10th Jan2010

How To Import: Xbox and Xbox 360

by Kuro Matsuri

First up, the original (and ENORMOUS) Xbox

generic Xbox

The only consistent way to modify an original Xbox to play import games is to install a mod chip. However, if you use Xbox Live, you’ll have to find a mod chip that can be “turned off” or employs a “stealth mode” to avoid being banned for “cheating”. One slip-up, and your MAC address will be banned.

Therefore, if you use Xbox Live on your original Xbox, then you might want to consider buying an imported console. Otherwise, look into getting a mod chip for it. Unfortunately, I have no experience with mod chips in Xboxes, so I can’t tell you how hard it would be.

However, if you’re interested in playing Japanese games on the Xbox 360 games, you might be in luck! Or, conversely, you might not be… Microsoft decided to leave region protection in the hands of the game developers, so some games are region locked and others aren’t.

generic Xbox 360

Some of the more popular online import stores will list the compatibility of each game on that particular game’s product page. Play-Asia seems to be the best at it, so feel free to check them out.

If it just so happens that the game you want is region locked, the options revert back to the same options that the original Xbox has. Install a mod-chip and risk having the machine banned from Xbox Live or buy a Japanese console.

Buy a Japanese Xbox HERE (be warned, they are out of stock at the time of this posting)

Buy a Japanese Xbox 360 HERE (they only have the Arcade version right now)

Have fun playing!
-Kuromatsuri

09th Jan2010

How To Import: PSP, DS, and Other Handheld Consoles

by Kuro Matsuri

PSP

All Nintendo (Except DSi and 3DS) and Sony handheld consoles are COMPLETELY REGION FREE!!!!!! That means Japanese games will run fine on your American PSP or DS (or any earlier Nintendo handheld console)

One catch, though. For PSPs, which button is confirm or cancel is determined by the hardware. US; O = cancel, X = confirm. Japan; O = confirm, X = cancel. That can’t be changed unless you hack your system, which I won’t cover here since it’s not necessary to play an imported game.

DSi

So, all you have to do is buy the game and put it in.

There are a few exceptions, unfortunately. A few Chinese DS games won’t work on a DS from a different region due to language support issues. And then there’s the matter of downloadable DSi content. DS cartridges are still region free on the DSi, but an American DSi will only let you access the American DSi download store. As of this post, there’s no way around either problem. So, just in case you’re interested:

Buy a Japanese DSi HERE

A Chinese DS is hard to find, but then again, so are good Chinese games that aren’t available in the US or Japan. Just a matter of opinion, don’t be offended if your favorite game is a China exclusive, please!

Have fun playing!
-Kuromatsuri

23rd Dec2009

Final Fantasy XIII | First Impressions

by Kuro Matsuri

FFXIII First Impressions

The next long awaited iteration of the Final Fantasy franchise is here! Well, it is if you live in Japan or you’re willing to import it. This first look at Final Fantasy XIII is for those who are unsure of whether or not they should import this game now or wait until the game is released in their own region. Rest assured, however, a full review of the game will come once it has been completed!

Final Fantasy XIII seems to have once again reinvent the feel of the series. This time I believe it is for the better. The battles flow smoothly, and they are not without challenge. About 8 hours into FFXIII, I have died a few times and had around a dozen close calls, so it is not “easy” outside of the first couple hours. It does, of course, start off quite easy and works you up to the harder fights.

There are a handful of interesting points I would like to make about Final Fantasy XIII, though. These are neither positive or negative, only interesting. First, everything has it’s own level. Everything from weapons and accessories to the “Crystarium” (the leveling system this time around, think the sphere grid but unique to each character and with multiple layers that must be unlocked by progressing through the game). Second, the main “attack” option in the battles doesn’t simply attack, rather it chooses an “optimum” series of attacks for the specific target based on the available abilities in the mode you are in. Thus, the strategy lies less in which attacks to do and more in who to attack and which mode to be in. The last interesting point I would like to make is really an all-out positive (yes, despite what I said earlier). FFXIII for the PS3 supports 480p, 720p. 1080i, and (no joke!) 1080p! Now, I really don’t think it is running in native 1080p, but the upscaling does look really nice. So far, the graphical fidelity seems to surpass Metal Gear Solid 4, which is pretty impressive.

Well, that’s all for now! More details will come later, of course. If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll gladly try to answer any questions about the game. For those who are already convinced, you might as well import Final Fantasy XIII!

Have fun playing!

-Kuro Matsuri

(update: The full Final Fantasy XIII review is now available)

10th Nov2009

The Wonderswan Color | A Japanese Only Handheld Console

by Kuro Matsuri

Japanese Video Game Console Wonderswan Color

The Wonderswan Color was released by Bandai in Japan only at the end of December 2000. Bandai made several consoles that never made it out of Japan, including the predecessor to the Wonderswan Color, simply called the Wonderswan.

The Wonderswan Color was better than the Gameboy Color in many ways, but it was not quite as good as the Gameboy Advance. It did have one edge over the original GBA, though, and that’s battery life. The Wonderswan Color could last up to 20 hours on a single AA battery, which is pretty impressive. It also debuted at a particularly low price, around $60 new. Thanks to the low price and it’s one year lead on the GBA, it was ALMOST a threat to Nintendo!

But, the Wonderswan Color was somewhat lacking in games when compared to the Nintendo handhelds. It had a few excellent games, especially since Square Enix agreed to remake Final Fantasy I, II, III, and IV for the system. It did manage to exceed a total of 100 games, including, but not limited to, RockMan (MegaMan here in the states), Guilty Gear, Super Robot Wars, and Gundam games. So, in short, it’s not the best library, but it certainly isn’t bad. And that’s before factoring in the backwards compatibility with the original Wonderswan!

Of course, since the console was only released in one region, region protection isn’t an issue. Then again, you still have to import everything you play on it since none of it was released here.

Now, the console is more of a collector’s item since most of the games were later ported to the GBA or other systems, but just to further entice the collector in you, there were a few limited release Wonderswan Color packages. There was the Final Fantasy I Limited Edition Box Set and the Final Fantasy II Limited Edition Box Set, compliments of Square Enix, provided that you are willing to pay the premium for it. Still, the console by itself is an interesting collector’s item that can still be enjoyed for a pretty low price. It may even turn some heads if you play it out in public!

Play-Asia options:
Buy WonderSwan Color Console – Pearl Pink at Play-Asia.com (currently in stock)
Buy Wonderswan Color Console and Games at Play-Asia.com (for the others that might be in stock later)

Amazon options:

Have fun playing!
-Kuro Matsuri

10th Nov2009

How To Import: GameCube and Wii

by Kuro Matsuri

The Gamecube and the Wii have many similarities in the way you can play imported games. The easiest for both is probably the FreeLoader. The FreeLoader is a swap disk made available by Code Junkies, the creators of Action Replay, among other things. The Gamecube FreeLoader works almost flawlessly, with only a very few games not working quite properly. Even those will play, with stuff like Heads-Up-Displays not displaying properly.

The Wii FreeLoader is a bit of a different story due to firmware updates. If you keep your Wii updated, then there’s the chance that any of those updates could break the functionality of the FreeLoader. Getting one means that you could run the risk of buying something that doesn’t work. Hey, at least it’s cheap (around $20 + shipping).

Wii Freeloader

The other method is by mod-chip, which requires soldering a chip to the internal circuits of your Gamecube or Wii, and sometimes installing an external switch along with it. It’s a high risk procedure that can be expensive (especially if you break your console). Furthermore, since the Wii is a more recent console, mod-chips haven’t yet been perfected for it, and there may or may not be a mod-chip with all the functionality that you want. Even further furthermore (I know, horrible grammar =P), mod-chips are a legal grey-market. Since mod-chips generally allow you to play burned games as well, and downloading a game you don’t own (or circumventing any copy protection on a disc in order to have a copy) is illegal, the legality of the mod-chip itself is somewhat in question. Still, sometimes a mod-chip provides you the best functionality, and it’s up to you to find the right chip and assume the risks associated with installing it.

However, the GameCube has a third option. The only difference between the motherboards of the two different regions is a single connection. If this connection was never connected, it is one region. If it is connected, it’s the other. You can actually install a switch to switch the GameCube back and forth between the two regions. This still requires some soldering, but it’s a relatively easy procedure.

And, of course, there is ALWAYS the option of purchasing a Gamecube or Wii from Japan to play your games on. This is generally the most expensive, most effective, and safest way to play any of your import games.

Buy a Japanese Gamecube HERE

Buy a Japanese Wii HERE

Buy the Gamecube Freeloader HERE

Buy the Wii Freeloader HERE

I’m afraid you’ll have to search for mod-chips yourself, though, due to the questionable legalities of it.

Have fun playing!
-Kuro Matsuri

07th Nov2009

Final Fantasy XIII Will Include Final Fantasy XIV Beta! (Update: Sorta)

by Kuro Matsuri

Final Fantasy XIV

Yeah, you read that right!

Reports (mainly leaked scans from Jump Magazine) are showing that a Final Fantasy XIV “Campaign Code” (which really means “Beta Code”) will be included in the Japanese version of Final Fantasy XIII, which will be released December 17th of this year!

source

Japanese Game Source should have access to FFXIII by the end of the year, and we will continue to bring you updates on the both FFXIII and the FFXIV Beta. You can expect a full review by the end of January, so be sure to check back regularly.

If you’re interested in getting Final Fantasy XIII, and getting into the Final Fantasy XIV Beta, then you can buy Final Fantasy XIII now to enjoy the next upcoming Final Fantasy titles.

Have fun playing! -Kuro Matsuri

UPDATE! So, it has been announced that the “Campaign Code” is NOT a Beta Code, but rather it is a code to get some sort of free additional “goodie” in-game for Final Fantasy XIV (source). ‘Tis a shame, really. I was looking forward to spreading information about BOTH games when it came out!

UPDATE! It turns out that the “Campaign Code” does give you a free goodie in FFXIV, but it also allows you to apply for the PS3 version of the closed beta. Not quite direct access, but it’s certainly better than nothing!

Have fun playing anyway! -Kuro Matsuri

22nd Oct2009

How To Import: Famicon a.k.a. Nintendo Entertainment Center (NES)

by Kuro Matsuri

Importing for the NES or Famicom

The original NES (or Famicom in Japan):

Here’s the original NES, the one you probably know all too well:
Original NES

And here’s the original Famicom, the one released in Japan:
Original Famicom

The only REAL difference between the two (at least as far as importers are concerned) is the fact that they use a different number of pins for putting games in the console. As such, as a stand-alone, imported games will not work in your home console. What’s more, Japanese games are much smaller in size than American ones. They wouldn’t even reach the pins, unless you happen to have one of the top loaders shown here:
Top Loader

With the top loader, both the Japanese and the American models look very similar (though, since the original Japanese one already loaded from the top, the re-release was called the A/V Famicom instead, due to the fact that it could use normal A/V cables. The composite ones. The red, white, and yellow ones =P). However, they STILL use a different number of pins, so importing isn’t straightforward.

Here’s what a Japanese cartridge looks like:
Photobucket

There are a couple of options for making Japanese cartridges work. The cheapest method is a pin adapter. It simply takes the pins from the Japanese games and attempts to reroute them to the proper pins for the American console. It doesn’t always work. Also, there are a number of more sophisticated adapters, and they often have a mini-Famicom built in to the adapter itself to get more accurate gameplay. However, all of the ones I’ve seen and tried have truly crappy build quality, and they are far from recommended.

Furthermore, the original Famicom isn’t recommended. Unless it’s modded, the original Famicom only uses an RF out, and Japanese channels are at different frequencies than American channels, so you might not be able to tune in to the frequency the original Famicom produces. You might get lucky around channels 95 or 96 or so, but you don’t want to count on getting lucky.

The recommended option is unfortunately the most expensive. And that is to import an A/V Famicom. That is the only way to consistently play these games in their original quality. Sad, but true.

Options for purchasing an A/V Famicom:
Buy Famicom Console – AV Version at Play-Asia.com (rarely in stock, but you might get lucky!)

Find an A/V Famicom on eBay (in stock more often, but price can vary wildly)

Have fun playing!
-Kuro Matsuri

22nd Oct2009

How To Import: Super Famicom a.k.a SNES and Nintendo 64

by Kuro Matsuri

Importing for the SNES or Super Famicom, and importing for the N64

Super Famicom is the Japanese name for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

It’s really easy to get Japanese Super Famicom (SF) games to play on your American console, but there is a bit of risk, and it isn’t QUITE perfect.

For the vast majority of SNES/SF games only have a physical region lockout. As such, the only thing keeping you from playing these games is two little plastic pieces that block a Japanese cart from reaching the pins. Carefully break these pieces off with a pair of needle-nose pliers, and voila! You can play Japanese Super Famicom games on your American SNES!

SNES mod

For more detail plus pictures, try this site: Step-by-step Instructions for How to Mod your Super Nintendo to Play Super Famicom Games

The only catch is that a FEW games are locked out using a CIC check. Getting around this is seems to involve modifying the cart itself, and really isn’t recommended, especially if you’re a collector. Then again, if you’re REALLY a collector, you’ll want to buy a Japanese Super Famicom instead of breaking off anything in your American one, but that’s all up to you.

If you own the SNES Jr. (the smaller remake of the console), here’s a great way to mod it without actually breaking any part of the console:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm7-OZmmt7s

Modifying a Nintendo 64 is very similar, but admittedly a bit more difficult. The plastic pieces don’t break off nearly as easily, but the method is more or less the same. To do it safely, it takes a bit of work and a tool or two (most notable the Gamebit and Triwing screwdriver tools, special screwdrivers for opening Nintendo consoles and cartridges), as described here: N64 Import Mod. You could probably just use pliers to reach in and break them off like the SNES mod, but it is pretty easy to break more than what you meant to this way. Of course the SAFEST way is still to buy a Japanese N64, but that’s also the most expensive method (assuming all goes well).

Buying options:

Play-Asia:
To buy a Super Famicom, try HERE
To buy a Japanese N64, try HERE
To buy a Gamebit or Triwing tool, try HERE

Amazon:
Gamebit Tools from Amazon
Triwing Tools from Amazon

Have fun playing!
-Kuro Matsuri

22nd Oct2009

Namco X Capcom

by Kuro Matsuri

Namco X Capcom for the PS2

The interesting import-only game for today is called Namco X Capcom (pronounced Namco Cross Capcom) for the Playstation 2.

Namco X Capcom Boxart
(Box art)

Ever wanted to see Heihachi Mishima from the Tekken series face off against Akuma from the Street Fighter series in a tactical battle? Or how about KOS-MOS from Xenosaga versus Rockman Juno (Megaman Juno) from Rockman Dash? Well, these and many more can happen in the tactical RPG, Namco X Capcom! Order it online today and in no time at all you will be playing this game and having a unique gaming experience.

There are over 100 characters, nearly all of which are from a variety of different Capcom and Namco games. The four previously mentioned games only scratch the surface. There are also appearances from Resident Evil (or Biohazard in Japan), Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Soul Calibur, Darkstalkers, Klonoa Heroes, Rival Schools, and many more!

Two completely new characters lead the way through the story as all the universes that these games belong in start to crash together. Characters from other games start appearing, and they don’t know why they are where they are! As you progress through the game, you get to find out what’s really going on while getting to play as many of your favorite characters. There is nothing like it in the U.S.A.!

The only problem with it for English speakers is that everything is completely in Japanese. Since it’s story based and has complex menues, a basic knowledge of Japanese (or a willingness to experiment a lot) is required to enjoy this game.

I have personally been unable to finish it as it is normally a 70-100 hour game, and it takes even longer for me since I have to spend time translating sections of it to understand it. My Japanese isn’t yet good enough to not use my electronic dictionary (which will be featured as a Interesting Import Only Game later, as it is for the DS).

Here’s a clip of the gameplay to let you see what it’s like. It goes from a grid format typical of strategic RPGs to psuedo-real-time, one-sided battles where the player either only attacks or only blocks. This video shows the attacking part (which is much more fun XD)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQtsj69NeuM

You can find out more information about Namco X Capcom by clicking HERE

You can buy Namco X Capcom (The Best version) right now by clicking HERE

Have fun playing!
-Kuro Matsuri

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