The Fantastic World of Japanese Games – Episode 2

When playing Japanese SNES games on an emulator, often there are obvious and not so obvious reasons why a game may not have come out to America. The best way to think about it is was it an RPG, did it have suggestive themes, and did it have any sort of following here in America? Well today I’m going to bring you one that has suggestive themes, one that simply would not have been allowable for the time it was released, and one that has no real following here in America, but it is fucking badass.

Final Fantasy 5

A lot of people like to cite that this wasn’t released in America because RPGs just weren’t wanted back then. Well, that’s certainly possible, but I have two other very good reasons it wasn’t released. One is that it wasn’t quite on the level of FF4 in any respect. The story is okay and the main characters are fairly well developed, but with the exception of a few villains, everything else is just…ehhh.

Nevermind that there are so few main characters, especially in comparison to FF4. The job system is pretty cool, but it also means the characters aren’t exactly significant…rather, they’re just placeholders for whatever you want them to be. But even if RPGs were more popular and the game was higher quality, it definitely wouldn’t have been released because there were some fairly suggestive themes in there…along with a spoiler.

Don’t want to read the spoiler? Then skip to the next game. Faris is a cross dresser. Now that doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but back then, that would’ve been highly frowned upon, especially when, again, SNES games were looked at as toys…yes, even slightly after Mortal Kombat had already come out, adults still didn’t get it for a number of years later and I would claim a lot still don’t today.

So you have a game where there’s some mildly sexist material, you can get a lapdance, and one of the main characters is a cross dresser…well, kinda makes sense. FF5 is a great game overall, though, even with it not stacking up to some of the greater FFs. But while we’re on the subject of mature content…

Clock Tower

There is absolutely no way this game could ever have come out for the SNES and for two very good reasons. One, it’s slow. I mean, SLOW. I know they deliberately make things slow to increase the tension, but it’s also pretty frustrating. Two, well…it’s a horror game that has very mature themes. There’s gore, death, killing, violence, and all kinds of great stuff.

It can get pretty damn hair raising at times, especially since you can’t exactly fight back, which has become a staple of the Clock Tower games in general. Clock Tower definitely gets the job done, but even in a post Mortal Kombat era, there was just no way this game could ever exist on an SNES console in the early 90s.

Shin Nekketsu Kouha – Kunio-tachi no Banka

Do you know anything about the Kunio-Kun series? What, sure you do! You’ve played River City Ransom, right? Yeah, and what about games like Super Dodgeball? Did you ever notice the characters look very similar? Well, I’m not going to go into the full history of Kunio-Kun, mostly because I don’t know a whole lot about it myself, but also because there’s a better explanation here.

See, for a while, I couldn’t understand why this game didn’t come to America. Actually, there’s still a part of me that wonders why, but I think I’ve got a few good reasons. In this title, you are falsely accused of murder and thrown in jail. You then fight your way out and beat the hell out of anyone that gets in your way to discovering the truth. It’s very Double Dragon-like, which makes sense since the same company that did Double Dragon also did the Kunio-Kun series (Battletoads, too).

At first I thought maybe they figured it wouldn’t work in America because you get to beat up cops, but that makes no sense because you get to do that in Final Fight and a few other titles, too. So maybe it was the murder mystery? Well, it’s a more mature theme to be sure, but even in the opening there’s no real violence that would warrant a teen rating.

Perhaps there’s a lot of cursing and foul language? Well yeah, but the translation could’ve taken all that out. So what gives? Well, I honestly believe this is a case of A) nobody knowing or caring about the Kunio-Kun series in America and B) being too Japanese. When you look at the Japanese version of Renegade versus the American version, you can see they massively overhauled it to be “more American.”

Second, we missed a lot of Kunio-Kun games, mostly because they dealt with Japanese stuffs, often opting to have kids in Japanese school uniforms and having various Japanese locations, subways, etc. As a result, they probably figured we couldn’t relate, and in that respect, they’re mostly right. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a brawler, so it shouldn’t matter where the hell you are or why as long as there are plenty of suckers to kick the shit out of.

However, with very little knowledge of the Kunio-Kun games overall and being distinctly Japanese, there’s a good chance that some would’ve really enjoyed it while others would’ve been turned off. Now I just got done finishing Legend of the Mystical Ninja and there’s a very definitive side of me that feels that’s still bullshit, but the point about Kunio-Kun titles is still relevant.

When you figure that most of the Kunio-Kun games were about sports and they already had different, more popular American series out there like Double Dragon and Battletoads, it makes sense why they chose to skip this one. Even still, it won Brawler of the Year 1994 for me, so I say fuck ’em and just download it.


There are a multitude of reasons why a Japanese game may not make it to American soil. They’re not always good reasons and often the reasons simply wouldn’t fly today. It’s important to remember that most of the time, we’re dealing with the early 90s. Mortal Kombat was considered controversial, even the heavily neutered SNES version. So at the end of the day, I’m just glad to see we’re still able to play them, often fully translated, due to emulation.

Stay tuned!


Filed under Nintendo, Retro, SNES, Videogames

2 responses to “The Fantastic World of Japanese Games – Episode 2

  1. Well gosh darn it. As much as I’ve followed JRPGs, I never ever considered the fact that FF5’s cross-dressing antics could be the reason it never came over, but you’re probably right! Other ‘sex’ parts of FF games just needed a bit of pixel re-work to sort out, but something intregal to the plot is a lot harder to change. Good spot.

    • It’s sad, too, because it’s just that ONE part…and then they just get on with it. It’s never mentioned, discussed, or anything ever again. Granted, it was very, VERY corny at times and that could have been another deciding factor, but overall it’s a strong entry in the FF franchise and it was too bad we didn’t receive it when it was released.

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