Back in July, newly-appointed CEO of Sega Games Haruki Satomi admitted the company had some work to do: “I’ve been talking to the employees about how we should start putting serious consideration into quality from this point on,” Satomi told Japanese publication Famitsu. He added that Sega had learned a lot from its acquisition of Atlus, at least in terms of the western market, stating, “If we can make a title with proper quality, I believe there’s a good chance for it to do well even in the West for players that like to play Japanese games.”
At the time, many reacted with cynicism. There’s a weight of history that has conditioned people to expect little from Sega over the last decade and a half (which is probably a touch unfair, considering the undeniable quality of some of their releases over that period), which led to some passing the comments off as nothing more than lip service. However, recent signs seem to be suggesting that Sega may well be in danger of getting their act together.
First, November brought us news of both a remaster of the cult favourite PS3 strategy RPG Valkyria Chronicles and a new entry in the series, entitled Valkyria: Azure Revolution, both for the PS4. Fans had long since given up any hope of seeing anything done with the series; except for a port of the first game to Steam back in November 2014, the franchise has seen no movement since the Japan-only PSP game, Valkyria Chronicles 3, which is now five years old. The last title we got in the west was the second game, also on PSP, which came out in 2010, so to say these developments came as a surprise is something of an understatement. So far, only the Valkyria Chronicles remaster, out now in Japan, has been announced for a western release. Hopefully, good sales will encourage Sega to localise Azure Revolution, too.
In early December, we received confirmation of a western release for a new title in Sega’s evergreen Yakuza series, as Sony’s Gio Corsi took to the stage at PlayStation Experience 2015 to announce that Yakuza 0, a prequel to the main series set in 1988, would be making its way to PS4 in the west. It’s always good to get confirmation for localisations in the Yakuza series, as it has had something of a rough ride outside of Japan, with three (spin-off) instalments entirely MIA. The latest in the series, Yakuza 5, only made it to PS3 a couple of months ago – three years after its Japanese release, and even then only as a PSN download – while the recently-released Kiwami, a remake of the first game, and the forthcoming Yakuza 6 have both yet to be announced for localisation.
Then there was the more recent announcement of a retail release for the 3D Classics line, a collection of classic Sega Arcade, Master System and Megadrive games, including Thunder Blade, Fantasy Zone 2, Altered Beast and more, that have been releasing one at a time on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. There are two such collections in Japan, with only the second one set for release in the west, but hey, one is certainly an improvement over none, right?
And just last week there was news of yet another localisation, and this one is surely the most surprising of the lot. 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is an RPG for the 3DS in a series that has never escaped Japan – especially galling for fans of Sega’s older RPG lines, as it’s produced by one Rieko Kodama, creator of Phantasy Star and Producer on Skies of Arcadia, as well as Kazuya Niinou, director of the Etrian Odyssey series. Oh, and did I mention the series has music by Yuzo ‘Streets of Rage’ Koshiro? Yes, now you’re seeing why this is a big deal: to think there’s been an RPG series with that pedigree that we’ve been missing out on since 2009! Sega’s press release stressed that the game is a standalone title in the series, and as such newcomers can go into it completely fresh, which is rather handy.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as Sega may be learning from Atlus in more ways than one. “Atlus hates Europe” is pretty much its own meme at this point…
…and at this rate, “Sega hates Europe” may well end up being a thing, too; of those four games listed above, only one – Valkyria Chronicles Remastered – is currently confirmed for a European release, and considering the game has already been released here on PS3 and PC, it’s perhaps the least exciting of the bunch. Rather cruelly, the trailer shown for Yakuza 0 at PlayStation Experience appeared to confirm a European release, only for Sega to later clarify that it was an error, and that an EU release could not be confirmed.
Of course, the lack of European announcements doesn’t mean these games won’t be localised, but even so it’s not exactly encouraging. And at least in the case of any PS4 titles, while far from ideal, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they do remain JP/NA-exclusive thanks to the PS4 being region free. The real issue is those 3DS games, thanks to that console’s region lock, and it’d be almost tragic in the case of 7th Dragon that the series would finally make it out of Japan, but still be unplayable for those of us in Europe. Perhaps it’s worth taking to Twitter to convince Sega Europe that we’d like these games, too.
At any rate, it’s good to see Sega are actually going to be making some new games that aren’t Sonic and Yakuza (though we can expect a new Sonic game this year for the franchise’s 25th anniversary), so let’s hope this is a sign of greater things to come.