Games Meet Metal: Passionate Musings of A Japanophile: Impressive Games That Need Localization

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Passionate Musings of A Japanophile: Impressive Games That Need Localization

If you've seen my blogs on 1up, you'd know that I'm not quite comfortable with where the industry is heading. As I articulated before, I feel this is largely the result of the growing influence that Microsoft (and Western development in general) are having on console gaming. To clarify, I see a slow and gradating shift towards a Hollywood and dudebro centric market. As someone who is not only the exact opposite of that, but values gaming as a mode of escapism from real world stress and this insufferable American society, this would be a bonafide nightmare scenario for yours truly.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying that there aren't Japanese devs/games that take themselves too seriously (see: Metal Gear, recent Final Fantasy games, etc). Nor am I implicating that Western developers don't know how to get in touch with their psychedelic (aka creative) side, as the Rayman, Prince of Persia, and, love it or hate it, God of War series immediately stand out in that respect.

But I am digressing. These are games that I feel have the potential to be import-only gems on par with Secret of Mana 2, the majority of the Goemon series, and many, many others.

Xenoblade

Admittedly, I did not think much of this game when it was initially revealed at E3 2009. At the time, I thought of it as the Conduit of Wii RPGs: an attempt to appease a desperate and starved fanbase with an exercise in sheer mediocrity, banality, and piss poor art direction. Of course, that was before I saw some of the trailers released earlier in the year. The sheer scale and polish on display (especially for a Wii game) had my jaw nailed to the floor. I saw the nigh perfect review scores upon its release in Japan and I was instantly hyped. But THEN I remembered who the publisher was, and subsequently became overwhelmed with feelings of cynicism and bitterness due to the fact that we'll probably never see it released here. Nintendo have an obscenely bad track record when it comes to localization these days. Hell, they've already shafted two relatively high profile Monolith games already! When I say bad track record, I'm talking Namco levels of horribleness. At least the high sales of the game in Japan could convince Nintendo to give it a shake.

Tales of Graces/Hearts/Vesperia PS3/or any future Tales games for that matter

Speak of the devil, Namco are arguably the undisputed kings of bad business practices. I'm seriously baffled that these guys haven't given up the ghost yet, when they have such a penchant for making idiotic decisions that are just jaw dropping in their utter stupidity. That said, Namco actually were not too shabby last generation. They finally gave the Tales series a serious push in the West (albeit with the help and encouragement of Nintendo), as well as adequately managing their contemporary roster of big hitters like Soul Calibur. And they even succeeded against overwhelming odds in making the unabashedly Japanese Katamari Damacy for PS2 a success in the States. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

So what happened? Tales games were a pretty big success last generation, and it seemed like they were well on their way to becoming a serious contender for most popular JRPG in the West. Now they can't even bring over the PS3 version of a critically (and from what I hear, commercially) acclaimed installment in what is (err, was) probably their biggest franchise, when it would have cost them almost nothing to do so considering that it was already translated. It's like they pulled a Saturn-era Sega and just got so overconfident that they started throwing their best decision makers (not to mention logic) completely out the window.

TL;DR version: I don't have high hopes for any of the above Tales games coming out here. Sad, but the unfortunate truth.

Ninokuni PS3

The possibility that this might not come out here is giving me an aneurysm. Just watch the youtube video of the PS3 version, and you'll immediately see what I mean. I'm like a fish out of water without games like this. Although I do have reasonable doubt that they won't leave it in Japan, since Level-5 recently opened up an American branch to get more of their games out in the Americas.

The Last Story

Yet another Nintendo published JRPG, only this time it's from the legendary Hironobu Sakaguchi. It's true that he's had some missteps (particularly in recent years), but for all intents and purposes, I would consider him the Shigeru Miyamoto of JRPG development. The early concept art had me foaming at the mouth for a preview trailer and a release date. It had many of the things I sorely missed from the good old days of Squaresoft. Those things being a nice vibrant art direction, absolutely NO STEAMPUNK INFLUENCE, and a shit load of heart. Regarding the latter, the man himself said that he's treating this game as if it were his last, and is pouring at least 120 percent of his efforts into this title. The recently revealed gameplay trailer, although a tad bleak compared to the concept art, made the game look like it's gonna be a winner. I have mixed feelings on the potential of this being passed up for localization. While Nintendo of America's reputation does precede them, I feel like it would be perceived as a huge insult to Sakaguchi if they were to pass this game up.

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