We are so spoiled today as RPG fans. Seriously. There's the occasional high-profile title we either don't get in English (or it takes a while), but by and large, most major titles make their way outside of Japan now. We're a long way from the days when North America got two thirds of the Quintet Super NES trilogy and Europe got the third game, despite missing out on even more RPGs than we did at the time. For many of the games we missed out on, it's best to move on, especially if there's no viable (or exactly legal) way to play certain games in English.
But some games... some we still want. So for this month's RPGFan 20th Anniversary feature, we're looking back at games that released during the site's lifespan that have yet to see official English localizations. Yes, of course, we're going to talk about Mother 3, and how, well over 2 years later, yes, we still are dying to play a game where Phoenix Wright's ancestor and Sherlock Holmes team up. So let our staff make their cases for why these games still need to be brought to a wider audience.
Note: We briefly considered breaking our "20 year" rule, but it wouldn't have been true to the spirit of this feature. We still want Policenauts and Seiken Densetsu 3 here, but we'll talk about them later.
by Patrick Gann
Today, the Atelier series is well-represented in North America, with every main entry since Project A6 (Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana) having been localized. The first five titles, however, have never been released in English. Granted, it could be argued that the first three games — Atelier Marie, Elie, and Lilie, collectively known as the "Salburg" trilogy — have not aged well. The same couldn't easily be said of the "Gramnad" duo, Atelier Judie (A4) and Atelier Viorate (A5). Not only were these games released for PlayStation 2 in the early part of the '00 decade, each earned a well-received PSP re-release at the end of that same decade. The gameplay style of Judie and Viorate sets the standard for Iris, which began to move the franchise toward a more combat-heavy JRPG, whereas the "Salburg" trilogy felt less like a traditional JRPG and more like a Harvest Moon game with heavy synthesis factors. Hopefully if Gust does another remake of the Gramnad duo on a platform more viable today than PSP, Koei Tecmo can finally bring these classics to the West.
by Tris Mendoza
What happens when Ace Attorney goes steampunk? Well, we get a game that's still waiting to be localized. Dai Gyakuten Saiban is a prequel to the main Ace Attorney series that takes place in the Victorian era and follows the life of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō, an exchange student with an aptitude for law who often finds himself on the wrong end of it simply due to bad timing and rotten luck. Oh! Did we mention he is Phoenix Wright's ancestor? Genes of justice sure are dominant in this lineage. During his trip to the United Kingdom, Ryūnosuke meets Sherlock Holmes and the pair work together to bring justice to England's crime-infested streets. There has been much speculation as to why this hasn't been localized yet, but the real reason remains a mystery. Guess this is one thing that's not so elementary.
by Nathan Lee
Fire Emblem's first Western release was Fire Emblem on Game Boy Advance in 2003, known in Japan as Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade. This game introduced us to Hector and Lyn, two of the Fire Emblem communities' favourite characters. However, remember Eliwood? He's the father of Roy, who made his first appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001. So, where's Roy? He hails from Fire Emblem: Binding Blade*, which was never released in the West. It's been a bit of a tease for some of us who were introduced to Roy back in Super Smash Bros, but still haven't seen the game he appeared in. Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade and Fire Emblem: Binding Blade are two halves that make a whole story, yet one half of the story remains overseas.
* Note: "Fūin no Tsurugi" can be localized as "Binding Blade," though in English releases of Super Smash Bros., Nintendo refers to Roy's origin game as "Sword of Seals."
After Love-de-Lic disbanded (see below), its core staff went off in a number of different directions. Company founder Kenichi Nishi went on to form skip Ltd., a developer no doubt familiar to Chibi-Robo fans. But skip were responsible for a wonderful pair of adventure games that aaaaaalmost got localized!
GiFTPiA is something akin to a story-heavy Animal Crossing — teenager Pockle slept through his coming-of-age ceremony, and finds himself punished by his town: he's thrown in jail, a ball-and-chain is attached to his leg, his face is pixelated, and the background music is a gravely record that skips and gets stuck. Doing chores and quests for your neighbors is the sure-fire way to get your privileges restored little by little, and your main goal is to get the scratch required to host a second coming-of-age ceremony. But as GiFTPiA goes on, it starts to become apparent to Pockle that perhaps he's being conned, and there's a more positive and helpful way than an expensive ceremony to the take the reigns of adulthood...
Captain Rainbow is a sequel to GiFTPiA in everything but name, and sees the titular washed-up superhero journey to Mimin Island, A.K.A The Island of Misfit Nintendo Characters, in an effort to make his dreams come true and recapture his fleeting relevance. As he makes friends with everybody from Super Mario Bros. 2's Birdo, to the, err, golfer from Golf, Captain Rainbow starts to find there's more to life than wistfully looking to the past for reinforcement. skip's early releases are as subversive as they are sweet, and we'd love to see them in the West.
by Tris Mendoza
Gyakuten Kenji is the direct sequel to the first Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (AAI for short). AAI is a spin-off from the main series and features Miles Edgeworth, a prominent prosecutor from the original franchise. Whereas the main series explores why Phoenix Wright became a defense attorney, AAI's cases are designed to show Edgeworth finding his motivation for being a prosecutor. This duality, however, falls incredibly short of being well-executed because AAI is only half of the story. What is the SS-5 incident and its importance to the game? Why does Shi-Long Lang harbor such strong hatred towards prosecutors? Who are those two characters on the Japanese box art of Gyakuten Kenji 2? We have so many questions, and this game has all the answers. So please Capcom, for the love of the Steel Samurai and Charley, localize this along with both Dai Gyakuten Saiban games. It's the WRIGHT thing to do! (We couldn't think of any WORTHY puns for Edgeworth... besides that.)
NIS America have a pretty solid track record of bringing Nippon Ichi titles westward, but there's an entire franchise that remains exclusive to Japan. Hayarigami (lit. "Trending Spirit") is a series of horror visual novels that chronicle the adventures of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's Historical Archives Section (HAS). On paper, HAS is a division where disgraced cops are sent to file endless paperwork under the pretense of archival work. In actuality, they're an X-Files-esque division that allows the MPD to investigate urban legends and paranormal phenomena on the down-low. As you step into the shoes of HAS investigator Junya Kazami, you won't just be reading a spooky story, but making decisions on how to interpret evidence, which can lead to a number of different outcomes for each individual case. A database and a case flowchart support your investigation, and also allow insight into how things might go differently on repeat playthroughs. You've also got Courage Points to manage; expend them all too early investigating a red herring, and you may not have the guts to face the truth later on. But courage in the face of danger may not always be the best option...
Hayarigami has more than its share of similarities to Spike Chunsoft's Twilight Syndrome series, a name Danganronpa 2 fans are sure to remember from a certain chapter within that game. Furthermore, a number of Hayarigami's scenario writers went on to collaborate with 999's Kotaro Uchikoshi on 12Riven before helming the critically acclaimed Science Adventure Series (Steins;Gate, etc.). With how popular these respective titles turned out to be, we'd love to see NIS America give Hayarigami a shot. Perhaps with the recent Shin Hayarigami reboot duo, which are currently being ported to iOS/Android at the time of this feature's publication...
by Scott Clay
Falcom games have some of the most loyal and devoted fans, and for a good reason: their games are fantastic. The Kiseki games, also known in the West as Trails, are no exception to that rule. In just the last few years, the West has finally started to get localizations of these RPGs in the form of Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel. Both are excellent parts of the overall series in their own right, but a problem has occurred that has caused fans of the series to worry a bit; there exists a third set of games in the series, nicknamed the Crossbell games, that take place between Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel, and they have yet to be localized. What makes it hard to swallow for fans in the West is that characters from Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki are slowly making their way into the Cold Steel games. In a series where continuity is very strict, and many characters from each game make appearances elsewhere in the series, it's harder for fans to ignore these games while also waiting for localizations of Cold Steel III and the upcoming Cold Steel IV. Hopefully, when the series finally reaches its climax, Western fans of the Kiseki games will not have to worry about this. Until then, we can only wait.
Love-de-Lic may have only released three games over the course of four years before disbanding, but their output was incredibly unique, important, and influential, which makes it triply tragic that none of their games saw a release outside Japan.
First, there was Moon: Remix RPG Adventure, in which a young boy is sucked into the world of his favorite RPG. It turns out the supposedly courageous hero is, in actuality, a selfish jerk content to harass the townsfolk for clues on how to complete his quest day in and day out, and slaughter any fauna that stand in his way. The boy realises he must "gain love, not levels," and embarks on a quest to bring this love to every being within the game. Undertale-who?
Next up is UFO: A Day in the Life, a proto-Chulip in which a UFO crash-lands into a not-so-ordinary apartment building. The aliens' leader, MOTHER, tasks a cute lil' UFO on an expedition to the building to photograph proof that the missing aliens are present. The only problem is, the aliens are invisible, so you have to rely on spotting any anomalies, tenants' startled reactions, or bizarre events that seem to occur without any discernible reason. Once you bring the negatives back to MOTHER, she, err, promptly eats them, and if your reconnaissance was successful, you're given access to more places and times of day within the apartment block. Part adventure game, part puzzler, UFO: A Day in the Life is all charming.
Last, but not least, there's L.O.L: Lack of Love, an evolution adventure for Dreamcast. Featuring soundtrack and scenario both penned by YMO's Ryuichi Sakamoto, L.O.L follows on from UFO's theme and begins with a lonely robot who lands on an alien planet with the aim of terraforming it to be fit for human life. However, the player does not control the robot, but rather a new lifeform as it hatches from an egg. The goals are survival and evolution, and how the lifeform chooses to interact with its ecosystem governs how this will play out, whether that be ascribing to survival-of-the-fittest or fostering symbiotic relationships with other beings. Interactions in L.O.L are discerned through movement, sound, and body language, rather than text or speech. The lack of language means there's no language barrier; unfortunately a low print run makes L.O.L the hardest Love-de-Lic game to get hold of. This one's a no-brainer for a re-release.
Three incredibly forward thinking games, years ahead of their time. The spirit of Love-de-Lic is still very much alive in their alumni's creations; particularly Dandy Dungeon, Million Onion Hotel, and the Chibi Robo series, but it would be nice to see the work that started it all in English one day.
There's an early sequence in Mother 3 that really sets the stage for what's to come. The game is mostly set in and around Tazmily Village, a laid-back town whose residents share their skills and provide services to each other out of the goodness of their hearts. It's a warm-hearted, if not quiet place, but things are soon thrown into disarray by the arrival of the Pig Mask Army. The thing about the Pig Mask Army is they're not your run-of-the-mill Evil Empire; they arrive with smiles on their faces to teach the residents of Tazmily about money, industry, and consumerism. It's at this point that the villagers stop cooperating and start charging. From then on, Mother 3 concerns the transformation of Tazmily into a bustling tourist trap where only the rich survive, while the poor, rightful citizens are segregated to a slum prison out of sight and out of mind.
It's quite the turning point, and an unexpected one, at that. While Itoi had included touches of his wry observations of society within EarthBound, Mother 3 is unabashedly a Marxist polemic against late-stage capitalism. It's incredibly well-played, thoughtful, and quite anti-Nintendo; no doubt a big factor as to why Mother 3 still hasn't received an official English release twelve years down the line. However, that doesn't mean we'll stop asking. Ever.
The DS action RPG Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime was a fun diversion from the series' traditional turn-based combat. The plucky slime Rocket uses a giant tank to save his homeland and rescue his 100 Slime friends and family from a dastardly mob of other Dragon Quest monsters in a fresh, humorous adaptation of Dragon Quest concepts.
But were you aware that Rocket Slime was the second game of a trilogy?
Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest is the official title of this sub-series, and it had GBA and 3DS entries in addition to the localized DS game. The GBA version is a little less involved than Rocket Slime, but the 3DS MoriMori 3 features visual upgrades and replaces tank gameplay with pirate ship battles. Non-Japanese Dragon Quest fans in general, and Rocket Slime fans in particular, missed out.
by Scott Clay
Final Fantasy isn't the only series that has had problems with game title numbering as games reached the West. The Tales of series had a big issue in this regard as well. Western RPG fans got their first taste of the series with Tales of Destiny in 1998, then Tales of Destiny II in 2001. Well, sorry to mislead, but that's not true. What the West really got in 2001 was Tales of Eternia, which was then renamed Tales of Destiny II to entice fans of the original to buy the game. The problem with this is that, in 2002, Namco developed an actual Tales of Destiny 2 (with no Roman numeral) for PS2 that was a real sequel to Tales of Destiny. Set 18 years after the events of Tales of Destiny, the game stars Kyle Dunamis, the child of Stahn and Rutee from the original game, off on his adventure.
It's a great game with a pretty cool plot, but unfortunately, Tales of Destiny 2 never saw the light of day in the West. Was it because of the naming fiasco? Or maybe it was the fear of poor sales? We may never really know for sure. What stings even more is that Namco had a second chance to bring it over in 2007 when the game was ported to the PSP; by this time the Tales of series was well established in the West after Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss became breakout hits. But alas, it remains one of the best Tales of games that Western audiences never got to enjoy.
by Alana Hagues
Given the Tales of series' popularity nowadays, it's strange to think there was a time when we were lucky to get one game in the West every three years. Rebirth was just one of the many victims of the Namco noughties negligence, and in part that might be down to the series' shift to 3D graphics with the previous entry, Tales of Symphonia. Meanwhile, Rebirth sticks to 2D sprites which are absolutely gorgeous. The frantic battles showcase the game's stunning visuals perfectly — colours burst across the screen, and character movements are fluid and smooth — and watching any gameplay video is likely enough to make you want to play it right away! In traditional Tales of fashion, the combat is called the Three-Line Linear Motion Battle System, which means your characters can swap between three different planes on the battlefield. This is critical to your success. The story is typical Tales of fare about love, friendship, and racism, but in a world this gorgeous, and with combat this explosive, there's no way we can let Namco get away without localising this any longer.
Like Tales of Destiny 2, Rebirth got a PSP port in 2008 which didn't make it over here either. Thankfully the series is much more plentiful over this side of the world now, so it's about time to right some wrongs, Namco.
This title is NOT related to 1984's "Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom," which is an entirely different vegetable-themed tale with a delightful title. Tomato Adventure is a standalone RPG made by AlphaDream, whose outpost post-Tomato Adventure is mostly the popular Mario & Luigi RPGs for Nintendo handheld systems. You can see some Mario & Luigi DNA in Tomato Adventure, in which items called "Gimmicks" execute special attacks with unique mini-games, just like the Bros. Attacks in most of the Mario & Luigi titles. Unlike Mario & Luigi, Tomato Adventure stars a boy named DeMille, who is an exile of the Ketchup Kingdom because he hates tomatoes, the most revered food in the land which even has its own dedicated holiday. DeMille must overcome his dislike of the red fruit to rescue his girlfriend and save Ketchup Kingdom. This game needs a Switch remake as soon as possible, and since it actually hit the Japanese Wii U eShop, Tomato Kingdom has not been forgotten by Nintendo.
by Alana Hagues
The first Valkyria Chronicles is one of the best strategy games ever, and this series is a hot SEGA property right now. Ignoring the dismal Valkyria Revolution, these strategy RPGs are innovative, exciting and a blast to play. So, with Valkyria Chronicles 4 on the horizon, it's high time Sega released this PSP gem to fill in the gap in the West. The events of Valkyria Chronicles 3 happen in tandem with those of the first game, and follow a penal military unit called The Nameless who undertake only the most dangerous missions for the Gallian Army. VC3 retains the gorgeous watercolour and comic strip art style of the previous entries, and most of the gameplay elements from 2 have been brought over and fine-tuned for a more satisfying experience. Many people claim Valkyria Chronicles 3 to be the best in the series for its complex characters, refined gameplay, and difficulty curve, but while the series' popularity has finally been recognised, the fact we're still missing what might be the crowning achievement seems unthinkable. Just think what it would be like to see the Gallian war from the eyes of criminals who are working to become heroes. And if this ever crosses your minds, SEGA, since the fourth game is coming out on Switch, perhaps Nintendo's console would make a good home for a port of this PSP classic?