2014’s a quiet place! Over the past few years, the early year has become a hotbed for killer game releases. In 2013, Capcom dropped gold like DmC: Devil May Cry while Namco Bandai gave the US Ni No Kuni after a painfully long localization process. This year though, the release schedule is about as vibrant and lively as a summer day in Death Valley. Beyond the twin Kickstarter prodigies Broken Age and The Banner Saga, January 2014 doesn’t have much to offer and February wasn’t a whole lot better, which means it’s time to look forward! Plenty of great games are due out this year, from Thief to Infamous: Second Son to Titanfall to Destiny.
Some of the sweetest looking games coming in 2014, though, aren’t likely to come to the U.S. when they are released. For the savvy import gamer, these 10 games are well worth keeping an eye on as the year unfolds.
Yakuza Restoration – PS4
Otherwise known as Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin! in its native Japan, this latest entry in Sega’s brilliant role-playing series represents a fresh start for the series. For starters, it’s the centerpiece of the Japanese PlayStation 4 launch. It’s also a shift in the series’ style, returning to the medieval samurai themes of Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan on PS3 but incorporating deeper weapon-based combat and huge dungeons. The PS4 is region-free, but the game is very language dense, so only advanced importers should jump in.
Dekamari Senran Kagura – PS Vita
The U.S. finally got its first game in the series this past fall when Senran Kagura Burst hit the 3DS eShop. Senran Kagura 2, the recently announced sequel to this charmingly perverted brawler series, stands a good chance of getting localized but this offshoot for PS Vita probably won’t be. The developer describes it as a “hyper big-breasted cooking-rhythm game.” Just look at that trailer. Luckily, as a PS Vita game, importers can check it out.
Game Center CX 3 – Nintendo 3DS
Poor Game Center CX. The first game made it to the U.S. as Retro Game Master, but publisher XSEED said it sold so poorly that it wouldn’t bother in the future. It’s a shame, since these collections of faux-retro games are brilliant. CX 3 incorporates classic arcade-style games and old fashioned game shops. It’s made by G.Rev, the geniuses behind Under Defeat HD. Only Japanese 3DS owners will be able to check it out though, due to region locking.
Dragon Quest Monsters 2 – Nintendo 3DS
For a beautiful moment last decade, it seemed like the U.S. would always get new Dragon Quest games, but with multiple titles over the past three years having gone un-localized, it looks like the dream is dead. This remake of the Game Boy Color classic is looking really nice, capturing the series’ trademark cartoon charm and adding in Poke-style catch ’em all obsessiveness.
J-Stars Victory Vs. – PS3 and PS Vita
Shonen Jump, the long-running manga anthology in Japan, has spawned a number of awesome Super Smash Bros.-style crossover fighting games, including a couple notably rad Nintendo DS games. Out in March, J-Stars Victory V brings the four player fighting to PS3 and PS Vita. Characters from Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Yu Yu Hakusho and many others from Jump’s 45-year history will be in it. The game’s also being developed by the crew at Namco Bandai.
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Creation – PS4
The Nobunaga’s Ambition series of strategy RPGs put Koei, the strategy and Dynasty Warriors-minded half of Tecmo Koei, on the map back in 1983. More than 30 years later, the series is still running strong. Creation is actually already available on PC and PS3, but this will be another distinctly Japanese game accompanying the Japanese launch of the PS4. The language barrier is high in this series, but it’s still worth keeping tabs on.
Monster Hunter Frontier GG – Wii U, PS3, PC, Xbox 360, PS Vita
The Monster Hunter series comes to the U.S. in fits and starts. Capcom deemed Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate worthy of a U.S. release for Wii U and 3DS in 2013, but the hugely popular (in Japan) Monster Hunter 4 did not make the transoceanic. The online-focused Monster Hunter Frontier G has also unfortunately stayed bound to Asia and this major overhaul of the game will likely be the same. GG lets you hunt MonHun’s beasts online with numerous pals all with a massive graphical overhaul.
Natural Doctrine – PS3, PS4, PS Vita
Kadokawa Games, publisher of recent Grasshopper titles like Killer Is Dead and Lollipop Chainsaw, is making its first in-house game, and it’s a slice of weirdness for the PlayStation line called Natural Doctrine. It’s a strategy RPG a la Final Fantasy Tactics, but one that shifts from overhead and over-the-shoulder 3D perspectives to determine attack effectiveness.
The 3rd Super Robot Taisen Z – PS3, PS Vita
The Super Robot Taisen series stretches back decades, but in all that time only one or two of the robot-anime crossover strategy RPGs have made it across the Pacific. Want to make the robots from Neon Genesis Evangelion punch the robot from The Big O? This is the only game in town. If you want a taste of Banpresto’s brand of action in these, check out last year’s Project X Zone for Nintendo 3DS. First prints of Taisen Z will actually come with an HD remake of the original Super Robot Taisen.
Romancing SaGa 2 – Wii U
As a Virtual Console release, it’s hard to count good old Romancing SaGa 2 on this list, but as a relic of the Super Nintendo glory days of Squaresoft that never once got translated into English in its original form, it’s worth taking note of the release on Wii U in Japan. The game let’s you control not just one set of heroes, but their descendants down the years as well. If you have access to a Japanese Wii U, it’s a must download. The soundtrack alone makes it worth playing!