Of course, the 3D RPG has gone in some pretty interesting directions here in the West. We now have games like Fallout: New Vegas, Oblivion, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age II. These are pretty far removed from the classics like Final Fantasy IV, but are still very much a part of the RPG genre.
But despite the 3D RPG becoming the industry standard, the 2D sprite-based RPG prevailed. The Nintendo DS was hugely instrumental in keeping this type of game alive well into the 21st century. In fact, 2D RPGs were still being released for the DS as recently as February of this year, including Radiant Historia and the re-release of Dragon Quest VI.
But the DS is hitting the end of its lifespan, to be replaced by the 3DS. The 3DS is a much more powerful piece of equipment than its predecessor, and has already been proven to be able to handle high-end adventure/shooter games like the Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil series.
With such a strong focus on 3D, the 3DS isn't as welcoming a device for the sprite-based RPG as the DS has been. This is going to make it less worth the developers' time to bring the 2D RPGs we love to this new console.
And to make matters worse, the 3DS is region-coded, meaning a console purchased in the United States may not play titles imported from Japan. Japan has always been a RPG powerhouse, and a lot of the Japanese RPGs we've come to love in the West originally became popular as imports. Not having the option to import these great games is going to mean that it will be a lot harder for Japanese RPGs to find any sort of following in the West.
My prediction: Nintendo's 3DS will not focus as heavily on 2D RPGs as the DS once did. These games are going to be much harder to acquire in Europe and the United States and will see a quick and drastic decline. And the prevalence of uninspired 16-bit RPGs in the low-budget and free-to-play markets is not helping the genre at all.
While there will always be the oldies to go back to, top-notch 2D RPGs will most likely be a thing of the past very soon. And this will be an enormous loss to the world of video games.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*