When it rains, it pours. The world of fan translation is an active one, but it's rare that we get three notable releases so close to one another - but that's exactly what has happened; thanks to the dedication of Super Famicom translators we can now play Glory of Heracles IV, Xak: The Art of Visual Stage and Dragon Ball Z: Super GokuDen: Totsugeki in English.
We'll start with Glory of Heracles IV. Don't feel bad if you never heard of Data East's quirky take on the Japanese RPG arena: the series that began all the way back in 1987 for the Famicom was never released outside Japan with the sole exception being 2009's Glory of Heracles for the Nintendo DS. But like most Data East games which copied other genres (in this case, Dragon Quest) the producers always added a little something that made the game unique.
As you might expect from the titular Heracles (whom you might be more familiar with under the name Hercules) the entire saga borrows heavily from Greek mythology and the games will see you explore the rich myths and legends of old, casting the player in the role of the undisputed Greek paragon of masculinity... except in Heracles no Eikō IV: Kamigami kara no Okurimono (or if you prefer in English Glory of Heracles IV: Gift from the Gods) where you are reincarnated into a dog.
Heracles is still prominent in this fourth chapter of the series, but as an ally instead of playable character. The main stage in this game goes to the new three main characters, inhabitants of the Lost Continent of Atlantis in their quest for eternal life. That is epic enough for a JRPG setting, but Data East went one further: the player can possess over one hundred NPCs, briefly taking over their day-to-day life to further the plot. Since some conversations and events only happen when certain conditions and certain NPCs are being controlled, what you are looking at here is a localization nightmare.
Yet somehow Nightcrawler and nanashi endured and have released a complete English fan translation for the game just days ago. Truly excellent work and dedication considering the translation project was first announced back in 2003. Thirteen years later, every English speaking Super Nintendo fan can now bask in... (yes, we're going there) the Glory of Heracles. Arf!
Our second project is the exotically-named Xak: The Art of Visual Stage. Dynamic Designs has been very quiet after releasing the full English translations of Super Famicom's anime classic Hyper Iria and the fun puzzle game Sailor Moon Super S: Floating Panic. That changed as 2017 began with a bang: an out-of-nowhere, full English translation for Sunsoft's 1993 action RPG.
If you ever played and enjoyed the early games from the Y's series, you will find yourself right at home here. The game is an upgraded conversion of the MSX original developed by none other than Tokai Engineering, responsible for some true Famicom / NES classics like Blaster Master, Journey to Silius and Super Spy Hunter. The plot puts the player in control of the young Latok who in absence of his father gets the whole "Help us Obi-Latok Kenobi, you're our only hope." shenanigans from a fairy named Pixie (quaint!) sent by the King of Wavis because as the prologue explains, bad things are back from the past to ruin the future.
One thing you will notice immediately when you first leave the safety of your home village is how incredibly difficult the game is. The very first enemy slime can kill you in a single hit if you leave your village without armor, a lesson we learned the hard way. Combat is also slightly more difficult than in Y's because you actually do have to swing your sword at enemies, not just walk into them. Yet the game's overall presentation with manga character portraits and lovely music will certainly entice you to explore further. Of course missing from the Super Famicom version are all the nice CD extras like redbook audio and animated anime style cut scenes oh-so-frequent in the PC Engine CD, where the Xak series has several entries.
This English translation came about by accident; It is based on a previous French translation of the original Japanese script of the game. A collaboration between French, English and Japanese fan translators turned into the new complete English translation release you can download from Dynamic Designs website.
Finally, we have Super GokuDen: Totsugeki Hen, an entry in the Dragon Ball Z series. Released by Bandai in 1995, this is a very interesting graphic novel / RPG hybrid that sums up nicely the adventures of young Son Goku from the point when he accidentally met Bulma all the way to the King Piccolo story arc. Sadly - and despite the popularity of the Dragon Ball name outside of Japan - we only got the fighting games officially released in the west (and even those only in some European countries).
Even so, this game was popular among local import retailers because even without Japanese knowledge you could make your way around the game if you were familiar with the original manga or anime plot… once you figured out how the interesting timing-based combat worked, of course. However this is now a problem of the past due to the efforts of the fine people at Kakkoii Translations; after nearly a decade without any visible progress, a new complete English translation has been released, making the game even more import friendly to English speaking Dragon Ball fans around the world.
Despite the passage of more than two decades, this video game adaptation of the original adventures of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball still manages to be infinitely charming and you will find details in this Bandai offering that will certainly put a smile in your face. Kakkoii Translations even went one further by releasing two different patches: one for the anime naming of the characters and another for the manga. You can download the translation patch from here