It's hard to think of developer Game Freak existing prior to their unparalleled breakout success, Pokémon, but indeed it did. Years before Red and Green graced Game Boys all across Japan the studio did a handful of other games for Nintendo consoles. Among them is the fairly well-regarded Mario and Wario. Exclusive to the Super Famicom, and therefore the country of Japan, Mario and Wario might actually be familiar to some western games. After a fashion, anyway.
When Game Freak did ship Pokémon they did so with a reference to their last Nintendo published game. In the Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow versions of the first game obsessive explorers can find a game console with Mario and Wario and running. Interacting with the console will reveal the message "A game with MARIO wearing a bucket on his head!"
And that's the very basic premise of Mario and Wario. Our beloved hero's dark, yellow reflection -- presumably tired of seeing his more perfect copy -- drops things on Mario's head. Starting with a bucket. Once Mario has been properly blinded it's up to the player to guide him to the finish line, marked by Luigi, by creating or destroying blocks with special properties in his path.
It's a simple premise (like all good Wario games) and it works. Nintendo and Game Freak made the puzzle game less accessible, however, by requiring the Super NES (or Super Famicom) mouse accessory. Though ironically this would also make Mario and Wario completely perfect for one of Nintendo's touch-based handhelds, or the Wii U. The mouse controls would translate well to that of a stylus in any sort of port/remake of the original concept.
But if a Mario puzzler in the modern day isn't your thing, at least all you Pokémon fans out there now get one of the series' more obscure references.
If, like a lot of people, you didn't own a $500-600 PlayStation 3 in 2008 you might have missed out on a game called Valkyria Chronicles. One of those rarest of gems -- a fantastic Sega game in the 21st century -- Valkyria Chronicles was part third-person shooter, part turn-based tactical game. All with an incredible pencil-and-watercolors art style. Thankfully, the game's publisher saw fit to bring it to Steam lately, and with some success. So now just about anybody can play the absolute classic.
Far fewer can dip into its lighter hearted sequel, which was exclusive to the PlayStaton Portable. And fewer still will ever play Valkyria Chronicles 3, which never even made it outside of Japan.
Which is a crying shame. In addition to following in the footsteps of one of the greatest strategy RPGs of the last decade, the three-quel was a return to tone. It dropped the goofy, often tone deaf high school drama of Valkyria Chronicles 2 in favor of a darker story about criminals conscripted into military service.
Our heroes, then, are basically the anime equivalent of the Suicide Squad set against the backdrop of a fictitious version of World War II, against fake Nazis using Viking magic to take over the world. Which sounds kind of awesome. The game also reviewed favorably, and topped sales charts for console exclusives during its first week of release.
The PC port of the first game lends some hope that Sega knows just what kind of gem they're holding onto. But with the publisher's track record of English localizations lately, maybe don't hold your breath.