I recently managed to finally get a game called Shadow Hearts on the PS2. I’ve been wanting to play this game for a while, but it’s been pretty difficult because it’s considered a rare game on the PS2 due to its limited release, and unlike several other games in this day and age, isn’t available on the PSN or any other digital game distributor. After years of hoping I’d find it–and if I did, that I’d find it at a decent price–it finally made its way into a favorite local game store of mine that I happened to have a gift card for. Due to its rarity and price though, I would’ve much rather have bought this game on a digital game distribution network like PSN or Steam, play it there, and then buy a physical copy if I ended up really liking it. Shadow Hearts is very much a hidden gem, and like many other underrated games, has managed to go under the radar of PSN and Steam for years. If its quality wasn’t enough to warrant putting it on a digital distribution network, then its rarity should. It’s very hard for new fans like myself to get into the franchise without emulation because the games are so hard to find–and because of their rarity, they’re usually pretty overpriced, too. Shadow Hearts is far from the only case of this happening to a game, though. There are many games right now that deserve to be put on PSN, Steam, Nintendo E-Shop, etc., especially as the modern market seems to heavily lean toward digital releases in the future. For some reason though, they simply aren’t there yet. Here are some other games such as Shadow Hearts that especially deserve to be made more accessible by being put on a digital distributor sooner rather than later.
The entire .hack franchise
I will sing the praises of .hack until the end of time. The .hack franchise–particularly the .hack//G.U. trilogy–is one of my favorite game series of all-time. This is why it breaks my heart all the more because this is such a difficult franchise for people to get into. There are two main series for .hack: The Infection quadrilogy and the G.U. trilogy. All of them are on the PS2. Each series had a pretty limited release, and the short of it is, they’re very expensive games. The first 3 games in the Infection series will cost you $20-$40 each depending on the condition, and then the final game, .hack//Quarantine, is worth about $150 if its in decent condition. Each game in the G.U. trilogy is worth between $60-$80 each depending on their condition. In total, you’d be spending at least $200 on the Infection series and $180 on the G.U. trilogy–$380 if you wanted them all. These games are amazing, but that’s just ridiculous. These games have a rather vocal cult following who all vehemently ask for an HD collection or digital re-release or some legal way of making these games more accessible. If nothing else, the G.U. trilogy turns 10 this year. What better way to celebrate than by breathing new life into an amazing franchise by bringing countless amounts of new fans into it?
Rule of Rose
If you thought $150 for a single .hack game sounded insane then strap in your seat belt because this game is undoubtedly the most expensive game on the PS2. Prices for Rule of Rose tend to run between $170-$350 depending on its condition. Why is it so expensive? First of all, it’s an Atlus game. Atlus games–especially at the time this came out (2006)–were pretty notorious for having low print runs despite generally being good games. Second, and there’s no way to sugar coat this so I’ll be plain about it, this game contains violent and sexual depictions of children akin to Lord of the Flies. Thankfully the sexual depictions are never explicit, but the implications are all there. It was banned in Italy and the UK, made European politicians want a re-evaluation of the PEGI rating system, and even got mentioned at the French National Assembly because of the moral controversy it caused. It even appeared in The Times.
It’s pretty easy to see why it almost wasn’t released in the States. After almost a year of court battles, it received a very limited English release–even by Atlus standards. On top of that, despite all its controversy it didn’t sell particularly well and received only lukewarm reception. It’s pretty easy to see now why it’s so expensive, right? I completely understand why Atlus probably wants to forget about this game and not start more controversy, but it’s because it’s such a controversial game is why I wish it were more accessible. Just as Lord of the Flies received lots of controversy at its time, so has Rule of Rose–yet despite this, that’s why a lot of people read it: To see what was so controversial about it. Rule of Rose is no different. After all, it’s not every day politicians try to ban a game as hard as they did Rule of Rose. With a price tag as hefty as Rule of Rose’s, it’s out of the question for almost anyone to play it without emulation, and I’m sure there are plenty of willing players out there who would pay the standard $10-$15 on PSN to add it to their library and see what all the fuss was about.
Any Fire Emblem game before Awakening
Many fans agree that Fire Emblem Awakening breathed new life into the Fire Emblem franchise once it released. A previously niche franchise with few fans in the States, the Fire Emblem games that came out prior to Awakening spiked in price once the popularity of Awakening started catching on in 2012–even more so when Super Smash Bro’s on the Wii U came out in 2014 featuring several Fire Emblem characters. Ever since, more and more fans have been clamoring for more accessible, budget-friendly ways to play the Fire Emblem games that were released before Awakening–and even ones that weren’t released in the States. This isn’t the first time Nintendo has ignored the cries of the devoted fan base of one of their beloved but outrageously expensive franchises, and it certainly won’t be the last. Nintendo seems to be adding a lot of notable games to the Virtual Console lately, so why not show some love to one of its older franchises that goes largely underappreciated by them? Between Awakening, Smash, and Fates, Fire Emblem is enjoying a well-earned streak of popularity right now: Strike the iron while it’s hot, Nintendo.
Skies of Arcadia
Oftentimes called one of the best JRPGs on the Dreamcast and Gamecube, it’s hard to believe that this game isn’t more available as it is. Whether it’s the original Dreamcast version or the enhanced Gamecube port, Skies of Arcadia is definitely one of the rarer games on both systems–but it’s far from forgotten, both by fans and by Sega. In fact, Sega gave cameos to the main characters of Skies of Arcadia in Valkyria Chronicles. Moreover, this game has a very devoted fan base keeping this game still frequently talked about to this day. Yet somehow, Sega still continues to bank on the shaky odds of success in producing new Sonic games rather than re-releasing one of their other most well-loved games that’s otherwise pretty difficult–not to mention pricey–to obtain. If Shenmue can get a sequel after all these years, then surely there must be hope for another wonderful Sega franchise that’s been forcibly overshadowed by Sonic.
Obviously, these aren’t the only games out there in desperate need of a digital re-release: Feel more than free to comment with other games that you think especially deserve a digital re-release and why. The common thread in the games I think most deserve to be made more accessible are that they’re hard to obtain physical copies of: They’re all rare, expensive, and generally at least 10 years old. If you have any other major reasons you’d like to see a certain game or a group of certain games getting re-released for, be sure and let us know.