This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – have a staff roundtable on a particular topic, spill out thoughts related to it, and (potentially) react to those comments. We’ll begin this new editorial series with a notable subject these last few weeks – Operation Rainfall’s attempts to change Nintendo of America’s mind about localizing The Last Story, Xenoblade and Pandora’s Tower (which, BTW, you should get those Xenoblade letters out tomorrow!). Jason X and Nester join me in talking about this effort, and with this particular cause we just spoke out on the issue at hand – no rebuttals or debates this time. I hope this becomes a recurring series on LVLs., and that our discussions prove interesting. Enjoy!
It’s been a little over a week since a small band of IGN forum goers started a movement that would shake up the gaming world – an attempt to convince Nintendo of America that they should localize The Last Story, Xenoblade and Pandora’s Tower for American gamers. Despite a massive social networking push, a ton of media coverage from gaming sites, bumping Monado: The Beginning of the World (North America’s name for Xenoblade) to the top of Amazon’s video game charts, Youtube videos, and mounting a massive letter writing campaign that’s about to begin, Nintendo’s sole response has been seen more as a slap in the face than anything else. Despite this setback, the movement is ready to begin the next phase with its Xenoblade letters sent to Nintendo of America pleading for its localization.
As one could tell from our banner at the moment, I’m fully behind this endeavor. I think Zero at Negative World puts my feelings into words about as well as I could – I’ve been a fan of Nintendo since I was a wee boy, playing Donkey Kong as an arcade cabinet and growing up with a NES and N64. I have all of their systems save a Virtual Boy and 3DS, and consider them one of the greatest devs in the industry. However, this generation has been a test of that passion. Most of my Wii library is third party games – A Boy & His Blob, Muramasa, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, Resident Evil 4, Zack & Wiki, Little King’s Story, Deadly Creatures, Data East Arcade Classics, No More Heroes, Dead Space Extraction. I have Wii Sports, New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Galaxy 2, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn representing Nintendo. I can’t think of too many other consoles I own where the difference between first and third party content is this wide. Granted, there’s a few choice games missing from this list I’d like to try – Donkey Kong Country Returns, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, the upcoming Zelda: Skyward Sword. But what I really have wanted to play, more than anything else, has been The Last Story and Xenoblade.
Somehow or another, I have found myself being a big fan of RPG’s. It didn’t really begin happening until I had my Commodore 64, which had the entire Bard’s Tale series and Pool of Radiance, both of which are fantastic old-school Western examples of the genre. Ogre Battle 64 was the first Japanese RPG (although it’s more strategy based than most) that caught my attention, and Skies of Arcadia and Grandia II built upon that initial enjoyment (especially Skies). Since then, I’ve found myself attracted to the genre, and modified my own game designs to be such games. One in particular had taken an interesting turn into becoming a real-time battle engine, where your allies were AI controlled, you fought in large spaces, could interact with the environment and do neat co-op moves with your friends.
Now you may understand why The Last Story has constantly been covered by LVLs. since I found out how it works – it reminds me so much of my old design that I would love to see how well it controls, to see if my imagination was on the right track for an engaging, fun combat system. Of course, mine did not tie into every facet of The Last Story’s – the environment was far more context-driven, like throwing sand into the enemy’s eyes if you were fighting on the beach, for example, or being able to climb rocks and trees to ambush foes caught up in other battles, plus several other traits I don’t want to go into (it may be a thing one day, you know ). The point is, The Last Story is a game I could have made if I had the resources, and I want to play it so badly it dominates nearly every other desire I have gaming-wise.
Xenoblade, on the other hand, just looks fun to me. I like Tales of Symphonia, and Xenoblade reminds me of it from a gameplay perspective. It also has a huge open-world to run around in, and I like to explore. It’s a game I would buy, without question.
However, I need to be able to purchase them before I can play them. And there’s the rub. Nintendo’s response to Operation Rainfall is not promising, although not an outright refusal (although in some ways that may be preferable). The internet has exploded with various forms of outrage, some classy, others not, but the vitriol is quite apparent. Frustrated gamers are able to unite and complain to the world at large more than ever before. It’s not an isolated incident anymore. The 16-bit days of yearning for Seiken Densetsu 3 (for example), never getting it, and having no real outlet to try to change that is long gone. Social networking through the web has rewritten the rules, as much as Nintendo (and others) may wish it hadn’t.
My thoughts? I want to play these games. I want to buy them legally in America, without modding my Wii to play European copies. I want to support Nintendo for making a choice to give Wii gamers some RPG’s it’s been starved for. And I will make the effort to convince them to do so. It may be for naught. But I do believe that it is absolutely worth trying.
Operation Rainfall is not a wholly unique endeavor. I’ve seen other grassroots campaigns on the Internet that try to influence a publisher to make or release a particular game. The Shenmue Campaign comes to mind. It was active for years and involved letter writing, capsule toy mailing, banners at the Tokyo Game Show, a petition with over 50,000 signatures, and acknowledgment from series creator Yu Suzuki. Yet, that wasn’t enough to evoke a significant reaction from Sega.
But I’ve never seen a fan campaign spread as far and as fast as Operation Rainfall. Aside from widespread coverage by commercial gaming media, news of the movement reached Yahoo Japan, as well as the creators of Xenoblade and The Last Story. Most impressive of all, however, is that it evoked an actual response from NoA. Granted, the “official” statement was made via Twitter and Facebook, but it took more than two days for Nintendo to make it. While it would be easy for fans to see that as Nintendo being lazy or slow, what it likely meant was that something was happening behind the scenes. Perhaps NoA was reevaluating options, or communicating with Nintendo Co Ltd in Japan. The ultimate reply may not have indicated results or revealed much, but it was at least an acknowledgment that the fans’ voices were heard and considered. That, in itself, is a feat, especially for a company that often seems notoriously closed off from the outside world.
So, I applaud Operation Rainfall, as well as the gaming community that has admirably united with it. Their continued efforts should be supported, but with the understanding that we don’t always get what we want.
This is an interesting situation, and I find myself in a situation that might not be entirely beneficial to the Operation Rainfall movement. I like the idea of Xenoblade and The Last Story, and would like to see them brought to America. I don’t really know much about Pandora’s Tower, but the more quality games we can get on the Wii, the better. Unfortunately, I’m not exactly an avid Nintendo fan.
The vast majority of my time is spent on my 360. I’m addicted to the siren song of Achievements, and my gaming habits reflect that. Nintendo has no console-wide point system, and have even gone so far as to state that they’re against the very idea of such a feature. That’s all well and good, but it prevents me from playing the games on their systems more often.
On top of that, there’s no denying the fact that the Wii isn’t exactly flush with top rate entertainment. Much like the Gamecube and N64 before it, there are some good games here and there, but not nearly as many as you could find on the PS3 or 360. Don’t get me wrong, Muramasa and the first No More Heroes were enough to justify the purchase price of the system alone, but those types of releases are very few and far between.
Even so, I’m behind what Operation Rainfall is trying to accomplish. Not because it would genuinely make a difference to what games I play, but because of what it represents. Customers are telling a service provider what they want, and the provider is not listening. I’m sure Nintendo has put time and money into evaluating these games for an American release, but when these things are coming to Europe with English translations, I’m really at a loss as to what their defense could be. The cost of publishing? Marketing? Are they seriously saying that they can’t take some of the cash out of their infamous war chest for these games?
I think a lot of it comes down to the psychology behind the situation. If you give in on something like this after a business decision was already made, you set a very bad precedent. You’d be telling the public that they can get whatever they want from you if they just pester you enough. On the other hand, this isn’t a hostage negotiation. We’re trying to tell a company that we want to spend a lot of money on something, if they’d just have the decency to sell it to us.
All things considered, even with my tendency to not play Nintendo games, I find myself really identifying with this cause. I’ll be writing a physical letter to Nintendo about it, and if the games do see a U.S. release, I’ll buy them on day one just to prove that my word is good. Will it work out in the public’s favor? I honestly don’t think so. Sometimes, though, you just have to prove a point.