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Left in Japan: The SNES edition

posted on July 26th, 2006 by jay

So many games never made it to our shores. Every once in a while, the sheer amount of gaming joy we missed out on is enough to choke me up. I’ve compiled a list of some of the more important ones and given a personal account of why it should’ve made it, what we missed out on, or other random crap. All of them are RPGs of some form or another and since today’s theme is untranslated SNES games, well, they’re all SNES games. Wait, shouldn’t that be Super Famicom then?

Zylo, is that you?

FEDA Emblem of Justice
I actually have the remake of this game for the Saturn. Unfortunately, it’s still in Japanese. It plays like Shining Force or Fire Emblem but with the ability to side with good or evil and recruit different characters based on your alliance. Besides being a SRPG, it also has the same character designer as Shining Force, Shining in the Darkness, Landstalker and Alundra (Yoshitaka Tamaki). The title screen of FEDA says it was made by Max, which sounds suspiciously like Climax and I recall reading that Climax did the programming for Shining Force but not the design, which was left to Camelot. So I think the point of this confusing blurb is that Climax took the engine they programmed for Shining Force and then decided to make their own game with it under a pseudonym. Fascinating!

Fire Emblem 6
For all the grandstanding I do about how games should be innovative and original, I still love the Fire Emblem series. If the series had been brought to us earlier I could’ve put the other famous SRPGs in a much better perspective and at the same time gotten my fill of Fire Emblem’s when I was a teenager.

Somehow this game has worse graphics than it’s Genesis predecessor.

Lady Stalker
Another Climax game, this action RPG has gotten mixed reviews. Still, it’s a sequel to Landstalker and Landstalker is a cult classic (a cult I happen to be in). The game after Lady Stalker, Dark Savior for the Saturn, is kind of crappy so it makes sense that Lady would be somewhere between the first and third game in quality.

Seiken Densetsu 3
A sequel to the mighty Secret of Mana but also a precursor to the significantly crappier Legend of Mana. So was it good? I still don’t know, but if it had come out years ago I would’ve picked it up. Perhaps it would’ve warned me about the downfall of the series, or perhaps it would’ve been super freaking awesome and made Legend an even bigger disappointment. Word on the street is that instead of giving us Seiken Densetsu 3, Square decided to have their American branch develop and sell us Secret of Evermore. How about both, would that have been so hard?

Romancing Saga
If we had had this game on the SNES in 1992, I never would have wasted my time on Saga Frontier. Although an open ended jRPG that long ago probably would’ve been very interesting even despite its shortcomings.

Final Tactics Ogre Tactics?

Tactics Ogre
Holy crap, look at how similar this game looks to Final Fantasy Tactics. Now I’m not saying I don’t adore Tactics, but how differently would I see it if I had played Tactics Ogre (which has the amusing subtitle “Let Us Cling Together”). And yes, the game was ported but is still very hard to find. And yes, the same guy directed both games. Still, imagine you played Super Mario World but never played SMB 3. World would seem like a complete miracle, like divine intervention in video game form.

Majin Tensei 2
Oh man, the Persona games. Or is Persona just a short run of the Tensei games? It’s all very confusing but made more so by the fact that so many of the titles in the series never made it to us. Take the Majin games, for example. They’re SRPGs and I love me some SRPGs. Missing out on huge chunks or entire runs of important series really blows.

Ys 5
Another important series we just weren’t lucky enough to get every game of. Ys 1 and 2 both came out in the states, though 2 is very hard to get because it only came out (bundled with 1) for the Turbo Duo, which even fewer people have than a Master System (which is how I played Ys 1). Falcom seems to have invented a machine that continually remakes and re-releases Ys games so if I’m wrong, I apologize, but I don’t think either version of Ys 4 came to America either. The Ys titles were basic action RPGs that have a cult following despite being arguably not that good. I really enjoyed 1 and 6, but it is easy to understand peoples confusion over the game when series like Zelda exist.

Look, kids, fun with numbers!

Langrisser 2
Ahh, Warsong. When I was a mere zygote I rented this title and it made me realize Shining Force wasn’t the beginning and end of the SRPG. Warsong looked worse, but it played just as well and had me controlling not only main characters (generals) but also generic soldiers who I needed to keep alive to defend my main characters. I should probably explain to everyone who isn’t me or Charles (shout out, holla, etc.) that Warsong is what Langrisser was called for the Genesis. Now I’m being condescending, though. A lot of people know what Warsong is. Well, one way or another, now everyone reading this knows. The evolution of the series interests me terribly so I’ve gotten a hold of a fan translation, but the damage of not having this series available in American (after the first game) has already been done. Strangely enough, the general system hasn’t been copied by many competitors so the Langrisser series is still viable. How about it Masaya (who I believe is no longer in business)? Oh, and I know the real Langrisser 2 came out only on the Megadrive, but Der Langrisser for the SNES is close enough.

So what is the real point of this self indulgent article? Well, partly to recommend games to fellow nerds. But then you guys probably already know about all of these. I think the most important implication of all of these high profile RPGs being left in Japan is that most gamers now have a fractured, incomplete understanding of the genre. How can we really understand what games are innovative, which are important, and which stole from previous titles if we have only some of the important RPGs? I find this to be extremely troubling. Would we regard Dragon Warrior with such respect if we had gotten Black Onyx? Would Final Fantasy 6 have floored us if we had played Final Fantasy 5? We can never know, and the number of untranslated Japanese RPGs remains staggeringly high so for many we will never even be able to play and ask, “Ok, pretend I played this 15 years ago. How would I have liked it?”

Support fan translations. This is a good place to start.

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