There is a reason why most game consoles out now are region-free. Plenty of games were never released in certain regions or were simply unavailable. Back in the day, it was a total pain to either mod your console to make it region-free or get a specific regional system to play these games. That’s not even including the language barrier that plenty of Japanese-only games have for us in the west. Recently, however, more games that never saw release outside of Japan are releasing worldwide. Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and Like a Dragon: Ishin are finally coming over to the west after a long time remaining Japanese-exclusive. There are still many other noteworthy games from popular series that never got released globally, and you must import them.
Resident Evil Survivor 2 – Code: Veronica
Out of the entire Resident Evil franchise, only one game has never been released in the United States. That would be Resident Evil Survivor 2 – Code: Veronica. The direct sequel to the first Survivor on the original PlayStation, Survivor 2, was made for arcades and PS2. It’s a retelling of the events of Code: Veronica with some alternate things included, like Nemesis. At the end of the game, it’s revealed it was all a dream Claire had at the very end of the game. Survivor 2 is similar to Code: Veronica’s battle mode, in which you play in first-person and explore the various game areas.
(Video by: Final Boss Games All Bosses)
You need to find the key in every area and head to the exit where a boss is waiting. There is a timer on each area, where if you spend too much time exploring, Nemesis will appear and hunt you down. This is more of a safety net for the arcade players rather than you actually needing to finish the level fast. By exploring the level naturally, the timer shouldn’t be an issue. This is purely meant for arcade users spending too much time on the machine, and they need to hurry up so that the next people can play. The Resident Evil community regards Survivor 2 as one of the worst games in the series. Regardless, it’s still weird why this game was never released stateside.
Silent Hill: The Arcade
Out of all the games on this list, Silent Hill: The Arcade puzzles me the most why it never got shipped stateside. This entry in Konami’s popular horror franchise is a light gun rail shooter filled with environments and enemies from Silent Hills 2 through 4. Silent Hill Arcade has its own plot and even includes a joke ending, like most of the core games. It’s a solid light-gun game on par with other releases at the time, like House of the Dead 4. However, it was never released in the US for unknown reasons, although it was shipped in Europe.
(Video by: Highway Entertainment)
The arcade units got shipped in 2007 and 2008, and at that point, arcades were not dead yet in the United States. As a person from the west coast, arcades were still pretty active during that time. For a while, Sega and Bandai Namco were still releasing new arcade light-gun games, like Deadstorm Pirates, Time Crisis 5, and Let’s Go Island.
There’s little reason why this game wasn’t shipped to arcades in the west. Possibly the reason why is the special features the title has. Silent Hill: The Arcade is quite long, but in Japan, the arcades use an e-Amusement pass. This is used to save progress and access online leaderboards, which is cool. Konami might have had difficulty transferring that to the American market. Why not port the game to the Wii or PS3 using the PlayStation Move if that’s the case? I would have bought that in a heartbeat. I bought both the House of the Dead 2 & 3 compilation as well as House of the Dead: Overkill day one.
Even though Like a Dragon: Ishin is finally coming over to the west, several other Yakuza games never came here. Like the two PSP games, for example. However, the biggest one is Yakuza: Kenzan, the first entry developed for the PlayStation 3. Like Ishin, it’s another entry set in ancient Japan, although two centuries before Ishin.
(Video by: IGN)
Kenzan is notable for being one of the hardest games in the series due to the damage the blades deal out. The cool new Kyoto area is a nice change in scenery compared to the busy Tokyo and Sotenbori areas of past games. Since the title is the first entry on the system, it can look rough by today’s standards, which is why a remaster would be great. They’ve already remastered Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 from the PS3 era, so why not this game?
The third and final game of the Mother trilogy, Mother 3, is one of the most beloved cult Nintendo games of all time. The entire series is really, and Nintendo has always been hesitant to do stuff with the franchise in North America. Reggie Fils-Aime, former president of Nintendo of America, has continually trolled the Earthbound/Mother fanbase both during and after his tenure. It took decades for the original Mother to release in the west and Earthbound to get another rerelease after the SNES version flopped.
(Video by: nemi43)
Now the first two games are available on Switch Online, but the third game has still not seen the light of day outside of Japan and English fan translations. People who have played the game suggest that some of the story elements might cause controversy over here. Those elements can probably be changed or alternated in localization, though, so it’s still not entirely clear. For now, you’ll have to stick with import copies and fan translations.
Clock Tower (SNES)
The first Clock Tower the west got was the entry on the original PlayStation, but that wasn’t the first game. Clock Tower 1 was actually made for the Super Famicom and never came over here, except for reproduction carts. It was re-released in Japan on the original PlayStation, but even that port didn’t come over. This first game in the series is referenced quite a bit in the sequel, which was simply called Clock Tower in the west, so it is important to play this first.
(Video by: XGamingPhunX)
You play as Jennifer Simpson, who must escape the Barrows Mansion and evade Scissorman. The game’s very short but has good replayability with many different endings and randomization to it. Every playthrough has different room placements, sort of like the Resident Evil randomizer mods, and even different key items can be placed. Playing the SNES version instead of the PlayStation One is recommended due to some sound effect changes. The scream sound effect sounds like an alarm blaring off. It’s not only annoying for you, but anybody else in the house might think it’s an actual alarm. That’s not a good time.
Donkey Konga 3
The DK Bongos peripheral for the Nintendo GameCube was an interesting and weird one, to say the least. It worked great for Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, but the music rhythm game, Donkey Konga, just didn’t take off. A lot of players were turned off by the kiddy songs in it, and it just felt lame to play. While the first two Donkey Konga games were released stateside, the third was not, most likely due to poor sales.
(Video by: PapaFranck77)
Konga 3 contained music from Japanese bands and artists, as well as plenty of video game music. It even has the main theme from Katamari Damacy, which didn’t even release on the GameCube, and was a PS2 exclusive. Unless you’re a hardcore DK fan, Konga 3 is not needed to play, and it’s understandable why this was a Japanese exclusive.
Most Infamous Game from a Popular Series Never Released Globally: Dead or Alive Xtreme 3
For most games never released globally, whether it’s from a popular series or not, the developers probably wanted to release them if they could. However, it’s clear from the start that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 was developed with only an Asian release in mind. First, Team Ninja chooses the 9 female characters to be in the game from a character poll. That’s already a controversial decision to have the audience pick, but how they handled it was worse. The poll was determined by Dead or Alive 5: Last Round character themes downloaded from the PlayStation Store. You would think this accounts for downloads worldwide, but no. Only Japanese PSN accounts were counted for this poll. Right there, the DOA community should have realized that this game was not coming worldwide.
Having only Japanese accounts participate in the poll was a terrible decision that left out many fan-favorite characters more popular in other parts of the world. It also led to the roster lacking diversity. Lisa, everyone’s favorite African-American scientist turned Lucha libre wrestler, is not included, despite making her playable debut in the first Xtreme game before showing up in any of the core fighting titles. Lisa was even one of the three women on the front cover of the first Xtreme game.
A ton of controversy occurred when gamers realized this game wasn’t coming stateside. Still, this game wasn’t developed with a worldwide release in mind, anyway. Plus, the new minigames Xtreme 3 added weren’t that great. They also removed the jet skis, which even former Team Ninja lead Tomonobu Itagaki stated was the best activity in DOA Xtreme.
Despite the game being inferior to the second title and lacking many fan-favorite characters, it was still widely purchased by importers. Play-Asia, one of the biggest import gaming retailers, reported record-breaking sales of both the original Xtreme 3 and Xtreme 3 Scarlet, the updated version for PS4 and Switch. I strongly recommend you play Xtreme 2 over this one if you still have a working Xbox 360. The jet ski races are a lot of fun, and the game has a customizable soundtrack. If you get tired of the built-in licensed music and you still have all your music CDs, you can simply install them on the 360, make playlists, and they appear in the game. Plus, the English voice acting is so well done.
In a perfect world, every game would get released everywhere, but that simply isn’t the case. It can be for various reasons, like cultural differences or revenue. One of the reasons why Donkey Konga 3 probably wasn’t released here is because of all Japanese pop music, and Anime wasn’t nearly as big back then as it is now. Not many of the core audience for Konga 3 back then would be really excited to play the Japanese theme for Dragon Ball Z, although I’m sure a few would. One of the reasons Mother 3 probably wasn’t localized was due to the poor sales of EarthBound on the SNES. Thankfully all modern systems are region-free now, which makes playing imported games far easier.