Dashed Expectations

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:01 pm 
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Image I decided to start up a smallish thread to see what kind of interest it'd gain what with me getting my paws on a few import titles. I'm sure at least some of you are curious to know how they play and, more importantly, if they are worth paying that shipping charge to own. Well, if you are one of those guys, here's my modest little thread I decided to cook up just for you guys! Let's go!


Unlocking the Regions

Now, first thing, before you start importing, you need to check to see if your device is Region-Locked or not. If it is, then you will need to bypass some stuff in order to play, or else get an international console. Thankfully, at least for the legacy consoles, there is at least one workaround you can use to play an import title. Please feel free to check the lists to see if your console is Region-Free or not:

(locked means it is region locked, free means it is region free, and publisher decided means that it is up to the publisher to determine whether their game is region free or not)
(NOTE: I am not including movies in this list for the consoles that can play movies; This is purely a region on games)

Consoles
Nintendo Entertainment System: original model: locked / top-loader model: free)
Super Nintendo: technically free (need to remove some plastic)
Nintendo 64: locked
Gamecube: locked
Wii: locked
Wii U: locked
Sega Master System: free
Sega Genesis: publisher decided (older games tend to be free, but newer ones are not)
Sega Saturn: locked
Dreamcast: locked
PlayStation: locked
PlayStation 2: locked
PlayStation 3: publisher decided (currently, only one game is locked (Persona 4 Arena), so for the most part, this console is free (NOTE: If playing an older model PS3 with backwards compatibility, PS1 and PS2 games are still locked))
Xbox: publisher decided (most are locked)
360: publisher decided (most are locked)
Phillips CD-i: free
3DO: free
TurboGrafx-16: locked
Atari Jaguar: free

Handhelds
Game Boy: free
Game Boy Color: free
Game Boy Advance: free
Nintendo DS: free
Nintendo DSi: free (except for the store)
Nintendo 3DS: locked (Nintendo DS games can still be played regardless of region though)
PSP: free
Vita: publisher decided (no games are locked thus far)
Game Gear: free


Now, this isn't every console/handheld, but I figured I would at least bring up the ones that appear most often. In regards to PCs, most are region free as well, though some companies do find ways to get around that, either through forcing you to enter a regional code or force you to connect to an online system like Steam or Origin.

There are several guides on how to unlock those consoles that are locked for the most part. In this thread, I will detail what I use for the consoles I play my imports on (which, as of typing, are just the GCN and PS2 that are region locked for me).


Gamecube
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Method: Freeloader Disc

A very, very easy region to crack from your average Joe's standpoint. Just get yourself a freeloader disc, pop it into your console, wait for a message to appear on screen to tell you to take the disc out, take the disc out, put your import game in, and play the game away.

Just make sure you have the correct region of freeloader disc, of course. Since we live in North America, be sure to get one for NTSC-U.

You can order a disc over at Codejunkies.

WARNING: Do NOT use your regular memory card when playing import games!! If the game detects foreign games on your memory card(s), IT WILL FORMAT THE CARD(S) IN ORDER TO SAVE YOUR IMPORT GAMES!! I highly recommend getting a spare card exclusively for playing import titles per region!


PlayStation 2 (slim)
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Method: Swap Magic 3

This console is much more complicated and may require some hands-on experience with a chance of ruining your console. Take every precaution before attempting.

First off, you need to check what version of PS2 you have. One way to do this is to look at the bottom of your PS2 and look for where it says "Model Number." It should say something like "SCPH-xxxxx" where x=a number. If your PS2 model is anywhere from 3000x-5xxxx, then you probably have a Phat model, which will require a Flip-Top cover to use Swap Magic properly (the slim model already pops open, so a flip top is not necessary). The Flip-Tops vary in size depending on the model number, so make sure you read ahead before ordering one. Here's a quick ref guide to help you identify your console:

The version 1, 2 and 3 PlayStation 2 all have 10 screws on the bottom of the unit.
SCPH30001 v1 = Serial# begins U1
SCPH30001 v2 = Serial# begins U0
SCPH30001 v3 = Serial# begins U1 Date 1A
SCPH30001 v3 = Serial# begins U2 Date 0D

The version 4, 5, 6 and 7 PlayStation 2 all have 8 screws on the bottom of the unit. The 4 and 5 also have the electrical warning stamped on the bottom of the PlayStation 2 case.
SCPH 30001 v4 = Serial# begins with U0
SCPH 30001 v4 = Serial# begins with U1
SCPH 30001 v4 = Serial# begins with U2
SCPH 30001 v4 = Serial# begins with U3
SCPH 30001 v4 = Serial# begins with U4
SCPH 30001 v4 = Serial# begins with U5
SCPH 35001 v4 = GT3 Edition

There are 3 different motherboards for the SCPH 30001R - Version 4, 5 and 6
SCPH 30001R v5 or v6 Motherboard
SCPH 39001 v7

SCPH 50001 v9

SCPH 50010 v10

SCPH 50004 v11

Now, if your model number is instead 7000x-9xxxx, then you most likely have a Slim model instead (such as mine, which is a 90001 model). A Flip-Top cover isn't needed, though you will still need to do some tinkering in order for the console to properly read Swap Magic. You can order some Magic Keys here if you so desire, which are used to do things such as blocking laser sights, though some of that can actually be done using at home products, though again, that is a bit of a risk. (In my case, I actually lost one of the vital Magic Keys for my 90001 model, but I was easily able to solve the issue by using some electrical tape in its place to hold a piece that was preventing the disc from spinning away from the center).

There should be some vids on how to insert your Flip-Tops/Magic Keys all over the net so feel free to look them up if you have some spare time.

As for using Swap Magic itself, insert the disc and let it read. (In my case, due to the missing piece, I like to keep my lid open so I can make sure the disc is spinning, because if it is not, that means my console locked it from being read properly. Make sure that disc is spinning!) After the console finishes reading Swap Magic, the disc should start coming to a halt. DO NOT TOUCH THE DISC UNTIL IT HAS COME TO A COMPLETE STOP!! Once it has, remove it then insert the import game, and then choose Standard on the menu. You will then be given a choice of 3 regions. Using a North American disc, from left to right, they are PAL (Europe), Standard (North America), and NTSC (Japan). Choose the region you desire (in my case, it will usually NTSC), and then the game should load just fine.

You can order Swap Magic 3.8 (and any accessories like Flip-Tops and Magic Keys) over at Modchip Central.


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Now, for the record, I know there are other ways to do these, such as Modchips and Hard Drives, but I am merely detailing the methods that I, personally, did myself. For any consoles I did not cover, feel free to have a look across the Internet for any guides.
JewWario of You Can Play This has 2 parts of a very helpful importing guide (which is how I got my start too) that covers Nintendo's, Sega's, and Sony's consoles.


--------------------------------

B's Games

(Note: Games are listed in order I obtained them
I am also not covering any games that you can play in North America already, even though I did import at least two titles that fit this description)

Mother 3
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Console: Game Boy Advance

My very first import. Originally, I purchased this just so I had a "legit" copy for when the fan translated was completed, but I did actually get around to playing it in its vanilla form anyway and even managed to finish the game. However, because this is an RPG, the language barrier is a massive brick wall, making it a hard game to play just anywhere. Thankfully, because the fan base is just that passionate, there are plenty of translation guides out there that detail everything from Items to PSI powers to whole game scripts! If you decide to keep a smartphone handy with you to look up the guides as you play, you can potentially get the full portable experience of Mother 3.

It is a very good game all around, but the fact that you do have to keep looking up what every word means does hinder its recommendation a bit. You're probably better off just playing the fan dub and dumping the ROM onto your PC.

As an aside, I did learn what はい and いいえ were due to seeing those two words pop up numerous times in the game. ("yes" and "no" respectively)


Phantasy Star Generation 1
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Console: PlayStation 2

I remember back on NSider, I said that if this game ever got localized, it would be what finally get me to purchase a PS2 (I was a weird kid... Who didn't have a PS2 at the turn of the century?!). Well, long story short, that didn't happen due to complications between Sega and Sony and I didn't get a PS2 until about midway through the 7th Console Generation (360/PS3/Wii Generation for those wondering). I mean, they were selling them new for a pretty cheap price at that point so I thought "Why not?" Because I got it so late, I ended up with a Slim 90001 model to play my games one (the first ones being Kingdom Hearts II and Shadow of the Colossus, fantastic games).

But I am getting off track. How does this remake play compared to the original game on the Master System?

...Well, in some aspects, it is better, and in others, it is not, but where it falls short is where this import is something I can safely say you should not get!

What do I mean? Well, like Mother 3, this game is a big RPG, so there is a lot of talking involved. While the original Phantasy Star, even if you were for whatever reason playing it in Japanese, could easily just be pushed forward to victory, PSG1 actually railroads you to do what the game wants you to. By which, I mean you have to talk to the right people. And unlike other games where talking to the right person means "find someone with a slightly different hair colour/clothing", that specific person could very well look just like another NPC down the street. The game was so frustrating to play in Japanese as one who can't read it, I couldn't even get off Palma so I could "purchase" my 2nd party member, which you can normally do very quickly in SMS.

Again, like Mother 3, I highly recommend the fan translation instead, which thankfully recently came out on PS Cave. This game is just impossible to play if you aren't following a direct point-by-point guide.


Pop'n Music 11
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Console: PlayStation 2

It's kinda odd, if you ask me. Why have these games not been localized in NA before? (save for the "in-name only" Wii version) It's not like there isn't a market for rhythm-based games. Is Konami just not willing to take that risk? But I digress...

Pop'n Music is a series of games that tests your button pressing reflexes like no other. While the majority of songs are Japanese in nature, you don't need to understand them to really appreciate them, I feel, but if J-Pop isn't your thing, I can totally understand. Still, there are a few songs that go outside their home country too (Pop'n Music 6 even has Star Trek for some reason...).

The language barrier is surprisingly low in this game. Yes, you can't understand some of the lyrics, but they aren't needed in order to actually play the game. In fact, a number of the menus (at least, in 11, the version I played) are all in English, which makes navigating them pretty easy (though I don't have a clue what Omake means...). One downside, though, is that you can't play the tutorial very easily, but the game is simple enough to understand just through playing normally that you don't really need it.

One thing I do wanna stress, however, is that you are better off getting this game (or any from the franchise) with an official Game Pad (or, if you have money burning a hole in your pocket, a full fledged ASC which can go up to $200). The game can be played with a standard PS2 controller, but it is very hard to memorize the Pop-Kuns (the little bubbles you hit with the timing of the music) using your controller, even though you can re-configure it. A Pop'n Game Pad will have all the buttons nicely coloured for you to easily identify the Pop-Kuns as the go down the screen. Also, when playing two-player mode, only one Game Pad is needed so that's a bonus too.

A definite recommendation for the PS2 player who enjoys music together.


Nintendo Puzzle Collection
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Console: Gamecube

Nintendo's got a nice handful of puzzle games in their repertoire, don't they? This GCN title takes what is arguably their best puzzle games and puts them all on one disc. Specifically, they are Dr. Mario, Panel de Pon, and Yoshi's Cookie.

Now, one thing I do need to say: Most of these games can already be played in English on other consoles, minus a few features here and there. Dr. Mario can be played on just about any Nintendo platform under the sun, Yoshi's Cookie appeared on the NES, Game Boy, and SNES, and Panel de Pon was a game most of you knew as Tetris Attack and Puzzle League, which have been featured on consoles from the SNES onward. They are all available on the Virtual Console as well. In fact, the Dr. Mario in this game is a direct port of the N64 version!

That being said, the real treat of this pack is the fact that all 3 games feature a 4-Player mode for multiplayer goodness. While this isn't new for Dr. Mario, it does make Yoshi's Cookie and Panel de Pon just a lot more fun, if you were to ask me.

Thankfully, most of the text is limited to just the menus. In game, there is usually enough English to be able to register and understand what everything means, and it doesn't take long to understand how the games work, even if you've never played the games before. Now, unfortunately, tutorials aren't readable in this game, though they do at least provide you with visuals if you so desire to watch them. You also most likely won't be able to enjoy their Story Modes to the fullest.

Now, one thing I've noticed of interest was Yoshi's Cookie. For whatever reason, this game gave me garbled text instead of the usual Kanji, so it just made the menus even more unreadable (and also prevented me from entering any legit names in the Name Entry, whereas BMAN was totally possible on Dr. Mario and Panel de Pon). It's strange that Yoshi's Cookie is the only case I know of of this phenomenon. I suppose if you have a NTSC-J Gamecube, this problem is non-existent though I doubt most of you reading this do.

In the end, I wouldn't recommend this too highly since, again, all these games can already be enjoyed on their own in English as stand alone titles, but if you really want to get in on that 4-Player action, this is the better way to go.


Last Window: The Secret of Cape West
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Console: Nintendo DS

Hey, look at that! A console that I can play completely in English! I guess I can safely say there is no language barrier this time (unless you are completely put off by the spellings of "colour" and "rumours" because you hate the real English language for some reason).

Who knows why NA didn't localize this game? Maybe it had to do with Cing's unfortunate bankruptcy, but I digress...

Last Window is actually a direct sequel to Hotel Dusk: Room 215, a game that really wasn't much of a "game" so to speak. I feel the best way to describe it was more of a mystery novel that you actively got to participate in. The appeal of it was more in the story and characters than it was in the fun gameplay (not that solving the puzzles and just looking around wasn't fun). Last Window provides much more of the exact same so if you liked it then, you should like it here too.


Rhythm Tengoku
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Console: Game Boy Advance

North Americans first got taste of this franchise from the same guys who gave us WarioWare on the DS with Rhythm Heaven. It was unfortunate that we had to miss out on this GBA title because it actually has some really neat games in it. In fact, I'd say it's got some of my favourites in the entire franchise.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, it is a rhythm game that actually, get this, requires you to have good rhythm. It doesn't require you to press tons of buttons like Beatmania or Guitar Hero do, but instead gives you far simple controls that require pretty much near perfect timing if you hope to pass. So while it controls easier, it is much less forgiving, but the simplicity in its controls actually makes me prefer this game over something like, say, Pop'n Music.

Now while all the games are pretty much completely different from what you can find on the DS and Wii versions (though a few games, like Sneaky Spirits and Tap Trial do make a guest appearance in Fever) they do all follow the same basic formula, so if you're hankering for some Rhythm Heaven and never played it before, it would be better if you purchased one of the English ones first. It's not that the language barrier is that difficult (though the How to Play parts will definitely throw you off and you'll probably spend more time doing trial-and-error than actually passing), but that you have a much easier alternative.

That being said, if you did really enjoy Rhythm Heaven and/or Rhythm Heaven Fever and desire more, I say you should definitely go for it.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:49 pm 
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This is pretty cool since I've been interested in imports, though I still don't have money to buy games in general.

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