We live in a world, gaming-wise, where it’s pretty unusual for a video game -
especially from a big publisher/developer – to stay exclusive to one territory. There’s still some really bizarre stuff made in Japan that doesn’t make it overseas (but usually, I don’t think many people care), but for the most part everything is shared. Heck, when an “erotic anime-style puzzle game” like Catherine can make it to the US, all bets should be off.
Yet for whatever reason, Nintendo of all people haven’t gotten the message. But some fans have finally had enough, and want to make sure Nintendo gets the message loud and clear.
Xenoblade (originally announced years ago for an English release as Monado: Beginning of the World), The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower are all RPGs for Nintendo’s Wii console, and they’re all published by Nintendo themselves in Japan.
They all also appear to be quite good.
Xenoblade received a 36/40 from the esteemed Famitsu magazine (higher, even, then the legendary Xenogears, which shared the same game director), and has been called one of the best RPGs on a Nintendo console in a long while.
The Last Story, from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi‘s Mistwalker Studio, got a 38/40, and is similarly praised as being an amazing RPG experience unlike anything North American Wii owners have experienced.
Pandora’s Tower, the most recent release (having just come out in Japan last month) got 31/40, which while not mind-blowing is still quite respectable.
Yet all of these games are not planned for North American release. Fans had hoped for at least a mention of them at Nintendo’s E3 press conference, but to no avail. They were ignored entirely.
Some fans had finally decided they had enough. Very wisely, they realized that most complaints in the past – like most complaints the video game industry deals with – only came in the form of forum posts and online petitions, which rarely if ever carry any weight with developers. If they really wanted to make a difference, they would have to go the extra mile. And taking a cue from campaigns that saved TV shows like “Chuck” in the past, they decided to organize on IGN.com’s boards to write letters, send e-mails and make calls. They want to flood Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the Internet with a call to arms. You want games? Then ask the people in charge to give them to you.
The most recent organized movement calls itself Operation Rainfall, and so far it seems to be doing a pretty good job of getting the word out there.
Even better, someone had the bright idea to put their money where their mouth is. An Amazon page for Xenoblade was created ages ago for its announced name of Monado: Beginning of the World. So fans decided to pre-order it, driving the game up on Amazon’s sales rankings from the bottom of the barrel to as high as they could get it.
They got it to #1, beating games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Call of Duty: Black Ops. I, too, pre-ordered the game, hoping to send a signal to Nintendo. Hopefully it’s working. A #1 sales ranking on Amazon is surely hard to ignore, right?
The Wii lineup for the remainder of 2011 and early 2012 isn’t looking too great. There’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which will probably be awesome. There’s a new Kirby game which I’m sure will at least be good. And then there’s… what? Not much of anything. Granted, Nintendo will want us to start shifting our focus to their upcoming console, the Wii U, but that’s probably at least a year away (an early 2012 launch is possible, but perhaps not likely). Nintendo has absolutely no excuse to not pad its release schedule a bit with games designed for the “core gaming audience” it claims to care so much about, particularly when it has these great titles ready and waiting for localization.
Heck, Xenoblade is in the process of being localized in English for Nintendo of Europe. So that work is already being done. Why on earth would Nintendo of America not agree to publish it here?
I’m young, but I vaguely remember the dark ages of the Super Nintendo, when Final Fantasy VI came to North America as “Final Fantasy III,” because we had outright missed three games in the series that were never translated into English. Before the days of broadband and Internet dominance, a lot of people lived in blissful ignorance of this fact, and many were very confused when Final Fantasy VII showed up on our shores as, well, Final Fantasy VII. They didn’t know where games 4-6 went.
But gaming is huge all over the world, now, and most publishers know that they can make at least a few bucks by localizing big games and bringing them to places like North America and Europe. Sometimes you’ll even have a case like Oendan, a rhythm game that was very Japanese and featured Japanese music. That got brought over as Elite Beat Agents, which was really a brand new game, made with a more American audience in mind. Granted, it sold horribly, which may be part of Nintendo’s hesitation to release a few new games here.
Still, this isn’t the first time Nintendo has withheld quality games from its North American audience, even when faced with a literal drought of good Wii games for the “hardcore” audience.
Fatal Frame IV, a Wii exclusive, was released in Japan to a lot of praise. It was
rumored to be at least making its way to Europe, with a North American release seeming likely (the other three Fatal Frame games had be released here, albeit for non-Nintendo platforms), but then it got stuck in this weird limbo where Nintendo of America said, “Tecmo has the publishing rights. It’s their game, so it’s their call,” while Tecmo said, “Uhhh, no. Nintendo has the rights to publish it in America. They just chose not to.” For that game, a group of dedicated, desperate fans created an English patch that could be used with an imported Japanese copy of the game (Note to self: I still need to get the money to import that thing myself).
Mother 3 is another game that fans clamored for for years, to no avail. And even though Nintendo has pushed to start bringing its popular Fire Emblem series over here in more recent years, the most recent DS remake of an older game has never even been hinted at for an English release.
Now, obviously Nintendo isn’t just saying “screw you” to its audience for no reason. The company legitimately thinks that the demand for these games doesn’t exist in America, and thus its not worth the time and trouble to bring this stuff over. However, in the case of games like Xenoblade and The Last Story, I can’t see why they don’t at least say, “Hey, this is worth a shot.” You’ve got acclaimed studios and names that hardcore gamers recognize making games for a system that’s literally starving for hardcore content. Nintendo has billions in the bank. They can afford the risk.
To their credit, Nintendo may have taken notice of this recent campaign pretty quickly. Their official Twitter and Facebook pages posted this message on Sunday afternoon:
“Hey fans, we appreciate your enthusiasm. Look for more updates to come soon!”
Is that a good sign? Are they really talking about Operation Rainfall and those with similar goals? Are they talking about all three games, or are they just going to bring over Xenoblade and hope that’s enough to quiet the mob?
Personally, I’m optimistic this time. Nintendo has disappointed me in the past, but I think they know that the current Wii lineup is severely lacking, and seeing organized groups dedicated to a game’s release might be enough to convince them to do the work.
If all goes as planned, we could be playing some great Wii RPGs come fall, winter or at least spring. If you really want some stuff to play on that Wii you have that’s collecting dust, consider spreading the word on Twitter if you’re not up to sending snail mail.