Video games are an international pastime. People the world over play them, and there are developers in quite a few countries. Making a game takes effort, but so does localizing it for people in countries besides where it was first released. Not every game is worth the effort, and even if the fans might think it is, there can be other things keeping it from being released. With that in mind, I bring you five games that should have been brought to the US, and why they weren't.
This Gameboy Advance RPG is an obvious inclusion. Not one E3 goes by that fans of the Mother franchise aren't on the edge of their seats, thinking this has to be the year they'll release it on the virtual console. It's not hard to see why the demand is so high. Most anyone who has played it has to recognize its place among the best jRPGs of all time. It boasts superb writing, classic gameplay, and incredible depth. From beginning to end, the game is packed with fantastic humor and heartrending moments.
For such an amazing game with such a strong fan base, it's surprisingly not too hard to see why it won't be coming stateside. While deep, the message is more than a little controversial for the US, harshly criticizing capitalism, consumerism, and excess, as well as the way modern culture seems to prioritize technology over maintaining the planet. About half of Americans would be strongly opposed to the game's message. The game also features a group of transgender women as powerful allies.
What some would interpret as positive, progressive messages, others might see as subversive and offensive. Nintendo were the ones to make the game in Japan, and there's no way they'd risk alienating that much of their potential audience in the US. Not to mention, there aren't any Gameboy Advance games on the Wii Virtual Console to begin with. Nintendo would have nowhere to sell it, unless they ported it to a newer system. Mother fans will simply have to make do without an official US release.
Fatal Frame 4
Suda51, the mind behind No More Heroes and the upcoming Shadows of the Damned, helped direct this latest entry in the acclaimed horror franchise. The story, while not breaking any new ground, is told in an interesting, non-linear fashion. It focuses on multiple characters, all of which are investigating the same haunted island. The gameplay is superior to that of most survival-horror titles, and using the Camera Obscura to put souls to rest has never been as fun as it is now. Even the game's atmosphere is near-perfect.
Nintendo of America, however, has confirmed that they don't intend to localize Fatal Frame 4. While no official reason has been given, it's no hard task to figure out what that reason is. It's a Wii game aimed at the core gamer demographic. Such games generally do very poorly in the US, unless they're made by Nintendo. Fatal Frame 4 was only published by Nintendo in Japan, not developed by them. It's also a much more mature game, and could tarnish the family friendly image Nintendo tries hard to maintain. Chances of another publisher picking up the title are slim, too, because of a Luigi costume they'd need Nintendo's permission to leave in. It's simply too much risk for not enough reward.
Another Code R
Another Code R is the Wii sequel to the DS game Another Code: Two Memories (Known as Trace Memory in the US). It follows Ashley Robbins as she visits her father for a family camping trip, and gets pulled into a mystery involving her dead mother and the strange device that can influence memories. It's a primarily narrative focused game, and while it lacks voice acting it has otherwise impressive presentation for being on the Wii. The story is engaging, the characters likable, and the puzzles short and interesting.
The reason it'll never see the fifty states is its reception in Japan. Japan is a country where visual novel type games, which is to say games that are primarily story and nothing else, flourish and succeed. America isn't. In Japan, where this game should have done well, it sold fewer than 15,000 copies during the week it released. That's not exactly stellar performance. It was released in Europe, for reasons unknown, but at this point it's pretty clear it won't be released in the US.
Metal Wolf Chaos
America loves few things more than ridiculously stupid action movie plots and over-the-top patriotism, and Metal Wolf Chaos delivers that in spades. The game's protagonist is President Michael Wilson, overthrown by Vice President Richard Hawk in a coup d'état. After fleeing the White House, Michael Wilson sets off to win America back in a giant robot called Metal Wolf. The game eventually takes the player to outer space, where Wilson saves America from nuclear destruction.
The entire game is actually already voiced in English. It's voiced poorly, but that's some of the charm. As such, it's a bit harder to explain why it never reached the US. Ultimately, it probably boils down to the fact that, as amazingly fun and silly as the game is, it would be a very niche title, and one few would pick up unless they already knew plenty about it. The target audience just wasn't viable enough to localize the game at the time. It doesn't help that the originally Xbox wasn't exactly known for its quirky, Japanese games. While Microsoft could, theoretically, put it up for download via Xbox Live, it seems very unlikely that they will.
Ace Attorney Investigations 2
The first Ace Attorney Investigations refined the formula of the Ace Attorney games and centered the plot around Miles Edgeworth, the prosecuting attorney who acts as the player's rival in the other Ace Attorney titles. It dragged at times, but, for the most part, really worked to fix many of the faults that plagued the franchise. When Capcom announced the sequel, which would likely fix some of the problems that still remained, it was a great time to be an Ace Attorney fan.
Unfortunately, it is not a great time to be an American based Ace Attorney fan, as Capcom revealed they had no plans to localize the game. Not that anyone could blame them, since the first AAI didn't do as well as they'd hoped. By the time the second reached the US the 3DS would already be out, too, further hurting its chances of selling well. Sorry, Edgeworth. Your time in the spotlight was short, but glorious.