Although this generation has seen the flourishing of Western game development, there are still plenty of gems being released in Japan, some of which never reached other regions. Here are my top five picks of the huge lot of unlocalized games that are successful enough in their homeland or have a large enough following to warrant a localization.
5. Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki
Suikoden is the less popular little brother of the Final Fantasy Series—published by Konami, it has always published high-quality games that somehow stayed out of the spotlight. Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki (which translates to Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century) is no exception when it comes to the quality of the game, and the trademark 108 recruitable characters returns from the rest of the series. Released for the PSP on February 9, 2012 (less than half a year ago), Konami still has yet to make a comment on its localization.
4. Tales of Xillia
Out of the entire Tales of series, Tales of Xillia has the highest critical scores from Famitsu, and the highest-selling entry since Tales of Destiny 2. It also diverges from the main series and displays graphics from a regular third-person perspective, rather than an overhead view. The game was so successful that it even spawned a sequel, Tales of Xillia 2, that will release in November this year. Why the game never saw a release in other regions is a mystery.
3. Pandora’s Tower
Part of Operation Rainfall, this game is the only one of the three to never see a North American release, despite the operation’s successful protests. The other two games, Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, both saw international release, but Pandora’s Tower only received a release in Australia and Europe. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the games weren’t region-locked—but since they are, there is currently no way for North Americans to play Pandora’s Tower on their own systems.
2. Mother 3
Mother 3 is the sequel to Earthbound and has quite a cult following. Although the gameplay is similar to past installments, it offers a completely new set of characters and plot. There was a fan-made English translation distributed online, but it’s always better to play games on their actual systems, rather than an emulator. Because of its release at the end of the Gameboy Advance’s lifetime, the game never saw a release outside of Japan, despite its critical success and consumer popularity. Now that the 3DS and Wii can easily digitally distribute games, now might be a good time to finally release it.
1. Fatal Frame/Project Zero 4
Fatal Frame 4 remains one of the Wii’s best games, even without localization. It has beautiful graphics, an intriguing storyline, and the camera controls perfectly suit the Wii. However, Nintendo bought out the rights to the IP, and will not offer financial assistance for the localization, even though the game is one of the most successful in the series. The only way for people in North America, Australia, or Europe to play this game is through a fan-made English patch—and even then, there are still a few bugs to contend with.
Obviously there are some boundaries to bringing the games over to other regions—the games have to be translated, or the games have to be ported to different systems, and that takes up resources that some developers don’t have and some publishers aren’t willing to risk. However, these games are quite popular and bound to be successful, so their status as unlocalized in certain regions is definitely disappointing.