Last month at the Tokyo Game Show, Capcom showed off the next installment of Sengoku Basara — simply titled Sengoku Basara 4. I purposely avoided the trailer, mostly because I believed, and still believe, that Capcom will be true to their word about the games not coming to the West again. Eventually the trailer caught up to me, and I watched it — and I’m still pretty much convinced it’s not coming to the West.
However, Capcom is a large company. If they decide there’s money to be made on the game in the western market, they will most certainly release it here. However, Capcom needs to learn from it’s past mistakes if they want the game to at least break even. So, below is my list of lessons Capcom should have learned by now.
Lesson 1: Don’t change the name
The first lesson that needs to be learned is just some basic honesty about this series.
Yes, the 4 at the end means it’s part of a series. And yes, some gamers will be confused when there is no 1, 2, or 3 in the western market. However, this makes the game more intriguing, and it will attract customers who are interested in obscure titles like this. Who knows? If Basara 4 is successful, maybe Capcom could repackage the HD collections to sell to western audiences later.
I mention the repackaging strategy because it happened before, in the nineties. Final Fantasy 7 released with it’s original numbering intact to the west, in spite of the numbering on the Super Nintendo games only going to 3. This brought the three missing games to western audiences’ attention, and created interest in the Western market for the other 3 games they missed. Square then capitalized on the interest by slowly repackaging and releasing versions of those games to the West.
The difference, of course, is that Final Fantasy 7 is mostly a self-contained world and story; Sengoku Basara 4 is likely taking place after events in Sengoku Basara 3. While I’ll admit the game referencing events or characters in other games might put some people off, changing the title will not fix this issue; in fact it may make it worse.
Therefore, changing the title of the game from Sengoku Basara 4 to something else for the western market accomplishes nothing, and may in fact hurt it’s chances of building up interest.
Lesson 2: Marketing is more important than Localization
If Capcom is going to try this again, they need to have learned to spend as much time and money on marketing as they do localization.
One of the reasons I’m sure Capcom lost money on Sengoku Basara Samurai Heroes was due to the English dubbing of the characters. These weren’t just a small collection of people they pulled off the street — actual voice actors were involved in the game’s localization. Sam Reigel, Matthew Mercer, and Johnny Yong Bosch are just the highlights of a rather extensive list on the game’s IMDB page. I approve of Capcom using actual actors in some cases. However, not giving any kind of promotion to this game after doing that is at best a waste, and at worst an insult to everyone involved.
If a good deal of money was put into localizing the game, it especially needs to be advertised as well. There needs to be promotional material, possibly pre-order bonuses, or cross-promotions. Capcom needs to send out or hire out people to talk about the game on social media, and get people interested in the new one. People aren’t going to buy the game if they don’t know about it.
If Capcom is unwilling or unable to get that kind of exposure, they need to trim down the localization costs too. I can only speak for myself here; however, as long as there are subtitles, I can deal with a Japanese voice track.
The lack of an English voice track will restrict them to a digital release on some consoles, which should be seen as a boon anyway. A digital release would be cheaper to produce, and more profitable if it sells well. I’d almost recommend releasing digitally regardless for this reason also.
All in all, it’s better for the people making it, the customers buying it, and the company publishing it if more people are aware of the product. If you can’t make the effort to drum up interest, there’s no reason to spend more money on it’s release than necessary.
Lesson 3: The only thing you need to change is adding an Encyclopedia
When addressing possible changes that need to be made to the game, stick with minor things.
English language subtitles are a must. Anglicizing the names is a good idea; changing them to something completely different is a bad idea. The original soundtrack will work; adding an out-of-place rock tune isn’t going to woo the West anymore than the original music would. A change in difficulty is unnecessary. Removing characters is a slight to the audience. Trying to change the setting in localization is a fool’s errand.
The series is a parody of the Sengoku era of Japan, so the only thing westerners really need added to the game is an understanding of that history. Adding an in-game encyclopedia would remedy this. This wouldn’t be hard to implement either. One simply needs to find a history teacher familiar with topic or someone willing to research the topic, and have him/her write a paragraph for each of the main characters. True, there will be some players that won’t care about this feature. For those that do, though, Capcom would be allowing them to get in on the joke. It’s a wonderful, if subtle, gesture.
At the end of the day, though, I don’t expect Sengoku Basara 4 to make the move to the West. However, if Capcom does change their minds, they’d do well to remember these lessons and learn from their past mistakes to make this series all it should have been.
Sengoku Basara series, characters, and promotional materials here are owned by Capcom and not myself. I own only the opinions expressed in this article.