Monochrome Mobius’ Worldwide Release is a dream come true, yet console players are left in a nightmare
Though it might not seem like it, last month’s localization announcement for Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten was a big deal. Nowadays, it seems like worldwide releases for JRPGs are the norm, with only a few companies remaining hold-outs, leaving western players to wait before a game gets localized. Nihon Falcom is definitely the most noteworthy, with currently a 3-year wait between Trails into Reverie’s expected western release date, versus the original Japanese launch. For the longest time, Aquaplus has been the same – until now.
Monochrome Mobius is the latest entry in the Utawarerumono series; and while this one seems to be a bit of a spin-off, it still maintains many of the core tenets that made the series so beloved among its fans. We’ve known it was releasing this year for a while now, and most fans assumed it would be brought over eventually. Even the most optimistic of fans were shocked when Shiravune revealed that they would be bringing over the newly-announced PC version day-and-date with the Japanese release.
While I was ready to play through the game in Japanese while waiting for a localization, it’s especially nice to see such a story-heavy series hit a worldwide release – making it much easier for players to dodge spoilers, and offering the chance for players worldwide to share their experiences with each other, without the agonizing wait once associated with JRPGs of the past.
That’s all well and good, and it’s undeniable that any worldwide release is a massive improvement whichever way you slice it – but there’s a “PlayStation”-shaped elephant in the room.
While Utawarerumono started out as a PC series in Japan, for nearly the past decade the franchise has been released exclusively on PlayStation systems. Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth was originally released on Vita, PS3 and PS4. Prelude to the Fallen, while it skipped PS3, did remain a PlayStation exclusive until several months after the localized release, where Shiravune ported over NIS America’s translation with the addition of some crucial edits over to Steam. Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth was released on the platform years after their localized console release; Utawarerumono Zan is still a PS4 exclusive to this very day, while the as-of-yet untranslated Zan 2 was released on PS4 and PS5 last year in Japan.
In Japan, Monochrome Mobius is set to release on PS4, PS5 and PC. Shiravune’s localization will be limited to PC – despite the thousands of players who might have played every previous Utawarerumono game on consoles. This doesn’t impact me, since I was always going to play the game on PC if it was an option available to me, but the sheer fact that there will exist 2 console versions that won’t see a release in the West for the foreseeable future – despite a localization already existing! - inherently means that many Utawarerumono fans will inherently miss out. NIS America confirmed to Gematsu that it currently has no plans to release the console versions, and the reality of the situation means that it seems increasingly unlikely that any other company will opt to release it either. After all, why would a company put the work into marketing a game that will have been released months earlier on another platform, by another company?
To pour salt into the wound, Monochrome Mobius represents a considerable upgrade to the graphical quality of the series. Since the prior trilogy was made to run on a Vita, it meant that the PC versions of those games could conceivably run on any PC – not just gaming desktops and laptops. The same likely won’t be true here. Is there a chance that Shiravune’s translation will be present on the Japanese console releases? While it’s not entirely impossible, even if that ends up the case, players would still be forced to import the game itself – not to mention it would be money that likely wouldn’t be going towards supporting Shiravune’s localization efforts. Make no mistake, any worldwide localization for any RPG is a massive undertaking – doubly so for a series as narrative-heavy as Utawarerumono. Shiravune should certainly be rewarded for their efforts at accomplishing that feat, which makes the whole situation even more complicated even in the best of cases.
There really isn’t a good option for players that will be left out here. Maybe the game will run on Steam Deck – the rest of the series on Steam are officially verified – but that would still be a $400 purchase for one game, not to mention orders are backlogged so far beyond the game's planned release - good luck getting one in time.
If by some miracle another company does end up bringing the console versions over, with the game releasing so soon it feels inevitable that such a release would be delayed. Maybe it wouldn’t feel any different from the previously established status quo for the franchise – but it would certainly sting, knowing that others will be able to play the game at the same time as the Japanese console launch, in English.
I don’t blame Shiravune for the current situation, and realistically this is only a problem for the subset of series’ fans that played the prior games on console, don’t own a gaming-capable PC, and are unwilling/unable to get one in time for the game’s release. The company has only ever released games on PC; they’ve never dealt with consoles. As of right now, the only Utawarerumono games you can even purchase digitally on PlayStation are Utawarerumono Zan and Prelude to the Fallen; physical copies for the series have been steadily rising in price following Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth’s delisting from PSN several years back. Discounting Zan, PC is the only place you can reasonably play the entire series – and even accounting for my own issues with the ports, it is undeniably the definitive way to experience the games.
Regardless of the how and why of the game’s inherent PC exclusivity in the west, none of it will make the situation feel any better for the players that will be impacted by the reality of the situation. I’m sorry, PlayStation Utawarerumono fans; your sacrifice won’t be forgotten.