There are characters who have been around for a long time and have become icons for their respective series and sometimes even an icon for games in general. Characters like Mario, Sonic, Solid Snake, Pikachu and many others are gaming icons who have proven to be world wide sensations. They represent some of the most powerful and most memorable games in history and continue to be an important part of the industry as a whole. But what if I told you there are characters who have been around for just as long, have appeared in a number of games and have garnered much less attention than one would think. In this series we will talk about those heroes who have stood the sands of time but have flown under the radar of the mainstream gaming world for some.
In our first article we are going to talk about a character who has already celebrated their 25th anniversary. This is a character who has been a character in over 30 games since 1989, and is part of 2 separate series with one of them selling over 13.5 million units. This is also a character who has not been seen outside of Japan in an official capacity. But with that kind of history and that kind of units sold (in one country only) it is interesting that the rest of the world has not been officially introduced to this character.
But without further ado I introduce Arle Nadja created by Masamitsu “Moo” Niitani at Compile. Arle Nadja first appeared in a game called Madou Monogatari (“Story of Sorcery”) in 1989 for MSX and NEC PC-9801. The Madou Monogatari series has been around since 1989 and the series has 15 games since its release, with the latest being a title for the PS Vita in 2013. Arle Nadja was also part of another series called Puyo Puyo which has been around since 1991 and games are still in development today. But more on both of these series later, and back to Arle Nadja as a character.
Arle is a 16 year old girl (started out as a 5 year old in her first game) who’s favorite color is blue. Her birthday is July 22nd, her blood type is AB and she has elemental magical powers. She states that she wears the same clothes all year round even though her design has changed through out the years. She is accompanied by Carbuncle who used to be Satan’s pet in Madou Monogatari 2, but once Arle defeated Satan, Carbuncle stuck around with Arle.
Arle is a character who has become an icon in Japan with 2 long running series. Her designed has changed with the times and she has a large fan base. One can easily find fan art, fan service, cosplay and anything else you can image from a popular character. But even though she is a star in Japan, I have to wonder why she never made it out of Japan. To try and figure that out we should take a look at her games.
Madou Monogatari 123 and RPGs
Madou Monogatari 123 is a first-person dungeon crawler RPG series created by Compile in 1989. The series was a pretty traditional game with some changes to formula such as there were no physical attacks in the game. Everything was done through elemental magic. The other interesting change was that there was no health bars, players kept track of a characters health through facial expressions and sprites.
All three of the original Madou Monogatari games were originally released together in a five-disk package for the MSX (1989). Later, they were released separately on the Game Gear (1993), as well as ported to the PC Engine Arcade CD (1994) and Mega Drive (1996).
The first game sets you in the role of Arle as a five year old, as she wanders through the dungeon to defeat the Cockatrice and pass her magician test. The second game picks up when Arle is sixteen and embarks on her first real adventure where she is kidnapped by Schezo and has to escape the dungeon she’s imprisoned in, although you begin with all of your magic spells. At the end, you meet the “fierce creature” Carbuncle, who joins along with you. Madou Monogatari III begins right after, where Arle will face off against Rulue and her minotaur guardian, although you begin up with all of your spells done.
Arle appeared in more than just the original 3 games. She appeared in 8 more RPGs with most being brand new stories but some were a reimagining of the first game where they have Arle still graduating from Kindergarten but through other means than going through the tower. Games in the series were created until Compile filed for bankruptcy in 2002, but more on that later.
Full List of Games including remakes
Madou Monogatari 123 • Madou Monogatari: ARS • Madou Monogatari I (Mega Drive) • Madou Monogatari: Hanamaru Dai Youchienji • Madou Monogatari I Honoo No Sotsuenji • Waku Waku Puyo Puyo Dungeon • Madou Mogatari: Michikusa Ibun (Loitering around and the Rumor) • Madou Monogatari: Final Exam • Madou Monogatari: Tower of the Magician • Madou Monogatari: Secret of Elysion • Madou Monogatari (Saturn) • Madou Monogatari Mobile
Puyo Puyo series
In 1991 Compile created the Puyo Puyo series which was a game that plays similar to Tetris in the sense that there are falling objects that you need to orientate in the correct position to clear lines, but instead of shapes they are colors and instead of clearing lines you are clearing sets of colors.
Puyo Puyo is where Arle would obtain her popularity in the Japanese market. Puyo Puyo was an arcade and console hit that has already celebrate its 20th anniversary. The title is so popular that in 2014 Puyo Puyo was tied in with Tetris in Japan. This is a series that has sold over 13.5 million units not including arcade cabinets. And while this series was exploding Arle was a poster child for the series.
Puyo Puyo has also been credited for popularizing this type of puzzle game and has even been credited to the creation of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (essentially re-skining Puyo Puyo for localization purposes).
Appearing in 20 Puyo Puyo and Puyo Puyo spin offs, Arle has grown into a character of critical success spanning over 20 years in Japan, so why was she not released outside of Japan?
Compile, Compile Heart and Sega
In 1983 Compile was founded and worked mainly on porting Sega arcade games to the SG-1000 home console. But later they would create the Madou Monogatari series and thus creating Arle Nadja. And then in 1991 they used the characters from Madou Monogatari to create a new puzzle game Puyo Puyo, but the initial games were created for home consoles and not arcades. This is where Sega stepped in and helped Compile create a multiplayer arcade sensation. Compile was a thriving studio who had created quite a number of games outside of the Puyo Puyo and Madou Monogatari series, but unfortunately they were unable to sustain the success it found after working with Sega on Puyo Puyo Tsu. This caused a company restructure in 1998. During this restructure Sega obtained the rights to Puyo Puyo and all of its characters. Sega let Compile continue to make Puyo Puyo and Madou Monogatari games until late 2000, which is around the time Sega took complete control of the franchise.
Sega handed off the franchise to the Sonic Team who to this day still makes Puyo Puyo games. We can also credit the Sonic Team for creating the current design of Arle (seen above).
Compile went bankrupt in 2002 and closed. But in 2006 Compile Heart was created with much of the same team as Compile including Masamitsu “Moo” Niitani, the creator of Arle Nadja and her games. Compile Heart is known for the Hyperdimension Neptunia and Record of Agarest War series.
So why wasn’t Arle Nadja localized?
Honestly I do not have a solid answer for this. Both Sega and Compile Heart are well known for localizing many of their games regardless of content. The only real reason I can think of is that arcades are not a huge market in the rest of the world, but that does not change the fact that Puyo Puyo had tons of console games. I can understand why Compile never did because of their size and the amount of money needed to localize, but when Sega got involved I feel like localization should have been an option. I don’t think its a question of content because the series are much more subdued than Hyperdimension Neptunia and Record of Agarest War, but those were localized and are still being brought to the rest of the world regardless of their low sales and sexual content.
But regardless of the reason we can see that Arle Nadja is a very popular character in Japan that has been around for over 25 years. She is a super star amongst arcade and console puzzle games and has the fans to back up this claim. It is interesting to think that a character with this much popularity has gone fairly unnoticed by the rest of the world for all this time.
What are your thoughts on Arle Nadja? And why do you think she was never localized?