By: Steve MacDougall, contributor
You’re probably aware that not every country gets the same games. There are a number of reasons for that, usually dealing with translation costs. But sometimes a game that gets made in Japan gets completely translated, and still doesn’t come to the US. This list is for the five most notable games that were translated and came to Europe, and exist in English, but never made their way to North America. A few games have finally come to NA via PSN or Virtual Console some 20 years or so later, and I didn’t count those games for this list, so if you’re wondering why Kuru Kuru Kururin or Vib Ribbon aren’t here, that’s why. I also didn’t count games that came here on different systems, such as how North America never got the Dreamcast version of Shenmue 2, but we got it for Xbox. And if anyone in Europe is reading this, please note that I am completely aware that Europe, not NA, is the continent that usually gets shafted in these situations. if you read through the list of games that came to NA that Europe never got you’d be astounded. Basically any good RPG before 1997 they never got, or wouldn’t get until digital releases, among others. Maybe that will be a top five for another day.. Anyway, happy Friday to you all, and enjoy the list!
5) Forbidden Siren 2 (2006, PlayStation 2)
Forbidden Siren 2 is the sequel to the PS2 first-party game Siren. It was regarded as a decent but flawed horror game with issues with the controls, and a trial-by-error system that became frustrating. FS2 fixes most of these issues, cuts down on the escort missions, improves the map and adds an easy mode for players who found the original too difficult. The story tells of a group of characters that become stranded on Yamijima island in 1976. Now, in 2005, a journalist named Mamoru Isuki is conducting research on the island and begins to discover the hidden truths of the island. While not considered quite as scary as the first game, FS2 is still very creepy. The main mechanic is ‘the sightjack’ which allows you to see and hear from the perspectives of NPCs in the game. In the original game you had to select a specific frequency for each character you wanted to sightjack. In FS2 you just automatically target the closest character.
Why wasn’t this game localized? It’s hard to say. It was a first-party Sony title, they localized both the original game and the third (and final) game that came out on PS3 a few years later. (Though the PS3 game is kind of just a re-imagining of the first game that adopts some of the improvements that FS2 added to the series). I guess execs at SoA just figured the game wouldn’t sell well enough. An excuse that rings fairly hollow considering the game was both already made AND translated – how many would they have needed to sell to be profitable, really?
4) Gregory Horror Show (2003, PlayStation 2)
Gregory Horror Show is a PS2 game published by Capcom and based on the Japanese CGI anime series of the same name. The game puts you in control or a male or female character who winds up in a hotel room with no way out until Death appears and tells you that you have to collect the souls of all the guests in the hotel for him and then he will show you the way out. To get the guests souls, you spy on the NPCs who will gossip and give you information that you can use to figure out what to do to get their souls. After you have their soul you need to avoid them because they will angrily hunt you down if they see you. Fortunately you have a very useful map that tells you where all the characters are at all times. The game is basically the definition of quirky. It’s got a strange art style and is funny and weird.
As for why this game was never localized, you’re probably guessing it’s because the anime series was only released in Europe and Japan. Well, no. The show did run in the US, and actually didn’t run in Europe (as far as I can tell). So I really can’t tell you why we didn’t get this game. Too bad, it was just the kind of title that made the PS2 so awesome back in the day.
3) Disaster: Day of Crisis (2008, Wii)
Developed by Monolith Software (Xenoblade, Baten Kaitos), Disaster is an eclectic mishmash of ideas and game styles. Part exploration game, part driving game, part light-gun game, with other styles thrown in for good measure, Disaster is not easily lumped into one category. It follows the story of former U.S. Marine Raymond Bryce (that’s right, a U.S. Marine in a game that never came to the US!) on a mission to recover stolen nukes and rescue his dead partner’s sister (Because you know, just the stolen nukes themselves weren’t motivation enough) The game is a bit of an acquired taste, it’s not for everyone, but it’s Monolith, that alone makes it worth checking out in my book.
Why a first party Nintendo game wasn’t released here, I really couldn’t say for sure. One theory I’ve heard is the box art is too evocative of 9/11, but that strikes me as ridiculous, since great European box art almost never makes it to the US anyway (Seriously, go look at 10 different versions of the same game and realize that 8 out of 10 times the European art is better (And 1 out of ten times, the European art is better but you’re so used to the US art that you can’t admit it)) Changing the box art shouldn’t have been a problem at all. It happens all the time. So I can’t quite buy that as an excuse. This was around the time the project rainfall games that almost didn’t come to the US were released on the Wii, and of course we never got Another Code R (which didn’t make this list because we didn’t need two games by Cing) So Nintend of America was definitely going through a phase where they weren’t always sure they wanted to release games here.
2) Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (2010, Nintendo DS)
Do you guys remember that great DS game, Hotel Dusk? Remember how awesome that was? [Editor’s note: Yes, yes I do!] Well this is the sequel, and it’s apparently just as good as the original, but you wouldn’t know that, because we never saw this game. Last Window wound up being the swan song for developer Cing (a cult-favorite developer who also made the Another Code/Trace Memory games and Little King Story). It once again stars Kyle Hyde, this time in a new location: The Cape West Apartments. The game isn’t a huge departure from the original. You once again conduct investigations that involve interrogations and problem solving. There is one piece of good news involving this game, and that’s that it is importable. DS games were still region free, so even playing it on a DSi or (I believe) 3DS will work, because it was the games themselves that were region free. The bad news, well…it’s not cheap on EBay.
1) Terranigma (1996, Super NES)
Terranigma has long been the white whale of North American RPG fans. It’s the final game of a three game ‘trilogy’ that began with Soul Blazer and concluded with Illusion of Gaia. Though it’s referred to as the ‘Soul Blazer trilogy’ these games aren’t actually related, they’re just all SNES RPGs made by the same developer (Quintet). Like Soul Blazer and Gaia (and Zelda, likely the original inspiration), Terranigma is a top-down, meaty action-RPG that carries over some of the town-building elements of Quintet’s previous two games and has a phenomenal soundtrack. The story follows a young boy named Ark who accidentally freezes his entire village. So his quest begins with Ark initially seeking to unfreeze the people of his village, but of course finds himself involved in bigger and bigger plots as he ventures on.
Why didn’t we get it? Well, it released in Japan in October 1995 and in Europe in December 1996, which is after the launch of the Nintendo 64, so that’s probably the main reason. It just came out too late, and there were already so many good RPG’s on the SNES at that time, that Nintendo of America probably just didn’t think it was worth it, which is a real shame.
Okay Europe, go ahead and brag…what else did you get that we didn’t that we should be jealous of? Tell us about it below!