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The Sentimental process behind GungHo's PSOne Imports


I was impressed with Gungho Online Entertainment's first batch of PSOne Import games, partly for symbolic reasons: they were all interesting games, yes, but they were also numerous, and Gungho CEO Jun Iwasaki told me the company had plans to release more. Imports, in my mind, are the most potentially exciting aspect of legacy download services, as companies can cheaply bring over games that wouldn't have big enough audiences to justify a localization, much less a spot on shelves.

Gungho's second batch of imports crosses an important milestone on the path to comprehensive import catalogues by adding text-heavy games to the lineup. Most PS3 or Vita owners won't even be able to play dating game Sentimental Graffiti, due to the pages and pages of Japanese text required to enjoy it.

"Our approach is to bring over as many games as possible as long as we can secure the licenses to publish them in North America and Europe," CEO Jun Iwasaki told me in an email interview. As this batch of games shows, "as many games as possible" could mean almost anything!

Of course, a small group of bilingual gamers will be delighted by things like Sentimental Graffiti, as will people hoping to improve their Japanese reading comprehension through video games. And releasing games that don't really make sense to release is a step toward getting them out there indiscriminately – the true iTunes of retro games.

Sentimental Graffiti is probably the least accessible Japanese game ever released on the PSOne Imports service – the Japanese versions of the Mega Man games being the most accessible. Despite that, Gungho concurrently offered a couple of RPGs full of Japanese text: First Queen IV, Rung Rung: Oz no Mahou Tsukai, and Favorite Dear: Enkan no Monogatari.

"Our sales expectations for these text-heavy games aren't very high, but we still believe in serving the hardcore JRPG fans who will enjoy the chance to play these games in their original, untranslated format. It also provides the opportunity for players who have always been curious about Japanese games but never had the chance to obtain them so easily."

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Sentimental Graffiti is the best GungHo can do at the moment for dating sim fans. "Knowing that there is still that group of gamers out there who would want to get their hands on a game like Sentimental Graffiti, we feel it's preferable to release the original Japanese version rather than nothing at all," Iwasaki said. "We hope the hardcore fans out there enjoy and appreciate these classics for what they are." And what they are is games that would cost a lot to import from Japan, provided in a convenient, cheap distribution channel.

Iwasaki maintained that the semi-random selection of games is mostly due to what GungHo could get the rights for. "GungHo does not own all of the developers or publishers for these PSOne imports," he explained, "but since they were able to secure the Japanese distribution rights from the independent licensors, it wasn't too tricky to obtain the rights to release them in North America as well." I originally suspected GungHo had acquired the publishers or developers for all of its re-releases. "We are also currently working on making them available at the European PlayStation Store," Iwasaki added.

GungHo may have modest expectations, but even the most modest are worthwhile to Iwasaki. "If we can satisfy that one fan who has always wanted to play incredibly niche titles like Art Camion Sugorokuden or Mahjong Uranai Fortuna, then I think we've accomplished our main goal."

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