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While the 3DS has recently proven itself as a real RPG powerhouse, just a handful of years ago, Sony's PSP held the same distinction. It might be hard to remember, but before we were joining our Wii Us and 3DSes in unholy unions for some co-op Monster Hunting, the PSP once had a monopoly on all things related to this popular brand, which in turn encouraged developers to hitch their respective wagons to Sony's money train. Thanks to the PSP's debilitating piracy issues, coupled with Japanese-developed RPGs losing traction in the West, many of these titles never saw an official English release, despite the talent and/or brand associated with them.
Of course, there's no reason these games couldn't eventually resurface on the Vita marketplace -- after all, the screen on that thing makes PSP-level graphics look amazing again. Discounting unimportant factors like profit, feasibility, and interest, I'd like to present five Japanese-developed RPGs for the PSP that would be more than welcome on the underappreciated Vita.
Final Fantasy Type-0
What is it? Once part of the somewhat disastrous Fabula Nova Crystalis: Final Fantasy XIII initiative, Final Fantasy Type-0 eventually emerged in Japan in October 2011 as an action-RPG in the vein of Crisis Core. While it's only a spin-off, Type-0's non-existence in English feels like an anomaly for Square, who isn't shy about putting their emphasis behind the Final Fantasy brand, even if the game in question isn't worthy. Plus, The 3rd Birthday got preferential treatment over this?
Why didn't we get it? At the time of Type-0's release, Square had been going through some pretty dire financial woes, so pulling out of the PSP market made sense. Seeing as they never made most of their catalog available for download, it's not like anyone really noticed.
Will we ever see it in English? After a few years of hopelessness, a Type-0 localization is now at least remotely possible. And we may even see the game in an improved HD format, at that.
Grand Knights History
What is it? A Vanillaware game -- and without all of those controversial character designs. Grand Knights' lush watercolor backgrounds, expressive sprites, and stirring Basiscape soundtrack all seemed to indicate Vanillaware intended to end the PSP's twilight years with a bang.
Why didn't we get it? Tragically, we almost did, until XSEED had to call off their plans to localize the game for a very common reason: Vanillaware had moved on to developing Dragon's Crown, and couldn't spare any localization reprogramming help from their tiny team. So really, the only enemy in this scenario is practicality, and how it tends to ruin things that "would be cool."
Will we ever see it in English? Not likely, but in the coming years the PSP will likely see the same amount of support that the fan translation scene gave the Super Famicom in the late '90s. So if you play it in English, it'll be years from now and in a law-skirting manner.
Valkyria Chronicles 3
What is it? In 2008, Sega released Valkyria Chronicles, an excellent strategy RPG with an art style that oozed rustic charm -- and then no one bought it. Assuming that the original's quiet dignity and general avoidance of stereotypes stood in the way of profit, the sequel quickly dispatched with both of these qualities, wrapping great gameplay in a package that played out like My First Anime. Sega tried to return the series to its roots with a more serious and back-to-basics approach with part 3, but far too late in the PSP's lifespan (2011) to really make a difference.
Why didn't we get it? Well, diminishing returns between Valkyria 1 and 2, and the fact that Sega doesn't take a lot of risks these days. Take, for example, the fact that they haven't announced an American launch for Phantasy Star Online 2 -- you think they're going to jump on an even less-known RPG series?
Will we ever see it in English? Considering Sega's dropped the Valkyria series from their scalded hands like an oven-fresh pizza, probably not.
The Last Ranker
What is it? Directed by the creator of Etrian Odyssey, with music by Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts) and a script by Kazushige Nojima (every Final Fantasy for the last 15 years), The Last Ranker combined some of the heaviest RPG hitters of Japan at the time. And from Capcom, too, who seemed to shy away from this genre after quietly smothering Breath of Fire in 2003.
Why didn't we get it? A likely story: The Last Ranker's 2010 release date came just after the PSP's initial freefall, making it far too late to slave over a product that would only be enjoyed by pirates and a small minority of honest RPG addicts. With no established brand to stand behind, The Last Ranker would have died an ignoble death in the harsh world of late-aughts PSP retail.
Will we ever see it in English? Not unless you do it yourself. And if you do, can you send me a copy for research?
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (PSP)
What is it? The PSP remake to an RPG Atlus original released stateside in 2000, Eternal Punishment acts a sequel to Person 2: Innocent Sin, which didn't see an American release until a PSP remake in 2012. Confused yet? In recent years, Atlus has devoted resources to re-releasing games that never saw official translations, so the existence of an English Eternal Punishment must have seemed much more enticing than budgeting an American PSP release for late 2012/early 2013. For the record, Atlus made sure that Eternal Punishment could be playable on the PSP -- you'll just need to download the PlayStation version from PSN.
Why didn't we get it? Innocent Sin always stood as much more of a "white whale" for Atlus fans, so it's easy to see why a localization for it took precedence over working on the inevitable remake of Eternal Punishment. Plus, Atlus had shifted gears to Vita development by Eternal Punishment's May 2012 Japanese release date, meaning their focus had shifted to more Persona-related matters.
Will we ever see it in English? Yes, if you don't mind grabbing the original from PSN -- it won't have any of the shiny new content, but you'll find the core game isn't all that different.