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666: 3 RPG Series Needing Number 6

By Heath | November 6, 2010 at 11:57 pm

The Holy Bible calls 6-6-6 the “mark of The Beast.” I call it a reminder, “Oh yeah, there are no 6th installments of Wild ARMs, Suikoden, or Breath of Fire.” Here’s a breakdown of the situation.

On Suikoden VI
Time Since The Official #5: 4 years, 8 months.
Noteable notes: The series has seen a couple of spinoffs, such as Suikoden Tactics (called Rhapsodia in Japan) for PS2 and the more recent Suikoden Tierkries for DS. Suikoden I & II were bundled and ported to the PSP in Japan, but the collection did not go elsewhere, nor have the titles been put on the PlayStation Network. Recently, a Suikoden-themed slot machine was revealed to be headed for Japanese Pachinko houses.
North American Release Timeline:
*Suikoden: Dec. 1996
*Suikoden II: Aug. 1999
*Suikoden III: Oct. 2002
*Suikoden IV: Jan. 2005
*Suikoden V: March 2006

The first pair of Suikoden games are widely regarded as two of the best PlayStation titles. Suikoden II in particular is worth a note as the series’ highest-selling and most higly praised installment. Part III was very well-received on PS2 and took home a few “RPG of the Year” awards, but IV did not fare nearly as well as the games before it.

Suikoden IV, despite it being generally regarded as the series’ weakpoint, is not where the massive sales plummet happened. Rather, it seems to have happened as a reaction to IV (and perhaps Tactics to some small extent), as Suikoden V took a drop. The fifth numbered title was received well, though some fans saw it as more of a step backward than forward, despite its overall quality.

Of the three hypothetical RPGs discussed here, I’d say Suikoden VI has the best chance of actually happening. Suikoden Tierkreis for DS just hit North America last year and its worldwide sales have been respectable. Konami has also been releasing bits of Suikoden merchandise and collectables lately, plus the aforementioned pachi-slot machine. It would seem the franchise is still very alive in Konami’s mind, and these recent activities might be stirring up series interest to fuel hype for a sequel announcement. Let me remind everyone again though that this is just my speculation.

On Breath of Fire VI
Time Since The Official #5: 7 years, 9 months
Noteable Notes: With the exception of part V, all games in the series have appeared on more than one platform.
North American Release Timeline:
*Breath of Fire: Aug. 1994
*Breath of Fire II: Dec. 1995
*Breath of Fire III: April 1998
*Breath of Fire IV: Nov. 2000
*Breath of Fire V Dragon Quarter: Feb. 2003 (had the V removed in North America)

What’s interesting, and perhaps a statement of popularity, is that all Breath of Fire games have appeared on more than one system with the sole exception of part V. The first two debuted on SNES and have been ported to Game Boy Advance and Wiiware. Breath of Fire III and IV were PSX titles who later saw ports to PSP and PC, respectively. Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter came out for PS2 and stayed there. Perhaps this is because PS2 games are tougher to port or remake (for now), maybe it has something to do with it having by far the lowest sales numbers in the series, or some combination of the two?

While sales of previous Breath of Fire titles have been great on the whole — the first four each topping half a million units sold worldwide (combined and including all versions) — the fourth and fifth entries represented steps down in popularity and revenue. Emphasis is on the fifth, there. The series claims over 3 million units shifted, but Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter is less than ten per cent of that total. Despite being released when the series still had big hype surrounding it, and RPGs were getting more and more maintstream all the time, BoF V did not send signals to Capcom that this cow had much cash left in it.

Though one could say that this was not because the brand name itself lost steam, but because Breath of Fire V was such a tremendous gameplay and style departure from its elders. It took steps in a different direction, playing like a dungeon crawler and using a variety of innovative, but difficult-as-hell gameplay systems; previous entries in the series had been classic, turn-based, no-bones-about-it JRPGs right to the core. The game got its cult following, but Capcom got a whole lot more middle fingers than glowing reviews with BoF V: Dragon Quarter.

The RPG climate at Capcom seems a bit unsteady right now. Keiji Inafune bailed, which could be good or bad for hungry BoF fans. Inafune had previously said, in so many words, that he didn’t believe the company could make a good Breath of Fire title at this time, and moreover, that it wouldn’t sell well due to stiff competition. More recently, 3DS sparked the revival of one RPG series thought dead for sure, MegaMan Legends. Maybe that’s not the only IP the company will dust off, and a Breath of Fire VI could be looming? If it happens, however, I wouldn’t count on it any time soon, given how long it’s been already and the current state of affairs.

On Wild ARMs 6.
Time Since The Official #5: 3 years, 2 months.
Noteable notes: Wild ARMs XF, a tactical spinoff, was released for PSP in March of 2008. The original Wild ARMs was remade for PS2 and released in late 2005.
North American Release Timelime:
*Wild ARMs: April 1997
*Wild ARMs 2: April 2000
*Wild ARMs 3: Oct. 2002
*Wild ARMs 4: Jan. 2006
*Wild ARMs 5: Aug. 2007

The arrival of Wild ARMs 4 for PS2 ended a drought of more than three years, and part 5 would soon follow it to the same platform. With two numbered installments coming only a year and a half apart, then a handheld spinoff (new territory for WA) a mere seven months later, gamers were dancing in a monsoon of Wild ARMs games. With the way things were going, it would not have been foolish for someone to predict the release, or at least the announcement, of a sixth main-series to manifest within a year or two.

In fact, some clown did just that…except he disguised it as a Tokyo Game Show announcement to get hits for his new website. Or as he called it, the “Tokio Game Show.” Despite his obvious bullcrappery, a lot of people believed him like DeathWraith over at the Game Trailers forums, who argued until the bitter end of the thread that Wild ARMs 6 had been announced “as a fact,” he bolded, and that he would be laughing it up when he was rght and those questioning him were wrong. That was 14 months ago.

So here we are in late 2010 just as we were before the release of Wild ARMs 4, with over three years having passed since the release of a numbered series entry. Now, the usual length between numbered entries has been two to three years, so the current wait time alone is not alarming. What is more discouraging is that there is absolutely no news on the developement of a new title. If news of one breaks tomorrow, then it will probably be another year before the game is released stateside. Making such an announcement appear all the less likely, developer Media.Vision seems quite wrapped up in non-WA projects such as iPhone games and that shoddy Wizard of Oz game they pinched out. On the other hand, it has been a while since we’ve heard anything from Media.Vision about…anything at all, iPhone or otherwise, so there is a possibility out there. I’d say the possibility of Wild ARMs 6 being announced within 2011 is low, but certainly not out of the question and much better than Breath of Fire‘s slim chances.

As an RPG fan, I’d of course love for all three of these to be announced in short order. It’s been too long since I’ve braved the wastelands of Filgaia or romped around trying to meet everyone in Suikoden‘s famously huge cast; Breath of Fire is probably my game-by-game favorite series ever.

If the games are developed with quality as the top priority and marketed effectively, all of these number 6’s are potential money makers for their owners and dynamite gaming experiences for players. I just hope the right people wearng the right hats agree with me.

-Heath Hindman

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Topics: Breath of Fire VI, Editorials, Suikoden VI, Wild ARMs 6