These days, to any fan of Japanese games, it might seem that whether or not games get localized is completely up to a completely random shaking of a toy 8-Ball by localization companies. It can be tortuous at times, considering how much information flows between the continents thanks to the internet, to see the bounty of games that our friends back East seem to get that will never see an English release for. Indeed, sometimes the only options seem to be to either learn Japanese, or to have the patience and poise of the Buddha himself.
There are as many reasons for a lack of localization as there are unlocalized games out there; most of the times the games are too “Japanese” and any market in the west would be too niche and limited in scope to make the investment worthwhile. There are a number of notable examples of games that haven’t been localized, some condemned to never see western shores, and some with nothing but a gigantic question mark for their localization status. Some of the most exceptional games are listed therein, and as mentioned before, an 8 ball has been consulted about the chances of each game getting localized.
- Mother 3
Developed by: HAL Laboratory. Original Release Date: April 20, 2006.
Platform: Game Boy Advance. Genre: Role Playing Game.
Mother 3’s lack of localization is one of the most baffling in the industry. Nintendo generally has a good record of publishing their first party franchises worldwide, but Mother 3 has yet to see an official English release. The absence of Mother 3 is more puzzling due to the fact that the franchise, known as EarthBound in the West, enjoyed a tremendous resurgence in terms of popularity with two of their main characters featuring in the Smash Brothers games. Lucas and Ness are fan favorites in Nintendo’s multi-IP brawler.
Mother 3 follows the same formula as EarthBound, an incredibly charming and quirky game with lovable characters and a fairly imaginative plot. The game has few faults, and none of these are major or even significant. Critics of the game mostly focus on the lack of gameplay improvements from the previous game, but that really doesn’t detract from the fact that Mother 3 is a fantastic RPG that is a must-play for any Nintendo fan.
Thanks in no small part due to Lucas’s appearance in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, fans have been clamoring for at least a Virtual Console release of this cult GBA classic. Nintendo has been quiet so far, but with the recent release of EarthBound Origins, the previously unlocalized first game in the series, the future isn’t nearly as grim as you think.
8-Ball Localization Forecast: Outlook good.
- Ciel nosurge
Developed by: GUST. Original Release Date: April 26, 2012.
Platform: PlayStation Vita. Genre: Simulation.
I briefly talked about Ciel nosurge in a previous article, and the main reason this oddball of a game is listed is mostly because of the topic of said article, Ciel’s sequel, Ar nosurge. Both Ciel and Ar nosurge belong to the Surge Concerto series, and the way things stand right now in the west, the story of the Surge Concerto is woefully incomplete. For a series that focuses greatly on emotional storytelling and character development, the fact that half of the pie is missing doesn’t do these games any good. References to Ciel are lost in Ar, and it’s impossible to get the “ultimate” ending in the localized version of Ar, due to it requiring a data transfer from Ciel in order to be unlocked.
Being perfectly honest though, Ciel is not a game that could easily be localized. The scope of the script is massive, there’s thousands of lines with voiced dialogue and tens of thousands without. Not to mention, that the gameplay for Ciel isn’t exactly something that would’ve appealed to broad western audiences. Simply put, the game is like a highly complex and very immersive Tamagotchi. The heroine of the game, Ionasal Kkll Preciel, has lost her memories and it’s up to the player to coax them back by performing various tasks such as talking with Ionasal, “diving” into her subconscious, and creating fairies known as Sharl by scanning barcodes with the PS Vita’s camera. The game is extremely “smart”, and the longer it’s played the more Ionasal’s daily routine matches up with the player’s. This makes it easier to accomplish the goals of the game. Afterwards, save data can be transferred to the PS Vita or PS3 version of Ar nosurge to unlock additional content and the “ultimate” ending.
Unfortunately, Ciel’s lack of western draw ultimately condemned it. As Tecmo Koei has pretty much said that the game will remain a Japanese only release for the foreseeable future. Alas, the wonderful story of the Surge Concerto will remain halfway done in the western world. And the world is perhaps a bit darker because of it.
8-Ball Localization Forecast: Very doubtful.
- Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter and Third Chapter
Developed by: Falcom. Original Release Date: June 28, 2007.
Platform: Windows PC, PSP, PSV. Genre: Role Playing Game.
It’s downright unfortunate what has been happening to the Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky series in the west. The first part of Trails in the Sky was released stateside back in March 2011 by XSEED Games, a whole 5 years after its original release in Japan. In 2011, the PSP was already in its death throes as a platform in North America, and it came to no surprise to anyone that Trails in the Sky had a fairly poor performance in terms of sales. Nevertheless, the game was something special despite its age. Trails in the Sky had lovable characters, a very interesting setting, layers of complexity in its innocuous looking battle system, and a promise of things to come. Trails in the Sky was nothing but a fantastic prelude to the next two episodes in the series which garnered even more praise and near universal acclaim in Japan. XSEED Games promised that the localization for the second game would be forthcoming relatively shortly after the first one… but it’s been almost six years, and we’ve yet to see a release for it.
Now, this isn’t to say that XSEED Games is to blame for this debacle. XSEED has been in the forefront of Japanese game localization ever since they started as a company and they deserve the utmost respect. Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter has a massive script and there’s a monstrous amount of dialogue, menus, battle scenes, etcetera to translate. Considering how the first game wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves, XSEED wasn’t able to put as many resources into translating the sequel as they would’ve liked to. And so we wait.
8-Ball Localization Forecast: Signs point to yes.
- Fatal Frame 4: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse
Developed by: Grasshopper Mfr. Original Release Date: July 31, 2008.
Platform: Nintendo Wii. Genre: Survival Horror.
The Fatal Frame series is close to many a horror fan’s heart. The pulse pounding suspense, the relative weakness of the protagonists, the encroaching terror of the supernatural all create an experience that’s uncomfortably hard to describe. Fatal Frame enjoyed moderate success in the west, with critics praising its unique mechanics and intensely creepy atmosphere. There were three games released for the PlayStation 2, but as survival horror declined as a genre, so did the sales for Fatal Frame in the west. Once Tecmo decided to jump platforms from Sony’s Playstation brand to Nintendo’s Wii system for Fatal Frame 4, the game was not released in North America.
Nintendo of America and Tecmo seem to have had communication issues over the game, as Tecmo had stated that NoA were the publishers for Fatal Frame 4 outside of Japan, but Reggie Fils-Aime stated in an interview with “MTV Multiplayer” that “[Nintendo of America is] not the publisher of that title in the Americas. So I can’t comment on it…”
Horror fans were deprived of the pleasure of playing Fatal Frame 4, be it by corporate shenanigans or another ulterior motive. The game will most likely never see an official localization effort, but not everything is lost, as the sequel to Fatal Frame 4 has been confirmed for a worldwide release this October. Fans of the franchise will finally be able to fight evil spirits with the Camera Obscura one more time on the Wii U.
8-Ball Localization Forecast: My reply is no.
- God Eater 2
Developed by: Shift, Namco-Bandai. Original Release Date: November 14, 2013.
Platform: PlayStation 4, PSV. Genre: Action Role Playing Game.
Namco-Bandai’s God Eater is an absolute phenomenon in Japan; there’s statues of the giant enemy monsters scattered throughout Akihabara, an anime series by legendary animation studio ufotable, more merchandise than you can shake a stick at, and of course, the games themselves and their many expansions and spinoffs. All of this makes it perplexing that Namco-Bandai’s only effort to bring God Eater to the west was with the localization of the very first game. Admittedly, the game did not do the greatest in terms of sales due to it being released for the PSP way past the prime of the device. Regardless of poor sales, God Eater gathered a tremendous cult following in the west.
The series is fantastic in nearly every aspect; it integrated the meticulous and pattern-based combat of Monster Hunter while making it extremely fast paced, along with having an interesting and original story with memorable characters. Composer Go Shiina of Tales of Legendia, Tekken 6, and Ace Combat fame was in charge of the scores throughout the series, and it shows on the excellent soundtrack that is present in every single game; featuring big names such as Donna Burke, and May J.
So far, Namco-Bandai has been completely silent about God Eater 2 and the remake of the first game coming to the English speaking world. There hasn’t even been a peep coming from them in the matter, and considering their previous track record with some games, that’s not particularly encouraging. But not localizing a franchise as popular as God Eater seems to be a blunder of terrifying proportions that one can only hope Namco-Bandai doesn’t make.
8-Ball Localization Forecast: Reply hazy try again.
Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!