Did you read Kotaku’s “The Summer of Old JRPGS” blog post written by Jason Schreier back in 2014? I enjoyed it. So this year I decided to create my own “Summer of Old JRPGS” list. But, unlike Schreier’s list mine begins in winter and focuses more on the SNES era. Read on to see some of my suggestions for building your own “Winter of Old JRPGS.”
FOUR ENJOYABLE PORTABLE JRPGS FOR THE MOBILE GAMER
Ever Oasis (3DS)
The newest game on my list and not an old JRPG, but I’m including it anyway. This clever Zelda/Animal Crossing game intrigued me immediately. Mainly because Kochi Ishii, the director of Secret of Mana, and his team at Grezzo worked on it. While it’s not the Secret of Mana successor I hoped for, it’s a fun light-hearted JRPG with interesting town simulator quirks. In fact, I found it very enjoyable building up my oasis with new residents. Which surprised me since I didn’t care for Animal Crossing. It turns out managing their shops, tending to my garden and other chores get addictive. So I’ll give Animal Crossing another spin for sure now.
Complementing the oasis building is the dungeon combat which feels very Zelda like. And the dozens of different characters each with their own unique abilities that help offset boredom. Even though it gets annoying returning to the Oasis to switch them out during a dungeon. It’s a meaty game too. I ended up buying it after renting it from GameFly to avoid rushing through it. Play it if you’re looking for a nice relaxing JRPG before you put your 3DS away for good.
Adventures of Mana (iOS)
Final Fantasy Adventure laid the groundwork for Secret of Mana. So I knew I needed to play this game too. I never played the original GameBoy release. But I did play the remake Sword of Mana on GameBoy Advance. Which added a little too much story and robbed the game of its original simplicity. However, this new version is the best Seiken Densetsu game since Seiken Densetsu 3. I love the weapon variety and it warms my heart to see old monsters like the Mushbooms and Mantis Ant boss from Secret of Mana. Finally, the music holds up great and the game doesn’t overstay its welcome at around 10 to 12 hours.
What I don’t like is how easy it is to get lost in the overworld. Be sure to consult YouTube if you decide to play AOM. It’s also annoying having to carry keys and pickaxes with you before you enter dungeons. Since you can’t progress without them. Yet, the core gameplay holds up well and it’s a good way to prepare for the 3D remake of Secret of Mana. Check it out on mobile or PS Vita.
Dragon Quest (iOS)
Dragon Quest VII on PlayStation exposed me to this legendary JRPG series back in 2001. But I never finished that massive 100+hour JRPG. Last year I went back to the series with Dragon Quest V which I’m enjoying, but nowhere near close to finishing. So I decided to pick up the first one on iPad and I dig it. Prepare yourself for a lot of grinding though, but it’s a short JRPG and a good entry point for newcomers. Also be sure to have a guide handy so you don’t get lost. It helps for navigating dungeon maps and figuring out where to go next.
Mother 3 (GBA)
You’ve no doubt heard of Earthbound. And all the desperate pleas over the internet asking Nintendo to localize Mother 3. Well, I don’t know if it’s going to happen anytime soon. So I went ahead and bought a fan translated cartridge for GameBoy Advance off eBay. Early impressions… I like it! The game definitely packs the same charm as the original. Along with the hilarious dialogue and a similar combat system. You get to play as multiple characters too! What I didn’t expect though from Mother 3 which intrigues me the most is a pretty touching storyline. Which pulls at your heartstrings and goes places I didn’t expect. Mother 3 isn’t afraid to be grim. While I’d rather play it on my 3DS or Switch the small DS Lite screen works for now.
FIVE SNES GAMES NOT AVAILABLE ON THE SNES CLASSIC
Seiken Densetsu 3 (SNES)
Another game I’m sick of waiting for a US release. Although, I’m hopeful now that Square Enix announced a 3D remake for Secret of Mana. I already played Seiken Densetsu 3 once several years ago on an old Toshiba laptop. But playing it on a classic SNES controller feels so much better. Last time I played Hawk’s story and this time I went with Duran. I’m enjoying my second playthrough more than the first time and I’ll play one more time later so I see everything. I still like Secret of Mana better because the gameplay in SD3 feels like a step back from it. Why can’t I cure all my characters with one spell for most of the game and why am I limited to one weapon per character? But flaws aside it makes some impressive improvement to the core Secret of Mana formula.
For one it contains a large amount of replayability. This game features six characters who each play differently and have their own unique intro. The class system helps deepen the gameplay and the graphics definitely look sharper. I also like the changes to the time cycle where certain shops and events open only during the night. In conclusion, there is a lot to like about this game, but it’s unfortunate it’s a bit of downgrade from Secret of Mana. Still, if your Mana fan you owe yourself to play it. And who knows when SD3 will get localized for an American release. So if you’re curious the game is available online or on eBay as a SNES cartridge.
Secret of Evermore (SNES)
I’m surprised I never played this game. It’s how Secret of Mana may have turned out if an American team developed it instead. And some people view it as an apology from Square Enix for not releasing Seiken Densetsu 3 in America. But, taken on its own merits it’s a competent action RPG and if you like Secret of Mana you should play it. The developers even kept the ring and combat stamina system from Secret of Mana.
I’m only a few hours in and it reminds me a bit of Chrono Trigger. The beginning hours take place in a Prehistoric era. That feels similar to the place with Ayla and the Reptites in Chrono Trigger. I also didn’t expect to get my ass kicked by the first boss and spend so much time grinding levels to continue. One thing different from Secret of Mana is the dog companion. Which was ahead of its time. Nowadays it’s a popular mechanic in games like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain and Fallout 4. While it’s a little slow compared to Secret of Mana I’m looking forward to finishing it this winter.
Ever heard of this game? If my Dad didn’t buy it for cheap at my local video rental stores(Remember those?) I’d never have experienced it. Which would be a shame because I like Lagoon. It’s not the greatest game, but still enjoyable once you get past its flaws. Its got me interested in the Ys series now too since this game feels like a Ys clone. The biggest flaw in this game is your sword. For whatever idiotic reason it has the reach of a pen. Which means you must get razor close to enemies to damage them. And don’t get me started on those boss battles that demand patience to finish. You can’t use magic and they do a ton of damage. Luckily, as long as you save your healing items and grind levels you’ll be okay.
What I remember most about Lagoon though are the great music and its impressive intro. The graphics still hold up and I enjoyed the story while it lasted. So, if you’re looking for something different consider Lagoon. It’s a nice breezy JRPG that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and unlike anything else on the SNES.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES)
I’ve heard mixed thoughts about this game and like Lagoon what I remember most about it is the awesome music. From reading reviews online it sounds like this game is Final Fantasy for dummies. Still, that’s not going to deter me from playing it. After all, sometimes it’s nice to play an easy JRPG. Playing it now I see why it’s not very memorable. The graphics don’t look any better than Final Fantasy IV. And the combat along with the story isn’t anything special. So far I’m only four hours in, but it’s decent enough that I’m looking forward to playing more.
Illusion of Gaia (SNES)
Besides all the Mana games and Mother 3, I’m most looking forward to replaying The Illusion of Gaia the most. The illusion of Gaia is one of my favorite SNES games. I’ve beaten the game a few times and found all 50 jewels. I love the gameplay which reminds me of Secret of Mana and Zelda. Playing Freenan the dark knight and Shadow adds some nice variety too. The bosses were impressive for the time and the story wasn’t bad either. After I finish it, I’ll play Soul Blazer and Terringma which share the same developer as Illusion of Gaia.
Thanks for reading. I hope you consider checking some of these games out or building your own “Winter of Old JRPGS”. Have fun.