Blaze’s awesome Evercade handheld has been going from strength to strength since its launch last year — and with the arrival of the TV-connected Evercade VS console in November of this year, even more people will be able to jump on board with the officially licensed retro gaming funtimes.
The best thing about the Evercade to date has been how it has brought a variety of lesser-known titles back from the dead alongside the retro classics we all know and love. One area where the overall library could do with a bit of buffing up, though, is the field of classic RPGs. So let’s ponder some of the most interesting RPGs (which aren’t called “Final Fantasy” or “Dragon Quest”) that deserve another chance in the limelight.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
I’m already cheating a bit here, because there are several Lufia games that would be great to see on the Evercade — but most fans of the series would doubtless be most excited to see Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, which originally came out on Super NES, and which is actually the start of the whole series’ narrative.
Lufia II specifically is an interesting RPG because it eschews the random encounters that were so commonly seen in other 16-bit RPGs of the time, and also incorporates a wide variety of puzzles that range from fairly straightforward to mind-bendingly complex. It’s also noteworthy for its “Ancient Cave” dungeon, which is a 99-floor, randomly generated dungeon that can be replayed infinitely — and many Lufia II players find themselves obsessed with this part of the game, even though it’s technically just a sidequest.
How likely is it that we’ll see this? Never say never; original publisher Taito has been a bit more open to rereleases of its retro titles of late, though it’s worth noting that they’re now owned by Square Enix and as such might require a certain amount of buttering up before Blaze can license something like this. Assuming Square Enix and Taito even still have the license, of course.
A relatively obscure game that nonetheless tends to crop up quite frequently in lists of “best Super NES RPGs”, Brain Lord from Produce! and Enix is an interesting RPG that couples action RPG exploration and combat with puzzle-solving gameplay. It’s fondly regarded by players even to this day, and would be great to see get a second chance on Evercade.
Developer Produce! also put out some other well-regarded RPGs for Super NES such as The 7th Saga and the Japan-only Mystic Ark series; together, these games would make a lovely cartridge all by themselves — though Mystic Ark would require localisation if it were to be included. This isn’t out of the question; several Evercade titles that are already on the market were former Japanese exclusives, but an RPG like Mystic Ark would need a lot more in the way of localisation than games like Star Luster and Mappy Kids.
Will this one happen? Again, it’s Square Enix that would need convincing this time around, since Brain Lord was originally published by Enix before they merged with Squaresoft. It’d certainly be a game with some popular support, however — and those who missed it first time around would doubtless welcome an opportunity to discover it for the first time.
Inindo: Way of the Ninja
This historical Super NES RPG from Koei (from before their merger with Tecmo) is one of their many games that have explored the Sengoku or “Warring States” period of Japanese history. This time around, though, Nobunaga Oda isn’t in the leading role — he’s the “villain” of the piece (for want of a better term), and it’s your character’s final goal to assassinate him.
The game kicks off with the rebellion at Honnou-ji Temple, which is where the real Nobunaga died at his own hand; here, however, he continues his activities until the year 1601, which is around the time that Ieyasu Tokugawa established his shogunate. If you don’t assassinate Nobunaga by the end of that year, that’s the end of your game!
Inindo: Way of the Ninja is an interesting RPG in that it incorporates elements of war games such as Koei’s own Nobunaga’s Ambition series. In order to succeed in your quest, you’ll need to recruit other characters, build up trust with the feudal lords of the day and consider how the overall war in Japan is going. There are also two main paths through the game, providing some replay value depending on whether you follow the “normal” or “magician” route.
This one could potentially happen; Koei Tecmo are still around and still pumping out Sengoku-era games such as the recent Samurai Warriors 5, so there’s definitely still interest in the subject matter!
This 1994 release from Enix is noteworthy for being a collaboration between legendary action RPG developers Quintet and composer Yuzo Koshiro’s development company Ancient. While it received some relatively average reviews on its original release, it’s an interesting historical curiosity for a number of reasons — perhaps most notably for how some commentators believe aspects of its core gameplay may have gone on to inspire the Pokémon series.
In Robotrek, you play the role of a young inventor with a talent for building robots. A sinister group known as The Hackers is attempting to kidnap your father Dr. Akihabara, and what follows is an increasingly ridiculous (and deliberately humorous) sci-fi tale that culminates in the villain’s attempt to dominate the entire universe with a time-travelling stone called the Tetron.
In order to fight in Robotrek, you have to build your own robots by choosing their equipment, special attacks, body colour and name. You even have to set their core attributes by using “Program Points” as well as programming their special attacks — there’s a ton of customisation that can make for a highly varied experience as the game goes on.
As a game originally released by Enix, this is presumably now in the hands of Square Enix, since Quintet is no longer around. Yuzo Koshiro is still actively plying his trade, however, and even still does the occasional project with Ancient. As an unusual and obscure RPG, Robotrek would be a fascinating title to explore on the Evercade, for sure.
This intriguing game, developed by Copya System and published by, once again, Enix, casts players in the role of a boy named Chezni who inadvertently releases a great evil from an ancient machine called the Dal Gren. Naturally, your aim from thereon is to stop and destroy the Dal Gren at any cost, assisted by a young girl named Midia and an army of hireable mercenaries.
Paladin’s Quest is noteworthy for incorporating an unusual magic system whereby casting spells draws directly from the user’s hit points instead of having a separate magic points statistic. There is a healing spell available, but using it kills the caster in order to heal the rest of the party; instead, healing is best delivered through the use of refillable “healing bottles”.
The game features an enjoyably deep magic system that involves using and mixing “spirits” together to produce various effects; characters gain experience in the spirits they make use of, allowing for a certain amount of customisation. It was not an especially well-received game back on its original release here in the west, but that makes it ripe for re-exploration by a modern audience!
Will we get that chance? Well, it’s a familiar story by this point; as a former Enix title, it would be dependent on Square Enix playing ball.
The other games we’ve talked about today all originally came out on Super NES, so let’s wrap up by giving the Mega Drive — or more accurately, the Mega CD — a bit of love with Popful Mail. This game, developed by Nihon Falcom and originally brought west by Working Designs, is arguably more of a platform game than an RPG — though there are some significant RPG elements throughout the game such as adjusting attributes, swapping characters, equipping gear and using items.
Interestingly, Sega originally planned to heavily localise Popful Mail as a Sonic the Hedgehog game called Sister Sonic, but unsurprisingly this never actually happened — particularly as gamers carried out a letter-writing campaign asking Sega to release Popful Mail in its original format in the west. Eventually, Working Designs picked up the project, tweaked the gameplay for a western audience — mostly by making enemies a bit tougher — and released it for Mega CD in North America in 1995.
Heaven knows what the rights situation is with this one after it was originally developed by Falcom and localised by Working Designs after a brief dalliance with Sega (as well as a PC Engine version published by NEC) — but it’s widely regarded as a thoroughly lovely Mega CD game, and one which it would be lovely to enjoy on the Evercade.
What RPGs would you love to see get a “modern retro” release for the Evercade? Let us know down in the comments or pen us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
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