10 Disappointing Vita Localization Snubs - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 24 June 2018 / 3,786 Views
At some point in 2014, I thought the localization market on Vita was unstoppable. Despite the fact that the hardware itself was seeing poor sales in the west, we were getting surprise announcements left, right, and centre (such as Mind=0 or Tales of Hearts R) and hearing of many successful sales stories such as the first two DanganRonpa games clearing 200k. Publishers of niche titles were discovering that the userbase was buying the type of software being put out and therefore the handheld was a very worthwhile investment for them.
Yet somewhere along the way this mindset changed – it seemed to happen gradually as various publishers began to stop localizing the Vita version of their games, instead focusing on PS4, PC, and eventually Switch. Although undoubtedly more successful machines in the western markets, in many cases this came as a baffling decision given that a Vita version of the games in question had already been made for Japan and a translation existed, therefore it was merely a case of inserting the translation into the completed game.
It’s these titles I’m going to look at in this article – 10 games which were localized for the western market and exist on Vita in Japan, but not overseas. It’s a topical subject I decided to finally tackle after NIS America unceremoniously decided to skip over Vita for Metal Max Xeno in the west – a decision which really bothered me as this was a game I’d been tremendously looking forward to. However, it’s just the latest in a long line of Vita titles this has happened to which has made being a Vita fan somewhat of a rollercoaster, particularly in its later years.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle
One common theme you’ll quickly notice on my site is that I love Gust. The creators of the Atelier and Surge Concerto series create a niche type of JRPG that resonate so well with me thanks to their gorgeous art, beautiful soundtracks, and often tight gameplay (even if they’re a little rough around the edges). The Vita had been home to eight different Atelier titles from Totori through to Firis, with the latter being the second entry in a trilogy that concluded with Atelier Lydie & Suelle. It seemed like releasing this in the west would be a nice send-off for the franchise that had done so well on Sony’s handheld line.
Sadly, Koei-Tecmo had other plans (another common theme you’ll see in this article) and decided to withdraw Vita support completely after 2017, in spite of their Japanese branch continuing to release titles for the console. This meant that Lydie & Suelle didn’t make its way overseas, instead hitting PS4 and PC (as with many of the recent Atelier titles), but also Switch – clearly Koei-Tecmo thought Nintendo’s new console would completely absorb the handheld Atelier audience, a decision which seems rather short-sighted and disappointing as a Vita fan.
Another Gust title to add to the list, this one suffered exactly the same fate as the aforementioned Atelier Lydie & Suelle in that Koei-Tecmo decided to bring it west for PS4, as well as adding a PC port just for overseas, but skipped the Vita version entirely. It would mark the second of three titles from around this period where the developer was putting effort into making a port solely for the Japanese market, which seems a bizarre direction.
The reason I was so disappointed in this one missing Vita in the west was just because of the pedigree – I love Gust and Atelier, but it’s nice to see them try something different every once in a while as it can lead to wholly unique titles such as Ar nosurge. Blue Reflection appeared to keep the tight turn-based combat they were known for as well as the slice-of-life storytelling, but transported it to a world of magical girls and alternate dimensions (it was gorgeous to look at to boot). I will eventually try out the PS4 port, but it was very disappointing not to be given a handheld option on this one (no Switch version was available either, unlike Atelier and Nights of Azure).
Digimon World: Next Order
Back when Cyber Sleuth released in Japan in March of 2015, it seemed like the future of Digimon on Vita was bright – that game was selling and reviewing extremely well and a sort-of-sequel was rapidly announced as Digimon World: Next Order, which would shift the gameplay up from being a traditional JRPG into a more open-world monster raising simulator. It saw another solid opening for the series domestically (64k vs. 75k for Cyber Sleuth) and given that all signs pointed to Cyber Sleuth selling well overseas, it looked promising that Next Order would be landing on western Vitas in 2017.
In what eventually became a massive PR nightmare for Bandai-Namco, the game was announced for a western release on Vita – only for that to be amended to be PS4 only, then Vita was added in again, then removed. The company later attempted to justify the decision by pointing out just how big of an upgrade the PS4 version was, but not allowing fans the choice seemed like a big slap in the face (especially considering the title was made for handhelds originally). They eventually rectified their mistake with the next Digimon game, Hacker’s Memory, but missing out on World was extremely disappointing given that it offered a completely different experience from the more linear Story titles.
Dragon Quest Heroes II
After the first Dragon Quest Heroes game (a unique crossover between the storied JRPG series and Koei-Tecmo’s Warriors line) skipped out on the handheld, Square-Enix were sure not to make the same mistake again with the sequel, which released in Japan in 2016 and sold more than 220k copies on Vita alone. Combined with the brilliant Dragon Quest Builders, which made its way to western shores at the end of 2016, it seemed like after years of ignoring the console Square-Enix was finally on board.
Unfortunately this didn’t last long as when Heroes II found its way west in 2017 only PS4 & PC versions were available, with no mention of it being on Vita. This was extremely disappointing as the handheld port had actually been fairly high-effort, looking beautiful for a Vita title and running fairly smoothly as well (and from importing it I can also say that the game is a lot of fun). In what is an oddity for this article, a Nintendo Switch version of the game was also released in 2017 that has yet to find its way west – perhaps Square-Enix just doesn’t believe this is the type of title western gamers want to play on handhelds!
Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn
Back before the Vita was basking in the glory of multiple Gundam games being translated into English, it had already received quite a few titles which weren’t available overseas – namely fun entries like SEED Battle Destiny or Breaker. One game, though (Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn), actually released in Europe and North America on PS3, but bizarrely skipped the Vita SKU altogether. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for publisher Bandai-Namco at the time as the company also omitted a western Vita version of One Piece Pirate Warriors 2.
Even though we’ve had multiple enjoyable Warriors games in the west, as well as some fantastic Gundam titles on the handheld, a crossover between the two offers something different and reportedly the game is the best-performing Musou title on Vita as well as being one of the most content-rich. It’s not a particularly difficult import if you are after a fun time mashing through hordes of mechs, but it sure would’ve been nice to be able to do it in English.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk
Vita has been a brilliant home to DRPGs over the years, with stellar entries like Demon Gaze and Stranger of Sword City offering dozens of hours of great play-time. A large number of these were localized by NIS America, so when their parent company Nippon Ichi Software announced they were developing their own DRPG with art from Takehito Harada it seemed like a match made in heaven – the game went on to become a sleeper hit in Japan clearing more than 70k copies sold from just a 17k opening.
As time went on and both 2016 and 2017 passed with no localization announcement, fans became worried and it seems that worry was rightfully placed – in February 2018 NIS America said that the game would be coming west for PS4, PC, and Switch but Vita would be left out of their plans. This was hugely disappointing as it was the original hardware the game was built for and Vita owners had been anticipating it since the first announcement in 2016. With import impressions being incredibly positive there was a lot to look forward to. Sadly, it seems like NISA are now done with the handheld and Coven is just an unfortunate casualty of this.
Metal Max Xeno
The Metal Max series has had a tough life. As a non-linear post-apocalyptic JRPG born on the NES it found success, but after developer Data East’s bankruptcy it struggled to find relevance again, leading to franchise-low sales of the fourth title on the 3DS. When a new entry entitled Xeno was revealed for PS4 and Vita it seemed like the series was being given a last-ditch chance at success with beautiful new 3D environments and character designs. This seemed to pay off as the game sold more than 50k copies just two days after release in Japan. Publisher Kadokawa Games quickly revealed the title would be coming west, although who was handling this was unannounced at the time.
Sadly this was eventually revealed to be NIS America and, in an unsurprising move, they announced that only the PS4 version would be coming west, with the Vita port staying in Japan. Metal Max Xeno was undoubtedly my most anticipated Vita game this year – the setting alone looked hugely compelling and I’m a big fan of turn-based RPG’s in general, so I was very keen to explore its world and learn its mechanics. It seems like my only option for doing this on a handheld is through remote play, although why Vita was skipped is anyone’s guess given the game is already being translated.
Nights of Azure 1 & 2
The third and final set of Gust games in this list, Nights of Azure was an ambitious project for the studio as it was their first action-RPG, produced by Deception and Fatal Frame veteran Keisuke Kikuchi and releasing across PS3, PS4, and Vita in Japan. It proved to be a resounding sales success, clearing more than 120k copies in the region (Vita was the highest-selling version). It spawned a sequel two years later that dropped the PS3 version for a Nintendo Switch one (which actually sold significantly worse, sadly throwing the future of the franchise into jeopardy).
However, despite both games being localized for the western market in 2016 and 2018, respectively, neither released on Vita, instead targeting PC and PS4 (and Switch in the case of the sequel). In the case of the first Nights of Azure this was particularly disappointing as Koei-Tecmo were in full swing supporting the handheld at this point, releasing multiple titles on it as late as 2017. The quality of the port was blamed as the reason it stayed overseas. The sequel was actively advertised in Japan as having a “prettier Vita version” but this still wasn’t enough to convince Koei-Tecmo’s western branches, but at least a portable option of some kind existed for the sequel this time around I suppose.
Vita has not been short of Warriors games at all – we’ve had three Dynasty Warriors, three Samurai Warriors, a Warriors Orochi, as well as multiple licensed crossovers such as Attack on Titan and Berserk. By all accounts Warriors All-Stars was a game we didn’t need. It was yet another entry featuring familiar gameplay with a roster far less impressive than Warriors Orochi, but the fact that it featured a variety of characters from Koei-Tecmo’s own IPs, including series such as Atelier, Deception, and Toukiden definitely piqued my interest.
Unfortunately, it released just around the time the western branches of Koei-Tecmo were giving up on Vita in 2017, meaning that only the PS4 version came across (with a PC port added for good measure). Of course, I can easily get my musou fill on the handheld from one of the many other games available, but the roster of characters meant that this was likely one I’d have enjoyed a lot – as it stands, I’ll just have to import instead, which is a disappointing outcome all the same.
There are a handful of high-effort titles that are still hitting Vita in Japan in 2018. Among them are things like A Certain Magical Virtual-On, Fate/Extella Link, Metal Max Xeno, Super Robot Wars X, and Zanki Zero. The latter is a brand new DRPG from Spike-Chunsoft, with heavy involvement from the team that made the DanganRonpa games. Given the genre and the storytelling pedigree here, there’s a lot to be excited about and it looks all set to be another success.
When Spike-Chunsoft announced they were opening an overseas branch to localize their titles, it made me incredibly hopeful we’d be seeing the Vita version of this coming across. Sadly this wasn’t to be, as western platforms were revealed as PS4 & PC. Unlike some other titles on this list, where at least there was a Switch port added, there’s effectively no handheld version of this game in English, which is hugely frustrating as a Vita version is being made for Japan, just not being released over here.
The Vita has always been the little machine that can for me. Against all odds and abandonment from its manufacturer, it kept getting games in Japan that found their way to western shores from the many number of fantastic localization houses out there, meaning that it’s just as great a piece of hardware to own in 2018 as it was in 2014. This article really can’t take away from those achievements and even though I criticise companies such as Koei-Tecmo or NIS America, they still provided some great support over the years.
At the same time, it’s massively disappointing whenever a title gets announced for Vita in Japan yet doesn’t release overseas, particularly when versions for other consoles are coming over. All the hard work has already been done – the game has been made for Vita in the first place, the translation has been completed and all it takes is inserting that text into the Vita build. I know this isn’t as simple as pressing a button and it’s done, but the effort compared to potential reward makes it seem like a no-brainer.
Even though I’ve picked 10 titles for this list, there are plenty more that didn’t quite make the cut – Attack on Titan 2, Neo Atlas 1469, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII (which was oddly also skipped on Switch), and Steins;Gate Elite being the main culprits. And sadly we’re likely to see more Vita versions skipped in future. I’m already pessimistic that we’ll be seeing Experience Inc’s horror visual novel Death Mark and the newly announced version of SaGa Scarlet Grace casts a lot of doubt over the original release.
None of this makes the Vita any less of a great console and some of these can be easily imported, but it still disappoints me all the same that I can’t sit here and play things like Blue Reflection on my favourite handheld in English. I suppose my last hope is that the homebrew community will provide a solution for this one day!