Rurouni Kenshin: Enjou! Kyoto Rinne
System: PlayStation 2
Original Release: September 12, 2006
Rurouni Kenshin is a rather old franchise and ran its course before the heyday of video games. It did spawn two modest efforts on the PlayStation platform in the late nineties, but nothing that was really great. However, this samurai story is heralded as somewhat of a classic in the anime and manga universe, and was given its first AAA-style title in 2006, nearly seven years after the manga's final chapter. This game was a fighting-style game that can best be described as being done in the style of DragonBall Z: Budokai Tenkaichi.
It featured all of the major characters from the series including the titular Himura Kenshin, Kamiya Kaoru, and rivals Sagara Sanosuke and Hajime Saito, and most of the characters were voiced by the original voice actors from the series. The inclusion of Hajime Saito was especially emotional for many fans because the voice actor for the character in the game (which also did the voice in the anime) died soon after the game's release. In addition to the game having everything the fans wanted, it also had some pretty solid gameplay behind it. It featured a story that reprised the manga/anime's Kyoto arc, which was definitely the most popular arc of the series. You could play through the arc as all the different characters, and could hack n' slash your way through two-player arcade-style battles as well.
Even though this game was developed and released far after the manga had finished in Japan, it came out just as the manga was wrapping up in the U.S. I actually can't begin to speculate as to why this game was never localized because it seems to me that it would have made perfect sense. The popularity of Rurouni Kenshin was quite high in 2006 because the US version of the manga was almost finished, and the anime was still airing frequently on Cartoon Network. But alas, this game never made it to the U.S., and remains an import title that I hold dear to my heart.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Kami o Tsugu Shoujo
System: PlayStation 2
Original Release: July 21, 2005
The Fullmetal Alchemist series of games on the PlayStation 2 was one of those unique series where the quality of the games actually improved as time went on. Beginning with the first game, Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, the video game series has always featured original storylines by original mangaka Hiromu Arakawa. The storylines were a little shallow and predictable given the future of the ongoing series, but the offerings were nonetheless enjoyable. The area where the most improvement took place with these games, however, had to have been in the arena of gameplay. Although the first alchemy-centric game had its merits, in the end it featured too few options and its battle system didn't feel complete. It was the second game that took the alchemy-based battle system and refined it into a legitimate platforming experience that both fans and non-fans could appreciate and enjoy. Both the first and second PS2 games enjoyed pretty good reviews and were moderate successes in the US.
When the third title was announced, it seemed like a veritable shoo-in for the American market. With an all-new storyline, again penned by the original mangaka, and an even more refined battle system with all-new weaponry elements, this title received quite a good amount of positive reviews in Japan. It seemed only a matter of time before the game was localized. But for whatever reason, Fullmetal Alchemist: Kami o Tsugu Shoujo never made it to America.
This is another decision that I don't quite understand because there are other Fullmetal Alchemist games that are being localized as recently as last year despite being of considerably lower quality. The immediate examples that come to mind are the two DS titles: Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy and Fullmetal Alchemist: The Trading Card Game. The decision not to release what could be the best game in the series is even more confusing, considering that publisher Square-Enix localizes almost every game it publishes. But as much as it may not make sense, the game's fate seems to be decided. Fullmetal Alchemist: Kami o Tsugu Shoujo definitely belongs in your import collection simply because it represents the best entry in a successful series that did not get the attention it deserved.