Over the course of Nintendo’s lifespan, there have been a few games that fans demand but aren’t delivered.
Sometimes these games don’t come out because of complications (such as ‘Ravenblade’ on the Nintendo GameCube).
At other times, these games don’t get released in the same form as they’ve been advertised because they radically change throughout their development (such as ‘Zelda64’ on the Nintendo 64).
And then there are those games that just don’t come out in certain regions.
Up until just a few months ago, two games in this third category were ‘Xenoblade Chronicles’ and ‘The Last Story.’ However, thanks (at least in part) to a highly organized fan movement called Operation Rainfall, these games are being released in North America. This movement used petitions, barrages of messages at pre-arranged times, and letter writing campaigns.
However, out of the three games that Operation Rainfall aims to have localized in North America only one, ‘Pandora’s Tower,’ still remains un-localized. Operation Rainfall still has to send their self-made kits promoting the game to their selected publishers, as of this writing, but such a unique tactic has a great chance of success.
Still, what about other games that missed out on the star treatment that Operation Rainfall has managed for its trio of JRPGs?
The biggest case here is ‘Earthbound 64,’ a Nintendo 64 game that debuted in a trailer and demo at Spaceworld 1999. It caused a massive fan buzz, still archived at sites like starmen.net.
But the game was delayed since developers, much more familiar with making games for the SNES and Game Boy consoles, had trouble working with new 3-D engines. And, in August 2000, ‘Earthbound 64’ was outrightly cancelled.
However, in April of 2006 the game resurfaced in Japan as a GBA release.
Just like with ‘Zelda64,’ the game looked like it had changed from its original plan, at least slightly, but nonetheless, it was there for all of the world to see under the name ‘Mother 3.’ However, as of May 2012, there are no public plans for a North American localization of ‘Mother 3.’
Nonetheless, Earthbound fans are more resilient than a Bionic Kraken, and so, in July 2009, a fan translation was completed.
Before the release of the fan translation, the game could be played on an emulator, but, unless you could read Japanese, it wouldn’t make much sense. Before their North American localization, the same was also true of ‘Xenoblade’ and ‘The Last Story.’ Once they were released in Europe, they could be more easily imported, but players would still have to modify their Wiis to read the foreign game disc.
Operation Rainfall has changed that, but games like ‘Mother 3’ remain.
So what’s to be done? Is it ethical to download and play an emulated copy of a game that you don’t own, knowing that you will probably never be able to purchase it? Is it wrong to increase the fanbase of a game through possibly illegal means? Moreover, does importing or emulating games keep companies like Nintendo from localizing them?
In the case of ‘Mother 3,’ it’s all but sure that the game’s never going to get a North American localization and release. There are nods to the ‘Earthbound’/’Mother’ series in the ‘Super Smash Bros.’ games (Ness and Lucas are playable characters), but Nintendo still has not brought Earthbound or its NES prequel to the virtual console, a sure sign of the series’ being ignored by Nintendo of America.
With no active movement to bring over a game in place, and no real interest on the part of the people who could do just that, what’s wrong with playing a rom of a game like ‘Mother 3’? There’s no market to spoil. There’s no profit being hurt. Plus there’s goodwill built for the series and for its creators.
In the case of ‘Mother 3,’ or your own foreign game of choice, do you think it’s justifiable to emulate a game that you haven’t bought? Add your thoughts to the comments.