By all definitions and standards the handheld market had a phenomenal year where RPGs were concerned. The DS and the PSP both had some really solid games which set the benchmark of what the RPG genre can achieve on portable systems. Gamers were bombarded with a large array of different RPGs; there were turn-based RPGs for the traditional RPG players in the form of the superlative Suikoden Tierkreis for the DS or the “yes I can” RPG Crimson Gem Saga for the PSP. A large number of action RPGs were also on show with the innovative Avalon Code (DS) or the consistently hilarious and awesome Mario and Luigi; Bowser Inside Story (DS) or the absurdly zany Knights in the Nightmare.
2009 was a pretty big year for remakes as well which gave way to the remake of Star Ocean Second Story (PSP) or the highly anticipated remake of the original Persona game with spruced up graphics and a properly localized script. The SRPG sub-genre also played host to some high-end titles like Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, with its highly acclaimed hybrid battle system of SRPG elements, and old school turn-based combat or the highly polished and very intriguing Valkyrie Profile: Plume of the Covenant.
2010’s RPG line-up for the handheld genre is looking quite impressive. Hence I have compiled a list of some of the most promising handheld RPGs of 2010.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 (SEGA – PSP) The sequel to 2008 darling RPG for the PS3, Valkyria Chronicles 2 looks set to follow in itsoriginal footsteps with its hybrid action/tactical game play, but this time for the PSP. In a surprising move Sega is bringing this highlyanticipated game on the PSP but what really has surprised us that even with the limited hardware the visual integrity has carried on from the original almost unscathed.
Sure, a few concessions had to be taken but there is no denying that Valkyria Chronicles 2 looks quite good on the PSP. The story continues after the end of the original game but this time the focus is on the internal turmoil taking place in the country of Gallia. This time round the gamers’ control of a band of cadets alongside many of the old characters from Valkyria Chronicles. Add in a multi-player mode and dozens of hours of game play this game has me marking out our calendars for its summer release date.
Dragon Quest IX (Square Enix – DS) Any Dragon Quest release requires utmost attention from RPG gamers around the world; hence with the new game in the venerable series which has already met with some truly spectacular response in Japan, I am really excited about this one. Taking visual cue from its PS2 predecessor with Dragon Quest 8 Level 5 has again created a vibrant looking game.
Also returns the well-known classic turn-based combat system but this time augmented with a multiplayer aspect. The story is typically Dragon Quest fodder with a band of heroes out and about vanquishing evil, but if it follows its predecessor’s lead then the story will be quite fun to follow. With already 4 million copies sold in Japan alone, Nintendo has a sure winner on their hands when the game releases in English come April.
Kingdom Hearts – Birth by Sleep (Square Enix – PSP) I knew in my heart of hearts (pun intended) that one day the PSP will be blessed with a Kingdom Hearts game and lo and behold that time is nigh. A smashing (and expected) hit in Japan, Kingdom Hearts will be the big PSP game for sure for English reading gamers. PSP has always been known to be a visual power-house on the hand-held scene and with Kingdom Hearts we again see why. The game looks IDENTICAL to the PS2 games i.e.: looks stunning and hence the colorful Kingdom Hearts universe will be on display in full force on the PSP.
The familiar game play elements also translate quite well on the PSP controls with the return of the action oriented RPG mechanics fromthe previous iterations. The story actually takes place before the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 and follows the exploits of 3 new protagonists each with their own campaigns. Look forward to answers of many questions about the Heartless and Organization XIII but one thing is for sure, that the plot will be heartfelt. Personally I skipped the recently released Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days on the DS because the PSP game looks more like the game to play. Expect the magic of Disney and Square Enix to commence around summer.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (Atlus – DS) Last year I were tickled pink when a ‘Mega Ten’ game was released on the DS. After devouring Devil Survivor with utmost glee, the announcement of another ‘Mega Ten’ game has got our interests piqued. The visuals of Strange Journey are quite weird as the game has a first person perspective yet filled to the gills with the typical gothic, twisted and whimsical look if your “normal” Shin Megami Tensei game.
The story follows in the same vein with a team of scientists investigating the appearance of an otherworldly portal in the frozen wastelands of Antarctica. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but has me stoked with anticipation. SMT games have one of the most robust turn based mechanics, so expect Strange Journey to have such. Released March 23.
Lunar : Silver Star Harmony (Xseed Games – PSP) Ever heard the phrase “beating a dead horse”? That is what I thought with the announcement of ANOTHER remake of the classic Lunar Silver Star Story. But one look at the remake, we jumped for joy as the game has finally been given a proper remake. The game looks fantastic, to say the least, with crisply detailed environments, and color saturated resolutions. Also gone are the flat 2D sprites of the Sega CD and the PS1 version, and replaced by fantastic characters and animations. The awesomely funny script and dialogues of Working Designs from the PS1 version also returns along with Xseed Games additional script.
We are promised full voice-overs, more story segments, return of the classic turn-based battle system, and more bromides of the lovely ladies of Lunar on THE SHINY WIDE SCREEN OF THE PSP. This definite version of the classic came out 2nd March.
Hexyz Force (Atlus – PSP) The little development studio Sting and the Goliath publisher/developer Atlus have things worked out; Sting develops charming games like Riviera: The Promised Land or the wonderfully crazy Knights in the Nightmare while Atlus acts as the publisher, hence it becomes a win-win situation for both the companies and gamers get to experience awesome games.
Anyway, Hexyz Force is the newest game from Sting and Atlus and this time it’s a tried and tested formula of the RPG blue print, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The game supports a crisp and anime-like cutesy looks, environments and character designs. The gamefollows two different campaigns and is said to feature a grand plot involving two different realms which gives a lot of bang to the player’s buck. Although Hexyz Force has a lot of things going for it, but I will sadly be labeling this game a dark horse and will fly under most gamers’ radars. Here’s wishing otherwise. Game’s out sometime in May.
Inazuma Eleven (Level 5 – DS) This off-the-wall turned based soccer RPG has had a weird history. Inazuma Eleven was released in Japan two years ago and became a smash hit with sequels and even an anime series. But for some absurd reason, it has taken Nintendo two years to localize this game. The game sports an anime style cell-shaded motif and looks quite spiffy on the DS and its real world settings separate it from the RPG crowd.
The story is also charming as it follows a soccer team trying to be the best in their prefecture. So expect the plot to follow the twist and turns of a good sports anime series. The game play is turn based but with soccer and RPG mechanics molded into one, akin to the mini-game Blitzball in Final Fantasy X, except it’s more complex. This game will near the start of Fifa World Cup 2010.
Final Fantasy Gaiden: Warriors of Light (Square Enix – DS) As the only Final Fantasy game on this list, this game has us really excited. Don’t expect a typical high end Final Fantasy game, but the game’s retro charm makes it a very attractive package indeed. The most tempting factor of Final Fantasy Gaiden are the eye popping visuals with vivid pastel effects as if taken out of a children’s book. Thegame play is classic Final Fantasy from the NES era which means turn based galore. Even the soundtrack is similar to the games of yore.
The game is already out in Japan and while there has been no release date announced for the English version, but rest assured as it’s a Final Fantasy game, it will make it sooner or later. This game has definitely worked its charm and ogling at every screenshot makes me giggle like an eight year old girl!
There we have it boys and girls, some of the most exciting upcoming RPGs for the DS and PSP. I had to leave a few games out tending to their TBA nature like the spectacular looking Studio Ghibli and Level 5 RPG Another World or the shrouded in mystery Final Fantasy XIII Agatio. But for what it’s worth, if you thought 2009 was a great year to be a hand-held RPG gamer, 2010 looks set to look even better. Hence, as they say “good things come in small packages”.