Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Journey to the West: Games from Japan that don't quite make the trip.

Japan. Home of the gods (of gaming). The source of countless video games that are enjoyed in North America, at least after they've translated and given a new voice-over cast. China and Korea also both share in the glory of being the source of many popular games.

But not everything makes it to the west. And it's not just the odd games, like Boong-Ga Boong-Ga (a game about poking your finger up someone's rear end) that don't get approval for release over here. Even some of the bigger titles, which have already had earlier releases her have been denied access.

The Warriors Orochi series, a spin-off that combines characters from the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games, was quite a success in North America. While not as huge a hit as the various games are in Japan, they still got respectable sales, as well as a demand for more from the fans.

Warriors Orochi 2 was eventually released in North America, again getting a decent reception for a niche game. However, Warriors Orochi Z, which was essentially a PS3 upgrade of the previous PS2 games incorporating both original games into a compilation with enhanced graphics and extra features, never made it to the west. The North American and European releases were cancelled, making it the first Omega Force Warriors title to not get an overseas release.

Some speculate that it was a lack of sales which caused the decision. However the demand for the games, and the outcry at not getting a localized version, were still quite loud. Fortunately, the PS3 is not region locked, so importing games is easy enough. The problem being that if you don't actually speak and read Japanese, understanding the games can be difficult.

Now Warriors Orochi 3 is on its way. Sort of.
The game now has 132 characters. KOEI has decided against hiring voice actors to cover the translation for all characters, leaving the game with Japanese voice overs while the writing is translated to English. The game will be released in the UK in disc format. Which is great for them. Unfortunately for those of us in North America, we won't be seeing the game on shelves. According to Sony's licensing regulations for PS3 titles, a game which contains no English voice acting options is not allowed to be released as an on-disc version. Instead, the game will be available through the North American PlayStation Network. So digital is the only option available.

While the simple fact that we're getting the game over here is great news, it's disappointing to know that we won't be able to buy a physical copy unless we import it from Europe. For those who have limited space on their system, requiring a full download of a large game like this will cause problems. Many simply won't have the hard drive space to handle it.

And then there's the issues of downloadable content. While games on PS3 are not region locked, DLC is. So if you do decide to import a UK copy of the game, you'll have to set up a European account on your system to be able to access the European PSN for any DLC that is released. Again, for some this can be problematic.

This isn't the only game facing such issues. Way of the Samurai 4, the latest installment of another popular series, seems to be heading down the same path. While fans have been happy to hear that the game which was released in March of 2011 is finally getting a European release (being made possible by Rising Star Games), the American fans are still left waiting.

Rising Star Games has announced that they will be opening a new office in the United States. This has brought hope to American fans of WotS series, who hope that this will lead to a U.S. release of the latest game. Only time will tell.

There have been many other titles which have gone through this ordeal. Titles that fans have had to import from other countries simply because they weren't released the world over. The reasons for these decisions are usually never announced, though most suspect it being a simple matter of sales figures. While the games will make some profit with western releases, the companies see it as not being enough to invest in localization. Sometimes the pleas (or threats) of the fanbase has swayed the decision of the game companies, but sadly the majority of these cries fall on deaf ears.

If your favourite games don't seem to be getting a release in your region, be sure to speak up and make yourself heard. Contact the game companies and let them know that the demand is there, and that their efforts in delivering great games is appreciated, even if the sales might not reach what they do overseas. Sometimes one voice is all it takes to tip the balance.

Good luck, and happy gaming.

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