A look at DS games Nintendo’s never released in North America

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The DS is definitely not hurting for games. However, there aren’t as many titles published by Nintendo as you would expect. The games Nintendo does publish in North America tend to be part of popular franchises, and the company has been accused in the past of favoring established series over new properties.

Things are starting to gradually shift. Nintendo took a chance and released Rhythm Heaven in North America. The Legendary Starfy, the fifth game in the series, is going to mark the series’ debut outside of Japan. Perhaps this is a good sign that Nintendo is going to be more accepting of new properties in the future.

Gamertell’s taking a look back today at some of the Nintendo published DS titles that have been passed over until now. A few had tentative US release dates that never happened and whispered rumors have spread about the possible release of others. One thing’s for sure, all of the following games would be welcome additions to the North American game library.

A.S.H. Archaic Sealed Heat100 Classic Book Collection
Release Date: EU: December 26, 2008 AU: January 22, 2009
Developer: Genius Sonority Inc.
Premise: 100 Classic Book Collection is a non-game program that contains 100 classic books and plays users can read on the go. The DS is held like a book, allowing you to have a personal library anywhere you go. There are also 10 additional stories that can be downloaded over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: There’s really no reason why Nintendo wouldn’t bring this program to North America. Schools and teachers would love it, since it’s purely educational. Students would probably take to it as well, since it would mean that could do assigned reading without having to carry the books around. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nintendo release it sometime in 2009.

A.S.H.: Archaic Sealed Heat
Release Date: October 4, 2007
Developer: Mistwalker
Premise: A.S.H.: Archaic Sealed Heat is a strategic RPG following a band of warriors striving to save their world. Princess Aisya’s entire kingdom was destroyed by a Flame Snake on her coronation day, and she was the only one to survive and not end up an ash warrior. The story follows her and companions she finds. One of Aisya’s abilities is she can absorb the ash warrior with her to gain their powers, but that character she absorbed is then gone forever, a concept that should put more thought into tactical decisions. Interesting fact – when A.S.H. was released, it was the largest DS game at the time.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: A.S.H. is in a state of limbo. Nintendo said it was going to be released in the US, but so far we’ve seen no proof of an English localization. The game wasn’t a huge seller in Japan, and it’s constantly on sale at Play-Asia. (At 11:46am on April 17, 2009, A.S.H. was $14.90 at Play-Asia.)

Bokura wa Kaseki HolderBokura wa Kaseki Holder
Release Date: April 17, 2009
Developer: RED Entertainment
Premise: Bokura wa Kaseki Holder is a game similar to Pokemon or Spectrobes, but with an educational garnish. Players get to be archeologists of sorts, digging up dinosaur fossils. The goal is to excavate and extricate a fossil in one piece. If done correctly, a perfect specimen is acquired and you can then resurrect that dinosaur and use it as a fighting minion.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: It wasn’t an exceptionally popular game in Japan, which may have had some bearing on whether or not it was localized. Or, perhaps Nintendo didn’t want anything to steal Pokemon‘s thunder.

Daigasso! Band Brothers
Release Date: December 2, 2004
Developer: Nintendo
Premise: It’s a music game/simulation. The buttons to press scroll along on the top screen, and players press the face buttons or tap the touch screen when they are told in order to play Japanese Pop, classical, world, anime, video game or user created songs.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: Originally, a US release was planned. Back when the DS was shiny and new, Nintendo planned to localize Daigasso! Band Brothers as Jam with the Band. Guess what? Never happened, and no reason was provided for it being dropped. Maybe there were song licensing issues. Popularity certainly wasn’t an issue, as the game did so well a GBA expansion cartridge with extra songs was sold, and the game is still in high demand in import stores.

Densetsu no Starfy Stafy Stafi 4Daigasso! Band Brothers DX
Release Date: June 26, 2008
Developer: Nintendo
Premise: The original Daigasso, only bigger and better. There are loads of additional modes, like karaoke mode, a guitar playing mode, a daily challenge issued by Barbara Bat, a Wii Speaker Channel that lets 8 people play and hear the combined music through a TV, a radio station, the ability to create and share songs over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection and 200 official tracks available to download over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. The only downside is there’s only room for 100 user created/downloaded songs on the cartridge, and official songs can’t be deleted once they’ve been downloaded.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: Once again, I’m going to go with licensing issues. In order to go along with the whole downloadable song aspect, Nintendo’d have to get permission to use 200 songs and set them up for users to download.

Densetsu no Starfy 4
Release Date: April 13, 2006
Developer: TOSE
Premise: The Amy Kingdom, which neighbors Starfy’s family’s Tenkai palace, was robbed by the snake Dejeel. Starfy, his sister Starpy and their friend Kyorosuke the clam agree to help reclaim the Amy Kingdom’s stolen gem, and return to the ocean below to hunt down Dejeel. Like in all Starfy games, Starfy and Starpy help other ocean residents while on their journey.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: I have no idea. Nintendo decided to localize the fifth Starfy game, Densetsu no Starfy Taiketsu! Daiiru Kaizokudan / The Legendary Starfy, so who knows what made the company decide to pass up the fourth Starfy game. Perhaps Nintendo just decided to go with the most recent Starfy release. If The Legendary Starfy sells well, then maybe Nintendo will release Densetsu no Starfy 4 in North America as well.

Freshly Picked Tingle's Rosy RupeelandEyeshield 21: MAX Devil Power
Release Date: February 2, 2006
Developer: Nintendo
Premise: Eyeshield 21: MAX Devil Power is a football game that follows the Eyeshield 21 anime/manga series. Sena Kobayakawa ends up becoming his high school’s star running back. Sena’s was picked on his whole life, and the coach wants to keep other high schools from recruiting him, so instead of playing as “himself”, he plays as Eyeshield 21 and his identity is hidden. Everyone thinks Sena is just the team’s secretary.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: The Eyeshield 21 anime/manga isn’t all that popular in the US, so why would Nintendo risk losing money by localizing the DS game?

Freshly Picked: Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland
Release Date: JP: September 2, 2006 EU: September 14, 2007
Developer: Vanpool
Premise: This is a spin-off of the Legend of Zelda games, starring Tingle. You may remember him from Majora’s Mask. Players step into Tingle’s leotard on a quest to acquire as many rupees as possible so he can find his way to the legendary and magical Rupeeland. It’s similar to the DS Zelda games, except rupees are Tingle’s life, you have no direct control of him in combat (you “cheer” for him instead, and hope he does well) and there’s a bartering system when it comes to purchasing goods.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: I’m going to guess that the gyrating construction worker character might, just might, have had something to do with it. It may have been just a little too much for Nintendo of America to go for. (And yet, it received a European release.)

Hercules no EikouHercules no Eikou: Tamashi no Shoumei
Release Date: May 22, 2008
Developer: Paon Corporation
Premise: Hercules no Eikou: Tamashi no Shoumei is an RPG inspired by Greek mythology. An amnesiac who happens to be immortal and possesses amazing powers washes up on shore. He joins up with fellow powerful immortals to head to Mount Olympus to see/confront the gods.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: Siliconera reported that Nintendo trademarked the names Glory of Hercules and The Glory of Hercules at the same time as The Legendary Starfy, so maybe we will see Hercules no Eikou: Tamashi no Shoumei in the US. There’s still a chance at a US release for Hercules.

Jet Impulse
Release Date: February 8, 2007
Developer: Nintendo
Premise: Jet Impulse is a flight simulation game. There’s a surprisingly deep story behind the game. A nuclear war took place, and there was a temporary peace. But now, the Allies have started making aggressive moves towards the Union. The player takes part in air strike missions to help try and bring peace back to the world.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: It was supposed to get a US release. Like the original Daigasso, Nintendo had teased that Jet Impulse would be released in the US as DS Air. It never was.

Jump Ultimate Stars Jump Super Stars
Release Date: August 8, 2005
Developer: Ganbarion
Premise: Characters from 28 different Shonen Jump manga series all appear in this Smash Brothers style fighting game. There are 75 single player missions to go through, an arcade mode and the game supports local multiplayer. The sequel, Jump Ultimate Stars, is generally considered to be superior.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: Here’s one that’s not Nintendo’s fault! If the company had its way, it’d probably go all out to release the Jump money-making games in the US. While all of the series in the game are owned by one company in Japan, outside of Japan the rights are distributed among many different companies. So, it’s impossible to get permission to localize .

Jump Ultimate Stars
Release Date: November 23, 2006
Developer: Ganbarion
Premise: It’s a Smash Brothers style fighter with characters from over 300 characters from 41 different series. There’s Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support for battles, an arcade mode, a quiz mode, an informational mode, multiple deck options, a story mode and a unique way of building up characters to unlock more powerful versions.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: Just like Jump Super Stars, it’s a licensing nightmare. While Jump Ultimate Stars is considered by many to be one of the best DS releases, the staggering number of characters and series makes it impossible to localize.

Kousoku Card Battle Card HeroKanji Sonomama DS Rakubiku Jiten
Release Date: April 13, 2006
Developer: Nintendo
Premise: Kanji Sonomama DS Rakubiku Jiten is a Japanese/English dictionary. You can enter in words, phrases or kanji and receive translations. While it is a Japanese program, it can easily be used by English speakers because, well, it’s a Japanese/English dictionary. It is especially helpful when it comes to translating kanji, as stroke order isn’t factored in when you draw one on the touch screen to find a translation. A few Game & Watch games can be accessed as hidden “extras.”
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: It’s primarily a Japanese program, which is probably why Nintendo didn’t consider it a prospect for localization. Really, no localization is necessary. Nintendo could just release the product as-is in North America, and Japanese learners would flock to the program as an educational tool.

Kousoku Card Battle: Card Hero
Release Date: December 20, 2007
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Premise: Kousoku Card Battle: Card Hero is, as you can probably guess, a card game similar to other card video games like Yu-Gi-Oh or Capcom vs. SNK Card Fighters. Players step into the shoes of a young boy who wants to be the best at Card Hero and win the Card Hero tournament. You can play over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and it even uses voice chat. There are only 150 cards in the game, sadly.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: There are two possibilities here. The first is that Nintendo could have assumed that Kousoku Card Battle: Card Hero would only appeal to younger gamers and decided to pass based on that. The second is, since the prequel GBC game Trade & Battle: Card Hero was never localized, there’d be less of a reason to localize the sequel. The game received good reviews, so it’s a shame it never received a wider release.

Project Hacker KakuseiMawashite Tsunageru Touch Panic
Release Date: May 25, 2006
Developer: Aki Corp.
Premise: Mawashite Tsunageru Touch Panic is slide puzzle labyrinth game. There’s a smiley face ball rolling around the maze pieces, and you slide the pieces over to create a path to guide it to the goal. You also have to collect smaller balls in a certain order as the game gets more difficult.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: Another case where it’d be difficult to determine why a localization wasn’t considered. Puzzle games are generally easy to translate and localize, and Nintendo could have released Mawashite Tsunageru Touch Panic under the Touch Generations! casual label.

Project Hacker: Kakusei
Release Date: July 13, 2006
Developer: RED Entertainment
Premise: Think Phoenix Wright, only with computers and hacking. Players go through a point and click, visual novel style adventure where occasionally hacking related puzzles pop up. You don’t play as bad hackers in Project Hacker: Kakusei, instead you follow Satoru the hacker and Rina the detective as they undo and try to capture malicious hackers.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: In theory, Project Hacker: Kakusei sounds like a really cool game. Maybe Nintendo thought the hacker portion had a negative connotation associated with it, and so decided localization was out? It could have thought that such a game might promote or encourage illegal behavior. It also didn’t sell well in Japan.

Soma BringerSlide Adventure: Mag Kid
Release Date: August 2, 2007
Developer: Agenda
Premise: Slide Adventure: Mag Kid is a game built around a gimmick. A peripheral is plugged into the GBA slot. To control the character Mag Kid, who’s a magnetic individual who can slide into enemies to collect them and maneuver puzzles in his environment, you slide the DS in various directions on a flat surface.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: It requires a peripheral to play. A peripheral that is only used in this game. That alone seems like enough of a reason for Nintendo to ignore it. Since the DSi eliminates the GBA slot that the peripheral would use, it essentially closes the door on any chance of a Slide Adventure: Mag Kid localization.

Soma Bringer
Release Date: February 28, 2008
Developer: Monolith Soft
Premise: Soma Bringer is a standard action RPG where a group of heroes goes out and saves the world. Soma is a source of power that is being disrupted by unusual “Visitors”. The Soma regulating Secundadeians create a group known as Pharzuph to find out more about the Visitors and take appropriate action. When the game begins, you choose one of the 7th Division Pharzuph members – Welt, Idea, Einsatz, Jadis, Millers, Cadenza and Granada, as your main character. Two others are added as backup, and then you set out on adventures.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: There is absolutely no good reason why Nintendo hasn’t brought the successful and fantastic RPG Soma Bringer to North America. Personally, I’d rather see Soma Bringer than Glory of Hercules.

Wagamama Fashion Girl's ModeWagamama Fashion: Girl’s Mode
Release Date: October 23, 2008
Developer: syn Sophia
Premise: Wagamama Fashion: Girl’s Mode is part shop simulation, part dress-up game. Players run a shop with 10,000 possible clothing items to choose from. Customers come in, and you have to do your best to help them find the items and outfits they desire. You can completely customize your shop, from the stock and atmosphere. Players can also customize an avatar and take part in competitive fashion shows.
Hypothetical Reason(s) Nintendo Didn’t Do a US Release: With the success Ubisoft has had with girl gamers, thanks to its Petz and Imagine lines, it would be a good move on Nintendo’s part to take a chance on Wagamama Fashion: Girl’s Mode. A past Siliconera story noted that Wagamama was so profitable that, like Rhythm Heaven, Nintendo was considering a worldwide release.

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  • jhay

    When I clicked over to this article I thought it was going to be just a small handful of games, say 4 or 5 — but seeing such a huge list was an awesome surprise.

    Now, do you think Ouendan could go here too, or did EBA *sort* of take care of that one?

  • P

    You know that Nintendo Japan (NCL) decides which games come to America and not NOA right?

  • mah

    Where's the Theta love? A casual puzzle game at budget price, there's no reason why Nintendo passed on this one :/

  • Omatic


    Seriously though, I'm really disappointed in how Nintendo of Japan decides that English-speaking gamers just don't deserve nearly the same regard as Japanese-speaking gamers. I expected this list to be short, or full of games that are very niche (for example, the Japanese-English dictionary). Not only is this list pretty sizable, but most of the games on this list would be definite buys for me. Heck, I'd even download the demo for Wagamama Fashion: Girl’s Mode to see if it was entertaining.

    And this is coming from a guy who picked the Game Gear over the Game Boy, the Genesis over the SNES, the Dreamcast over the N64, the PS2 over the Gamecube, and doesn't even own a Wii (although I did end up getting a GB Pocket and all subsequent Nintendo portables). I know that you all are a Japanese company, but it's becoming clearer and clearer that George Bush doesn't care about black people.

    Er… I mean "Nintendo doesn't care about English-speakers".

  • Jenni Lada

    @ Janine: I'm hoping for a US release of Wagamama too! I adore games like that! XD Pop Cutie was okay, but I need more.

    @ jhay: I wasn't sure how it would fit, since it did get a "localization" with Elite Beat Agents. (The original Ouendans are far superior.) I decided to exclude them since EBA could kind of qualify.

    @ P: Yes, but still. If a title sold well enough and had enough promise, I'd like to think that people at NOA would approach Nintendo Japan about it. Besides, I really want Soma Bringer…

    @ mah: Theta? What game was that? Did I miss one? (If I did, I'm sorry – I thought I found all the ones Nintendo published in Japan.)

    @ Omatic: Loved your last part of your comment, it made me giggle. It's true. Funny thing is, when I started to write the list I figured it'd end up having about 10 games. I didn't expect to find so many that weren't released in the US.

  • Jenni Lada

    @ Jessi – Sadly, nope. The Tingle game is one that Caitlyn was mentioning when we hung out at your place on Thursday though!

    I got to try out a friend's copy of Soma Bringer and Stafy 4. I also own the first Daigasso Band Brothers game and Jump Ultimate Stars. The Jump ones are awesome – they're like portable Smash Bros Brawl games.

  • oliemoon

    Ahh, this list opens up old wounds!

    I would love most of this list in English. I agree that Ouendan doesn't really fit on it though, even though EBA isn't as much fun. The thing about Tingle is that I really think the high levels of vocalized homophobia amongst a lot of male gamers played a role in the lack of a NA release. Usually when this game comes up in gaming circles, there's a homophobic backlash against Tingle just because he's a fairy. And you know, of course male + effeminate qualities = teh ghey. It's weird that so many gamers reacted so negatively because Tingle was not stereotypically masculine, but it happens all the time.

    As was mentioned: <a href="Theta">Theta</a&#62;. Didn't realize that was an N-published game.

    I also was not aware of Mawashite Tsunageru Touch Panic before now. I'm gonna keep an eye out for it!

  • Jenni Lada

    I can't believe I forgot Theta, now that I've seen it. I remember seeing it at Play-Asia once. I must have just unknowingly passed it by when I was doing research.

    It looks really cool! I wonder why it never got a US release.

    I agree about Tingle. Zelda's typically seen as a major release among male gamers, and the more immature ones probably wouldn't take well to a game focusing solely on Tingle.

  • Jessica Moen

    hey! have you played all these? I know you have a knack for finding imports. I'm asking specifially about the Tingle game, it sounds awesome!

  • Janine Dong

    I'm such a "wagama" and I love shopping…that Girl's Mode is so me..haha!
    I love the art style of Soma Bringer :)

  • Jack

    Many of these games actually DID have north american releases.

    • Jenni Lada

      No. They didn’t.

      First, this article was published in 2009. The five games on this list that were localized were released after this story ran.

      Second, we still haven’t seen the majority of the games on this list: ASH, Daigasso, Tingle’s Rosy Rupee Land, Eyeshield 21, Jet Impulse, Jump Super Stars, Jump Ultimate Stars, Kanji Sonomama DS Rakubiku Jiten, Kousoku Card Battle: Card Hero, Mawashite Tsunageru Touch Panic, Project Hacker, Slide Adventure: Mag Kid, or Soma Bringer.