Friday, December 2, 2011

Many Games We Miss Out On

As I demonstrated in my previous post, I have a copy of Namco X Capcom ("X" is pronounced "Cross") for the Playstation 2 that I purchased while visiting Japan. This was a game I had been anticipating many years since I found out about it back when I mostly watched the TV channel G4 (G4 Tech TV back then).

Namco X Capcom is a crossover ("X-over"?) game that includes characters from both Namco and Capcom franchises and was published by Namco. The game overall works as a tactical RPG with units being either solo characters or teams of two, but when a unit/team engages another, it transitions to a short, simple, and somewhat one-sided (one side only attacking, the other defending) fighting game. Players are also able execute spectacular special attacks that include either just one unit or several that work together in occasionally humorous ways.

Altogether, this appears to be a game many people would look forward to, and as you can see from my copy was rereleased as part of "The Best" series which is a budget edition much similar to "Greatest Hits" in North America or "Platinum" in PAL regions. Statuses like this are only given to games that have a reached a certain number of copies sold (somewhere between 150,000 and 400,000 for "Greatest Hits" in North America) which makes me figure, Namco X Capcom was already popular enough in Japan.

When I first heard about this game, I looked for stuff about it on the Internet including videos of things like opening cinematics and gameplay. I eventually also found an online petition for it being released overseas. I was later greatly disappointed when I found out Namco wouldn't distribute the game in America, though.

You would also expect that any audience would love a good crossover game between characters from different franchises. Capcom frequently makes fighting games for their Capcom's Vs series (Marvel vs Capcom, SNK vs Capcom, Tantsunoko vs Capcom). I would understand if they didn't expect outside audiences to recognize out of the advertised over 200 character cameos about the half of them never released outside of Japan. "Who the heck are Wonder Momo and Bravoman?" But the same argument can be said about the other vs Capcom games. Tatsunoko Production is an anime studio that released series such as Gachaman, and I wouldn't be surprised if anybody didn't recognize Gold Lightan or Yatterman. Tatsunoko vs Capcom hadn't been intended to be released outside Japan, but positive reception at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009 convinced otherwise. Tatsunoko Productions did have difficulty passing the rights for the characters in other countries as is usually the case with crossover games and other media, but I would expect that Namco would only need to confirm with Capcom for its characters rather than several distribution companies. I would also expect that putting these characters in this game wouldn't only confuse anyone unfamiliar because likely many Japanese wouldn't recognize all 200 of these characters but it could inspire them to try to find out more about them if they find them enjoyable enough.

While I was in Japan a few years ago as part of a Japanese language and culture class, one of the objectives I set for myself was to get a copy of Namco X Capcom for myself. I also wanted (and failed) to get a copy of Metal Wolf Chaos for the original Xbox, another game I expect Americans to enjoy though for different reasons. While I was there looking for these games, I noticed a Nintendo DS game that had recently been released called Mugen no Frontier: Super Robot Taisen OG Saga and released by Namco Bandai Games. What caught my attention to it was that I recognized a couple characters and mistook it for Namco X Capcom. Though it has 4 original characters in it, it also has 3 other playable characters as cameos: Reiji Arisu, Xiaomu (pronounced Sho-mu), and KOS-MOS. I picked it up there expecting it to not be released in America either, and since Nintendo DS games weren't region coded back then, I could play it just fine only with a little confusion with the Japanese text.

About a year later, I discovered that this game was released in North America as Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier. What mainly confuses me about this is that of course fans of Xenosaga in America would recognize KOS-MOS, but even they will be asking "Who are Reiji and Xiaomu? And, more importantly, why does KOS-MOS know them?" which should have been established in Namco X Capcom since Reiji and Xiaomu were original characters introduced in Namco X Capcom and personally met and fought along with KOS-MOS during the game.

Namco X Capcom is only an example of a game I would expect to be popular enough to warrant releasing it internationally. But there are plenty of games that wouldn't be expected to be popular outside of Japan. Would you really want to play a fighting game using battle construction vehicles? Another market of "games" (of which I use the term loosely) is visual novels. Visual Novels are essentially programs that present a story with images, text, and occasional dialog options and branching paths much like choose-your-own-adventure stories. These types of stories are more often "dating sims" or just romantic plots with one or more girls (or boys). This at first doesn't seem that appealing, but lately more anime series are produced as adaptations of visual novels, and some are eventually brought over to other countries. I suspect that any fans of these anime adaptations would want to experience the story in its original form, the visual novel. More often they are PC games, but the more popular series have been ported to game consoles such as Playstation 2 and then inherently region coded.

If these games would be unpopular outside of Japan, that's fine and I can accept that. But for anyone that is interested and willing and able to import any foreign game to their country and play it in its original language, this shouldn't be a problem, and that's another sell for the manufacturer. For a hardcore import gamer, they can just by another console to play other regions, but someone just interested in a few or just one game, that kind of investment shouldn't be necessary. The regional lockout holds back the market for the smaller, less popular games that wouldn't be officially distributed in other countries.

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