Did you know that every year Nintendo publishes at least one new IP? It’s true, they haven’t missed a year since 1983, the year the Famicom launched in Japan. [Editor's note. Except for 2022, it seems. You were on a roll, Nintendo!] In 2020 we had Good Job!, Astral Chain in 2019, Sushi Striker in 2018, and Ever Oasis in 2017 — and that’s only naming one each year. Given how only a few of them ever hit a mainstream audience though (like 2019’s Ring Fit Adventure), it’s no surprise if they slipped your mind.
So what was Nintendo’s new IP last year? Well, assuming Game Builder Garage is actually a LABO spin-off and not its own unique series (seeing as it’s entirely based around the LABO Builder Garage), that honour goes to a game we think most people reading this article probably forgot all about until they saw the headline: Buddy Mission BOND.
Announced in the Japanese September 2020 Nintendo Direct, Buddy Mission BOND was a surprising reveal. In collaboration with Koei Tecmo, known for the Warriors series and making Fatal Frame (a series they also co-own with Nintendo), Nintendo published this original visual novel/adventure game with artwork by the incredible manga artist Yusuke Murata, probably most well-known for drawing the One-Punch Man manga.
The game released in Japan on 29th January 2021 and at the time of writing there has been no sign of a localisation. It’s for this reason that we imagine many people — even stalwart Nintendo fans — may have forgotten the game exists, but as it hits its one-year anniversary we think it’s time to change that. Buddy Mission BOND will never hit the heights of series like Metroid or Pikmin, but it at least deserves to be remembered and, given the chance, maybe even played.
It’s a bit more action-focused than what the Ace Attorney series offers, and it can be a little easy, with visual novel and investigation segments
So what exactly is Buddy Mission BOND? Well, the game can probably be best compared to the Ace Attorney series from Capcom but instead of a courtroom section being the pivotal moment of each chapter, you explore a 3D environment and solving puzzles. The objective is always to get from point A to point B, often with a buddy, and there are multiple ways to reach the objective — each way providing slight changes to the story beats of the game.
It’s a bit more action-focused than what the Ace Attorney series offers, and it can be a little easy. This is due to the other two gameplay types: the visual novel segments and the investigation segments. The latter gives the player a limited number of actions to explore a map and look for clues through chatting it up with locals, while the former advances the plot and is where the main story lies. In both of these segments you’ll get enough clues that you'll nearly always know the solution to the 3D action section, but it's meant to be a reward for paying attention. Like a real detective would do.
Another reward (other than getting to experience what is a pretty good narrative) is filling up your Hero Gauge, which essentially acts like a mix between HP and EXP. Every time you do something wrong, whether it be picking the wrong moral choice when talking to your superiors or getting a puzzle wrong in the 3D action scenes, you lose some of the Hero Gauge. You want to end a level with as much as possible so you can unlock new side missions and get to learn about the characters more.
As with many successful visual novels, the characters are the most important aspect to Buddy Mission BOND's story so these side missions are a must. The game is voiced (outside the investigation dialogue) and, as mentioned before, all drawn by Yusuke Murata. This really sells the game's aesthetic and style as the art is slick, full of emotion, and just all-round superb. It looks like a manga and is aesthetically themed like one, with each ‘chapter’ feeling like an episode of an anime adaptation.
It looks like a manga and is aesthetically themed like one, with each ‘chapter’ feeling like an episode of an anime adaptation
It’s common for visual novels to have very static characters but the amount of different poses, action shots, expressions and reactions for each character is impressive. Each one of the game's four principle heroes that make up Team BOND — Luke, Aaron, Mokuma and Chelsey — have so much personality and much of that comes from the art; the side missions to flesh them out more also help. We don’t really want to compare it to Persona because that feels a little played out online, but the dedication to developing its characters definitely brings that series to mind (the incredible jazz soundtrack might also have something to do with it).
Overall, Buddy Mission BOND is a really stylish game with a great story, only really brought down slightly by getting repetitive gameplay-wise — although that's arguably par for the course for many a visual novel, so it's hard to hold it against the game. It certainly doesn’t feel like a Nintendo game, even if the company has published (and developed) this brand of game in the past — last year's brilliant Famicom Detective Club duology, for example. For the Nintendo Switch, it feels like the type of game that will be a hidden gem rediscovered in 10 years... but we could make that sooner if we shine a spotlight on it now!
To really accomplish this goal though, Nintendo really needs to put the time and energy into localizing it and, unfortunately, we don’t know how likely that is. Maybe Nintendo will surprise us by announcing it in the first Direct of 2022, but we have our doubts. The company has a decent track record in recent years when it comes to worldwide releases — and the localisation of the aforementioned Famicom Detective was a lovely surprise — but for a year to pass without a word doesn’t provide much hope.
You never know, though. Nintendo could pull a Famicom Detective Club and release it as an eShop-only title in the West. Likewise, the voices could remain in Japanese with the focus kept on localising the text. It's a neat little game that's dripping with style and potential — we'd love to see it given a chance outside Japan. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, we can at least say Happy 1st Birthday to Buddy Mission BOND, perhaps the Switch’s stealthiest debut franchise.
Would you be interested in seeing this come to the West? Have you played it already? Let us know below.
I've never even heard of this, but I'd definitely be interested in a localisation.
I never understood why Nintendo publishes a lot of smaller games like Good Job and The Stretchers on Switch but seemingly doesn't promote them in the slightest and essentially let them flop. Why didn't they get Tetris 99 themes, demos, a push on social media, adverts etc? It's very weird to me.
@Clyde_Radcliffe Nintendo doesn’t own the Tetris ip. It is owned by Tetris Holding LLC. This is why it has been in multiple systems over time.
Never knew about this one. Quickly trying to forget.
Never heard of this one, but now I'm hoping it gets localized some day so I can learn more about it.
Definitely something I'd love to play one day.
All I needed to see was the One Punch Man's art and I'm sold
@Dirty0814 That doesn’t answer the question though. Tetris 99 is licensed to Nintendo, and Nintendo themes based on new and upcoming titles are released for it all the time. The fact that Nintendo doesn’t own the IP is irrelevant.
In addition to Japanese, it has been localized in Korean and Chinese. The story is a very fun game, but those who like reasoning games such as ace attorney will be disappointed.
I never even knew about this in order to forget it.
Ah I thought I recognized Murata's style. The man is an absolute legend.
I think I remember seeing this one listed on Play Asia because the striking artwork caught my attention. Shame it’s not in English 😪
@SuperZeldaFun A+ profile pic
Anyway, I’d love to play this game. Really hope it gets localized.
Japanese game presented entirely in Japanese gets forgotten by western gamers. More shocking news at 11.
I wonder how open Nintendo are nowadays to other publishers putting their games out in the West when they aren’t willing to do it themselves. I can only remember them letting XSeed publish Last Story/Pandora’s Tower in the US…this seems like the perfect kind of game for a smaller publisher to put out.
At least if another publisher took it we might get a chance of a physical release 🙄 I’d love to play Famicom Detective Club but I’m not paying £50 for digital versions of those games.
How could I've forgotten about a game that I've never heard of and that probably will never come here?
Nintendo needs to revive StarTropics again and make it an open world adventure like Breath of the Wild.
Bet this one will be translated in a few years by the modding community
@SuperZeldaFun eh fantranslators will have it playable
Problem is that'll happen in a decade from now
It looks great, I really hope Nintendo localizes it. It reminds me a bit of Ai Somnium Files and the older Cing games.
@Clyde_Radcliffe Or representation as Smash Spirits! I really don't know why spirit events were limited to big game releases/DLC fighters only and they were so far and few in between.
How much did this game sell? Maybe that could be a reason for not localizing the game.
Maybe Buddy Mission: BOND is a game intended only for Japan, much like how StraTropics is a game meant for the west and hasn't been released in Japan all these years.
Did not forget about it and wanted it represented in Smash
Now that the 3DS is old, I think it’d be cool if a YouTuber made a video series about all the obscure/forgotten Nintendo games on there—Harmoknight, BOXBOY!, Pocket Card Jockey, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Tank Troopers, Quetzal’s Corridors, Nintendo Badge Arcade, Ever Oasis, and the StreetPass Mii Plaza games. I like to picture Somecallmejohnny doing it as a marathon.
I still need to pick this one up but I am waiting on a sale.
@SuperZeldaFun I'd expect a little more effort to play something with art from Murata, seeing that your profile pic is probably you cosplaying as one of ONE's more popular characters
@HammerGalladeBro It can go either way, if it didn't sell well, localizing it can be a way to recoup some of that lost revenue. It probably just isn't a priority. There are many games that take many months and/or years to be localized, so it could certainly happen.
For the record, the game's sales in Japan were extremely poor, but it got rather good reviews, with a 34/40 on Famitsu (9/8/8/9).
I'm surprised and disappointed this game isn't localized into English. I love One Punch Man and Yusuke Murata is one of my favorite Mangaka.
Why do games like this never get brought over? Visual novel games are popular in the West. I'll never understand these types of decisions.
Wish I had a chance to even play the game LOL.
The demo has been sitting on my Switch for a year now. I believe I'd be able to enjoy it by now but my current focus is playing Detective Pikachu in Japanese. Or it would be if it weren't for Arceus. I'm taking a break from detective work for now.
I've also attempted singing the theme song from Buddy Mission BOND once or twice back when I had Joysound subscription. Didn't go that well since I had only heard it once before. It was one of those special songs that had its own trailer playing in the background while singing instead of the regular 2017 Nintendo game trailers.
Sushi striker was global but they pass on this...
It reminds me a little like AI Somnium files, which I recently picked up in a sale and is absolutely awesome.
@Troll_Decimator Most visual novels sell in the same ball park in Japan as this game.
Oooh I would play that. Translate please, text only is fine (happy to keep voiceover Japanese).
Now, I am interested and I want it to be localized.
I kind of hate that I understand the cold corporate logic behind why this hasn't been and isn't likely to be localized, despite it looking like a rather beautiful and fun romp. It's just too darn niche (and that weird title isn't doing it any favors in that regard from a Western perspective), and conveys too darn much of its charm, character, and substance through expensive and thorny to localize language, instead of universally-understood kinetic gameplay like many of Nintendo's blockbusters.
This game practically screams "subpar potential return on localization investment," and that's a crying shame.
The many forgotten Nintendo IPs are these:
StarTropics - NES
X - Game Boy
Mole Mania - Game Boy
Drill Dozer - Game Boy
Uniracer - Super NES
Super Famicom Wars - Super Famicom
Trace Memory - Nintendo DS
Sakura Samurai - 3DS
Photo Dojo - Nintendo DSi
Geist - GameCube
Magical Starsign - Nintendo DS
Thought this article was going to be about ARMS
I think I saw a Vtuber play this once, a Japanese one of course. As many have pointed out already Nintendo probably thinks they won't make the money back on localizing this, though I still think that there's a chance for a late digital only localization
I love the mangaka, and I love his art style!
Ah, Nintendo and Koei Tecmo at it again. A partnership that'll continue to go on with success.
Does Astral Chain actually count as Nintendo IP?
Recognized Murata's style immediately. His other major work, Eyeshield 21, is a great manga about american football. Some of the rules of the sport get bent slightly (not nearly as bad as Kuroko's Basketball) but it's really fun. Wish the anime held up, but I'm more of a reader than a watcher anyway.
I actually was just thinking about this thing the other day weirdly enough.
@Askalt They now entirely own it so I'd say so.
I didn’t even know it existed
I remember reading this article a year ago, thinking "how could I forget if I've never heard of it?" and now, reading it again, I had actually forgotten about it. honestly, unless it gets translated to English I never need to hear about it again!
@Askalt Nintendo owns the Astral Chain IP outright. They bought it from Platinum.
This looks like a genuinely good visual novel.
@VinylCreep I think Nintendo owns all the IPs they worked with Platinum on except Bayonetta. Though I think Nintendo should just buy Bayonetta from Sega at this point.
God seeing this game's style brought back so many memories of me being enamoured with it when it was first revealed....and then the crushing disappointment that it was Japan-exclusive.
I love how it really doesn't feel like any other Nintendo series in recent memory (almost evoking Persona and Zero Escape for me) so if this were to ever get localised (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) then I'd grab it in a heartbeat. What can I say: I'm a sucker for detective games.
I never forget about this IP because my Switch has its icon from the time I wanted to try in vain to play it when it was available as a NSO Game Trial (which I believe happened when Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was the trial on the west).
For some reason I haven't deleted its icon.
Buddy Mission Bond is localized in Chinese and Korean. The Famicom Detective Club is localized in Chinese and English. There was a rumor that the localization of Buddy Mission Bond in English was canceled due to low sales at the Famicom Detective Club.
Hey!! I didn't forget about this! I try to check every week to see if a fan translation is coming out or not!
I haven't forgotten this one, I still want it!!
Yeah I saw this pop-up in the JP eshop. Looks cool and the art is done by none other than Yusuke Murata which is already something to get pumped about. However, I knew upon seeing the trailer that it would probably never get an official translation. If there ever was a fan translation though I would definitely play that.
So... I have to learn Japanese. Okay.
I'd buy this at a decent price point.
Damn it Nintendo! This is 2022! English speaking countries love anime and understand Japanese culture! Why is this not translated!
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