With Nintendo Switch, Are RPGs Back on a Nintendo Console?

Bethesda, Square-Enix, and Monolith Soft? Yes, please.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 01/13/2017 14:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Nintendo’s handhelds and consoles have experienced different destinies when it comes to role-playing. On the handheld side, RPGs have been robust and regular, from the 16-bit wonders of Game Boy Advance to the expansive worlds of DS and 3DS. Meanwhile, Nintendo consoles since SNES have been so sparsely populated with role playing goodness that even a merely decent RPG is apt to be heralded as a holiday (see: Tales of Symphonia) and great games are seen as the Second Coming (see: Xenoblade Chronicles).

It probably isn’t fair to call Nintendo Switch a console, as it is a hybrid of home-based and portable. That hardly matters: the lineup of RPGs announced for Switch is one of the most intriguing things I’ve seen for a Nintendo system you can play on your television in nearly two decades. And this is all in the context of some 80 games currently in development for Switch.

I won’t say I’m totally sold yet, but I’m a lot more interested than I was a few weeks ago.

Let’s take a look at some of the major RPG offerings.

Third Party

We got a tease of one game in the initial Switch presentation: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and a more formal introduction in the January Nintendo Switch presentation. For the first time ever, Bethesda is bringing one of their mammoth adventures to a Nintendo system. Sure, it’s a port of a game that’s been out for awhile, but it’s Skyrim, for crying out loud. In it’s complete form — and I have to assume the Switch version will have all the DLC packs — this game is good for well over 100 hours, and twice that if you’re a real completionist.

Plus, you get to hear this menu theme again. (Go ahead and listen. I’ll wait.)

Bethesda isn’t the only third party supporter. Atlus is bringing a new Shin Megami Tensei game to the system. Nicalis is porting The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+. Silicon Studio, the architects of the Bravely Default series, are making a game for the system.

But no third party support is more robust, and surprising, than Square-Enix. The same company that was such a key part of the SNES RPG lineup back in the 1990s is bringing a bevy of ports and new properties to Nintendo Switch. No fewer than three Dragon Quest games are coming: the MMO Dragon Quest X, traditional RPG Dragon Quest XI, and action RPG Dragon Quest Heroes I and II. (Dragon Quest X has not been released outside Japan, but we can hope.) In addition, Square-Enix is porting the JRPG I Am Setsuna and developing an all-new IP, the visually striking Project Octopath Traveler:

First and Second Party

I haven’t even talked about Nintendo’s first and second party offerings yet. Let’s dispense with maybe the biggest one first: Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

That’s right. Not a port. Not a spinoff, like Xenoblade Chronicles X. A full-on sequel. (Is that a new Monado I see there!?) Plus, that might not even be the only Xenoblade game on Switch; while not confirmed, it is widely believed that Xenoblade Chronicles X is also coming to the system. And who knows if we might even see the first Xenoblade game ported over, since Nintendo has already done that once and it would make sense to have both in the series. We shall see.

Nintendo has other offerings, too. The company is partnering with Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja to give a Dynasty Warriors treatment to the Fire Emblem series. And, while not precisely an RPG, the hotly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a launch title. Nintendo being Nintendo, I doubt we’ve seen the last of what they can bring to the epic game table.

Closing Thoughts

I’m not sure I’d ever see the day when a Xenoblade title, a Dragon Quest title, and an Elder Scrolls title would all hit the same system, but it’s happening. Nintendo, at least in the early going, seems to be bringing the games, and when it comes down to it, that’s what matters most.

Does that mean all these titles will hit America, or will be good, or will be followed by more titles? No, and that’s one reason why wisdom suggests waiting to see how the lineup develops. It may be some time after Switch launches before we can really judge whether the Switch game lineup is for real.

But this is promising, and if it leads to a larger lineup of RPGs — and games in other genres, too — I’m all for it.

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