Let’s dive back in, kick up a few old grudges, turn up a few stones, and no longer limit ourselves to just the JRPG genre. Let’s throw the book at Sony and its band of dragon publishers, sitting on their ancient treasure and not willing to share it with the fans who made them popular in the first place.
These are just a handful of wonderful PlayStation One games which need another shot on the modern stage. Let’s see, how shall we divide this… I know. We’ll start with the #1 offender!
Yes, the company we love so much it sometimes hurts. Square Enix was a proud supporter of the PSOne Classics line-up for a few years by delivering a large percentage of its old favorites. After all, back when Squaresoft was a singular entity, it was the absolute best publisher on the system and one of the main reasons Sony was able to stand toe-to-toe with Nintendo during those early years. Before we start to come off as too bitter, we should stop and at least thank it for that.
Okay, that’s enough of that. Somewhere along the lines of releasing its most popular games, Square Enix found out that PSOne Classics don’t actually make that much money. They are more of a “thank you” present to longtime fans, but Square Enix doesn’t like exploiting its nostalgia unless there is a lot of green at the end of that tunnel. Once the funds stopped rolling in, Square Enix put a halt on the flow of its games, leaving a few forgotten classics in the dust.
Prognosis: Nope. In a kind of off-the-record chat on Retronauts, Sony’s Shane Bettenhausen, a liaison for these types of releases, said that he was not pursuing this game with Square Enix, and Square Enix was not pursuing it with Sony. With no parties interested, what hope do we have?
SaGa Frontier 2 – The obvious sequel to the previous game. Not as fun because it sacrifices as lot of what made its predecessor so unique, but still a solid JRPG. The art style is at least worth a gander.
Prognosis: In that same chat, Bettenhausen quipped that would rather see this one instead, however, again, I don’t see Square Enix in any rush to put them out.
Brave Fencer Musashi – Another veteran from the old list as well. Square developed a nice little Zelda clone with this underrated gem, and it sold better than it would have with a Final Fantasy VIII demo inside. There should be enough people who still love it to justify a re-release.
Prognosis: This is a pretty popular cult-hit, so my only guess to its absence is that voice actor royalties are holding it back, just like Mega Man Legends. Only Square Enix isn’t in the same desperate position to appease fans as Capcom is, so no, those issues won’t be fixed.
Einhander – Someone at Square during the company’s creative peak woke up one day and decided, “You know what! I’m tired of JRPG’s, I’m going to make a classic style SHMUP,” and he did. Nearly 20 years later, Einhander is still a SHMUP and still a classic.
Prognosis: Ehhh… like many of Square Enix’s cult-hits, it’s on the Japanese PSN so you can get it that way. Maybe soundtrack rights are holding this one back too because there isn’t anything else. Music was too good for an in-house guy, so the probably outsourced to a recording artist who’ll want a cut.
Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring – A weird fighting game which stars the cast of Final Fantasy VII as well as some original goobers. The fighting mode itself is solid, but the tagged on RPG is one of the most brutal gaming experiences of all time. It’s enough to shrink the over-inflated egos of even Dark Souls fans.
Prognosis: I’m going to say no. This game is probably wrapped up in so many licensing issues with arcade distributor Bandai Namco and the actual developer, DreamFactory. The same goes for Bushido Blade and Tobal as well. Who wants a Square Enix fighting game these days… besides Square Enix fans?
And Enix… oh Enix. Not a single game published by the company back then is available now. These are the three biggest.
Star Ocean: The Second Story – This is the game which introduced a lot of gamers to tri-Ace, and it might have set expectations a little high. It’s still the standard for the series and still one of the most beloved titles the developer has ever put out. Plus, it’s a veteran from the older list as well.
Valkyrie Profile – The other standard by which we judge tri-Ace games. Using direct Norse mythology doesn’t always go well with games, but this is the strongest possible counter-argument to the Too Humans of the world you’ll ever find. Again, far too good for its own good.
Prognosis: Avast, who knows? The PSP port is a really solid and cheap option, but again, the physical UMD doesn’t work in a Vita. My guess is we’ll be seeing a similar situation to Star Ocean 2 before we get a classic re-release.
Dragon Warrior VII – Leave it to Square Enix to find even more ways for me to complain about Dragon Quest VII. We can’t get the Nintendo 3DS remake translated, and we can’t even get the classic version re-released!
Prognosis: …I’ve been complaining for two years to have the new Nintendo 3DS version put out in the States, the one Square Enix can charge full price for. What are the odds of the clunky, older one being put out at a slashed price tag of $5.99? Not that great, I can tell you.
Well now, had you asked me a year ago, I would be ready to pull out my spiked bat, but Capcom has been overly kind to its needy fans this past year.
Mega Man Legends 3 was canceled. We all know that by now. It happens, and while it might sting, it’s all in the past. Capcom took a while getting around to it, but it has used digital distribution to win back the favor of Mega Man fans with a re-release of nearly every major game in the series through PSN and Virtual Console. Thanks for that you guys. We’re not worthy!
Of course, I said “almost.” After probably going through hell to get Mega Man Legends on digital shelves though, I can’t take these absences nearly as personally as I do with Square Enix’s.
Mega Man Legends 2 – The sequel to the first classic. It improves the combat, weapon selection, and so many other elements of the gameplay. However, it’s missing a little something I can’t put my finger on. I think it’s the genuine connection myself and many others feel to Kattelox Island. I want to retire there I think.
Prognosis: Well, with the first game seemingly so impossible and yet now available, who would believe otherwise for this one? Capcom could make it happen, so don’t lose hope.
Mega Man X6 – THAT game in the series… the one fans don’t like to talk about. Mega Man X4 and X5 are both masterpieces of their craft, far more respected nowadays than they were upon release now that we’re kind of over the whole “3D only” age of gaming. This one, not so much. It’s still as loathed as when it was released, and time isn’t making it better.
Prognosis: Nope, there is a song in the soundtrack which can’t be licensed, and without the same demand as Mega Man Legends, I don’t think Capcom is going out of its way to get it. The copyright cleared in Japan, but it’ been nothing but radio silence since then.
Breath of Fire III – Not only Mega Man has been left on the outside looking in. Every other game in this cult classic franchise is available through some kind of digital means except this one. It’s also the one I played the most as a kid and would like to re-explore the most.
Prognosis: Not likely. This one failed a Capcom copyright test, meaning something in here will cause friction with an old business partner, and fans are still on the lookout for what might be causing it. The official explanation was “obscure sprites in the PS1 version having potential infringement issues that the PSP versions cleaned up/didn’t have.” My guess is we’ll be struggling to find these sprites much longer than this meandering game takes to find a plot. It’s worth a mention that Breath of Fire III does have an English localization on the PSP in Europe which has a digital option.
What? Is Ron already throwing in the towel on calling out specific publishers? Well, yeah. The two previous companies are the biggest from my childhood, so naturally, they have the largest library for me to complain about. That doesn’t mean others are off the hook just yet though! Konami, Bandai Namco… Acquire! Anyone remember them?
Here are a few odds and ends PSOne Classics that still need some love, starting with a veteran from the old list.
Azure Dreams – This unsung gem combines roguelike gameplay with monster collection, town building, and dating simulators all in one game. It’s like every indie game ever made with the gusto of PlayStation era Japan at the development wheel.
Prognosis: I don’t know how many fans this re-release would please. Probably not enough to offset Konami’s current problems, so I’m not counting on it.
Tenchu/Tenchu 2 – These classics helped Metal Gear Solid popularize stealth combat in 3D, and the second one even had a level creation mode that led to plenty of good times with my friends. Everyone loves ninjas, grappling hooks, customization, and stealth these days. Why not?
Prognosis: It’s hard to say when we don’t even know who has the publishing rights. Start knocking on doors, people! Maybe Grandma has the license tucked away in a basement.
Rollcage, Rollcage 2 – Wow, something not from Japan. Is Ron feeling okay? These little racing gems popped back into my memory after the failed Kickstarter for Grip wrapped up. Maybe if more people had played them on PSN, there would have been interest in what it had to offer.
Prognosis: These are Sony published titles from back when Psygnosis was still around, may it rest in peace. I can’t think of anything that could be holding them back besides licensing problems with Fatboy Slim’s soundtrack. If that’s the case, I doubt the demand is there to cover any cost.
Soul Blade -Because who doesn’t love SoulCalibur? This excellent little brawler launched the entire franchise, but with the name change and the popularity of its vastly superior successor, not a lot of people know it exists! That needs to change! Plus, you can really jump start your tough day at work by watching the intro video on your Vita! You’ll be invincible after hearing that once or twice!
Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete – Because we can’t have enough JRPGs on the PlayStation Network, these two are about as classic as they come. Through their design, their localization by Working Designs, and their storytelling, Lunar is for those who love the old days and just want to waste away in a grand adventure of good vs. evil.
Prognosis: Not as low as you might think. GungHo Entertainment now owns the rights to developer Game Arts’ classic library, and it polled fans as to which games it would most like to see re-released on Steam. It followed through with Grandia II Anniversary Collection on Steam, but I’m sure the Lunar games must have done well enough to get noticed. We’ll more likely see the an HD remake of the PSP port though, missing the point entirely of what made these special.
Tales of Destiny, Tales of Destiny 2 – I’m not a fan of Tales, but Bandai Namco’s JRPG series is more successful than ever because it has taken the Call of Duty approach by releasing one every year. With Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest unable to keep up, desperate JRPG audiences have turned to it for a dependable alternative.
Prognosis: If I were to ever become a fan, it would be through exploring these older titles. My guess is the pre-Tales of Symphonia games will turn up in a compilation before they ever see the light of day as PSOne Classics. We can only hope Tales gets more popular to justify such a release.
Legend of Legaia – Not the best or most popular JRPG around, but it has an excellent battle system unlike anything else in existence. Not even the muddy graphics and a generic story can hold it back from being worth checking out again. This one has a really dedicated cult-following, too.
Prognosis: Who would we have to ask? Does Sony still have the publishing rights? It did the first time around, but I doubt anyone there remembers this title… or wants to after its sequel.
Okay, that’s enough. I could go on with big hits like MediEvil and Ape Escape or little known titles like Thunder Force V or Heart of Darkness, but you get the idea. Releases have become too far and too few to hope for any further substantial support from the PSOne Classics line-up. The PlayStation 4 doesn’t support them yet either obviously, so why should Sony care? It’s not like it wants to sell more PS3s these days.
In defense of publishers though, making these games available on modern consoles isn’t a mere flip of a switch. If you’ve listened to those responsible for their releases, you’ll know how exceedingly difficult it actually is to leap through legal hoops and make sure it all works out. Seriously, listen to Capcom’s Brett Elston talk on the subject, and you really feel for the guy for all the bureaucratic crap he has to untangle to make fans happy. It’s definitely not from a lack of trying, I can promise you that.
All said, there are 76 PSOne Classics in my PlayStation 3 folder, and sometimes, I think I should just be happy I have access to at least some of them… Other times, I think “What the heck! Hurry up, will you! Eight years should have been enough time!”