February 7, 2008 - In today's world, it seems that localization is a pretty standard event. Nearly every Nintendo or Square-Enix title that we see released in Japan almost always sees a U.S. release a few months later. But believe it or not, there have been several titles in recent memory that have slipped through the localization cracks to remain Japan-only exclusives. Whether it is due to issues with licensing, a perceived lack of interest or just plain bad timing, these great titles did not make it to U.S. shores and remain relegated to the realm of import gaming. So, without further ado, here are some of the best import games that will never make it to the local U.S. market.
Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!
System: Nintendo DS
Original Release: July 25, 2005
Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! was the original rhythm-based game for the Nintendo DS that spawned the U.S. hit Elite Beat Agents. And although this sounds like a localization, there was definitely something lost in translation. First off, the original Ouendan title was much more difficult then Elite Beat Agents. Even "Survivor" on the most difficult setting could not compete with "Ready Steady Go" on the medium mode in Ouendan. Secondly, Ouendan features a uniquely Japanese style to it. Ouendan is actually a specific type of rhythmic dance in Japan, and anyone interested in Japanese culture would probably find this game fascinating. Last but not least, Ouendan features an absolutely awesome tracklist. Featuring triple A artists like L'Arc-en-Ciel, Asian Kung-Fu Generation and Orange Range (all of which anime fans have probably heard of), Ouendan includes a sampling of the best that J-Pop music has to offer. Ouendan may have inspired a U.S. game, but it is a distinct enough title to stand on its own, and therefore merits a spot on your import shelf.
SD Gundam G Generation: Cross Drive
System: Nintendo DS
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Original Release Date: August 9, 2007
There is really no shortage of video games based on the Gundam super-franchise. And although a fair amount have been brought over to the US, there are many more that have not. If you include games across all systems including arcade, there are over 100 Gundam games in total. A staggering number to be sure. But the real tragedy is that most of these games were not all that good.
However, late last year, there was a game released for the Nintendo DS that reversed this trend. SD Gundam G Generation: Cross Drive is a real-time strategy game that allows you to use different Gundams across different universes. You could play through different stages in different orders and could choose different "paths." Combine this with some pretty intricate Gundam customization, and you've got a game with a really solid premise and some amazing gameplay.
My personal theory as to why this game was never announced for American release has something to do with the fact that every time a Gundam game is localized it seems to be a failure. With examples like Gundam: Crossfire, which was widely voted as the worst game of 2006, to Gundam: Never Ending Tomorrow, which suffered from poor control and shallow gameplay, it is easy to understand why the Gundam franchise has failed here. But this new title reinvigorates the series, and it is a shame that the first really good game based on the franchise was swept under the rug in terms of localization. SD Gundam G Generation: Cross Drive is an excellent game on its own, and is probably one of the best in the series so far. It is definitely an import title worth having for fans of the Gundam franchise and fans of RTS games.