Japanese Games and Consoles

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Introduction to Japanese gaming...

Video games are a large part of American entertainment.  Japan grew to be the center of the video game industry.  Many of the games that comes from Japan could challenge some movies made here in America.  After spending over 10 years in Japan, I am relating my game experience to you.  I hope that reading this guide allows you to be more aware of what to look for and what you should put into consideration. 

The Japanese gaming market...

In Japan video game consoles start out much like here in the United States. There is a new system with maybe 4 titles available.  Several years ago it was not uncommon for a new video game to be in the $75 price range. Now with the modern market and the ability to make things cheaper for the Japanese gamer games are priced between $20 to $60. Japanese game shops filled with a variety of trinkets and game related collectibles.  Because of limited space in the average Japanese apartment, most gamers sell their used video games once they have completed them. Game shops are in every town and are loaded with used games for most systems.  There is always a demand for games for the current and most popular systems.  Consoles and games from years past are typically located in bargain bins and are offered at reasonable and attractive prices. 

Gaming consoles for the American shopper...

One of the most popular myths is that a Japanese game system displays all games in Japanese.  This is a myth because it is not the system that makes everything in Japanese.  The software that is made for the console is what actually is written in Japanese. The console is region coded to be for a particular area for the intended country.  Generally a game console that plays CD's or DVD's is not compatible without modifications.  The other thing to take into consideration is the power supply for the console.  Japan is a NTSC electronic based country.  This means many Japanese appliances and electronics work in America.  The voltage of the typical Japanese home is 110v and American homes are at 115-125v.  What does this mean to you?  Your Japanese system has more power going to it and could risk overheating if neglected.  Beware of consoles in the PAL format because they are 220v and need adapters for power and often video, too.  PAL video does not work with US (Canada/Japan) NTSC format.  The US and Canada are region 1, Japan is region 2 and Australia and Europe is region 3.  Region free usually means it is a fake or a copy.

Japanese consoles that are U.S. friendly...

The following consoles are compatible with American games.  I have owned or currently own these systems and are verified.  If  it is not listed I have not checked or verified the compatibility.  There may be some needed modifications to the exterior of the Japanese system to allow the games to work.  One point to make is that if the game is compatible one way it also allows you to play Japanese games on American systems.

NINTENDO:     Gameboy, Gameboy Pocket, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Advance SP, Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo 64, Super Famicom (Super Nintendo) and the Virtual Boy.

SONY:     Sony PSP (The Japanese system will not play American UMD movies but games are okay).

SEGA:     Sega GameGear, Sega Master, Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) and Sega 32X.

NEO GEO:     NeoGeo Pocket and NeoGeo Pocket Color.

Japanese games and what to look for...

This portion is the most important of this entire guide.  Japanese games are programmed in Japanese and cannot be changed.  Japanese game cartridges are slightly different from American cartridges and need adjustment.  Japanese game shops do sell a lot of used video games.  The price of the used game varies from store to store.  As with any game store worldwide, the condition varies as well.  Here are some things you may not know...

Japanese Neo Geo games are bilingual (meaning two languages) if your Neo Geo pocket is set to English your games will be in English.  Japanese Neo Geo cartridges have boxes, instructions and protective plastic cases.  I own a Japanese PSP and I have three games in Japanese and every other game I own is American PSP (about 20 total).  Some Japanese Sega games are not compatible with American Sega consoles.  The TurboGrafx-16 is not compatible with the PC engine games without an adaptor.  The Neo Geo CD system does not play American games without modification.  Nintendo Gameboy games are all region ( you may not know how to read the game text but it will play).  Many used Japanese games do not have boxes, instructions or protective cases; but look to be in very good condition to be claimed  as "new".  There are game companies who publish their game in Japan that has English spoken in cinematic scenes and menus. There usually is a reason, to make it easier to bring to America.  If a game company makes their game in English from day one it is easier for them to send it to America. 

Beware of frauds...

I am going to relate to you the places I have witnessed the largest collection of phony gaming products.  I would like to inform you about these locations in the hope that you make right decision.  Many places in Asia have the ability to replicate any product and give it the most genuine and authentic look to it. It spans to DVD's, CD's, games and even protective seals or special packaging.

The places I have visited and seen phony products are:  Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, China, South Korea, Afghanistan, Soviet Union and United Arab Emirates.  The items I seen on the exterior appeared real but where mass produced in some bootleg shop somewhere else.  So... be careful when dealing with out of country sellers. 

Please note that there are also real shops selling real products in these places and that not every seller is a fraud.  Again, region free usually means it is a copy or a fake.  I am speaking on my own personal experiences, there may be certain cases to which this guide does not apply or is incorrect.  I own a large collection of Japanese gaming systems and games. If any game console or game info is missing I may not have  that system or cannot give an honest report, so it was omitted.

Thank you for your time and I hope this helps in the future.




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