The Switch is the perfect handheld device for 2D RPG releases. Like the DS before it, and the PSP and Vita, its small screen makes for perfect pixels. And in the coming year or two, the Nintendo Switch is experiencing a massive resurgence in RPGs across the board, be they 3D, western, Zelda, whatever you like, but nowhere more so than in the 2D RPG genre.
So, this is going to be a very specific kind of list. We aren’t talking about Western RPGs or a lot of what has come to be included in the term RPG over the last few decades. We’re talking old-school 2D RPG-style of the type popularised by Squaresoft in the 80s and 90s. We’re talking Super Famicom, Final Fantasy, sprites and Japanese-only releases.
So sit back, grab a health potion, and let me show you eight of the most gorgeous-looking 2D RPGs that have been announced for the system, and then because that will likely have got your nostalgia glands flowing, two that you can play right now, no waiting. That’s right, Finger Guns has got you covered.
Saga Frontier Remastered – April 15th
So first on our list in release order is Saga Frontier Remastered, coming in April. This is a remastered release of a popular Squaresoft title only released in Japan and the US in 1997 and 98 respectively. Something of a departure from its Romancing Saga franchise roots, the game began the tragically short-lived spin-off series with the Frontier title (only two games) and was never released in Europe. Following 9 different characters and their intertwining stories in a sci-fi setting lends Saga Frontier some similarities to other entries in this list, and it’s clearly a theme Square continues to be interested in to this day (I’m looking at you Octopath). This will be the first time UK audiences have been able to experience the classic 2D RPG still ranked amongst the top of the original PlayStation lineup.
Let’s hope there’s a remaster of the absolutely beautiful Saga Frontier 2 in the works for the Switch as well. With its watercolour beauty, it’s another PlayStation One classic we’d love to play again.
Legend of Mana Remaster – June 24th
This one holds a special place in my heart as one of the few games I went out of my way to play when it didn’t release in Europe. Legend Of Mana for me involved the bizarrely mechanical cheat of adding a spring to my PS1 to let me play NTSC discs. Sounds crazy these days, but that’s what we had to do back in 1999.
A truly gorgeous and unique take on the action RPG, Legend of Mana gave you masses of freedom, even to the point that you decided where the locations in the world were placed on the map, and how the story played out. It’s a simple narrative but it retains all the charm of the Mana games and now it’s available for the first time in Europe on Switch. I can’t wait.
Lets hope Sword Of Mana, and possibly some of the lesser-known DS games in the series also get a re-release one day.
Cris Tales – July 2021
This time we are looking at a modern game that is an homage to all the 2D RPG classics elsewhere on this list. This has been on my radar personally since I played a beautiful demo of it early last year. Clearly, at the time, it had a 2020 release date, but this since shifted to July 2021.
You play as Crisbell, a young girl who has can use the power of the time crystal to see past, present and future all at once, and use them in battle to wonderful effect. Using a eye-catching visual style, this has all the nostalgia, and all the modern cool at the same time.
Chained Echoes – Dec 2021
16-bit fantasy RPG with mechs. That says it all doesn’t it? Chained Echoes is a gorgeous bit of modern nostalgia that doubled its Kickstarter ask recently, and has a very ambitious 2021 release date attached. Don’t be surprised if this one slips into 2022.
Described as a fantasy world where dragons are as common as piloted mechanical suits, Chained Echoes has a quirky and fun battle system, and some charming characters already very present and clear in the demo I was able to play during a recent Steam Festival. With the mech battles, this has me feeling Xenogears vibes along with Front Mission, at the same time as all the clear Final Fantasy. Let’s hope it sticks the landing.
Eastward – 2021
Coming from new Shanghai developer Pixpil, Eastward is a charming pixelart RPG and adventure game. Set in the near-future, society is collapsing, and what’s left of humanity has flocked to underground villages to escape a toxic miasma. But one hardworking miner and a mysterious young girl escape this life and take an epic adventure Eastward (obviously) across country on the old rail lines.
Eastward is coming westward on Switch, but we don’t yet know when. Again there is clear Chrono Trigger influence, but this one has style all its own.
Sea Of Stars – 2022
Looking like a cross between the Mana series and Chrono Trigger, Seas Of Stars is the new game from the makers of The Messenger, looking to release in 2022. It’s drop-dead gorgeous and it’s action RPG visuals and combat have me thinking of Secret of Mana immediately. A prequel to the developer’s previous game, Sea of Stars tells the story of the Children of the Solstice, but that’s all we know so far.
Just take a look at the trailer below and tell me you’re not blown away.
Eiyuden Chronicle – 2022
The most successful Kickstarter ever (at time of writing) is a pretty impressive achievement, and it’s no wonder. Even with just a few tiny videos and visuals to gawp at over $4million was pledged, and development is now in high gear with an enlarged team. Two years seems a bit of a stretch, so we are cautious about the 2022 tag, but hey, Finger Guns crossed.
A spiritual successor to the Suikoden franchise, Eiyuden Chronicle Hundred Heroes continues that series’ political and war-filled storyline, 6 person battle party, and a hundred characters to recruit for your rebel army. Check out what little early footage there is below, but don’t go marking your calendar just yet.
Project Triangle Strategy – 2022
A jaw-dropping surprise reveal on the Nintendo Direct in February, Project Triangle Strategy may have one of the worst working titles ever, but boy does it look stunning. Taking the grids and gameplay of Final Fantasy Tactics and adding Octopath Traveller-style visuals and a deep multilayered political storyline, PTS has us psyched for a release sometime in 2022.
True to recent form with SquareEnix, there’s a demo you can download right now, and like with Bravely Default 2, the devs are looking for feedback in order to make the game as good as it can be. Though I usually stink at Tactics games, I can’t say no to those graphics and tried the demo last week. I can tell you now it is simply stunning.
Now, if all that seems too far away, and you need som 2D RPG goodness right now, here are 2 beauties you can play straight away!
The first game on Switch from the team behind Bravely Default, Octopath Traveller is a pixelart dreamscape of gorgeous backdrops, amazing animations, and beautiful battles. Featuring a full eight protagonists, each of which could have driven their own game, the story has you flitting across the continent and experiencing the narrative from all eight viewpoints. From Dancer to Scholar, from Beastgirl to Warrior, there’s a well-written tale in there for everyone, and it’ll rip your nostalgic heart right out and squeeze it.
It’s also damn hard, and sticks to the Bravely Default model of needing a lot of grind to progress, but when it’s this well done, do we mind? Also check out Bravely Default 2 for everything good on this list, just in 3D.
Collection of Mana
Before they started on this year’s re-releases, SquareEnix cobbled together the three original classics of the Mana series and released them as a single collection. Originally called Seiken Densetsu in Japan, the first is a Game Boy game called Final Fantasy Adventure in the West. Second comes bonafide classic Secret of Mana, one of Square’s most popular and most ported titles, which also had a full 3D remake last year as well.
And third is the first-ever western release of Trials of Mana, with a full English translation. Something of a Holy Grail release here in the UK, I never thought I’d ever get to play it. And this one also got the 3D remake treatment in 2020. This collection brings together all three originals on your sweet Switch, home of the 2D RPG.
I don’t know about you, but I want them all. That’s four 2D Mana titles on the Switch by years end, Saga and PTS from SquareEnix, and a bunch of new or established game developers keeping the 2D RPG genre alive in the coming years. I think that’s something to celebration. The future is Sprite on Switch!
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