Some hits are hits no matter where you go – but success doesn’t always translate well, and sometimes something that’s massive in its home market just fails to do the business elsewhere. If you’ve ever seen the American version of The IT Crowd, you’ll know what we mean.
Many high profile Japanese games have at least a cult following in the Western market, including Yakuza, Dynasty Warriors and Monster Hunter. But here, we’re taking a look at six games that don’t even have that – they’re widely regarded as amazing or influential in Japan, but leave most English-speaking gamers scratching their heads.
In Japan, this hybrid strategy/visual novel franchise has sold millions of games – we’re talking five main games, easily over a dozen spin-off games, plus remakes. In Famitsu’s 2006 reader poll to find the top 100 games of all time, the first and third game both made the top 20, placing ahead of the likes of Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter II and Pokémon. Then there’s the merchandise – manga and light novels, a 25-episode anime series, a film and no less than six original video animation series. Oh yeah, and then there’s the live performances and a Tokyo-based shop/café that was open for a good ten years.
In the West, we only ever got Sakura Wars: So Long My Love (the fifth game in the series), and we got that five years after Japan. It got decent reviews but sold poorly. Here’s a trailer.
The Tower Of Druaga
This maze-based action-RPG was a big deal in Japan – the arcade version was a hit and it was ported to everything, as well as remade for the PC Engine in 1992. It also got three sequels and plenty of side-stories, plus an anime continuation in 2008 which did well enough to get a second series and a manga adaptation. In Japan it’s a Namco classic, revered to the point that it sits proudly alongside the likes of Dig Dug and Ms Pac-Man on Namco Museum Volume 3.
Try finding someone outside of the West that has even heard of it, or thinks highly of it. It’ll take a while.
Squaresoft’s RPG series is pretty well-regarded in its homeland, with a couple of entries (SaGa 2 and Romancing Saga in particular) considered to be amongst the most popular games ever. The series is up to ten games now, and all of them have been pretty well thought of, and sold nicely.
In the West, the first three games were rebranded as Final Fantasy Legend games and the SNES entries didn’t arrive at all. When the series finally arrived under its own name in the PlayStation era, it was given a lukewarm response and has never received more than that.