As the new school year kicks in, a new group of students will soon be hard at work finding ways to avoid writing papers and watching lectures they’ve slept through, and just finding ways to waste the hours as effectively as possible. Fortunately, the Switch is currently an absolute treasure trove of time pits of the RPG variant.
If you’re thinking of putting off that assignment a little longer, say 80 to 100 hours or more, check out some of the most recent games that make the Switch a procrastinator’s paradise, despite its age.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
As someone who wasn’t really intrigued by the first in this series and actually loved the anime excesses of the second (and I say this as a Genshin Impact player), I can’t say I was really that hyped for Xenoblade Chronicles 3. But this game has its hooks in me and I’m in it for the long haul.
A big open-world RPG with rather MMO-esque combat and perhaps more systems than I’ve seen in any game except Horizon: Forbidden West, XC3 is overwhelming from the start and keeps you piling up new stuff for decades. The difference is that a lot of optional, streamlined, or impossible can go wrong, meaning it piles up possibilities for you to participate, no pitfalls if you don’t.
Developer Monolith Soft is clearly pushing the Switch to its limits, and there are times when you forget you’re playing on five-year-old hardware that was a bit outdated when it made its debut. But compared to its open-world peers, it definitely lacks reliability, so if that’s important to you I’m afraid it’s not going to work – next-gen this isn’t.
But the real star of the game is the characters, the writing and the story – I was worried that the ragtag team of rebels you control would be generic or tropey, but they’re actually great, really funny and real, and the story is compelling, complex and quite long. Accept the maximalistic nature of the thing and go with the flow, and you’ll soon find yourself being sucked in the way I’ve been. (But change the language to Japanese so you don’t get overwhelmed by barking mid-battle.)
From the makers of the beautiful, but slightly annoying Octopath Traveler, Triangle Strategy (like its predecessor, a working title that stuck) brings the beautiful “HD-2D” look to a long, story-focused tactical RPG.
The set-up sounds a little dry: three countries navigate an uneasy peace after a war over salt and iron (the Saltiron War), and you play the scion of a noble house promised to marry a princess from one of the rival nations. . But it won’t come as a surprise to learn that this is all going to hell quickly and is quickly turning into a high-stakes military and political game. You will have to make increasingly difficult decisions about which course to take, and the results of these decisions can be quite devastating.
I was very impressed with the quality of the story and writing in this game – in a tactical RPG you often come across the story just as an excuse to take the player from one battle to another, but in Triangle Strategy split your time more or less evenly between long – extremely long, to be fair – fully voiced cutscenes (switch language to Japanese, trust me) and grid-based battles.
It took me tens of hours to get through this and I enjoyed every last bit, although I’m not sure I’d play it again, as it clearly hopes you will; unlike Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the storyline is largely the same every time (albeit with some serious points of divergence). This one let me sit for an hour “episode” thinking about the different sections pretty much every night.
Fire Emblem: Three Hopes
If you liked Fire Emblem: Three Houses but felt a little too detached from the combat, Three Hopes is for you.
This conversion of the iconic JRPG tactical series into the “musou” genre with its ridiculous, explosive battles with hundreds of soldiers in the air is surprisingly successful. While it lacks the level of socialization and other RPG mechanics that made Three Houses such a rich experience, and the story isn’t quite as immersive, you can take control of your favorite student soldiers and wreak all-powerful havoc on enemy armies. That alone is fun.
The moment-to-moment action feels a bit mindless as you’ll be doing the same sort of thing over and over, but the layer of strategy on top of that keeps things fresh. Sure, you’re just going through everyone with Petra anyway, but who’s going to support her? Who do you trust to take a crucial bottleneck without your help? Which units resist the enemy units best, and how should you strike or prepare for the unexpected?
Three Hopes is a power fantasy and the difficulty is so judiciously distributed that you rarely feel really challenged unless you want to increase the difficulty. I thought it was a great way to rest an hour, always ready to take on another mission to cross the line in a new class or grab some extra material to update my facilities. If you haven’t played the original game, be sure to do so first, but this is an easy recommendation for anyone who has.
Persona 5 Strikers
Very similar to Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, Persona 5 Strikers turns P5’s turn-based combat into an extraordinarily immersive action pack. I’m only a little bit into this one and had to stop to review a few other games, but just a few missions into it already made it clear that far from being a cash grab on the power of a great RPG, this game is an excellent title in its own right – and equally complex.
You’ll definitely want to have played Persona 5 before playing this one, as it’s basically a direct sequel. And you may also want to clear your schedule because like its predecessor, this game is long! (It’s also on PS4 and Steam, FYI.)
Don’t forget that the other Persona games are also coming to Switch. I personally can’t wait for P3P. There goes another month of my life.
An “HD-2D” remake of a 16-bit classic that will have seen little play outside of Japan (it came before the director’s big hit, Chrono Trigger), this is more of a time capsule than anything, but in in every way a classic worth playing through like the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series. While it probably won’t dethrone CT or FFVI as the reigning SNES JPRG champion, it should be a great time for anyone who has enjoyed these games. It was probably too weird for American consumption in its day, which probably means it’s just right for now. How often does such an explosion from the past occur? OK, quite often these days, but this is a hot one.
Tactic Ogre Remastered
Tactics Ogre may have an odd name, but it’s considered the grandfather of tactics games, sharing the throne with Final Fantasy Tactics as basically the unsurpassed originals. The game’s merits have been proven time and time again for years, but I’ve never played it – the best version was unfortunately on the ill-fated PSP.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about this game and am curious about the origins of this genre; if this comes out I will set aside a week or two to continue plowing.
Another, semi-real-time take on the tactics genre, this is a more free form of grid-less, turn-free combat game. Doesn’t that just mean it’s a real-time strategy? Maybe… a little… but maybe not. With a style and focus borrowed from FFT, Tactics Ogre and others in the genre, Diofield looks like a fresh take that gives the player a little more freedom of movement. A demo is available, but as is usually the case, it only gives you a small fraction of what to expect.
And you better believe it’s going to take a long time!
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
The latest mainline Pokémon games are about to hit this winter. We’ll see how they compare to the somewhat disappointing Sword/Shield and surprisingly good Legends: Arceus, but millions will buy them anyway. The reveal of Pokémon that you ride and have wheels, but spin despite having wheels, has raised some concerns that this iteration of the series isn’t by Game Freak’s A-team… but others suggest that the developer might not to have an A team.
All I know is I have to give that Quaxly! My child!