In light of the fact that we’ll be seeing the 3DS around into 2019, there’s plenty of time to hope for a localization or two. However, since what we know of the future of the system is pretty clear, now is a good time to check back in the past, and look at some games that maybe should have come out of Japan.
There’s many reasons games don’t get localized globally: cultural differences, regional interests, perceived lack of market, and so on. Some reasons are strictly internal within a publisher’s company, and we will never be privy to them. These five games are what I consider to be five genuinely lost opportunities. If we could see them get localized now, I’d be over the moon. But this wishlist is just that – a wishlist. Even if we somehow got one of these gems to come over, it might only be that one. But better one, than none at all.
Time Travelers (Level-5) (Original release: July 2012)
Released during one of the busiest release schedules in Level-5 history (in the middle of Ni no Kuni, Little Battlers eXperience, Fantasy Life, and numerous Inazuma Eleven and Professor Layton games), it’s not really surprising Time Travelers was overlooked for localization. The game is more along the lines of a visual novel/adventure game with choices to make and QTE’s to handle, along with lots of voice acting. Not the most successful genre in the west, but definitely one that can appeal to players if the choices are done well.
Level-5 also released Time Travelers on PSP and Vita at the same time, which probably soured Nintendo localizing it, unlike Professor Layton. Sony, who previously localized White Knight Chronicles for Level-5, probably wasn’t too thrilled either, since the trailers pointed to the 3DS being the game’s lead platform. This is unfortunate, because the story seems emotionally engrossing, and the hard sci-fi aesthetic is reminiscent of Akira. With such a large scope, I would be curious to know how Time Travelers would have been handled in the west.
E.X. Troopers (Capcom) (November 2012)
Strangely, despite being related to Lost Planet, this spin-off game never made it outside of Japan. Though it takes on an anime aesthetic, pretty much the opposite of the realistic look Lost Planet strives for, I don’t think a game like this would have confused the brand. Just call it Lost Planet: E.X. Troopers. In fact, Capcom could have turned the anime look into a strength – if they had released it as a downloadable title after Lost Planet 3 released, they might have lured in a bevy of new and old fans with such a different style and tone.
While some fans might be upset such a spin-off exists at all, I believe, since the core gameplay of shooting monster’s orange glowy-bits remains the same, this game would have had a Far Cry 3: Blood Dragoneffect, where using an extremely different style for a standalone expansion turned into a great success. Releasing it now will be a tougher sell, five years after Lost Planet’s last release, but why not also port it to PS4 and use the combination PSN/3DS release to see if anyone’s still interested? The game looks pretty fun, and anime-inspired titles are as popular as ever thanks to Persona and games like it. I dunno, Capcom. I still think it’s worth a shot.
Hero Bank (Sega) (March 2014)
Imagine you’re playing Animal Crossing, and you’re going deeply in debt to Tom Nook to buy a house. Except, instead of having you do menial tasks to pay it off, Tom suited you up in high-tech armor to fight for money. Something like this happens in Sega’s Hero Bank. Middle schooler Kaito Gosho signs a contract to rent a high powered suit to fight other people in cyberspace (a staple in this world), and accidentally goes 10 billion Yen in debt. He now has to use the suit to keep fighting others, with the help of his friends, to pay the money back. Produced by Toshihiro Nagoshi, the man behind Super Monkey Balland Yakuza, this game not only had a sequel; it also had a 51-episode anime, and a trading card game. While the media blitz combo of anime, trading card game, and video game converging on American at once hasn’t worked as well as in the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! days, dropping a localization on this now could surge interest in the 3DS again, if pulled off correctly.
Of course, that’s just speculation, and the thematic content could be a concern to some people. Kids fighting each other, exposing themselves to violence, feeling the brunt of the capitalist system – certain adults with an agenda would have a field day. Regardless, Hero Bank looks awesome enough to garner attention. The highlight of the trailer is the fighting system – it’s reminiscent of a wrestling game, including the ability to pin your opponent. I’m rather surprised Nintendo didn’t try giving this series a crack themselves – it definitely appeals to the same demographic who might want to play something other than Yokai Watch. Sega has such a wide variety of exciting and wacky IPs, it would be a shame to not see this one go worldwide.
Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodo Ryunosuke no Boken (Capcom) (July 2015)
This particular entry is a bit personal for me – I’m a huge fan of the Ace Attorney series. Stemming since the days of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, it feels as if Capcom hasn’t had the same enthusiasm for the series it used to have. On the 3DS in North America, the series has gone either unlocalized, or exclusively digital – Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney being the sole exception. Though we have gotten the fifth and sixth mainline Ace Attorney games, Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice, on the 3DS eshop, it doesn’t quite feel the same. The series’ exposure overseas has diminished, while in Japan, the series continues to thrive in other media.
Dai Gyakuten Saiban and its sequel’s lack of localization is particularly disappointing. Set as a prequel to the whole series, the game follows Phoenix Wright’s attorney ancestor as he travels from Japan to London to meet Sherlock Holmes and become the best attorney. The crossover with Professor Layton notwithstanding (and the cult hit Ghost Trick), this is the first game series creator Shu Takumi has taken the reigns for since Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. While the appearance of one man doesn’t guarantee a game’s success, I’ve found I tend to enjoy the Ace Attorney games he’s directed more than the ones he hasn’t. Maybe there will be an HD collection on Switch?
Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airou Village DX (Capcom/From Software) (September 2015)
I’d classify this as more interesting than anything – I don’t want to play it myself, I just want to see how people would react. Presented in side-scrolling fashion, players giver orders to a group of Felynes that have to tackle Monster Hunter favorites like the Rathalos in the least Monster Hunter like way. There is no direct control; the cats only take commands. Originally a PSP game, this game was developed by From Software, which I’m sure is a crossover dream for some players out there.
With the grand success of Monster Hunter World I don’t see a better time to try releasing a spin-off as silly as this. The Switch version of Monster Hunter Generations (Monster Hunter XX) might be a good candidate for localization now that Monster Hunter World has sold phenomenally, but that also means inexplicably getting rid of all the quality of life improvements that World made to the Monster Hunterformula. That might not be a good move to keep the train rolling, and if they decide to go back and implement the changes World made, they might as well just port World to Switch. So, then there’s this game – a Monster Hunter game that’s totally different, and starring the cute furry friends that have become the face of the series. I’m not sure fans will react well to it, but if there was ever a time for Capcom to localize it, it would be now.