How horrible would it be to grow up and never be considered an adult? To miss out on your coming of age ceremony, get arrested, and finally end up in jail with a bum? Now you only have two choices: to earn enough money to buy your adulthood or forever be chased by ghost if you stay up past curfew! Giftpia is a title which explores these choices. Released by Nintendo in the early era of the GameCube, Giftpia is simply too strange to ever be ported to the United States. However, I think it’s even stranger that Nintendo wouldn’t launch it after the success of Animal Crossing: Population Growing, which succeeded despite expectations from the higher ups. Recently, a copy was obtained by Retro Gaming Magazine and we tested it out to see what exactly made Giftpia such a hassle for Nintendo to bring the game over to the U.S.
One of the possible reasons for Nintendo’s refusal to port Giftpia could have been the execution of the game. The first noticeable aspect of Giftpia is the text-heavy storyline. Giftpia is not a game anyone can pick up and play, and this is really detrimental for non-bilingual players. If the player can’t read Hiragana and Kanji they will be at a loss on what actions to take right from the start. This is complicated by the fact that Giftpia is naturally obtuse in its gameplay. There are 17 parts in the story where Pockle has to complete various tasks such as paying off a percentage of his debt, speaking to a particular NPC, gifting a specific item, and fulfilling the islander’s requests. While the player can potentially opt out of performing these tasks, they’re crucial in unlocking the rest of the island, and without it, Pockle’s methods of earning money will be severely limited.
Money, or mane as it is known in Giftpia, is the main driving force of the game. Mane is utilized to both purchase items and finish the storyline; Pockle will end his journey once he’s gathered enough money for his coming-of-age ceremony. This is not, however, the main purpose of the story, nor is it the primary reason why reading is so important for Giftpia. The underlying thematic behind Giftpia is the multiple ways in which a person can become an adult. Pockle grows as he helps and learns about the individuals in his village. As Pockle matures he will be allowed to stay out longer past his curfew; if he stays up too late, a ghost will come to steal his money. Yet, at the end of the day, Pockle still has to pay his fine even if he’s matured enough to be considered an adult by his fellow islanders.
This is one of the parts where you can truly see the Japanese roots of the game. Japan is a very traditional country where failing to uphold one’s customs is seen as dishonorable. Pockle missed the tradition of his country, and now he’s got to pay the price ten-fold. It doesn’t matter if he’s matured through alternative ways, as Pockle still has to follow his village’s tradition of participating in a coming-of-age ceremony in order to be accepted as a full grown adult. These values don’t necessarily translate well overseas and I have a slight suspicion that they perhaps are the reason we never saw a port. It takes an inordinate amount of funds to translate text heavy games such as Giftpia, and it becomes even harder to translate the cultural aspects within them to foreign countries. If so, it would explain why Nintendo deemed it too weird to bring overseas.
But none of this clarifies Nintendo’s true motives as they’ve been silent in their reasoning for over a decade. The West might never know the real reason why we never saw Giftipia, despite the success of other quirky games in our shores. It’s even harder to swallow when fans know Nintendo brought over Chibi-Robo which was made by the same developers as Giftpia. Chibi-Robo was a commercial failure, and somehow managed to see a couple of extra games in the series released in North America. But they never had a single chance to explore Giftpia, and if there is one title that Nintendo needs to bring over to the Switch’s virtual console, it’s this one.
The chances of a port being released, however, are slim. Yet, I believe we all deserve a chance to grow alongside Pockle in his journey to adulthood.