Games You’ll Never Play

Ever see a game that you liked, but you couldn’t play it because it was in Japan only? Doesn’t that piss you off? Don’t you ever get the urge to learn Japanese just so you won’t miss out on games that you’ll never play otherwise? I do, and I’m quite sick of it.

The first time I ever wanted to play an import game began with this game. Now, before you say “but we already got this game..it’s for the SNES,” let me tell you that the SNES version is NOT the same. The SNES version is a dumbed-down version of the Turbo Duo game that we should have gotten. I have to say that no port is better than a half-assed port.

The game above is just one of the many games I would like to see released here. There is absolutely no reason we shouldn’t be seeing these games make it to North America…well, the Japanese can keep this one. Eek. Anyway, I can’t be the only one who wanted to play games like Fire Emblem, Star Ocean 1, heck, even Vib-Ribbon, which is probably the most original game I’ve ever seen and read about, but unfortunately, have never played. Please don’t tell me you never felt like playing this game, especially after playing the SNES classic Secret of Mana.

So, Why Aren’t We Playing These Games?
Why aren’t we seeing these games make it over to Western shores? Well, in the case of Vib-Ribbon, it’s probably “too weird” for us gamers. What’s worse, the sales of certain “weird” games–such as Sega’s Seaman–can back up such claims. As for the other games like Seiken Densetsu 3 (sequel to Secret of Mana), I don’t have a damn clue.

Last year, I sent an e-mail to Konami about the possibility of re-releasing the real Dracula X (yes, I still want the game). The reply I received was beyond unfavourable…go see for yourself. What’s even worse about the reply I got was that they released Castlevania Chronicles at that time, making Konami’s response all the more BS. I suppose some games don’t make it because of a console’s life span nearing its end, but then that shouldn’t stop any developer from releasing their games on another system, right? I mean, we did get Final Fantasy Anthology, which included the never-before-played Final Fantasy V. Then there’s Final Fantasy Collection, which brought us the real Final Fantasy IV, and not the watered-down FFII on the SNES. You see, it’s amazing how Squaresoft re-released those two games on the PlayStation, yet we did not see Seiken Densetsu 3, Live A Live, Romancing SaGa…you know, games that most of us haven’t played before. Why?

Maybe developers feel that these games may not sell well, but how would they know that? Did Square know beforehand that the original Final Fantasy would sell well? How do these games get popular in the first place? By shipping them out to the market (i.e. the gamers), and letting us decide if we like the game or not. Saying that the game is “out of print” (see my e-mail to Konami) is a load of crap! Come on, Enix…you gave us Dragon Warrior 1-4, and 7…so where’s 5 and 6? How about it, Atlus…you gave us Eternal Punishment, yet we did not Sin!

Are There Any Solutions?
I think the honest truth is that we’ll never see a lot of these games make it to North America, ever. I can’t possibly be the only one who wants to play all of these games on current systems (Soul Hackers, anyone?). There are some solutions to the problem…well, two potential solutions and one illegal solution. I’ll start with the latter.

1. Emulation
If you’re any kind of a gamer, then you probably know what emulation is. For those not in the know, emulation (in this case) is the technique of playing games on a platform it wasn’t intended to be played on (e.g. playing SNES games on your PC). Emulation is a common problem in this day and age, but if you ever wanted to play a game that you couldn’t play otherwise (i.e. can’t read Japanese), then this is a possible solution. There exists Web sites whose sole purpose is to translate Japanese games, and make them available for gamers to download (either the ROM or the patch to translate the ROM). The thinking behind these ROM hackers is that they’re “fighting for our cause,” since the developers of import games don’t release these games themselves. So, if you ever wanted to play Seiken Densetsu 3 in English, you can.

2. The GBA factor
I feel that the Game Boy Advance is a potential solution to the import game problem, especially for past 16-bit games. It’s no secret that the GBA has almost all the big-name developers under the sun; its support rivals that of the support for the PlayStation 2. It’d be great if Capcom released Rockman & Forte, which is arguably the most difficult Mega Man game since the original. Now that Enix is onboard the Nintendo bandwagon, we could get the Dragon Warrior games we’ve never played. Konami would do well to re-release the second game in the popular Metal Gear series, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Hey, if developers can re-release games that we’ve played years ago, then surely they can dig up some buried 16-bit games in their offices and touch them up for both the new generation of gamers, and for us old-schoolers who can’t get that part of us out of our systems. It’d be a win/win situation, because: 1)It’s not “just a port”; 2)developers know what the Game Boy userbase is like, so imagine the money they could make releasing their Japanese titles here. Shoot, someone‘s buying all those 3DO games on PS2, otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing them. Now that cartridge production costs are cheaper, developers have more reason to consider re-releasing their old games so they can get the credit that is due, and not just have us gamers admire them from afar (or play the games on our PCs…).

3. Fresh Games
You should know by now what Eidos Interactive’s new brand is about. I’ve never really given Eidos much attention before, but I will now, if their Fresh Games brand is to be believed. At first, the Japan-only PS2 game Ka (known as Mr. Mosquito) wasn’t scheduled to release in North America–probably because living the life of a mosquito is “too weird” or something. However, Fresh have snatched it up, and are bringing Ka, Mr. Maestro, and Legend of Legaia 2 to the West. Other developers (such as Atlus or Working Designs) occasionally release Japan-only games to North America, but Fresh Games exist solely for this purpose. You can imagine how much hope I have for playing some intriguing games. Of course, they might not all be good, but at least we’d be getting them, further diversifying our game library. If all goes well, Fresh Games could be a favourite among gamers, myself included.

So, What Now?
Two options:
1) We wait. We wait like a good Nintendo/Xbox fanboy. We wait and see if developers will get the point, and deliver the games we want. We should keep our eyes on Fresh Games, and see if they’re all that. I have my list of games I that I want to play, and surely you have yours. I want to see if Enix will take a gamble and release Dragon Warrior V and VI for the GBA. I want my Star Ocean, tri-Ace! I’m still waiting for Dracula X, Konami!

2) Bug the hell out of those developers. See a Japanese game you like? E-mail the developer, and get an automated message like I did (see my e-mail to Konami if you haven’t done so already)! Seriously though, there are developers who listen, and if they find that there’s enough demand for a game that’s never been released in the West, then they may consider excavating said game, and polishing it up real nice for eager consumers. Who knows…maybe if we bug Working Designs enough, we might end up with this, or a collection of every game in the series.

Is This The End?
Of my rant, yes. I really hope developers see this and realize that we don’t just want the Halos, the Final Fantasys or the Pokemons. Some of us want what the Japanese have exclusively; and man, there’s a lot to want.

Share the same feelings as I do? Or am I just a jaded old-school gamer? Whatever you think, post a reply above, or visit the GA Console Discussion forum!