Houses (FE16) or Geneology of the Holy War (FE4), do actually fit with the game they describe (most of the time), but that doesn’t change the fact that the founding element of these games’ titles isn’t present for 4/5ths of them!

3. Most Shin Megami Tensei Games

Well, since “Shin Megami Tensei” basically translates to “Rebirth of the True Goddess”, referring to the Goddess of Tokyo in the series, and since that only applies even on the vaguest of levels to about 5 SMT titles I know of (and I’m really being generous in that estimation), this series is basically as much of a lie as Fire Emblem--except that it’s also substantially larger than even the sizable Fire Emblem series, so SMT is even more inaccurate.

2. Every Final Fantasy

Look, we all know why this is here. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.

1. Star Ocean 1 + 2

Why are these here at the top, and not Final Fantasy, whose title is by this point as stale a joke in the gaming world as the “Is your refrigerator running” prank? Well, for starters, because Star Ocean is, in deed, an extremely inaccurate way to describe each of these games. The title clearly promises space, interstellar travel, science fiction! And Star Ocean 1 delivers, for its first 5 minutes...then, for the rest of the game until its very final dungeon, you’re confined to a generic RPG fantasy world, and more than that, said fantasy world’s past! That’s twice as far away from the promised sea of stars as a regular fantasy RPG would get! And Star Ocean 2’s no fact, it might be worse, because while it shares the same 5 minutes of opening with science fiction, it can’t even be bothered to also give a final sci-fi dungeon. Sure, halfway through the game you finally get off the rinky-dink fantasy world you’re confined to in SO2, and go to Nede, a super-advanced world that knows about interstellar travel and whatnot...but it’s still just an advanced fantasy world! They’re still all about magic and swords and shit, isolated from the rest of the galaxy like a damn bunch of generic RPG elves!

In fact...Rena, Chisato, and Noel, who are from Nede, have long, pointed ears. Jesus Christ, I never realized it until this second, but Nedians actually ARE a bunch of stupid annoying RPG elves! They’re just isolating themselves on a magical planet instead of a magical forest! There is literally not a single damn thing of significance about Star Ocean 2 that isn’t just a normal fantasy RPG!

Anyway, back to my point. The Star Ocean title is an outright lie for its first 2 installments, so it deserves to be on this list, absolutely. But what puts it at the top, here, is that it’s an actually harmful untruth. No one bought A Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past specifically out of a hope to see Link traveling to the past, or in some other meaningful way interacting with it. No one cares about the Fire Emblem so damn much that the games without it are going to be ruined for them (hell, the first installment I played with the titular object within it was my fourth Fire Emblem; I didn’t even know the series was actually named for anything for the first half of my experience with it!). I can’t think of any reason that a literal interpretation of Shin Megami Tensei would be the important selling point for a fan, nor can I imagine how one would feel negatively about being misled about the finality of the Squaresoft Fantasy.

But Star Ocean? Star Ocean is false advertising. Star Ocean is promising a setting, a theme, which it fails to deliver. Fails to deliver even more than some outright fantasy games do--there’s more time and focus, a lot more, on off-world travel in Final Fantasy 4, for example! Star Ocean 1 and 2 claimed to be science fiction adventures, stories involving the limitless boundaries of space, and there are people who bought them for that reason. The inaccuracies of every other title on this list, they’re amusing and innocuous mistakes, guilty at most of abusing a successful franchise title to get a little more attention. But the lie that is Star Ocean 1 + 2 misled players about something that actually mattered, something that affected purchase decisions, and that’s why the first and second Star Ocean are here at the top of this list of liars.

Dishonorable Mention: Character and/or Location Title Sequels

You know what’s an easy way to make a title for your game? Just base it on a major character or place in it. The main character’s name is Alundra? There’s your title. The setting is the Dungeons and Dragons location of Baldur’s Gate? Just call it that, and done. The game takes place on a bunch of tropical islands and has a theme of constellations and other star-related stuff? Startropics.

There is, however, a slight problem to doing this: you may not always be working with the same character and/or place. There’s no Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, or Link’s Awakening. Arc’s importance to the plot is done and over with by Arc the Lad 4. Baldur’s Gate 2 and Startropics 2 don’t take place in Baldur’s Gate or the tropics. Sakura’s not in Sakura Wars 5. And so on--sometimes the developers want to make a new title in a franchise, but the game they’re making has moved past what used to be its central figure. It’s not exactly a complete falsehood, since these games still take place in the same worlds and use the same lore as their predecessors, but neither is it accurate.

Well, that was fun. Pointless, but fun. Maybe next time I’ll have something more meaningful for all y’all! But knowing me, probably not.


  1. Link to the Past's Japanese subtitle translates to Triforce of the Gods. A combination of Nintendo of America censorship and cheesy branding is likely what gave us the vague implication of "previous events happened in the past".

    You are reminded that Tales of Symphonia stole a fantastically fitting name from Tales of the Abyss and did nothing with it. Tales of the Abyss itself works in that there is an abyss, but there are like fifteen more interesting things going on besides that lower layer that is barely discussed in the game proper.

  2. I see the above poster already mentioned that the Japanese title of Link to the Past is actually "Triforce of the Gods." I wouldn't say the English title is that inaccurate, either, though. The Link pun aside, there are two fairly clear references to the past in the game. First, Link to the Past is a prequel to the first two Zelda games, so the entire game is set in the past relative to Zelda 1 and 2. The Zelda timeline is incredibly stupid at this point and impossible to follow, but the timeline hadn't yet become that complicated when Link to the Past came out, and the third Zelda's prequel status isn't that confusing.

    Second, I'm not sure why you're saying there's not a lot of references to past events in Link to the Past because that whole game is about stuff from the past that Link has to deal with. The game's opening talks about Ganon taking the Triforce long ago in the past, and how he was stopped by the seven wise men. Every maiden that Link rescues in the longer second half of the game is a descendant of one of these wise men (so they're all links to the past), and each maiden rambles on to Link about these past events relating to Ganon. There is a much stronger emphasis on the past in the game than either of its predecessors, although I'd agree that the connection to past events seems less prominent after seemingly every single Zelda game released after Link to the Past has been a prequel set even further in the past. But, eh, I don't think anyone in Nintendo of America in 1991 could've known that Nintendo's Zelda team would become obsessed with prequels, and the title does accurately describe the fact that Link to the Past is a prequel to the previous games, as well as the game's plot being all about connections to the past.

    Of course, I'm generally against Zelda as a series being considered RPGs in the first place. Regardless, I think you could come up with less accurate examples than Link to the Past like, say, Earthbound's Japanese title, Mother 2, or most Dragon Quest games, which seldom have quests involving dragons.

    I agree about the other examples, although I'd probably emphasize the first Final Fantasy as the least accurately titled of the bunch, since it's been proven 14 times that it is most certainly not the final fantasy. However, I wholeheartedly agree about Star Ocean 1 and 2. It always annoyed me how Star Ocean 2 began by promising a bunch of space adventures, only to be set in the same type of fantasy world as every other standard RPG (I played Star Ocean 1 much later, and I wasn't as surprised to see it pull off the same nonsense).

    1. Eh, I'm really only familiar with the titles as they were released here. I mean, it's not like it's just a case of outright being wrongly numbered or something, like Final Fantasy used to be.

      I'd have to refute the prequel argument. While technically true, TLoZALttP's status as a prequel is, in function, completely meaningless to the game; no effort is made to tie it in any chronological way to its predecessors beyond reusing the setting and its associated plot doohickeys--it comes off way more like Nintendo just making another game advancing the type and style of the Zelda series, telling an unimaginative little story through the reuse of some series-specific elements, and only later determined it to be a prequel rather than an outright story of its own as an afterthought. It's not like, say, Baten Kaitos 2, a prequel that consciously and notably connects itself to its predecessor and uses its chronological place to establish facts of the 'later' installment.

      I'll give you that the past isn't a non-entity in the game, but I'll stick by my statement that it's no more a major factor in the plot than it is in any given RPG. The game is no more informed by the previous events of its lore than any story, and I really just can't see a standard and arguably necessary use of causality as living up to a title that makes such a large emphasis on the past and on ties to it. If you bought a 16-bit game called The Legend of Zelda: Sun Strider, and then had it turn out that the sun's only connection to the game is the fact that the adventure takes place during the daytime, you wouldn't say that was appropriately named, even though technically everywhere Link walks happens to be lit by the sun. The events and sage descendants and whatnot happen to exist as a result of causality, but the game doesn't actually make the past a significant part of its actual plot events or points.

      Mother refers, if I'm not mistaken, more to the idea of "Mother Earth" than the actual maternal concept, and Earthbound does make an effort to cover a wide stretch of the planet and bring it all together, so it checks out for me either way. As for Dragon Quest, well, the quests may not always directly involve dragons, but the dragons are usually somewhere or other as important background figures, and involved in whatever quest the game's on about, even if it's not for the sake of their dragon-ness. It's not a great tie of relevance, of course, and if I ever extend this list for some reason, at least some of the series will probably get a place on it, but I still think that the series's titular staples are generally involved at least enough past generic narrative necessity to be more accurate than TLoZALttP.

      At least, however, we can agree as comrades in irritation about Star Ocean.

  3. I laughed at this one, it was certainly an enjoyable read. Also about a paragraph in I already knew to expect something about Final Fantasy.

    As others have addressed, my immediate thought about some of what you mentioned was if there was a translation issue. LttP is clearly a weird translation issue, unsure about the rest.