Jump! Ultimate Stars
System: Nintendo DS
Original Release: November 23, 2006
This game is the definitive import title that is a must-own. It is extremely import friendly, features absolutely wonderful gameplay, and features a roster of over 100 characters from the Jump Universe that has something for everyone. The character roster is probably what sells this game for most people because it includes almost every main character from the different mangas that come under the heading of Shonen Jump. And for the uninitiated, this means characters from series like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, D. Gray-Man, Rurouni Kenshin, Prince of Tennis, and many, many more. Shonen Jump is the manga powerhouse in Japan, and the fact that one game includes nearly every main character from their most popular series from the past twenty years is a pretty amazing feat in itself.
The gameplay in this title uses a "koma" system, which allows players to build their own dream manga panels to summon their favorite characters to fight with. So, in the same round you could play as Ichigo from Bleach, Sasuke from Naruto, and Zoro from One Piece. In addition to the arcade and story modes, this game also has a relatively deep online mode that lets you create customized matches and maintain ranking. Jump! Ultimate Stars also has considerable replay value not only because of the online modes, but also because there are an infinite number of character combinations available to you via the koma system.
Last but not least among the wonderful features that make this game such a must-have import title is its import-friendliness. One of the most important factors to consider when you're thinking about importing a game is how easily you'll be able to play it without knowing the language. Luckily, Jump! Ultimate Stars is so import-friendly that half of its dialogue is actually in English, and most of the story is told via manga panels. Of course you may have to look up a few translations to complete some of the more specific or hidden missions in story mode, but this is a fairly small inconvenience when you consider the absolute terror that comes from importing a JRPG.
Jump! Ultimate Stars is a great game, but due to the fact that many of the show franchises in the game (such as Pyuu no) are not licensed in the U.S., it will probably never see a U.S. release. But as odd as it might sound, I can honestly say I would not want to see this title localized. It is the only title on this list that I feel has this distinction, but in my opinion it is well deserved. The game is perfectly playable in Japanese, and has a certain authenticity to it that I feel might have been lost in localization. Something about seeing the original panels with original Japanese writing helps me feel more connected to my favorite characters. Jump! Ultimate Stars has to be the best import title available today, and if you are a fan of anime, manga, or import games in general, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.
Import titles are a lot of fun. Although these titles will probably never see a U.S. release, there is something to be said for playing a game in its original form. Although it might be a little more convenient for most of us to pick up localized titles, sometimes the games that excite us the most are the ones that are left behind the localization curtain. But just because you have to import these titles does not mean you'll have any less fun playing them. These titles are great games and represent the best and most accessible games that are you will find on the import market today, and I would encourage anyone with an import interest to pick up any of these titles. You'll be glad you did!
Amanda L. Kondolojy