If we're lucky enough to get Japanese games localized in the west chances are a few things will change. Along with the language, certain cultural aspects can be altered so that it makes more sense in other countries. Most of the time nudity, or more perverse subject matters are censored too. Japan is pretty lax when it comes to that sort of stuff, but for some reason apparently, anyone outside of Japan can't handle it? We get all the blood and gore we want though. There is one last type of alteration, but this method has been pretty much dead since the 8-Bit and 16-Bit era of consoles. Not really a word for it, or a genre, but it transforms games from one thing into another.
Take a character like Batman for example. Say a Western studio made a NES game based on him. If it gets localized elsewhere that may spell trouble for copyright agreements. Companies may consider cultural awareness as well to determine sales. Batman may not sell as well as a native Japanese property. All things considered, publishers may then have their developers reconfigure the game into something like Dragon Ball. More or less, they’re pretty much sprite hacks, but on a grander level. Games weren’t really advertising these changes either, so you could have played a game as a kid and not even known it was something else in another country. With that in mind, these fifteen titles may astonish you. I’ll also weigh in on which country got the better deal.
13 Super Mario Bros. 2 (Doki Doki Panic)
It's been written a hundred times over on the Internet by every site out there. In fact, I just wrote about this in a hacks article. If you like games and didn't know Super Mario Bros. 2 was actually a game called Doki Doki Panic in Japan than congratulations. You're the only one left. As a quick explanation, Doki Doki Panic was a Famicom Disk System game based on a Japanese mascot. Bringing the game over here in its natural state would have no meaning. Plus the real Super Mario Bros. 2 was already too old and hard to bring over by that point so Nintendo decided to rework Doki Doki Panic to what we know today. Something like that. I think Super Mario Bros. 2 wins this round.
12 The Real Ghostbusters (Meikyuu Hunter G)
I’m going to kill the mystery on this one and vote for The Real Ghostbusters right out of the gate. It’s freaking Ghostbusters! What the heck is Meikyuu Hunter G anyway? Well, it’s not based on a show or anything. Meikyuu basically translates into labyrinth. You’re a monster hunter of some sort going through labyrinths. It’s a fairly simple eight-stage arcade game. When it was recoded into The Real Ghostbusters, programmers tweaked the stages, added in different monsters, put in iconic weapons and music from the series, and even added two levels. Yeah, I don’t think there’s much of a debate here. While this version is technically better I will admit that both games are pretty average overall. Better with friends in the three-player edition.
11 Decap Attack (Majikaru Hatto No Buttobi Tabo! Daiboken)
I missed both of these games growing up since I never owned a Sega console. Nintendo all the way until PlayStation, baby. Going back to the Sega Genesis now has turned up some treasures, but there’s a lot of garbage too. Decap Attack in particular. I like the fact that you’re a weird mutant mummy and that your head pops out, but the game is ugly. Majikaru Hatto no Buttobi Tabo! Daiboken simply translates into Magical Hat Flying Turbo! Adventure. It’s based off the anime, Magical Hat, and because the publisher wasn’t able to obtain the rights to the show, the game had to be retooled to what we know it as today: an ugly mess. Magical Hat Flying Turbo! Adventure is prettier, but isn’t much better as a game.
Panic Restaurant (Wanpaku Kokkun No Gourmet World)
Panic Restaurant is one of the best NES games ever. Sadly not a lot of people played it as it was released at the tail end of the NES in 1992 when everyone had already graduated into the 16-But era with the SNES and Sega Genesis. That said the game is rare because of its late launch and will net you a good sum if you happen to find a sealed copy. Now I first discovered the game in 2013 during a recording of one of my video shows: Bizarre Bits. Despite the very creepy box art, it was a pretty rad game. And what of its Japanese counterpart? Exactly the same except the old Chef Boyardee sprite is much younger. Very Boring. North America wins again!
10 J.J. And Jeff (Kato-chan & Ken-chan)
If you’re going to censor all the best stuff out of a game and take out the stars then why bother localizing it? Kato-chan & Ken-chan is based on a comedy show in Japan, which focused on two comedians: Ken Shimura and Cha Kato. It was a pretty famous show and even had English guests from time to time including Leslie Nielsen. It was a pretty risqué show with a lot of PG-13 almost nude women and crass humor. Sounds like my kind of show. The game translates this humor pretty well including birds pooping and random strangers peeing on stuff, which you can then kick in the crotch. Hilarious, no? J.J. and Jeff isn’t based on a comedy duo and it removes all the great toilet humor. No sale!
9 Street Combat (Ranma 1/2: Chounai Gekitou Hen)
This is one of the lamest attempts of converging a game into a new property. Street Combat is a fighting game with some the worst graphics imaginable. Somehow they screwed up the controls of the original game too. What kind of a name is Street Combat anyway? What a dumb attempt to rip off the Street Fighter name. Good grief. Suffice it to say Japan wins on this one as the game in question is based on the excellent Ranma ½ (one-half) manga and anime. In 1992 Viz Media was publishing the manga in a monthly comic series, which is the same year as Street Combat’s release. The game’s deal was probably made too early to keep it as is. The next Ranma ½ fighter, Hard Battle, did come over as is though.
8 Black Belt (Hokuto No Ken)
Hokuto no Ken probably means nothing to you, but if I said that’s the Japanese name for Fist of the North Star then ears should start perking up. For those that are unaware, Fist of the North Star is an extremely violent manga/anime from the 80s. This game came out in 1986, three years before the U.S. would see any sort of translated content. So again, there were copyright issues in bringing it over initially. Plus, as I mentioned before, this series is extremely violent. You can imagine the controversy exploding pixels would bring in a 1986 video game industry. Fun fact. Yuji Naka, the father of Sonic the Hedgehog, worked on this game prior to creating the furry sensation that we all know and loathe today.
7 Adventure Island (Wonder Boy)
Wonder Boy’s entire video game history is a proper mess when it comes to localization and ports. The simplest conversion was from the original and it actually happened in Japan first. Adventure Island was a NES port of Wonder Boy, but because of licensing issues, it was reworked into its own game. Adventure Island is the only conversion of Wonder Boy that was so successful it spun out into its own long running series. I also want to note that both versions made their way to North America as is. It’s kind of a cheat to include it on here, but I find Wonder Boy’s history fascinating. Plus as a Nintendo kid, this was the version I knew about. That kind of fits for this article, right?
6 Power Blade (Power Blazer)
I’m at an impasse for both of these games. On one hand Power Blazer has a cuter, chibi version of the hero. On the other hand, technically the North American port has a cooler, more mainstream hero. Both games are completely different other than the fact that each hero has a sweet ass boomerang. Their stages are unique and can be selected in any order Mega Man style. They’re both tough as nails games, but are excellent nonetheless. Some of the best chiptune stuff out there too. Interesting enough the sequel, Power Blade 2, was based on the North American version of the hero and it’s called Captain Saver in Japan. That settles it then. If Japan caved that must mean America wins again. USA! USA! USA!
5 Shatterhand (Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain)
Here’s a moment of ignorance from your author. I reviewed Shatterhand in 2013 and didn’t bother doing any research into its background. It’s a fantastic game, and nothing made me question it so that’s why I never felt the need. Plus I was only two years into my writing career. I was a young buck. Anyway, if I did, I would have found out that it’s called Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain in Japan and it’s based on a show similar to Power Rangers. Instead of operating as a cyborg cop in a cool jacket, you’re now a cyborg cop with a rad power suit. I still prefer Shatterhand over Solbrain since that’s how I was first introduced to the game. Both are great games though.
Whomp 'Em (Saiyuuki World 2: Tenjoukai No Majin)
Whomp ‘Em is a bad, somewhat racist pun on behalf of Native Americans. I don’t really want to get political here, but this conversion is kind of insane. Remember when I said Wonder Boy had a lot of weird ports? Saiyuuki World 2: Tenjoukai no Majin is a sequel to a NES port of Wonder Boy in Monster Land. So Whomp ‘Em is a tweak of a sequel based on a tweak. They barely changed anything either. The pole is now a spear and the hero has face paint and a feather. Way to go guys. It was most likely changed because the novel, Journey to the West, was more obscure outside of Japan at the time. Since Whomp ‘Em is in poor taste, I’ll vote for Saiyuuki World 2.
4 Circus Caper (Moeru! Onii-san)
We’ve come across another anime copyright fiasco. If it wasn’t obvious already — this is really one of the main reasons these conversions happened. Moeru! Onii-san, or The Burning Wild Man, is basically a comedy martial arts anime/manga similar at best to Dragon Ball. Neither the comic nor the show was ever released outside of Japan; thus the game was retooled to an extreme level. Instead of playing the in the wildness of Japan you’re now traversing a series of circus tents trying to find your lost sister who was kidnapped by an evil clown. See? Clowns ARE evil. It’s an impressive reworking of a terrible game. Both games aren’t great, but I’ll root for the home team on this one because at least I can read Circus Caper.
3 Yo Noid (Kamen No Ninja Hanamaru)
One of Domino's more bizarre mascots was the Noid. It looked like a human stuffed into a rubber rabbit suit, and it wanted to steal your pizza. The 80s were blasted with ads to avoid the Noid. Sort of like a Trix rabbit situation only with Italian pies. Not sure why there was a video game starring the Noid then, but I didn't question it. I loved playing this game at my cousin's, but damn was it hard. I only later found out it was based on a Japanese TV show. While playing as a ninja with a sweet hawk partner is cooler, the novelty of playing as a Noid is greater to me. Yo Noid is just another fascinating example of a company trying to advertise their brand through video games.
2 Kid Klown In Night Mayor World (Mickey Mouse III: Yume Fuusen)
Okay, this one is insanely bizarre. First of all Mickey Mouse is an adorable cartoon character adored by all. Sure Disney has a seedy past and you could then jokingly pin that all on the mouse. Questionable past aside, you’re rarely going to find someone who finds Mickey repulsive. You know what a good majority of people do find creepy? Clowns. Why we got the short end of the stick with Kid Klown in Night Mayor World is beyond me. Turns out Capcom held rights to publish any Disney game in the U.S. and since this wasn’t Capcom, Kemco had to rework the title. Both games are nearly identical except with a different story and some reworked sprites. Still, Mickey Mouse III: Yume Fuusen is the way to go on this one.
1 Factory Panic (Ganbare Gorubi)
I saved the weirdest port for last. It's another cheat, kind of, as Factory Panic was released in Europe for the Game Gear. Buy hey, it’s in English and is a conversion, so I’m going to count it. So what makes it the strangest game on this list? Factory Panic is a pretty boring puzzle game wherein you’re dodging guards to release food unto the populous. The original is the same only the hero is Gorbachev. Yes, THAT Gorbachev. Seeing that pixelated bald head with his pink birthmark is so adorable. This wasn’t the only Gorbachev game either. Gorby no Pipeline Daisakusen was the first. What’s up with Japan and Gorbachev? On top of all this Russia never officially got these games. That’s pretty crazy, right? I’m voting for the previous Gorby on this one.