Retro: Bringing Classic Japanese-Only Video Games to the West

If you’ve ever lived in Australia, you will know the pain of having to put up with late video game releases, sluggish take-up of new technologies and the frustration involved in waiting for a game to be localised in hundreds of European languages before it appears on Aussie retail shelves.

But latter issue isn’t exclusive to Australia. For console generations, hopes of games being released outside of Japan have been abandoned due to the high cost involved, and the lengthy language translation times. This means that many gamers all over the world have simply missed out on some of the biggest, most popular games in Japan. In fact, whole series were simply not known to a Western audience, despite the millions they were raking in in the East.

Perhaps the reason for this is that the most popular and widespread genre in Japan is Role Playing Game (RPG). These games generally have thousands of lines of text, complex characters and epic story lines that span sometimes hundreds of hours. Every aspect of the game would need to be translated in hundreds of languages; not just character scripts, but items and magic names – often times there are hundreds if not thousands of these to collect.

It’s a huge task, and perhaps one of the main drawbacks in the industry even today is that there’s no one, trusted company that can do the huge volumes of work required. Nintendo handle their own localisation, as do Square Enix and a handful of other publishers, but when you have 50 titles to translate, it’s understandable why games like Super Mario get the priority treatment.

Luckily, there’s at least one company that have seen these issues and is actively doing something about it.

Monkey Paw Games was founded by John Greiner, former President of Hudson Entertainment in the US and former executive of Hudson Soft Japan, with the mission to bring classic Japanese video games over to the West. They do this by first acquiring the licence to distribute the game, then get to work on localisation before finally publishing the titles on modern consoles via online distribution, mainly on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.

Some of the games they have imported to the West include Arc the Lad, Galaxy Fight and Dezaemon Plus!. Some of Japan’s more eccentric games, such as Money Idol Exchanger have also been brought over, complete with it’s cute anime girls and toothache inducing colour pallet. Rarer games, such as the shoot-em-up Gaia Seed have also been brought over.

MonkeyPaw are more recently trying to bring over RPG Class of Heroes II, the sequel to the luke-warmly received (in the US) PlayStation Portable title, Class of Heroes by Atlus. Their biggest roadblock at the moment is raising the funds required to get the project localised. To help out, the team have launched a Kickstarter appeal to raise $500,000 to get the game released.

Right now it seems there’s no easy road to getting some of Japan’s most treasured gaming gems over to a broader audience, but it’s refreshingly exciting to know that there are those out there passionate and crazy enough to undertake such a task.

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