There are a lot of games that don’t make it out of Japan. I know people don’t like to think about that, it is a solid reminder that gaming isn’t as global as we’d like to believe, but it’s true. Many games remain trapped and, even if they’re available on a region-free console, language barriers keep us from playing them. Recently though, some companies have decided to take a chance. They’re plucking games we wouldn’t have gotten ten, maybe even five, years ago and releasing them in other regions.
Bandai Namco, specifically, has been a bit more open lately when it comes to their game releases. This year alone, we’ve been lucky enough to get Tales of Hearts R, Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, One Piece: Unlimited World Red , and Digimon All-Star Rumble . Many of these games wouldn’t have been slated for a broader release in the past, due to their series perhaps not being popular enough outside of Japan. Yet, here we are.
However, all of these titles have something of a common flaw. The localizations aren’t the best. Some are passable, even good, but they never really come alive like other localized games. The Vita titles Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment and Tales of Hearts R in particular stands out. There is often awkward phrasing. Sometimes words are mispelled. Grammatical issues come up. There are even times when things look and sound right, but come across as incredibly hokey or dated. It’s unfortunate, to be sure.
Nevertheless, it’s something that can be overlooked. As someone who has relished import games for years and been a devoted fan of companies like Atlus, XSEED, and anyone daring enough to bring over a niche game, I rejoice in amazing translations and localizations. However, I also recognize that those fantastic jobs aren’t easy. They require a lot of time and money. That’s something that many companies can’t or don’t want to risk.
With games like Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment , Tales of Hearts R , and Bandai Namco’s other risky endeavors, I can’t help but feel missteps are forgiveable. After all, this is a company that neglected to release other Tales installments regularly outside of Japan for years, there have always been other AAA titles it can rely on. The localizations of some of these other titles feel like they’re possibly experiments. It’s as though Bandai Namco is testing the waters and seeing how people respond.
Which is why we shouldn’t be too harsh on niche games from large publishers that aren’t exactly perfect. Yes, they could and should have done better. However, this is probably just a test on their part. The companies want to see how people react and if they will support a smaller series. If people show that they’re willing to take a chance, even if the game isn’t up to our usual expectations, perhaps that means more money and time will be put into a future installment. And maybe, just maybe, it means fewer games will remain trapped in Japan.