Sanity’s Other Side: Pokemon + Nobunaga’s Ambition Too Japanese as It Is?

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Forget politics, apparently, this is one lesson the entertainment industry needs to learn.

Springboarding off Fenrir’s post, the resident Pokemon “expert” will lend his opinion. Okay, so you’ve got feudal era Japan and Pokemon together; how is this not a recipe for awesome? Koei and Game Freak team up to bring one tactical RPG to another RPG of great strategy. The only thing that could make this game better would be a hack-n-slash with horse-kicking (or I guess Rapidash for this case) action. It’s over the top, it’s campy, and…it’s a huge hook for an unlikely crowd.

Within the opening weeks of the game, few kids bought Pokemon + Nobunaga’s Ambition, but sales were still better than most Pokemon spin-offs. Why you may ask? Adults and teenagers were the culprits. Curious folks from the older crowd would spy the unlikely crossover and in their love of all things Koei and historical drama would purchase the game.

What we’re seeing here is the possibility of Game Freak wising up to the longevity of their series. For example, Black and White had a much more complex story compared to other entries (OK, complex for Pokemon, that is), catering to an older crowd even with the option for kanji in the dialogue instead of just hiragana for the kiddies.  Now factor in how most of the fans of Koei’s historical tactical games and hack n’ slash games tend to be older, and you have a Game Freak that’s starting to realize that there are fans that have continued to stick with them since the beginning.

Reading up on the game, it’s pretty standard fare but everything has the usual Pokemon spin. Type casting is important and usual abilities and items are present. But the big twist, outside of the tactical RPG mechanics, is the importance of the warlord’s link with your Pokemon. Certain Pokemon have certain link percentages with particular warlords. Logically, if the warlord and Pokemon link up well, then battle will be easier; if not, then stats will not be as high and the Pokemon might not fully evolve. Curiously, even your warlords will “evolve” if they are paired with the right monsters.

And if you folks all remember how the Mysterious Dungeon series got revitalized by the Pokemon crossovers, this could mean good things for Koei. Take any game series that is lesser known in the US (aka any game series not CoD), cross it over with Pokemon, and suddenly prospects for that series becomes greater. The aforementioned Mysterious Dungeon series had more games come to the US after the Pokemon crossovers happened. Therefore, Koei could probably generate more foreign support for Samurai Warriors and other games thanks to this venture.

Okay, the Inverseman says this game is great and fans of history-based games will love it. It’s even coming to the United States! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, okay, the game is going to be known Stateside as Pokemon Conquest, no foul there; Nobunaga’s Ambition is seldom known here, but how much of the game will be preserved in the localization? Knowing Nintendo of America, there is quite a chance that they will gut the game of its Japanese references and context. Yes, not everything will be understood by an American audience, but there is a big difference between making a good localization and outright stripping the reference or joke. For example, translating the “yamato nadeshiko” archetype as “wallflower” or something similar maintains the reference, but taking all the Japanese names of historical figures and rewriting them with western ones does not do the game justice; that’s a big issue when the character personalities and interactions make the biggest draw of the game. Remove that and you basically neuter the game’s selling point. Imagine a game about the American Revolution; you gotta have George Washington.  Now say you wanted a Chinese localization. While you would have to reinterpret some American 1700s slang, you won’t rename him Jin Wang and erase all the English military uniforms for Chinese armor. For a concrete example the cast in the Phoenix Wright  games may not have all Japanese names but they maintain the puns and humor well. (That and it’s not a history based game too.)

And the big thing is that we’ve come a long way in gaming where games brought over to the United States will still try to preserve the spirit and idea of the work, trying to bridge cultures and make them more accessible rather than shut them out. To fully warn the “dangers” at hand, may I call to the stand Capcom’s Sengoku Basara–uh, no I’m sorry, Devil Kings. Yeah, Capcom stripped the first Sengoku Basara of all the Japanese history and edited everything to be some generic western fantasy setting. Masamune (now Azure Dragon) lost his Engrish charm; Yukimura (now Scorpio) went from hot-blooded to faceless. The game tanked so badly that Capcom swore off Basara until the third game, which even then despite a fantastic localization still suffered from the mistakes of the past.

Learn well, NoA, learn well.

So there we have it; Pokemon Conquest has a lot of potential but will Nintendo of America pass up a good opportunity? We live in a much more global community of gaming now; a little bit of Japanese never hurt anyone, especially for a game like this. I will hold confidence that Nintendo of America and Koei’s US branch will do a fine job keeping the quirky campy personalities of the game for us to enjoy, especially if they too realize that today the demographics of Pokemon reach further to “everyone’s game” rather than “kids’ game.”

Art by あけひし@十色:に24

Join me next time when I teach a Meowth how to put his guns on.

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Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

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