Editor’s Choice: 5 PS1 RPGs Worthy of Reviving

Editor's Choice: 5 PS1 RPGs Worthy of Reviving 2
| March 20, 2022

A handful of classic PS1 JRPG franchises are about to see remasters or new installments, but why stop there? Here are some other candidates that need another chance on modern platforms.

A new Star Ocean is on the way, Chrono Cross is getting remastered, and the first successor to the Valkyrie Profile lineage was announced last week at State of Play—we’re on the verge of a second coming for the JRPG genre, a return to halcyon days where the PlayStation was flooded with epic content.

Given the currently stellar lineup of RPGs already on the Nintendo Switch, and the coming interest in these 20-year-old titles, what better time to dust off some increasingly rare hidden gems? This trio of IPs hails from a golden era for the genre, and some of their classmates are similarly due for a new facelift or follow-up. So here are our picks for some semi-forgotten PS1 gems that should be brought back for modern audiences:

Honourable Mentions

Of course, the franchises we already named as heralds of this new JRPG renaissance could use some love on modern consoles: the original Star Ocean and its sequel, The Second Story; Valkyrie Profile; and Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross‘ predecessor (which was a SNES game, later re-released on PS1). The latter already has a PC version that has earned its fanbase’s love after a series of updates, even. It would be extremely beneficial to players and publishers alike if these were made accessible to console players around the time their new descendants arrive.

5) Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu

YouTube video

While there was no stopping Pokémon in the late 90s, one brave little contender arose in the time between Red/Blue and Gold/Silver: Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu from Genki Co. and Crave Entertainment. Like Game Freak’s juggernaut-in-the-making, Jade Cocoon featured a young, silent protagonist named Levant, on a quest to capture wild monsters in balls—not for the fame of being a “Pokémon Master,” but to save his village from a dire curse.

This quirky RPG was a decent alternative for older players who might have been turned off by the apparent simplicity or child-catering style of Pokémon. The world had a Resident Evil-style camera, with random battles visible on the map, so you could hunt down your desired creatures. “Minions” could be fought by Levant or his current party, and could later be fused to make stronger hybrids. With a modern coat of paint, this would make an awesome niche title for Switch, if nothing else.

Likelihood of Revival: Slim to none. Though it garnered a mobile spinoff in Japan and a sequel on PS2, Jade Cocoon went relatively unnoticed in the west.

4) Lunar: Silver Star Story & Eternal Blue

YouTube video

Originally released on the Sega CD, Lunar: Silver Star Story and Lunar: Eternal Blue were brought over to the PS1 in style—with enhanced sound and animations, and a considerable amount of voice acting for its time. Their scripts were punched up for English audiences by western publisher Working Designs, instead of adhering strictly to the literal Japanese translation, and became laden with jokes and pop culture references.

On one hand, the series hits most of the conventional tropes of JRPGs and anime from the mid-90s, but their localizations truly brought them to life. Most other JRPGs were entirely text-based at the time, but Lunar pushed the envelope for voice acting in the genre, and proved a script needn’t be detrimentally beholden to near-verbatim translation. Their collector’s editions were works of art as well, packed with bonuses—but also jacking up the price, and likely contributing to their lower long-term sales. With a little modernization, this series could really shine on today’s hardware.

Likelihood of Revival: Slim. Though Working Designs president and Lunar localization champion Victor Ireland—who later founded Gaijinworks when the previous company shuttered its doors—claimed he was working on bringing both titles to the PlayStation Network, it never came to pass. The first was then ported to the PSP by Xseed as Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, but was laden with issues and didn’t make much of a splash.

3) Xenogears (& Xenosaga)

YouTube video

As Nintendo and Monolith Soft prepare to launch their third Xenoblade Chronicles game in five years, one can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever see the series’ ancestors re-released (or their forgotten Wii U cousin). Xenogears was a cult hit for Squaresoft in 1998, praised by magazine critics and reaching the coveted Greatest Hits plateau. On the surface it was an RPG involving giant robots and anime cutscenes, but beneath the surface its narrative was laced with heavy psychological, philosophical, and religious undertones—almost like the Neon Genesis Evangelion of PS1 RPGs. It would later be re-released under the PlayStation Classics line.

Creator Tetsuya Takahashi then left Square and founded Monolith Soft to continue working on similar games, and Xenosaga followed on the PS2. Takahashi had ambitious plans for a 6-game saga, but after the first episode’s release, the rest of the outline was heavily cut and condensed into a trilogy. Nonetheless, Takahashi’s science-fiction epic was a refreshing, if narrative-heavy, divergence from the high-fantasy fare that dominated the genre in the late-90s and early-00s, and it would be illuminating to bring the original games to modern consoles as the Xenoblade Chronicles trilogy comes full circle.

Likelihood of Revival: These waters are muddy, given the games’ publishing history. If Square Enix, Namco, Nintendo, and Monolith Soft could all play nice, maybe we could see a re-release for either series. As it stands, the legal Gordian Knot might be too much to untangle unless Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does extremely well and makes the prospect more enticing.

2) Legend of Dragoon

Amongst Cult-Favourite Ps1 Jrpgs, Legend Of Dragoon Might Be The Most Likely Candidate For Revival On Modern Hardware.
Amongst cult-favourite PS1 JRPGs, Legend of Dragoon might be the most likely candidate for revival on modern hardware. (Sony)

Final Fantasy VII changed the industry when it launched in January 1997. One of the stronger games to imitate it was Japan Studio’s Legend of Dragoon, which Sony itself published in 1999. While its graphics and visual design strongly referenced FFVII, its battle gameplay was anything but derivative. Players can time button presses to make combos and boost damage, or unleash a character’s Dragoon Spirit to transform and boost their stats. Since Quick-Time Events had not yet been overused and exhausted at this point, Legend of Dragoon‘s combat was one of the more interesting systems among PS1 RPGs.

Ultimately Sony’s homemade RPG sold around 1.5 million units but struggled to stand out against the triple-threat of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. Despite stiff competition—it released in Japan about two weeks after Pokémon Gold and Silver—it succeeded in carving out its niche in the market. Legend of Dragoon made a strong showing on Sony’s sales charts when it was added to the PlayStation Classics line a decade later, proving its enduring appeal. However, a petition to remake the game started in honour of its 20th anniversary, which currently boasts 28k signatures, well above its initial goal of 11, 682. Should it ever come to be, a proper remaster would flesh out Sony’s library of exclusives, and perhaps allow the game to reach its true potential.

Likelihood of Revival: A slim chance, but perhaps growing, and arguably the highest of this group. Japan Studio has had a hand in many of the PlayStation family’s biggest cult hits—from Ape Escape and PaRappa the Rapper to Patapon and even Bloodborne—and the studio was recently restructured around Team Asobi, who developed Astro’s Playroom for PS5. With the studio technically active, a groundswell of fan interest could help start some conversations inside Sony.

1) Legend of Legaia

YouTube video

The first product by Contrail—a short-lived studio within Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.—was Legend of Legaia, another title with clear visual inspiration from Final Fantasy VII., with chibi overworld models and tough, full-form models in battle. However, the game was a very unique experience in its own right and one of the most surprisingly compelling PS1 games I’ve ever played.

The plot sounds trope-heavy on paper. Players assume the roles of Vahn, Noa, and Gala, three young strangers who are entrusted to revive the Genesis Trees scattered across Legaia and push back the vile Mist. The heroes are lent powers by the Ra-Seru, sentient beings who manifest as bracelets upon their arms. Not only do they gain the power to revive the Genesis Trees, thus, they can also unleash powerful martial arts techniques, or absorb and utilize magic spells from various Seru monsters.

Legend of Legaia‘s combat system utilizes fighting game-style button inputs to string together Arts combos. This approach drew me in when I first tried its Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine demo, but the full version kept me hooked with its gut-punching narrative. The game pulled no punches after the first few hours, which made progress feel all the more satisfying.

Likelihood of Revival: Sadly, slim. Legend of Legaia was Kazuhiro Kobayashi’s only directorial credit, and he later left game development. Contrail only existed for about three years—long enough to ship eight titles, including Wild Arms 2 and Alundra 2—before it was reabsorbed back into SCEI, leaving virtually no legacy. Sony could still make it happen, but it’s extremely unlikely they would revive Legaia before Legend of Dragoon, a bigger commercial success.

Though the prospects look bleak for seeing these series brought back at the moment, I have no doubt that they would be welcomed back with open arms by a generation of gamers who grew up with the PS1. eBay is already proving there’s a market for them. Hopefully, if the likes of Chrono Cross and Valkyrie Elysium can do well in today’s market, it might open the door for the rest. After all, if we’re seeing PS5 remakes for PS3 games that already got remastered on PS4, why not dig a little deeper and bring back something more unique?

[UPDATE MARCH 21: We’ve amended the section regarding the Legend of Dragoon Remake Petition to more accurately reflect its goals.]

Latest Stories

Latest Stories