There's a whole world of games that have never surfaced on western shores. Forgotten gems, only ever released in a magical faraway kingdom some call "Japan".
It's understandable. Publishers sometimes decide certain titles just don't have the marketability to cover localisation costs, let alone profit from them.
Particularly in Europe, home of every language... ever.
But, thanks to devoted hobbyists, these can be unofficially patched into English (and lots of other languages), and played and enjoyed by all.
While many developers choose to turn a blind eye to fan-translations, especially for older games, threats of litigation do occasionally get thrown around.
But there is nothing inherently illegal in playing fan-translations if you are dumping the ROMs using your original game and applying the patches yourself. These days, either system hacks or flash carts are available for every system listed here, allowing you to play these English translations on the original hardware.
So without further ado, here's a selection of fan-translated sequels, spin-offs, and special somethings spread across eight different handheld systems.For the Frog the Bell Tolls
By Nintendo R&D1 / Intelligent Systems - Game Boy
Translation by ryanbgstl
A classic top-down RPG with some 2D platforming mixed in for good measure. You play the part of Prince Richard who, not to buck trends, is on a quest save a princess. And find out why folks are turning into frogs. That old chestnut.
If this looks a little familiar it might be down to the same engine being used for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening the following year. The *ahem* links don't end there though - Prince Richard makes a cameo in Link's Awakening as the chap with the frog-infested abode.
Despite For the Frog the Bell Tolls's similar look, feel, and music to Link's Awakening, the game's 'auto battle' system sets it apart from Link's Awakening's real-time battles.Phantasy Star Gaiden
By Japan System Supply - Game Gear
Translation by Dynamic-Designs / Taskforce
A flawed, but nonetheless interesting, side story set on a colony founded by Phantasy Star's Alis. Our initial protagonists, Mina and Alec, are out to rescue Alec's dear papa from Daedalus Bandits. There's something in there about a world-destroying fella by the name of Cablon too.
This RPG oddity throws aside the series' established magic system and instead implements spells as equippable items, purchasable from magic shops. Speaking of which, all equippable armour and items work with every member of your party universally.
Gaiden's greatest downfall is you'll be plagued by monsters due to a rather ridiculous encounter rate. Don't let this discourage you though, especially if you're already familiar with the series. Let's just say there are a few surprises in store.Pokémon Trading Card Game 2: The Invasion of Team Great Rocket!
By Hudson Soft - Game Boy Color
Translation by Artemis251
This is the sequel to Pokémon Trading Card Game, which was recently re-released on the 3DS Virtual Console.
Team Great Rocket have kidnapped some Club Masters and tried to steal the Legendary Cards. You know how to save them: play a mean game of Pokémon cards! What a lot of fuss over a glorified booster pack.
This sequel includes most of the Team Rocket expansion, Intro Pack, and Vending Machine cards. These additions almost double the number of available cards, adding up to an almighty 445 in total.SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters 2 Expand Edition
By SNK - Neo Geo Pocket Color
Translation by The CFC2 Translation Team
This sequel to SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash was the ill-fated Neo Geo Pocket Color's glorious swansong.
You wake up not knowing much of anything, let alone why you are the only person in the world without a deck of cards. Turns out someone's been nicking cards at Card Fighter School and you must put a stop to it. By playing cards.
Within the 124 brand new cards, there are 40 'reaction cards', allowing the player to play counter-offensive / defensive maneuvers when the opponent attacks. Old cards all have new lick of paint and a fair few have even been revised to rebalance the game.The Final Fantasy Legend
By Aspect - WonderSwan Color
Translation by Tower Reversed
A colour remake of the Game Boy original with a number of minor tweaks and improvements. It's known as the SaGa series in Japan, but Squaresoft chose to flog this series in the west using the Final Fantasy branding in the hope of attracting more sales.
The Final Fantasy Legend is mechanically quite different from Final Fantasy though. You begin with a band of four, including one party leader.
Permadeath is an option for all three supporting party members, plus there are three very different classes, each with different stats and methods for increasing said stats.
Although Final Fantasy Legend II and III both received 3D remakes for the DS in Japan, The Final Fantasy Legend's journey is still best experienced on this rare and dated piece of kit.
By Nintendo / Brownie Brown / HAL Laboratory - Game Boy Advance
Translation by Tomato / Chewy / Jeffman
A sequel to the much-loved Earthbound (Mother 2), which was yet another SNES RPG Europe missed out on back in the day.
After troubled development on the SNES and N64, Mother 3 eventually landed on the Game Boy Advance alongside the Mother 1+2 compilation in 2006.
Equal parts wacky and sentimental, the world and storyline of Mother 3 never fail to deliver. The sheer quality of the translation is illustrated by humour that never seems forced or out of place.
Held in regard as one of the finest game translations ever by a group of chaps who were kind enough to offer all their hard work to Nintendo on a silver platter.Retro Game Challenge 2
By Indies Zero - Nintendo DS
Translation by Aaron Tokunaga-Chmielowiec
Here we have a collection of games homaging the likes of Kung Fu Master, Super Mario Bros., Famicom Detective Club (pictured), and Dragon Quest, and more.
The game is related to the Japanese TV show Game Center CX, where half of a middle-aged comedy duo (Shinya Arino) plays through truly tough retro games, despite being absolute pap at them. We really need a British version with Adam Buxton.
Most of the game takes place in a Japanese living room, where two childhood friends (your character and a young Arino) sit together and play through challenges issued by the Dr Kawashima-like disembodied head of Arino.
The original Retro Game Challenge was released in the US, but didn't sell well enough to receive localisation. Another sequel has since been released on the 3DS Japan, but it too is unlikely to receive a western release.
Final Fantasy Type-0
By Square-Enix - PSP
Translation by The Operation Doomtrain Team
This Final Fantasy XIII spin-off was very well-received by the Japanese games press back in 2011. Its battle system and overall mission-structured gameplay harks back to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Slightly simpler premise though - a class of magic-wielding students get caught up in a war over some silly crystals.
You may have read that this fan-translation project was hit with a cease and desist order from Square-Enix itself. But fans weren't left twisting in the wind.
Last month Square-Enix announced an official localisation for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One upgrades of Final Fantasy Type-0 "due to the incredible outpouring of fan support".
Meanwhile, the prequel to Type-0, Final Fantasy Agito, is already out in Japan on iOS and Android, with an American release already in the pipeline. A happy note to end on.This list is just a taster of available fan-translations for handhelds. Let us know your favourites, or which game you wish would receive English localisation.