Working Designs might be my favorite U.S. game publisher/localizer of all time. Seriously. I’m not kidding. I love Working Designs and I wish they were still in the game. I would gladly ritualistically sacrifice a thousand Titus, THQ, and Microsoft era Rare games if it would bring them back from the dead, I regard them that highly. If you haven’t heard of them or played any of their games, you are really missing out.
Working Designs has earned its rank in my heart due to two things: respect and nostalgia. Growing up, I was an N64 kid, but I devoured as much info as I could regarding all the other systems at the time through magazines like EGM. It was in one issue of EGM that an ad for Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete caught my eye. I was just getting into anime and had recently been converted to an RPG fan by a friend and the combination of these two elements made me desperate to play the game. I convinced my friend at the time to pick it up and over the course of the school year we played the hell out of Lunar. We had a blast. Later, he picked up Magic Knight Rayearth for the Sega Saturn and I became a Working Designs fanboy. But, It was only as I was finishing high school and collecting games more seriously that I picked up my own copies of the Working Designs games. I then began my ongoing quest to someday collect every game they released. I currently have 13 out of 29 releases. It’s only a matter of time….
For those of you who have never played a Working Designs game, I have to explain why I respect them so much, why my (mostly) rational side regards them so highly. In the early 90s, RPGs were still a very niche genre and most game companies would rather poke a J-RPG with a stick then try to translate and release it. If it was on a CD platform, the chances it would get a decent look were even slimmer. It was here that Working Designs shined. They saw this niche of RPG gamers, starved for new and unique titles and filled that void by releasing quality games that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks, and that’s not all. Working Designs always went far above the norm with their translation and voice work, not just giving it a wonky, baseline, straight translation riddled with errors and grating voice work, (if there was any at all,) but properly localizing the text so it was smooth and understandable. Their games gave people a good reason to defend the Sega CD and take another look at the Turbografx. They took risks to not only acknowledge a niche group, but respecting them through their releases. Throughout the 32-bit era to their close in 2005, they continued to release quality titles would have most likely flown under the radar of other publishers, filling the “quirky Japanese game” space until Atlus and NIS filled the spot.
From left to right: Lunar Silver Star Story, Popful Mail, Cosmic Fantasy 2, and Albert Odyssey
I honestly think that if Working Designs never existed, things would be pretty different. We wouldn’t have games like Disgaea, Neptunia, Shin Megami Tensei, or half the stuff Atlus pushes through here in the United States, or if we did, it would be a slim, awkward selection. Because Working Designs took chances back when no one really would, people take chances today. All that aside, there’s just something special about Working Designs games. You can just feel the love in the voice acting and translation, it just… it feels right. They loved their fans and loved their work. It’s a nice feeling. I miss Working Designs, and you should too.