By Katie . January 23, 2006 . 9:00am
Nintendo may be expecting in 2006, but scarce little is yet known about their upcoming baby, the Revolution, as the company delivers precision-timed, teasing doses of information to the public. Keeping curiosity alive has served them well in the past, but they knew that lifting the shroud on one of the mystery machine’s primary features would provide a big draw for longtime fans of the Big N. As most every NES, SNES, and N64 fanatic, past and present, is undoubtedly salivating over, the Rev will be backwards-compatible in a most accessible way – its built-in ability to wirelessly download somewhere up to, by my estimates, two thousand titles. The sheer size of the combined library is almost too astonishing to comprehend at this point, and in such a vast sea of possibility, the prettiest fish might never get caught – namely, the best import games that never found their way to our homes the first time (or games subject to such a limited domestic release that they might as well have been imports).
It is with the intent that they won’t be lost this time around that I have compiled a list of games and series in no particular order, latter-day greats and lesser-knowns alike, that should be dusted off and made new again for the non-Japanese audience. Representation by console may vary, but so does the total ratio of titles for each one. No matter the console, imports are out there, and perhaps with the right lobbying, heads will turn to give them a fair look and a chance at release here.
#1: Sin and Punishment: Successor to the Earth – N64 (Treasure, 2000)
This one’s a given for three reasons. First, it’s by Treasure, that historically hysteria-inducing developer whose games have more than earned them their rep. Best known for their anime stylings in the run ‘n gun and sh’mup genres, the ever-unpredictable outfit, in collaboration with Nintendo, created a third-person, rail-guided shooter that met with much acclaim overseas, and much disappointment domestically where it never saw release. Secondly, being M-Rated on a system where that was a rare distinction, the plot and presentation of Sin and Punishment brings to mind that other infamous rail-shooter, Panzer Dragoon – as a member of a rebel militia fighting both a corrupt military and the genetically-mutated animals it was supposed to combat, the fight is fierce and frantic, with no lack of fun to boot. The game boasts cinematic storytelling crammed into a then-sizeable 256MB cart that goes beyond the call of duty for an action game, apparently with plenty of room for graphical wizardry left over.
#2: Mother – NES (APE, 1990)
Cult favorite, thy name is Earthbound. Unleashed by the little-known APE on the SNES in 1995, the modern-day RPG adventure (known in Japan as Mother 2) accrued an underground following with its bizarre brand of quirkiness. A single, officially-translated prototype of its predecessor, Mother, was unearthed not that long ago, fetching an exorbitant price on Ebay and subsequently dumped into a ROM by the courteous winning bidder for all to enjoy. The story of extraterrestrial forces that turn docile wildlife rabid and make bloodthirsty pitchfork-wielders of hillbillies named Wally, the game known as Earthbound Zero in English was re-released with the second we all know and love in a GBA two-pak… in Japan. What the fans did to endure this injustice after 10 years anticipation is a mystery, but as these will be joined by Mother 3 some time this year, the time is ripe for Nintendo to repay their loyalty.
#3: Final Fantasy 3 – NES (Squaresoft, 1990) & Final Fantasy 64/x/whatever – N64 (Squaresoft, N/A)
Admit not that you lack interest in or knowledge of FFIII in any RPG circle of geekish repute, or risk a fatal pecking by a league of Chocobo-costumed cosplayers. The only holdout in a series of some 15 games in crossing to western waters, FF3 is a perennial sore spot for the FF-obsessed – like Greens dangled on a fishing line that snaps at the first bird-bite, only to be cast out again a couple years later. Add to this the fact that the first and second have twice been remade for PSX and GBA respectively, also homes to remakes of FFIV-VI, it would seem that FFIII is being purposely neglected.
FFIII is much like the 5th game in that it places a party of semi-generic characters at your command to adopt different jobs (classes) at your whim – right down to the useless Geomancer. Another notable feature is the number of airships, increased to 4, including the all-terrain hovercraft, the S.S. Invincible. This is all I know about the game, and I’ll admit it – now if only they’d release it and keep a herd of Chocobos from becoming the new sign of the apocalypse…
Another major event in the FF universe, this one in the twilight hour of Square and Nintendo’s love affair, is not forgotten to the folks over at www.lostlevels.org – Final Fantasy 64. Not truly a game in and of itself, it was wrongly rumored as being everything from FFVII to a game called FFx during its turn in the rumor mill in 1995. In reality, it was a playable tech demo of Final Fantasy VI reworked for SGI-workstations, hence the full moniker, FF: The Playable SGI Demo. The battle system exhibited graphics comparable to FFVII and summon magic and that was about as far as it went, but completing this redux of the adventures of Locke & co. now could fetch, oh, say, a few million downloads.
#4: Hoshi no Kirby 3 – SNES (HAL, 1997)
Anyone who has so much as glimpsed a video game in the past 14 years should be familiar with the hero of Popstar and Dreamland, defender of food supplies, dreams and the very fabric of matter, Kirby. As the third entry into the original platforming line, Kirby’s Dreamland 3, a.k.a. Hoshi no Kirby 3, came as the curtain closed on the 16-bit era and was subject to a very limited domestic print run, making it an instant collector’s item. Aside from its limited numbers, the game deserves recognition for its comparative difficulty amongst its peers and the cooperative two-player mode that can at times either augment or decrease the challenge. Whether you’re up to the rigors or not, it offers the tried-and-true fun of ability-swapping in an impressive, hand-drawn pastel world, starring the pink half-ghost, half-pastry that we know and love.
#5: Fire Emblem – NES (Intelligent Systems, 1990) & Fire Emblem 2-6 – SNES (Intelligent Systems, various years)
With the series unsheathed like a secret weapon and thrust into the mainstream consciousness with great success, Fire Emblem has met with a following as valiant as its many starring lords and ladies. In the years prior to its Americanization, a diehard lot of fans subsisted on ROM translations that make the official releases look like child’s play in comparison, but must now be feeling somewhat validated for their devotion. Fire Emblem’s hex-based, tactical warfare has been the inspiration for many of its Strategy RPG contemporaries, and perhaps with its newfound standing as the act to follow in North America, the Revolution will bring the army of unreleased installments to new lands. Just a suggestion – if you don’t tone down the difficulty of FE4, I think a lot of fans are going to feel LESS validated.
And that concludes this week’s Most Wanted Oldies list. Tune in next week for numbers 6-10, and until then, dare to dream big!
Written by Katie Montminy.