If you’re old enough, you probably remember reading about weird Japanese games on your favorite magazines. Even then, importing those games was possible, but the amount of money that was necessary to purchase them was definitely a factor that prevented most people from getting them. More recently, digital distribution made it easier (and cheaper) for most people to buy those games, but there’s still a recurrent issue: language. With that in mind, I decided to make a list with ten titles that I wish were available in English. Maybe one day they’ll show up in this part of the world, but in the meantime, we should wish they were already here.
10. Pepsiman (PlayStation)
In Pepsiman, players assume the role Pepsi’s mascot, Pepsiman as he picks up Pepsi cans from vending machines and delivers them to thirsty people. The premise sounds ridiculous and the game isn’t that good either, but I still want to play it. As far as I know, the a significant part of the game is in English and there’s even an American narrator trying to convince people to drink Pepsi the whole time, so if you import it, you won’t have a problem understanding the game’s message (spoiler alert, the message involves drinking a dark, bubbly beverage.)
9. Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (Nintendo DS)
Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is the precursor to Elite Beat Agents. In the game, you play as a cheer squad known as Ouendan who helps random people in everyday life situations. Each situation has a specific song associated with it, so you need to tap hit markers, trace phrase markers or spin markers using the stylus so that the Ouendan can perform various actions that help people. Since the events portrayed in the game are deeply related to the Japanese culture, an English version will never come out in territories other than Japan.
8. Jump Ultimate Stars (Nintendo DS)
Jump Ultimate Stars (the sequel to Jump Super Stars) is a DS-exclusive 2D fighting game that features many characters from the Shonen Jump magazine. Due to the plethora of series that appear in the game (there are characters from Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Naruto, One Piece, Saint Seiya, Bleach, YuYu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter, among dozens of other properties,) international licensing issues prevented the game from being released outside of Japan.
7. Vib Ribbon (PlayStation)
Without a doubt, Vib Ribbon must be one of the simplest (yet most entertaining) rhythm games ever made. The game is made of a black screen and white lines. The white lines make the silhouette of a rabbit called Vibri who needs to run along a ribbon and jump over obstacles. The game loaded into RAM, so that the player could use any CD from his music collection to generate random levels.
6. Tobal 2 (PlayStation)
Tobal No. 1 was a one-on-one fighting game that’s still remembered for including the Final Fantasy VII demo. Due to this, nobody paid attention to the original Tobal, so Tobal 2 didn’t make it to America. Which is a shame because Tobal 2 was a highly praised game, especially when compared to its predecessor: it had better graphics, a vastly improved gameplay and a quest mode. By the way, Tobal 2 is considered the game with the largest character roster in a fighting game with over 200 playable characters. Another reason to bring it to the west.
5. Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3)
To a certain extent, the Monster Hunter series owes part of its success to the PlayStation Portable. If it wasn’t for the system’s power, great graphics and well, portability, Monster Hunter wouldn’t be as big as it’s today. Various games from the series came out for the portable system, including Monster Hunter Freedom, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, but Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (usually regarded as the pinnacle of the series on the PSP) didn’t make it to Sony’s portable. A high-definition remake called Monster Hunter Portable 3rd HD ver. was released, but only in Japan.
4. Valkyria Chronicles 3 (PlayStation Portable)
Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical role-playing game series, but unfortunately the third entry in the series (released in Japan for the PlayStation Portable) didn’t come out in America or Europe. Despite being critically acclaimed, neither the original nor Valkyria Chronicles 2 sold very well outside of Japan and taking into account that Valkyria Chronicles 3 came out when the PSP market was pretty much dead in most parts of the world, the third entry never made it outside of Japan. And that’s definitely a shame because the people who imported it said that Valkyria Chronicles 3 is a terrific tactical RPG.
3. Policenauts (NEC PC-9821, 3DO, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, PlayStation Network)
Created by Hideo Kojima (from Metal Gear Solid fame,) Policenauts is a cinematic adventure with a cyberpunk setting and a detective story. Originally released for the PC-9821 in 1994, the title was remade for the 3DO, PlayStation and Sega Saturn and none of those versions was released outside of Japan. As a way of celebrating Kojima’s 46th birthday, an unofficial English translation patch was released on August 24th, 2009. Sadly, that’s the closest we’ll get to an actual English localization.
2. Mother (NES, Game Boy Advance)
Although most people are familiar with Mother 2 (called Earthbound in America,) most people don’t know that neither the original Mother nor Mother 3 weren’t released in America. I really wanted to include Mother 3 on this list, but since Mother was the game that started the series, the latter has a priority. Mother is a zany and unconventional role-playing game that follows a psychic boy who sets out on a journey to explore mysterious phenomena. Back in the day, Nintendo of America planned a release in the west and the localization process was completed. Eventually though, marketing was pushed and the release of the game was put on hold indefinitely. A fan translation was released in 1998 by a translation group called Demiforce.
1. Final Fantasy Type-0 (PlayStation Portable)
I’m convinced that this game will eventually come out in territories other than Japan. Maybe it’ll come out as a downloadable game for the PSP, maybe it’ll be released as a Vita game or maybe as a $24.99 iOS title. Originally announced as Final Fantasy Agito XIII, the game was planned as a part of the Fabula Nova Cristallis mythology. Eventually, it became Final Fantasy Type-0, an action RPG similar to The 3rd Birthday or Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII where the player can control multiple characters. An English localization has been rumored for years, but as of this writing, the critically acclaimed portable game hasn’t come out outside of Japan.
For more information about Japan-exclusive video games, check out this list on Wikipedia.