Where have all the RPGs gone?

What do the games in the banner above have in common? They’re all RPGs that have little to no chance of being released in North America. Now what do the platforms have in common? They have really good games that were released near the end of their life cycles that are being passed by when it comes to being released outside of Japan.

As we draw closer to the end of the Wii’s life cycle, Nintendo is focusing less and less on the console and focusing more on the 3DS and upcoming Wii U. However, that hasn’t stopped a few games from being released by the company over in Japan. Of particular note are some RPGs that break the mold of how current generation RPGs are presented. Surely these will sell really well in North America, right? Well, there’s a problem. It seems Nintendo of America has absolutely no interest in releasing most of these games in North America. Over the years of the Wii’s lifetime, NoA has had a really bad habit of keeping several games from being released here, resulting in them staying either in Japan or even Europe.

Which brings me to this question: If Nintendo of Europe is deciding to release several titles over there, why is it such a problem for NoA to do the same here? Think about this for a moment. When NoE decides to release a game in the PAL territory, it has to not only release an English language version, but one for various other languages including Spanish, French, Italian and German. That’s a lot of time, effort and money needed to be put in for that kind of work. So if the work’s already being done, what’s the big problem? If anything, there’s a bigger risk for NoE when it comes to shipping a title than there is for NoA. So there really is no excuse to decline the release of something already being translated in English.

Recently, it was confirmed that NoE would be releasing Xenoblade and The Last Story. NoA had announced Xenoblade two years ago when it was originally titled “Monado” in Japan. As of 2011, it’s still listed as “Monado” and was never mentioned again. NoE apparently wanted to show the game off at this year’s E3, but NoA apparently did not want to show off any games they were not going to be releasing. This isn’t the first time NoA has opted to not release titles with heavy demand from the import crowd. Nintendo’s own Fire Emblem series had not seen one game released in the west, even with protagonists Marth and Roy appearing as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee. It wasn’t until two years later where North American players got their hands on their first Fire Emblem title for the Game Boy Advance. Five additional titles were released afterward and it seemed like the series would finally get to become a regular among Nintendo franchises being released in the west.

Unfortunately, such is not the case. Last year, a remake of the first Super Famicom Fire Emblem title was released on the Nintendo DS in Japan. It was not only a remake, but a sequel to the previous DS title and offered character customization features and the ability to disable permanent death among characters. The game has not been released outside of Japan, nor are there any plans to do so. Even more unfortunate is the timing. Mother fans may remember that the release of Mother 3 came at a time when Nintendo was transitioning from the Game Boy Advance to the Nintendo DS. More focus was placed on DS titles, while the GBA lineup grew smaller and smaller, with most support coming from third parties. The DS’ time is coming to a close as Nintendo begins to focus more on the 3DS. This means the chances of the more recent Fire Emblem title to be released on the DS in the west are slim to none, as Nintendo has only chosen a small handful of games to release for the DS, including a new Kirby title and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 which had already been out in Japan for quite some time.

It seems like we’ve regressed back to the 16-bit days, where developers were being choosy about what to spend their time and money on to translate and bring over to the west. A time where RPGs were only released a handful at a time. It also doesn’t seem to be limited to just Nintendo, either, as third party companies are doing the same thing. Notably, the localized releases of DS remake of Dragon Quest VI and newcomer Dragon Quest IX were not published by Square-Enix but by Nintendo! In fact, after the localized release of the DS remake for Dragon Quest V, Square-Enix appears to have stopped publishing any video game featuring Dragon Quest characters. Evident enough when Nintendo was the one to reveal the new Wii release of Fortune Street, which hadn’t even been revealed in Japan until the announcement at E3 this year. Dragon Quest is Square-Enix’s largest, most financially successful franchise, yet they opt not to continue supporting the series in the west. Though this does make one wonder why Nintendo believes games such as Xenoblade and The Last Story won’t sell in North America, but Fortune Street will. Another example would be Valkyria Chronicles III, which seems to be completely missing in any kind of release schedule by Sega.

Valkyria Chronicles was a series that started off very slow, but built up hype by word of mouth from the fans. It resulted in DLC being released for the title, followed by a sequel on the PSP. Both titles were released in the west, brought in some great reviews and some decent sales. However, the third title seems to be stuck in Japan, with no word on any possible release. You would figure Sega would know what the fans want, especially after the amount of effort fans put into making sure Sega knew they wanted to keep getting more localized releases of the Yakuza series, after it seemed like Sega was giving up on ever releasing anything beyond the second title outside of Japan.

Sadly, RPGs don’t seem to be only ones missing in action these days. In fact, there seems to be a large drought of Japanese games being released in the western market. Notably, Captain Rainbow which is a sort of parody title that places the player in the shoes of a has-been super hero, who once had a popular TV show, who goes to an island that is said to make dreams and wishes come true. Among the various people the player runs into are minor Nintendo characters that have received little to no screen time over the years, including Birdo, Little Mac, Lip (of Panel de Pon) and even the Devil from Devil World. While the game was given a good rating in Japan, it sold poorly, which likely resulted in there never being a western release. Of most important note is Zangeki no Reginleiv​, which has also been completely ignored by Nintendo’s western sections.

It’s a hack-and-slash title based on the Ragnarok story of Norse mythology, that allowed the use of any Wii control setup and four player online play. With the pitiful amount of online games the Wii has to offer, it’s a mystery why they never attempted to release this. Could it possibly have been because the game was too bloody for a western release and cause it to be one of Nintendo’s very first M-rated releases? Who knows? Capcom also isn’t helping, when they decided that they would not be releasing the sequel to Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth outside of Japan, despite having released every Ace Attorney title so far, including the Wii and iOS ports.

All in all, it’s getting very tiring. After watching E3 this year, it’s become obvious Japanese games are becoming less and less common and more of a rarity. The gaming industry has become completely flooded with titles by western developers that feel it’s best to play it safe and only release what sells. There’s no more risk taking being made these days in the west. No one seems to be putting their foot down and saying “Okay, we have enough of these games. Let’s try some of these.” It’s getting to the point where it no longer matters what platform you have as you’ll find almost every game on either one, as evident by the list of titles shown off for the Wii U at E3. I miss the days of when companies like Working Designs actually released titles you normally wouldn’t find outside of Japan. And really, I will ask this once again.

If Nintendo of Europe is going through the process of localizing Xenoblade and The Last Story into English, then what possible reason could there be to not release them in North America? Because the Wii U is coming out? That would have to be a terrible excuse, as we don’t have a price or an actual hint of a release date for the Wii U aside from 2012.

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One comment on “Where have all the RPGs gone?

  1. A Guy for the UK.

    Most of the Localisation done wouldn’t prevent a US release. I mean our Wii Consoles and most but not all our TVs support the US and Japanese TV 60Hz standard, in addition to our own PAL 50Hz Standard. They have to Translate it to English anyway, at least the Text and Subtitles.

    It’s strange, for XenoBlade to be considered for EU release, with a fan chosen cover. All but 1 of the other games with Xeno- haven’t made it over here. Even then they messed it up by only bringing XenoSaga 2, and only packing a DVD which has a summarised version of XenoSaga 1.

    Well, NOE have redone some of the Localisation of Professor Layton, all of Lukes’ lines have been redone. Not only that they re did the cover art, which actually makes them easy to find.

    UK Trailer: http://youtu.be/_cGE31hb51o
    US Trailer: http://youtu.be/n4Pj59qV6YU

    Let me tell you UK Luke sounds better to British ears, and believable for being a Londoner. The Voice actress does a lot of UK TV Cartoons, and is one of those voices you hear lot. (See the “outtakes” in Cars 1 with Mack at the Movies)

    I’ve got to throw PS2 game Naruto Ultimate Ninja 5/JP: Shippuden 2 – It got a UK release, and lacks the US voices due to the lack US release. But I can see that being down to the fact that Sony was trying not let the PS2 until after 10 years, and Namco having really weird localising policy.

    Most of Europe anyway gets subtitles for their games, and several TV programs are subtitled anyway, when shown in several contries. One of my Parents Favourite programs is from Sweden and subtitled when shown in Britain. Several of the Games in Europe, use the English Voice overs. There are some Spanish videos of a game using the US Voices.

    There was not much that I didn’t already know before E3 that was announced. The only News I found interesting was that Smash Bros is in Pre-production.

    We get lots of games that are sold in the US that don’t make to Europe.

    Well, this in the country that got FF6 after I was playing the US Pokémon Diamond for a few months already.

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