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Important Importables: DS games the US won’t get

Sections: Action, Adventure, Columns, DS & DSi & DSi XL, Exclusives, Features, Fighting, Genres, Handhelds, Japanese Imports, Lists, Role-Playing, Sim

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Important Importables logo
It’s a given that not all Japanese games will make it outside of Japan. Some didn’t sell well enough in that country, others were too focused on a certain age group and sometimes they’re just too weird.

At the same time, there are quite a few phenomenal or funny games which should get a worldwide release, but don’t. Sadly, gamers don’t get a list of reasons from publishers or developers as to why we’ll never have the honor of playing a domestic version of one of these titles, but usually it is pretty easy to understand why.

So this week we’ll review four DS titles which will very likely never, ever be released in North America.

Freshly Picked Tingle's Rosy RupeelandFreshly-Picked: Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland
The Tingle train has left the station and North America is not on board. Freshly-Picked: Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland was a game reminiscent of Zelda titles like The Minish Cap or Oracle of Ages/Seasons. Players guided Tingle, the man who wants to be a fairy, on a quest to acquire as many rupees as possible so he could go to a magical Rupeeland. Various comical characters would assist him on his travels.

So now it comes down to why Tingle wasn’t chosen for a North American release. This is quite a puzzlement, since the Zelda titles have always done well outside Japan and Americans lined up for Phantom Hourglass. It is even more puzzling since Europe received an English language version of the game. Perhaps Nintendo felt North America wasn’t ready for the gyrating construction workers and spandex clad Tingle.

Densetsu no Stafi 4Densetsu no Stafi 4
I know, I’ve raved about the Stafi series before. If you’re tired of it, just hum a little song in your head while I describe it for people who haven’t been following my column.

Okay, for newcomers – Densetsu no Stafi 4 is a little cartridge of happiness and undersea antics from the same team which created the Kirby games. It stars starfish/star prince Stafi, his little sister Stapy and their clam friend as they go around helping and protecting all the ocean-dwelling inhabitants. Think of it as an underwater Kirby game, with the same great quality, graphics and music, only no enemy eating.

I honestly can not fathom why Nintendo, or some other publisher, wouldn’t jump at the chance to license Densetsu no Stafi 4. The only possible explanation that I can work out in my head is that American video game publishers hate cute mascots, but that doesn’t work. If it were true, we’d never have Nintendogs, Pokemon or Kirby. Maybe publishers have some sort of seafood allergy.

Jump Ultimate StarsJump Ultimate Stars
Many people, myself included, herald Jump Ultimate Stars as the pinnacle of portable fighters. It is an amazing fighting game similar to the Smash Bros. series that has everything – great single player modes, awesome extra quizzes and such, fun multiplayer, over 300 characters from famous Japanese manga series and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support. Other portable fighters never had a chance.

The sad fact is, Jump Ultimate Stars is a licensing nightmare. In Japan it’s all fine and happy, because each of the 300 characters are from Weekly Shonen Jump series and the rights are owned by the same publisher – Shueisha. All of the 41 manga series found in the game are licensed by different companies (like Viz or Tokyopop), which makes it impossible to release. The online fan translations are the closest gamers will ever come to an English Jump Ultimate Stars.

Duel LoveAny DS dating game
The closest America ever came to getting a Japanese dating game was the PS1 title Thousand Arms, which Atlus was kind enough to bring to the US. No, Sprung doesn’t count – it didn’t originate in Japan.

As readers may know, I’m a huge fan of the otome genre (girl’s life sim/dating game), which grants me a bit of insight into why these games never make it overseas.

There are three reasons. First, companies are betting the games wouldn’t be well received. They’d be like the PS1 title Revelations: Persona. Ahead of their time and too niche to pay off. The second is that most DS dating games would be too expensive and time consuming to localize – most of the DS dating games (Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 1&2, Vitamin X Evolution, Duel Love or Hiiro no Kakera DS) feature a lot of voice acting. Third is that companies don’t want to deal with parental backlash from titles like Days of Memories, Duel Love or Dokidoki Majo Shinpan!.

COMING NEXT WEEK: The PSP takes its turn next week, and we’ll look over four games NA owners will never see released. If you don’t miss a single installment of Important Importables, or want to know right away when the next column is up, then sign up for the Gamertell Newsletter and RSS feed.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Important Importables reviewed Taiko no Tatsujin DS.

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  • Narin

    Great article, just wanted to say, that theres plenty of cult favorite Nintendo DS games that have a strong fan base translating them.

    As you mentioned Jump Ultimate Stars, theres a fan base translation that goes as far as translating the GUI, all the text and even the images/Komas into english.
    Screeny:
    http://kkddl.free.fr/jus/screenshots/dev7.jpg

    There is also several other games either fully translated or being actively worked on including Some Bringer, Tales of Innocence, Daigasso Band Brothers and many others.

    So even if some games don't make it over to the US due to licensing problems, lack of support or interest, there is always a fan base willing to help out in the matter.

  • Jenni Lada

    Thanks Narin!

    Yup, I've heard of those projects. Lets hope that Soma Bringer, Tales of Innocence and maybe even Daigasso get an official release though. :D

  • Narin

    I actually stumbled across GameTell because of one of your articles. :) Been a bit of a fan since then.

    Its a shame that many of these great and quirky DS games never make it to the US shores. I managed to play an imported version of Densetsu no Stafi 4 and its a really fun game. Jump Ultimate Stars is also one of the best fighting games I have ever played before as well, just so many characters to choose from and all the customizability in the game.I'm also a big anime/manga fan so its great to see many familiar faces.

    As with you, I do hope these games officially make it to the US shores. Its a pity that many great games never see the light of day outside of Japan.

  • Jenni Lada

    Oh wow! Thank you so much! I feel really flattered now. XD

    Yeah, I got to play Densetsu no Stafi because of an ex-boyfriend. I'm SO waiting for it to drop below $19 on Play-Asia. When it does, I'm buying it.

    Jump Ultimate Stars was the second import game I ever bought (the first was Daigasso), and I still constantly play it. The other people over Wi-Fi always beat me though. :P

  • Lord Sparks

    A lot of people always say that there are a huge crowd for people translating good DS games into english, but i never seem to be able to find them. I find a whisper here and a screenshot there, but never the acutal game. That screenshot for Jump Ultimate Stars looked like a good translation, but i havn't been able to find any chance of the actual game =S Any chance someone could point me in the right direction? ^_^ Either here or my email (Lord.Sparks@gmail.com) is good.

    Thank ye Kindly :3

  • Scratchcat

    tokimeki memorial , is a great game konami !!
    but germany (europe) need it too♥