4 JRPGs Overshadowed by Other Games in their Series

Today we are going to be looking at JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games) that have been overshadowed by much more popular games in their series. In huge series like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior, there is bound to be some serious fan favourites, and, as is often the case, much of the attention of gaming sites and fans will focus on these games at the expense of the others. Sometimes this is because another game in the series is bad or generally not worth talking about (Like much of the Mana series), but often these games do things that are remarkable and definitely worth attention. For this post, we are going to be looking at the JRPG genre. This genre is full of long running series with games that take very different approaches. With notable exceptions, much of the genre is still niche, and thus, inspires some pretty rabid fanboysim from the fans that love the series. We are going to look at why each game is overshadowed, and then why they should be recognized.

Yeah, I don’t know why nobody played you either.

Series – Final Fantasy
Game – Final Fantasy VIII

Why it is Overshadowed by Other Games in the Series

Final Fantasy is the biggest JRPG series out there now internationally, so it seems like a good place to start the list. Of the three games I contemplated for this spot (Final Fantasy II, V, and VIII), Final Fantasy VIII has it by far the worst. VIII was released after the two most popular games in the franchise. Final Fantasy VI is widely thought of as the best Final Fantasy, and Final Fantasy VII was so popular that it brought JRPGs to mainstream attention. Add on the fact that VIII went in a very different direction than the previous games, which had built off of each other, and you have a problem with the fanbase. Final Fantasy VIII also had second act problems, culminating in the infamous “Orphanage Scene”

Forget the sorceress Squall! Just run. Run far away and never come back!

Why it Deserves Recognition

Final Fantasy VIII is a very different game than its predecessors, and this is as much of a positive as a negative. While several of the characters are underdeveloped, VIII has by far the most developed lead in the entire series in Squall. No other Final Fantasy lead goes through as much of a transformation, and we get to see it all from Squall’s point of view due to the constant thought bubbles. It is true that this makes Squall seem petty and “emo”, but the fact of the matter is that the player gets to know him more than any other lead. The junction system, while criticized for the repetitive nature of drawing, offers some incredible customization options. There are very few Final Fantasys that allow even close to as much character tailoring as VIII. Finally there is the world. VIII’s world has some real depth to it. The cities and areas feel real and don’t seem to be made for the player. The history of the world is there, but not a central plot point. Those who care to learn it, will find that the game’s lore has a lot of depth in it, and multiple playthroughs only enhance one’s appreciation of the game.

Also the opening is up there with VI as the best in the series.

Series – Breath of Fire
Game – Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Why it is Overshadowed by Other Games in the Series

The now-defunct Breath of Fire series was at one time a major competitor of the Final Fantasy series. The games offered epic RPGs centred around a boy/man named Ryu who either was or could turn into a dragon. Each of the first four games featured a different blue-haired dragonboy named Ryu. The first three games are loosely connected and the fourth is set in a totally different world. Then there is the fifth and final game of the series: Dragon Quarter. The game is not very well liked by many fans as it isn’t an epic JRPG. Instead, it is a dungeon crawler. Some traditions, like the main character, still persist in the game, but the totally different direction, and steep difficulty was enough to turn off the few remaining fans of the series.

Ryus so many Ryus! … five I suppose…

Why it Deserves Recognition

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is very different than previous Breath of Fires, but, in truth, it is also a much better game than any of the others. This is a controversial statement coming from a longtime fan of the series, but it is true. Dragon Quarter was far ahead of its time, and if it were released now, I believe it would occupy the same spot of reverence as Dark Souls. The game is extremely deep and challenging, with a huge variety of ways to approach any given situation. Early on, your character is allowed to turn into a dragon, which is basically a win button for every encounter. The downside is that every action you take will cause a counter to go up, and when it reaches 100%, it is game over. Like Dark Souls, you are expected to die. With death comes the ability to restart the game with certain perks, chief of which is knowledge of the game. This may seem bad, but Dragon Quarter implements something called the Scenario Overlay System (“SOL”). The first time through, you don’t see the whole picture, but by restarting or replaying the game, new story segments will open up, thus the game rewards your death and perseverance by giving you a more detailed picture of the world and its characters. It is a very unique system, which would receive a lot of attention now, but, at the time, very few people cared, and if the Breath of Fire series ever does get brought back, expect this masterpiece to stay deep in the closet.

That’s kind of a dragon, right?

Series – Shin Megami Tensei Meta-Series 
Game – Digital Devil Saga

Why it is Overshadowed by Other Games in the Series

The SMT meta-series includes series such as Persona, Devil Summoner, Devil Survivor, as well as the main Shin Megami Tensei games like Nocturne. The Digital Devil Saga is actually two games, but we will treat them here as one. Digital Devil Saga was put in the same position as Final Fantasy VIII. Nocturne is one of the greatest games ever made, and Persona 3 sparked off huge popularity in the meta-series in the west. Nocturne came with a trailer for it, but the series simply didn’t have the popularity for Digital Devil Saga to make any real impact. It was still some time before the release of Persona 3, and very few people even got a chance to play Nocturne, no less what many people called, “Nocturne-light”. The gameplay and models were too similar to Nocturne to be a major draw, and it never really managed to get out of the shadow of its two great neighbours.

Either Abaddon or Marlon Brando

Why it Deserves Recognition

The Digital Devil Saga is an incredible journey. There aren’t many games, especially among JRPGs, that deal with the extremely adult issues present in the game. Reincarnation and the afterlife are central to the plot, as is the meaning of being human (More blood thirsty demon than Spock). Spread across two games, Digital Devil Saga tells the most narrative heavy SMT game that keeps the very dark tone of the main series. In reality, the game is more of an exercise in philosophy than most players realize, and subsequent playthroughs really beat this point in. It is also one of the few games hugely inspired by Hinduism. From area names to major underlying themes, this often ignored religion permeates through the game. Of course keeping the addicting combat of Nocturne mostly intact is definitely a plus as well, but not why the game stands out from the pack.

Ok, Gale’s a lot like Spock.

Series – Suikoden
Game – Suikoden III

I am only familiar with the first and fifth Suikoden games and thus do not feel comfortable discussing the series as a whole. Fortunately, a friend of mine, let’s call him Marty X (The sexiest letter), is very much into the series and has written up a (heavily edited) analysis for you, internet.

Why it is Overshadowed by Other Games in the Series

The games in the Suikoden series all have common elements, namely that there are Runes that give magic power, and there are the 108 different characters to chose from in each game. Out of all the games, the one that gets the most praise would be Suikoden II. It took everything good about the first, and built on it. The story telling was much deeper, the lore was better and the characters are even more charming. If you go on any fan-forum, the vast majoriry of fans will tell you that the second is their favourite. The issue with the 3rd game is that it ventured from the 2D sprites of the first 2 games to the 3D world, thus changing the ‘feel’ of the game. So, some fans were bound to have issues with that. A lot of games lose their charm and their sense of self when traveling to the 3rd dimension (The corpse of Sonic can attest to that).

You can assume Sonic’s corpse was trampled by this horse.

Why it Deserves Recognition

Suikoden 3 did many things to push the series forward. For example, it improved the battle system. Positioning is important and adds a lot of strategy to combat. Suikoden 3 also had a better bonus for collecting all 108 stars of destiny (Characters). Normally, you just get a scene at the end. A small ‘true ending’. But in 3 you get to play through the game as the Antagonists, which allows you to get some insight into their motives, which I loved. The story telling aspect of 3 is by far it’s best feature. The story is broken up between 3 protagonists. Not only is it fun to play though each, and experience the events from different perspectives, you also have main characters WHO TALK. That’s right! No silent protagonist for this game. Sadly, this feature has been omitted from later games, and isn’t in previous ones either. So, Suikoden 3 is the only game to feature protagonists who can share their own feelings, and not live through their companions. I find the whole ‘silent-hero’ to be very outdated. So this feature was refreshing.

So we are agreed. We eat the duck.
There are many more JRPG series out there with overshadowed games. There are many obvious series such as Dragon Warrior and the Tales series that I am simply not familiar enough to do a them justice. If you, oh wise internet, know of any JRPG that you think has been particularly overshadowed, let me know in the comments. Never forget, even as people pile abuses on the JRPG genre, that its fans are rabid, violent, and will praise their favourite series until the day they die (I expect any other Breath of Fire fan will want to eviscerate me for calling Dragon Quarter the best in the series). Unfortunately, this level of fanboyism does lead to some games being overlooked as they aren’t the hot points of debate or the brutally loved games. This is especially true when games change anything, as that tends to really bother fans.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

3 thoughts on “4 JRPGs Overshadowed by Other Games in their Series

  1. Most of those are on my to do list. If I had copious amounts of money I would totally buy up all that is SMT and get to see which I like better. Same with breath of fire. It drives me nuts, missing out of classics.

  2. Very interesting! I I definitely agree with your choices. After seeing/reading FF8 I honestly loved the characters, and the world given is just so large. Of course, the plot does take some trippy drugs halfway but thems the breaks. I also get the feeling that XIII will be getting the same treatment soon. [And yeah I love that SMT game(s) definitely one of the best games I ever played.

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