Majesco struck gold with Cooking Mama, which brought the firm back from the brink of bankruptcy. Capcom have been doing their best to push Monster Hunter in Western territories, while the Ace Attorney series that originally debuted on GBA has received fairly popular Nintendo DS localizations. They even helped start a trend on the DS by localizing Gyakuten Saiban, following which a slew of DS adventure games were announced by various other publishers. While Square Enix have been more conservative with what games they choose to localize — no Nanashi no Game for instance — even they took a chance with The World Ends With You. SEGA tried with Let’s Tap.
The key point to keep in mind here, though, is that while these publishers are introducing new intellectual properties on a steady basis, they wouldn’t dream of giving up on their established franchises. You would never see Square pass on localizing a Final Fantasy game or SEGA pass on Sonic.
Namco Bandai on the other hand, have acquired a reputation lately for ignoring the pleas for some of their most interesting, most anticipated games overseas. Case in point: the majority of fan translations I’ve been keeping an eye on over the past year or two are all for well-known Namco games.
I’ll admit, the topic of localization is sketchy, and no one on the journalism or publishing side has quite figured out what always does and doesn’t work. It’s important to understand the financial side of localization decisions before you start asking for stuff or foaming at the mouth when your favourite games aren’t translated.
For instance, it’s easy to see why Namco’s Sky Crawlers is being handled by XSEED, whose entire business strategy revolves around identifying and understanding opportunities in the overseas “otaku” market and carefully controlling production and marketing budgets to ensure they’re profitable. One could also apply that line of reasoning to Fragile Dreams, which Namco had no intention to localize either.
However, things get a little less complicated when you’re dealing with a well known RPG franchise like the Tales games. Take Tales of Innocence and Tales of Hearts for instance. Both are DS games, both have the support of a recognized brand and the DS RPG market is fairly lucrative at this point.
Yet, we’re going to have to settle for Absolute Zero’s Tales of Innocence and Crimson Nocturnal’s Tales of Hearts translations. No offense to either of these teams; their projects are some of the DS games I’m looking forward to playing the most this year and the next. Still, it’s not quite the same as owning the real thing. Having that manual you can flip through when you’re bored. Having the box lined up alongside the rest of your collection. The pre-order bonus that tends to come with so many high-profile Japanese games nowadays.
And it doesn’t stop with the the DS Tales duo. Beyond those two, I’m looking forward to Romhacking Aerie’s XenoSaga I & II translation. Before that project was announced, there was a time when Laura and I were hellbent on the idea of spearheading a translation/romhack of it ourselves, given that Namco would never undertake a localization themselves.
But you could go even further back in time and find projects people still want from the PS2 days. Tales of Destiny: Director’s Cut and Tales of Destiny 2 never made it out of Japan either. Both those are getting translated by Phantasian Productions, who are also working on one of the many Tales of Phantasia translations. At this point, the number of fan translations for Namco titles is second only to that of Banpresto’s (owing to their numerous mech games).
As fans that are so heavily invested in Japanese games, obviously it’s a little disappointing for us to see publishers like Marvelous Entertainment desperately trying to build up their image and brands, while Namco — having long worked past growing pains — choose to keep some of their best games from the world.
The reason for this can be summed up in a single world: globalization. Namco is but one of the many Japanese publishers aiming for a stronger presence in the Western market. It’s quite likely that their research indicates the kind of games Siliconera readers enjoy aren’t the ones that will be bringing in the most profits. And so, they choose to pass on those in favour of…wait, what? A remake of Klonoa? One Piece?
(There goes that theory.)
In all seriousness, I do hope that, despite their efforts to appeal to the global market, Namco don’t forget their roots and why a lot of us love them in the first place. As this post clearly shows, I’m just as incapable of figuring out on what basis Namco games are chosen for localization as anyone else.