24th Mar2013

How to Import for the PlayStation 3

by Kuro Matsuri

PlayStation 3 with Box

There’s some good news for those who want to import games for the PS3.  For all practical purposes, it is completely region free.  It doesn’t require any modification to play import games.  There are a couple of key exceptions, though.

If you happen to have one that is old enough to be backwards compatible, the PlayStation 2 games are still region locked, as are PS1 games in all PlayStation 3 consoles.  As some additional notes, DVDs are region locked.  Blu-rays are also region locked, but for those in the USA, Japan is considered to be the same region, so it might as well be region free if you’re specifically interested in US and Japan BDs.

The other notable exception is really a technicality.  The PS3 does not support region locking directly, however, it does allow games to see what region the current system is.  As such, there’s nothing from stopping a developer from implementing their own region locking.  So far, only one developer has, and then for only one game: Persona 4 Arena.  As such, P4A is the only region locked PS3 game.

If you would like to play any import game (not just PS3 games) on your PS3, you have two options:

Option 1: Buy a Japanese PS3

As always, the most reliable and the most expensive method is to purchase a Japanese version of the console.  You can find some very interesting Japan-only PS3 models at Play-Asia, but they are on the expensive side, starting at right around $400.  In all honesty, you’re probably better off trying to land yourself an import capable PS2 to go along with a local PS3, partially due to price, and partially due to input lag in backwards compatible PS3 systems, specifically for PS2 games.

Option 2: Install Custom Firmware

There’s lots of risks for this one, it’s considerably less legal, but it also has the benefit of allowing you to play backup titles, assuming you have a Blu-ray burner and don’t mind buying BD-Rs.  It also allows you to have one console to play 3 generations of games on across multiple regions.  It certainly sounds promising.

It does, unfortunately, have the downside that it might lock you out of the PSN and online play.  If that’s something you don’t mind potentially giving up, you can look up the PS3 Jailbreak 4.31 Custom Firmware.  Installation is pretty straightforward: download the custom firmware, put it on a USB stick, and treat it like it’s an official PS3 update.  Keep in mind, though, that you can’t update your PS3 the normal way without undoing the custom firmware or, even worse, possibly breaking your console.

Be sure to thoroughly scan anything you download for viruses.  Unofficial things like this do carry an extra risk of viruses.

Where to Get Games

At this time, import PS3 games are abundantly plentiful.  The go-to source is Play-Asia, but NCSX, Amazon (3rd party), and eBay all have pretty wide selections of Japanese import PlayStation 3 games.

Interesting Game Highlights

For the most part, the most interesting import games on the PS3 are ones that are coming out in the US at some point anyway, such as Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Re MIX.  The biggest exceptions to this are game genres that are unlikely to do well in the US market, like Visual Novels or Dating Sims.  Possibly the most notable example of this is Clannad for PS3 (which was announced in April of 2010).

Enjoy your PlayStation 3 imports!

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Disclaimer: use any of these methods at your own risk. Some of them can damage your console.

Endorsement Policy: while some of the links in this post are affiliate links, others are not, and we strive to provide the best options out there, regardless of affiliate status.

03rd Apr2010

Clannad for the PS3 Announced

by Kuro Matsuri

Clannad PS3

Clannad is a famous name in an infamous genre. The genre, often referred to as “dating sims”, is usually about meeting people (often girls) and trying to develop positive relationships with them while an interesting story unfolds both as a result of your relationships and sometimes simply as a background story to drive the motivation. The more notorious of the games in this genre tend to reward the player’s efforts towards maintaining good relationships with scenes of a sexual nature, but most of them (especially ones on consoles) do not. Instead, the reward is more story. As a result, the stories tend to be pretty good in this type of game.

Clannad PS3 Gameplay

Clannad has long since been available on the PS2, the PSP, and even the Xbox 360, but this new version has been announced for the PS3. This new version seems to be a retelling of the same story, but with HD visuals and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Fans of the genre should enjoy the upgraded fidelity in both the visuals and the audio. In addition to this, to make the PS3 version more valuable, there will also be a spin-off story available for download on the PSN. Between the current story and the new story, it is reported to take around 200 hours to make it through every branch of the story. And you thought RPGs took a long time to complete!

The Japanese release date has not yet been announced for this title. Also, we are around 99% certain that it’s not going to make it to the US, or any other region outside of Japan.

01st Apr2010

PS3 Region Locked!?

by Kuro Matsuri

Sony has announced that they releasing a new update (they haven’t said when) that is going to make all future game releases completely region locked. No more importing unless you own a Japanese PS3.

As for the current library of region free games, the developers are allowed to release a patch that makes them region locked, but they aren’t required too. However, if they do release such a patch, you will be forced to install the patch if you want to play while your online. So, if you’re heavy into importing and can’t afford to buy a Japanese PS3, you might want to disconnect your PS3 from the internet whenever you play your imports.

Thankfully, Japanese Game Source has a Japanese PS3, so we’re not effected too much. As a result, we’ll be able to continue bringing you reviews on Japanese releases, so you can keep coming back here if you’d like.

Update 4/2/2010: Ok, this was an April Fools joke, just in case you didn’t already guess that by now =P

31st Mar2010

Valkyria Chronicles Live Action Movie! Is It an April Fool’s Joke?

by Kuro Matsuri

Valkyria Chronicles Live Action Movie

So, Famitsu has announced that Valkyria Chronicles will be getting a live action movie. Seriously! The game with art that is intentionally styled as though it was hand painted is going to become a movie with real people and real-looking scenes. Unless they plan to filter it to make it look hand painted, but what would be the point of that?

At any rate, the whole thing looks very official. There’s even a picture of the director and a storyboard image. But, alas, the date on the article clearly says April 1st. Is this the first of today’s looong string of April Fool’s Jokes all over the internet? It seems likely, but only time will tell!

If you want to see the story for yourself, head over to Famitsu (Google translated, for fans who don’t read Japanese).

28th Mar2010

3D Dot Game Heroes Review

by Kuro Matsuri

3D Dot Game Heroes Review
3D Dot Game Heroes is an homage to Zelda. In many ways, it’s also a ripoff and a parody. It’s an interesting and entertaining game that is about as niche as they come. This review will attempt to take a relatively objective look at the real quality of the game to see how good it really is.

Graphics

The graphics are simple, yet flashy. It’s kinda hard to imagine how that can be done until you see it. Hey, just take a look for yourself:


The simple 3D-pixel styling sounds simple, and in many ways it looks simple. It’s actually a lot less simple than it looks or sounds. Add to that some of the effects they put in there, and it comes off actually pretty flashy. Between some of the high dynamic range lighting effects, such as when you come out of a dungeon, and the “particle effects” where a defeated enemy bursts into a bunch of blocks that fly around all over the place, the graphics are actually visually appealing and entertaining to look at.

There are a few problems with the graphics, though. The biggest gripe is more of a style choice than a technical graphical issue, but the way things in the distance blur can get frustrating. It blurs too much too quickly. It’s hard to understand sometimes why something 5 steps ahead of you is blurry. At other times, it can actually have a nice effect, but it would have been better if the blurring was less intense.

You would also think that a game with such a simple graphical style could be run in full 1080p, while it only runs in 720p. However, at 720p, the framerate will occasionally drop. It doesn’t drop all that often, but it is noticeably when it does. So, the graphics must actually be much harder to render than it appears at first glance. Still, this certainly leaves some room for improvement, either in resolution or in framerate.

Graphics Score: 8.5

Story

There’s a story? Yeah, there is. And looked at as a whole, it is fairly amusing. Really, it’s just enough story to give you a reason to go to all the places and do everything. It’s hard to really care about the story, but then again, in order to care about the story, you might need to take the game as a whole seriously. While this game is definitely fun, it is definitely not styled to be taken seriously, so it had quite a challenge ahead of itself in trying to get the player to care about the story. Well, it didn’t make it.

Still, if you go into it expecting a light, amusing satire, the story becomes amusing enough. For example, take a look at the beginning story sequences:

It probably made you chuckle in one or two places, but the story just doesn’t hold up to the rest of the game. Perhaps an homage to a retro game in the story department just doesn’t quite work out all that well.

Story Score: 6.5

Gameplay

The retro gameplay is what really makes or breaks the game for each individual who tries it. If you’ve been dieing for some retro game action with some HD graphics, this is your chance (and possibly your only chance). It plays almost exactly like the original Zelda, with a bit of it’s own unique twist. After you attack, you can manually spin in a circle to do a spin attack. There’s enough time to spin in a complete circle, but only if you’re fast. It quickly becomes a staple move in your arsenal of straightforward 2-frame attacks.

Also, one thing that retro fans will appreciate that might turn off other gamers is the ability to roam anywhere, sometimes without a clear goal. It is possible to miss talking to the right person, and end up roaming around lost for a while. The good news is that roaming will likely let you find some nice goodies that will help you later, and occasionally you can even complete tasks out of order (usually by accident) this way. It makes it interesting, as long as you have the patience to stick with it when you aren’t completely sure what to do.

The dungeons are very similarly styled as well, cycling through a variety of elements from one dungeon to the next. The early dungeons are very easy, while the later dungeons can get surprisingly hard. The bosses are actually a lot of fun with a fair amount of variety, though there is an exploit or two that can be used to make a boss really easy on occasion.

Here’s the first dungeon in it’s entirety. This should give you a good idea of what the gameplay is like.

Part 1:

Part 2:

What is there to say, really, except that the gameplay was good back in the original Zelda era, and it’s still good now. It is, however, a tired gameplay system, so those looking for a truly new experience aren’t going to like it. Then again, someone looking for a truly new experience is probably going to dislike a lot of things about the game. But, if retro-styled is what you’re after, but you still want a good challenge while playing through it, this is where it’s at… well, it is once you get to some of the later dungeons!

Gameplay Score: 8.7

Weapon Growth System

This section is called the weapon growth system for one reason, your weapon will grow more than anything else in the game. To ridiculous proportions. Imagine if your sword in the original Zelda series could get large enough to practically cover the entire screen… and then some. It’s the ultimate in power for a 2D world gone 3D, and it is very amusing and completely satisfying.

On the other hand, upgrading is slow work. You have to collect a sword that can be upgraded to the level you want it to be, then you have to collect lots of money in order to upgrade it all the way… money that could be used for healing items or other one-time use weapons (bombs or arrows, anybody?) Also, getting a sword that can really be upgraded can be difficult too. If you watched the dungeon video above, you saw that you can collect “small blocks”. These blocks are used to purchase new weapons, but small blocks are hard to find, and it can take as many as 20 of them to buy a new weapon. Though, that does make it all that much more satisfying when you get the ultimate weapon of hit everything on the screen at once.

Yeah, it’s essentially just a novelty trick, but in retro games you had to put in cheat codes to get such ridiculously awesome swords. Now you can do it legitimately, and that is awesome.

Weapon Growth System Score: 9.1

Pacing

The pacing is only what you make of it. You are given the freedom to go directly from one dungeon to the next (though that can become rather difficult if you’re not careful), or you can wonder around aimlessly defeating monsters and collecting random stuff for hours on end.

However, even if you do go straight through the game, the story is so thin that the pacing still drags on quite a bit. The vast majority of the game is spent collecting the 6 orbs from a variety of dungeons. No truly new information is presented until right near the end of the game, and even then, there’s not much of a revelation to make it all feel worth it.

The thing is, that’s just how retro games did it. If 3D Dot Game Heroes had a more complex story with high quality cutscenes, it probably wouldn’t have been a true homage/parody/ripoff/whatever. However, a couple complex action cutscenes done in the 3D pixel style could have been truly hilarious. I’d call that a missed opportunity right there.

At any rate, the pacing is slow… very slow. Thankfully, the gameplay makes up for it, but the pacing could easily boot out a few players who were on the edge of enjoying the game to begin with.

Pacing Score: 5.5

Music

The music in 3D Dot Game Heroes is where the game seems to truly scream “homage”. If you weren’t paying attention, you might think the music was actually Zelda music. Upon listening closely, you’ll find that it’s actually full of surprisingly memorable tunes, the majority of which are nice to listen to and do a good job of complimenting the theme of each region. I found myself humming along as I played on more than once occasion.

As for the technical quality of the music, it’s as though the 8-bit music just bumped up its production values or something. The style is distinctively 8-bit, but it puts in high quality sound samples instead of the scratchy 8-bit samples of yore. Chances are that it will get you humming along to it as well.

Music Score: 9.0

Replayability

After spending 30 hours to play through 3D Dot Game Heroes once, and having a good challenge in the process, I discovered that beating the game unlocks a new difficulty. This is not a “new game plus” scenario, when you start a new game, you start over from scratch. While I enjoyed the game, I found myself thinking “ewww…” when confronted with the option to start over from scratch on a harder difficulty level. If anything, I would go back and play some more on the save that was right before the end of the game so I could explore more and collect more stuff. Starting over didn’t sound appealing in the slightest.

There is honestly very little incentive to continue playing this game once you’ve played through it once, provided that you really explore and invest your time into doing as much as you can the first time around. You might want to come back and do a couple more things, but starting over feels like spitting on all of your work up to that point.

In fact, you’re much more likely to want to go back and play the original Zelda after playing all the way through this. That’s not a bad thing, but it is rather unlikely that you’ll want to play this game again at least for a while. It’s not like anything is going to be different the second time through, and the combination of novelty and nostalgia can only go so far before convincing you to just go back and play the original that started it all.

Replayability Score: 5.2

 

Summary:

Graphics Score: 8.5

Story Score: 6.5

Gameplay Score: 8.7

Weapon Growth System Score: 9.1

Pacing Score: 5.5

Music Score: 9.0

Replayability Score: 5.2

 

Total Score: 52.5/70 = 75.0%

 

Import Friendly?

This game is available now in Japan, and it will be available in the US on May 11, 2010, and in Europe on May 14, 2010. How hard is it to play in Japanese if you don’t speak it? Well, most of the game, it’s not too hard. You’ll be able to figure out the dungeons without any knowledge of Japanese at all. There are a couple of parts that will prove difficult since you are occasionally told where you need to go without putting an actual marker on your map. Those 2 or 3 parts might leave you totally lost and confused, but if you don’t mind looking up a guide for a couple of small sections, you can enjoy this game all the way through without knowing any Japanese.

You will, unfortunately, miss out on the story… but there isn’t really much story here. Besides, you can probably guess the story based on the opening video (shown at the top of this review), almost right down to the end. If you can’t wait to get your hands on this game, the language barrier won’t stop you from enjoying 3D Dot Game Hereos.

Import Friendly Score: 8.5/10

27th Mar2010

3D Dot Game Heroes First Dungeon Gameplay English Subtitles

by Kuro Matsuri

3D Dot Game Heroes First Dungeon

3D Dot Game Heroes takes the old school Zelda formula, adds in a touch of humor and self-awareness, and spits out an amusing retro styled game that is surprisingly graphically impressive. You won’t be getting any realism here. But, take a look at the first dungeon in the game. Simple, not too hard… but it gives you an idea of how the game plays. And, trust me, the game gets a lot harder than this in the later dungeons. A couple of the boss fights are particularly brutal, and that’s just on the normal difficulty level. Of course, we have provided English subtitles. Due to the limitations of YouTube, the video has been cut into 2 sections, each one around 8 minutes long. Enjoy!

23rd Mar2010

3D Dot Game Heroes Opening Cinematic And Gameplay Video – English Subtitles

by Kuro Matsuri

3D Dot Game Heroes Opening

3D Dot Game Heroes is an homage to the classic Zelda games (and a few other classic titles at the same time). In many ways it’s a direct ripoff, but it’s self-aware humor makes it a little bit more than that. It’s story involves a strange twist of fate when the King decides to transform the his Kingdom from 2D to 3D, and all the unexpected consequences of that choice. Take a look at the opening scenes that starts the story going for the game, all translated into English and subtitled through annotations:

22nd Mar2010

3D Dot Game Heroes Demo Reel Gameplay Video

by Kuro Matsuri

3D Dot Game Heroes Gameplay Reel

Many games will show a video that shows off a bit of the gameplay when the title screen sits too long. Well, lots of games used to. But, since 3D Dot Game Heroes is essentially a throwback or an homage to certain old video games (largely Zelda, with references to others thrown in), it only makes sense that it would bring back the use of a demo reel. See it in action below!

03rd Mar2010

BlazBlue Continuum Shift Japanese Release Date Announced

by Kuro Matsuri

BlazBlue Continuum Shift Poster

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift now has a release date for Japan! The arcade sequel to the original BlazBlue will receive PS3 and Xbox 360 ports, due to be released on July 1st, 2010. Play-Asia has announced that they will soon have Continuum Shift pre-orders here. After having so much fun with the original, the sequel looks like it will be a lot of fun. From balance tweaks to new characters, there’s nothing not to like about this sequel! Except that it will most likely be a full-priced game… but the prices haven’t officially been announced yet, so perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised. No doubt it will be cheaper than importing Final Fantasy XIII, which costs right around $100!

Update: Pre-orders are now available through Play-Asia for both the normal version and the limited edition version. See all the available versions here.

28th Feb2010

Final Fantasy XIV Closed Beta Release Date Announced

by Kuro Matsuri

Final Fantasy XIV

Yes, the Final Fantasy XIV Beta now has an official launch date. March 11, 2010. This is only the PC Beta, so those who bought Final Fantasy XIII in hopes of getting into the PS3 Beta will have to wait a little longer. This news is straight from Vanafest 2010, so feel free to go check out their website to confirm it for yourself.

Kuro Matsuri Video Games is, of course, in the pool of applicants to get into the FFXIV Beta. If we get in, we will be sure to bring you lots of news and videos about it.

26th Jan2010

Final Fantasy XIII Review

by Kuro Matsuri

Final Fantasy XIII Logo

Welcome to the Kuro Matsuri Video Game review of Final Fantasy XIII. Since this is our first review, let me start by presenting the format of our reviews (you can skip to the first category under this paragraph if you don’t care). First, we select a number of dimensions that are highly relevant to the genre and/or specific game we are reviewing. Then, we rate each one on a 0 to 10 scale, decimals allowed. We sum the scores up and divide it by the total possible in order to give the final score for the game, which will be in terms of percentage (100% being an absolutely perfect game in our eyes). Then, since we review Japanese games for American and European audiences, every one of our reviews includes a part at the end about how “import friendly” the game is. This rating is based on two things, how easy or hard it is for a person with the American or European version of the console to be able to play the game (e.g., can they just put it in and play it, or will they have to modify the console, or even get a new Japanese one?), and how easy or hard is it for someone with little to know Japanese knowledge to play and enjoy the game. This, too, is on a 1 to 10 scale. Alright, here we go. We’ll start with graphics.



Graphics

The graphics are outright impressive, especially when viewed in full 1080p. Most everything looks crisp and pretty. However, it certainly isn’t flawless. Some of the characters’ hair appears to have an odd filter over it, making it appear almost pixelated. Lightning’s hair seems to be have the worst case of it, while Sazh’s hair doesn’t seem to do this at all. Apparently, afros are the way to get around this problem. Ironically, whenever the characters are in motion, this filter makes the hair look very realistic. But, whenever they are standing still, it makes the hair look out of place when compared to the rest of the game. That is, until you get used to it. By the end of the game, it probably won’t bother you anymore. There were also a few cases of lower resolution textures here and there throughout the game, but really not too many. Considering the length of the game, the detail presented through the entire game is certainly something worth admiring.

Graphics Score: 9.5/10


Story

(NO SPOILERS) Full of twists and turns, the story in this game is what you have come to expect from a Final Fantasy game. It might not become one of your favorite stories, but it will not disappoint. It has several sub-plots that emerge as the game progresses, none of which feel pointless. You will have to struggle with whether your group is doing the right thing or the wrong thing, and you later find out for sure which one it is. After Final Fantasy XII, I was worried that the ending might disappoint us much as FFXII’s ending had. I was happy to discover the opposite. The ending was pleasant, but not too pleasant (perfect happy endings are kinda boring), and had everything to do with the characters we had grown attached to through the game. There is no question in my mind that the story is the highlight of the game. That being said, there are sections of the story that wear on a little too long, and some of the twists and turns are very easy to see coming. That’s why FFXIII didn’t get a perfect 10/10 for its story.

Story Score: 9.8/10


Battle Gameplay

In any Final Fantasy game, how the battles are played is something to be considered separately from the rest of the gameplay. In order to complete the game, you’ll have to play through hundreds, if not thousands, of battles. Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is fun, but flawed. First, I’ll explain the basics of the battle system. There is no MP, all actions cost one or more sections of your ATB (Active Time Battle) bar. As such, there’s no way to use magic outside of battle, so you’re always automatically healed to full after every battle. You either select your actions manually or use the “attack” button to allow the game to pick the best options based on the enemy you are selecting and the optima you are in (optima will be known as paradigm in the English version). There is a “break” system (known as “stagger” in English) that increases the amount of damage that your attacks do. Every time you hit an enemy, their break percentage increases. This percentage represents how much of your base damage you do to this opponent. So, if the break meter says 500%, you do 5 times your normal damage. If the break bar fills up, the break percentage automatically increases by 100%. Furthermore, when an enemy is in break mode, some of them won’t be able to attack back, and some of them can be knocked into the air and juggled. This is crucial to doing well in battle, as shown below:

In fact, for the Behemoth, if you don’t manage to get them to break before they are half dead, they will transform and become even harder to kill, as shown below:

However, if you do manage to get them to break, they become MUCH easier:

You may have noticed in the above videos that you are given a ranking for how well you did in the fight. The rankings go from 0 to 5 stars, and it’s based solely on how quickly you beat the enemies. The time restrictions get smaller as you get stronger because it attempts to be an accurate judge of how well you did a particular fight. On average it’s a good indicator, but there is one problem. The required time can be manipulated by reducing your max stat. If you have medium high physical attack and magic attack instead of really high physical attack and low magic attack, the time required for a 5 star rating is increased. Which means that there is a reason not to max out one role versus another, and instead it is indirectly encouraging keeping each individual character very balanced as opposed to a balanced team of characters that are each really strong in their own areas. This aspect was a bad move. A battle rating system shouldn’t be able to be manipulated like that.

But the real flaw is that you can only control one character, and you can’t switch which character mid-battle. Furthermore, the best you can do to control the other two characters is to give them a role to play. Basically, you can give one character the general role of “Attacker” (“Commando” in English), and they will use the abilities that come with that role as they please. Same with “Healer” (“Medic”), “Enhancer” (“Synergist”) and the other 3 roles. How the other characters utilize these roles is completely up to the AI, and you have no control over it. The only saving grace is that you can change characters’ roles mid-fight, but you can’t just change one character’s role. You have to pick one of the 6 3 role combinations you made before you entered the fight, meaning you have to change everybody’s role at once, though it is possible to “change” someone’s role to the same role in the process. Just to make matters worse, if the leader of the party dies (the leader is the one you are actually controlling), it’s an immediate game over. This can be particularly frustrating when the leader is low on health, but another character is slightly lower on health, so the AI heals that one first even when the leader is clearly the target of the next attack, resulting in a game over. Granted, that scenario doesn’t happen all that often, but it did happen several times while playing through the game.

Another thing to note is that there is no evasion or accuracy stat. All attacks hit or miss based on straight hit detection. Some enemies move around a lot, and you’ll miss them more often. Other enemies hardly move at all, and you’ll essentially never miss them. That’s all well and good, but that means that there is no way to increase how well you dodge, or how well you aim. Ever. Though, to be honest, I’m overall happy with this aspect. It kinda makes sense when you play it. Except for ONE enemy. The Behemoth. If you break a Behemoth after it has transformed and then knock it into the air, if no one else hits it to force it to reset it’s floating animation, you WILL miss the next 2 hits. The enemy is supposed to be completely helpless and open to attacks, and you automatically miss twice. This is a horrible flaw that, thankfully, only seems to effect one fight, but it is glaringly awful.

Battle Gameplay Score: 7.5/10


Leveling System

The leveling system (called the Crystarium or Crystalium) is always a major part of any Final Fantasy game. As such, it’s a category that simply can’t be ignored in a Final Fantasy review! The leveling system in FFXIII is very reminiscent of the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X, with a few major differences. One difference is that the characters never become essentially the same. Yes, every character can eventually get to the highest level of every role, but certain characters will never be as good as other characters at a particular role. For example, Lighting is one of the best Attackers in the game, and Hope or Vanille just simply can’t get as good at the role. But, they can be better Blasters than Lightning can. Also, every character has their own special attack that they can use as many times as they want in battle that the other characters can never learn. On the other hand, every role tree is very linear. You’ll rarely go more than 4 slots out from the main path, and never go more than 5 or 6. You also don’t really have a location in the tree, unlike the sphere grid, so you never actually backtrack. As such, there’s less planning involved with leveling. However, there is still some planning in the sense that you need to choose which jobs to prioritize enhancements for, and then you need to match that planning up with the way you’re leveling the weapons and accessories. Yes, you level up your weapons and accessories.

So, how do you level up weapons and accessories? Well, you obtain items that can be spent to increase the experience points of a weapon/accessory. Some items will give the weapon or accessory a multiplier that increases future experience point earnings for that weapon or accessory, while others will give huge boosts but reduce that multiplier. Once you get the weapon/accessory to a high enough level, you can use items with the effect “item change” to change the weapon or accessory to a lower level of a higher tier item. Meaning that you can really invest a lot into a weapon and make it very powerful.

So, with careful management, but without the pain of true micro-managing, the leveling system becomes very enjoyable. It is one of the better (though it’s hard to call it the best) leveling systems in the Final Fantasy franchise.

Leveling System Score: 9.1/10


Pacing And Exploration

This is where much of the buzz on the internet has been coming into play. The pacing of the game is very controlled by being very linear, with the exception of one large, open area that is around 2/3 of the way through the game. I consider this to be both good and bad. On one hand, there are no side quests until you reach the larger, more open area (which I didn’t do until just over 30 hours into the game), so there is no reason to spend extra time in any area unless you plan to run back and forth in a straight line just to kill more enemies for experience. On the other hand, there’s no need to really do that. If you kill every enemy you see and level up wisely, it won’t be impossible by any stretch to beat all the bosses that come up through the game. But, everything changes once you reach the plains-like area. Once you’re there, it would be wise to do many of the missions (though not all of them as some of them are ridiculously hard until you reach much higher stats) so that you can get strong enough to avoid lots of difficulties after you leave the area.

Except that, despite what I just said, not everything changes. Once you’re done with the big open area (which you can return to), the path goes right back to being incredibly linear with almost no exploration whatsoever. I can comfortably say that this is the most linear main Final Fantasy title to date. This doesn’t bother me too much, as before this, FFX was in my top 3 or 4 list of FF titles, and it used to be the most linear of the Final Fantasy games. But exploration is definitely limited, which hurts the score of this category. And a few things simply took too long before they were available. I couldn’t choose my party members at all until just over 25 hours in, for example. There is definitely room for improvement here.

Pacing And Exploration Score: 8.5/10


Continuing Playability

What I mean by continuing playability is this: is there any reason for me to continue playing the game after I’ve finished the story? This is a little different from replay value in that I’m not referring to starting the game over, but rather whether or not you will want to continue to improve your characters and completing optional content once the final boss has beaten. The answer: yes, you will. The last tier of the Crystarium is not unlocked until you’ve beaten the final boss. This sounds odd, but it keeps the final boss from being too easy the first time you fight him, which I feel is a good thing. This last tier gives HUGE boosts to stats. Beyond that, there are 64 optional missions, some of them more difficult than others, and some of them more fun than others. The Jumbo Cactuar (or Sabotender as they are known in the Japanese Final Fantasy games) is an amusing fight that makes you feel rather accomplished once you manage to beat him. About that fight, let me say this. 10,000 Needles is painful.

Even if you beat all of the missions, there are trophies and secret wallpapers to unlock by collecting all the items in the game or beating all of the missions with a 5 star rating. All of this is more than enough to extend the play time to over 100 hours, which is very respectable for a good Final Fantasy. However, there isn’t much else that you can do. No mini-games or other amusing distractions. Thus, a perfect score just can’t quite be justified.

Continuing Playability Score: 9.5/10


Summary:

Graphics Score: 9.5/10

Story Score: 9.8/10

Battle Gameplay Score: 7.5/10

Leveling System Score: 9.1/10

Pacing And Exploration Score: 8.5/10

Continuing Playability Score: 9.5/10


Total Score: 53.9/60 = 89.8%



Import Friendly?

Since this game isn’t available in the US or other regions until March, the only way to play this game at the time of this posting is to A) be in the gaming industry or gaming journalism industry and get an advanced copy or B) import the game from Japan. The good news is that the PS3 version of the game (the only version available in Japan) is completely region free, as are all PS3 games. This means that if you have an American or European PS3, the game will play just fine in your system. This certainly lends it some “import friendliness”. But, since this is an RPG with an involved story, it has LOTS of Japanese text and voices. You will not understand the story and may even get confused as to what you’re supposed to do if you don’t understand a fair amount of Japanese. Can you still get through it and enjoy the gameplay without knowing Japanese? With some experimentation, sure. But you won’t get the story, which I’ve already said is the best part of this release. If you can understand Japanese, though, you should go ahead and Buy Final Fantasy XIII at Play-Asia (maybe even with the FFXIV beta application code, if you can still get a first print copy) especially since the English voice acting isn’t quite as good (minor complaint) and they changed the main theme song (bigger complaint) in the English version of the game. If you can’t understand Japanese, or can’t afford to import (it is more expensive), just wait a couple more months until the game comes out in your own region. It will be worth the wait, even with the unfortunate changes.

Import Friendly Score: 5.0/10

If you have any questions, complaints, hearty agreements, disagreements, rebuttals, etc., please comment below! It will be much appreciated! ^_^

16th Jan2010

Final Fantasy XIII Crystarium Level Up Gameplay Video

by Kuro Matsuri

Final Fantasy XIII Crystarium

This is a video that explains how the level up system in Final Fantay XIII works. This new leveling system, called the Crystarium, uses Crystarium points to travel from node to node. It is certainly reminiscent of the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X, but the individual characters stay more unique in how they level as compared to FFX. In FFX, everybody could learn every skill (except for a couple special ones) and activate every node on the board. In FFXIII, each person has their own Crystarium different from the others, and it limits how much that particular person can learn. That way, while everybody can still learn just about everything, it’s more difficult for some to learn certain abilities than others, and every character has their individual weaknesses and strengths. You must learn them and utilize them properly to really do well at the game.

So, watch the gameplay video, and learn how to level up in Final Fantasy XIII!

Don’t forget to let me know what you think, ask questions, are tell me what else you would like to see in the comments below!

Have fun playing!

-Kuro Matsuri

11th Jan2010

How To Import for the PlayStation 1

by Kuro Matsuri

Japanese PlayStation 1 Box

Updated March 23, 2013. For the other Sony home consoles, try How to Import for the PlayStation 2 and How to Import for the PlayStation 3.

The original PlayStation is, unfortunately, completely region locked.  By design, a US PS1 cannot play Japanese games.  As a result, importing for the original PlayStation is pretty tricky business, at least if you want to play the imports on an original US console. We’ll start off with the most reliable method, buying a Japanese PS1.

Option 1: Purchase a Japanese PlayStation

Unfortunately, even going the straightforward route and buying a console is tricky due to the age of the console. At the time this guide is being written, Play-Asia, the usual go-to import vendor, doesn’t have any in stock. You can always try an eBay search for a Japanese PlayStation, which will most likely be the cheapest route, but you never know if you’ll get one in good condition or even if there will be one in stock. Lately, the most consistent source to buy a Japanese original PlayStation is on Amazon.

Option 2: Action Replay or Similar Cheat Devices

This option is limited to PlayStation consoles that have the Parallel I/O port, because the cheat device has to be separate from the disc tray. To see if you have one, look on the back of your PlayStation, on the far left. It looks like this when covered:

PlayStation 1 Parellel IO Port Closed

And like this when opened:

PlayStation 1 Parallel IO Port Open

Depending on the cheat device, you also might need to stick something in the lid sensor (the little switch that tells the system whether or not the disc lid is closed) so that it thinks that the lid is always closed.

At this time, the best option I could find is this Power Reply Game Enhancer sold through Amazon, which has a couple of reviews that confirm that it works for backups. In general, if a solution lets you play backups, it will usually let you play imports too, even if it means that you have to create a backup of your import in order to do it (though, usually, you don’t even need to do that).

This method isn’t 100% reliable, but it’s easy to use and works on most of the original PlayStation consoles. It will not work on the later PS One, though.

Option 3: Raw Disc Swap Method

In this method, the only modification required is jamming the lid sensor so that the system thinks the lid is always closed. Unfortunately, it only works on the oldest consoles, so it’s unlikely to work on a random console you happen to have or happen to pick up. However, it’s practically free to attempt it, so it’s very low cost. Here’s the method:

  • Insert an original and local PlayStation disc
  • Turn on the system, leave the tray open
  • Listen carefully to the disc motor – it will start off “slow” at 1x
  • When the disc motor speeds up to 2x, quickly swap it to the disc you want to play
  • The system should then show the black PS screen – if it didn’t, start over
  • It will slow down to 1x, wait longer
  • It will speed up to 2x, wait longer
  • It will slow down again to 1x, swap the disc out for the original and local PlayStation disc
  • It will speed up to 2x once more, swap it back to the disc you want to play
  • If everything was done correctly, AND your console is one that is old enough, it should play the game normally from there. This should also work for backups. At this point, you can close the lid.

On top of being compatible with only a few consoles, there is also the small chance that you can accidentally damage the disc motor during the swaps. Compared to modern consoles, the disc motor spins much slower, so there’s only a low chance of damaging it, but it is a chance you have to be willing to take in order to attempt this method.

Option 4: Install a Mod Chip

If installed correctly, this method becomes very convenient. You will have one console that plays both Japanese and American games just by putting them in, and the mod chip handles it from there. However, installing a mod chip requires some soldering. The original PlayStation is one of the easiest mod chips to install, but you still have to be brave enough to open up your console and try to attach some wires to the motherboard.

If you’re willing to try this method, this guide is below your level. I recommend researching the different mod chip options out there, as well as looking up some guides with images for where to attach the mod chip. Or, alternatively, you could look for a second-hand pre-modded PlayStation on eBay.

Option 5: Acquire an Import-Enabled PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3

All PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 consoles can play PS1 games, so you can generally play import PS1 games. The only exception is games that have “expansion discs” that require swapping, because the PS2 and PS3 behaves differently when you open it, messing with the process. There are very few games like that, though, so it generally won’t be a problem. The Beatmania Append games come to mind, but outside of those, it should be fine. To find out how to get an import-enabled PS2 or PS3, take a look at How to Import for the PlayStation 2 or How to Import for the PlayStation 3.

Where to Get Games

Play-Asia is generally my go-to source for import games, and they do have a decent selection of Japanese PS1 games still available, though most are Ultimate Hits or Legendary Hits versions. They are well-priced, though, particularly compared to most of the Japanese PS1 games available through Amazon sellers. If you’re worried about whether or not Play-Asia is reputable, you can check out the Play-Asia review as well. And, as always, you can always search eBay for some Japanese PS1 games, which is often quite the mixed bag of random selection and random prices.

Interesting Game Highlights

Of course, the Final Fantasy series is a favorite on the original PlayStation, but let’s focus on games that are only available in Japan. Pepsiman is one of the most bizarre and interesting ones, featuring the character from the Japan-only Pepsi commercials, and here’s a quick video of it:

As you can see, it plays a lot like Temple Run, but from a long time before Temple Run ever existed. It’s definitely a great collector’s item. At this time, you can find it on Amazon for around $60-70 used, or for way too much new. ebay seems to have them for around $80 right now.

For a music game experience from way before Guitar Hero, you could check out the Beatmania series, several versions of which are currently available from Amazon and eBay. Just keep in mind that you have to have the original Beatmania first before you can play any of the Append versions, because they actually operate as a swap disc, which also means that only some of the methods listed here will work.

Beatmania DJ Station PRO Controller

Also, for the best experience, you’ll want to pick up the special controller, the best version of which is called the “Beatmania DJ Station PRO Controller” (pictured above), and is currently only available from eBay, and there’s only one left right now.

Enjoy your PlayStation imports!

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Disclaimer: use any of these methods at your own risk. Some of them can damage your console.

Endorsement Policy: while some of the links in this post are affiliate links, others are not, and we strive to provide the best options out there, regardless of affiliate status.

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)

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