One of the more progressive moves in terms of pandering to the ‘enthusiast’ market which Nintendo has undertaken in recent years is the series of Hanabi Festivals, where, often critically acclaimed 8 and 16-bit games previously unreleased in Europe (for one or more of any number of reasons) saw digital download release for the Wii’s Virtual Console. Through this service PAL gamers were finally able to legitimately and affordably get their hands on the likes of Sin & Punishment, Mario’s Super Picross, Star Parodier, DoReMi Fantasy: Milon’s DokiDoki Adventure, Detana!! TwinBee, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber and Final Fantasy III (US) amongst many others. These are the untouched original ROMs running under authentic emulation too; no dubious ‘enhanced’ graphics or unwanted contemporary gameplay conciliations. The only improvement you may notice would be a reduction in loading times, and I for one can live with that.
This week’s PSN store update has seen San Jose based publisher bring two previously NTSC only releases to the European market: infamously homoerotic 2D shoot ’em up Cho Aniki (also a 2008 Hanabi Festival release in its PC Engine incarnation) and G-Craft’s tactical RPG Arc The Lad, however, the appeal of the latter release is currently limited by the fact that the Japanese ROM image has been released rather than the US English translation. Apparently this mistake is due to be corrected imminently. A third title, Sonic Wings Special, was latterly afforded a budget PAL release in 2004, some nine years after its original Japanese début, but here it is in full screen, full speed NTSC guise. Each game is priced at £3.99/€4.99.
The further news that Square Enix has PSone Chrono Trigger lined up for release leads me to speculate which other exotic, previously ‘import only’ PSone era games I’d love to see MonkeyPaw/Square Enix/Sony Europe/some other publisher bring to the service.
Perhaps most obviously vying for release is the US translation of Chrono Trigger’s slightly less well known 1999 sequel Chrono Cross. The game has only recently been published on the Japanese PSN store and would make a fine winter release once people have had time to get their teeth into the first game in the series. Another critically successful RPG from the same creative team, where an official English translation exists but which has never seen a European release, is 1998’s philosophical Xenogears.
Following the 2011 release of the it’s-not-a-sequel The 3rd Birthday, when better to finally allow us once-neglected PALsters the opportunity to experience the original 1998 survival horror RPG Parasite Eve?
Another genre which Square turned its hand to but once in the late 90’s was the horizontal shooter. True to form they nailed it at the first time of asking with the breathless and brutal, yet tactical and atmospheric Einhander. Available on the Japanese store for over three years now, why continue to deny us this superb blaster?
Finally from the Square Enix stable has to be Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in its accessible US incarnation) VII. We’ve been treated to DS remakes of Dragon Quests IV, V and VI as well as the full-blown sequel DQIX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies and a PAL release of the sumptuous, Level-5 developed DQ(VIII): Journey of the Cursed King… and yet still we are without the hugely successful, multi-million selling seventh instalment in the series, leaving a glaring gap. Please rectify this tout de suit, Squenix!
Finally, there’s nothing pertinent I can say about Media Vision’s Gunners Heaven that isn’t said in this superb article by the excellent Stuart Campbell. The point is that the PAL version, launched with the original PlayStation console and known as Rapid Reload, was a typically butchered affair, with 17% slower gameplay as well as ugly great black borders and distorted aspect ratio. It was also critically and commercially undervalued as at the time it was considered a rather retrograde throwback to the previous generation. “Hey, we can do textured polygons now – who wants silly old retro 2D games now? This is 1995 for goodness’ sake!”. Ironically these attitudes have since somewhat been consigned to the past themselves, with the run’n’gun genre receiving regular and well-considered airings on today’s download services. It would be rather splendid, albeit 16 years late, to be allowed to enjoy the slick, fast, Japanese original.
Which currently unavailable NTSC only PSone era games would you like to see get a release on the European PSN store? Or if you’re from one of the NTSC territories are there any obscure releases which didn’t make it to your region? Please comment below.