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Posts Tagged ‘import

Metal Wolf Chaos Review

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metal_wolf_chaos_logo

If you’ve ever been interested in rare Xbox titles, focus on import gaming, or happened to click on a listicle that talks about the best games to play around Independence Day (guilty) then you’ve probably come across Metal Wolf Chaos.  Developed by From Software (Dark Souls) and only released on the original Xbox in Japan, both the console and game are hard to come by and will run you easily over $200 for the combo.  Even if you do get them, you’ll then need to know some Japanese to navigate the menus and upgrade paths.  Fortunately soft modding the Xbox is a common practice that often doesn’t even involve piracy, and some nice people have released a translation patch that you can add to your copy if you have one.  From Software is known for having just about as many bad games as good, so you may be asking whether or not all this work, money, and rarity makes the game worth it.  According to the articles online, yes, definitely.  I happen to disagree.  Metal Wolf Chaos is a fantastic pitch with a rock solid presentation, but when you walk away from the hype and get down to playing it, there’s little difference between this title and most of the Japanese games we slam over here in the West.

metal_wolf_chaos_1In Metal Wolf Chaos you play as President of the United States Michael Wilson, a distant relative of Woodrow Wilson, who is fighting civil insurrection due to economic downturns in the early 21st century.  This results in the development of massive military weapons and tech including his own mech suit called “Metal Wolf.”  In a predictable Japanese plotline, the Vice President Richard Hawk frames Wilson for re-enacting horrible laws like slavery and causing chaos throughout the country in Metal Wolf.  As Wilson you play through a slew of levels in major US cities trying to save the areas from total destruction thanks to the US military, who have for some reason decided to join forces with VP Hawk.  The collusion is made complete with the help of a journalist for a national news network who keeps covering the events and blaming Metal Wolf for everything going down in the country.  In the end the best answer is to obliterate much of the US forces and eventually take down Hawk and reveal him for the fraud he is.  Since this pitch is the basis for why so many people recommend you play it, I have to give From Software huge credit for a hilarious and ridiculous plot.  Despite it having no bearing on reality or the way our government works, it’s big dumb fun on the grandest scale  and you can’t help but laugh about the way the campaign unfolds.  The voice acting is also in English, so much of the plot dialogue is not lost on us English speakers and whether it’s intentionally cheesy or just the result of weaker voice actors, the game is better for it.  Little touches like a drum roll before your assistant reveals the given nickname for each mission and the blatant lack of integrity in every newscast from the US press kept me giggling from start to finish.  In terms of the elevator pitch, this game has it all.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Reviews, Xbox

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Making PSN Accounts in Other Regions

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sony-playstation-network-cloud

We so very often recommend our listeners/viewers/readers get a foreign PSN because it’s so “easy”, but I figured with this morning’s news of Shadow Tower coming to the US PSN later today and the massive amount of games I purchase on the various PSN stores that it was high time to make it easy for you.  Creating a PSN is not a difficult task, however it can be a challenge without knowing the language, written or otherwise, of the territory you seek and also knowing what you will and won’t gain from each.  With the average Playstation 3 being able to tether up to 5 PSN accounts, I have chosen to dedicate one to my home base PSN, three to outside territories, and the final one to guests in my house.  The best benefit of a PSN account on multiple consoles is that all accounts on that console can share installed games, so I purchase a game on my Japanese PSN only to use it on my American account for the sake of trophies and keeping my friends informed as to what I’m playing.  Perhaps you don’t know how to create a PSN for another country or perhaps you don’t know the benefits, well this little article will assist you in making the proper decision.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 31, 2015 at 11:36 am

Posted in Blog, Import, Lessons, PS3, PS4, Vita

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Review: Espgaluda (PS2)

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espgaludaConsole: Playstation 2 (Japan Only)
Released: 2004
Developer: Cave (original arcade design, port by Arika)
Publisher: Arika (PS2 version only)
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: $60-$100 (used, unknown new)
Digital Release? No

Aside from its Japan only status and the incredibly difficult pronunciation, Espgaluda (pronounced “esu-pu-galuda” in English) has so much going for it. A second generation shmup from Cave, the development studio responsible for DoDonPachi, this is when the studio began to think outside the box and expand its audience to the masses. This game is made easier than most titles in its genre with the slowing of bullets and shields to assist the player in getting familiar with the danmaku (bullet hell) genre. Wrap it all together and it truly is a shame this title has never made its way stateside because it’s much more approachable than the titles we have received.

The roots of Espgaluda stem from the arcade (and Japan) only title ESP Ra.De. (pronounced “esu-pu-rye-do”) about a group of young girls with super human powers. It all takes place in the not-too-distant future (2018) on a remote island called Tokyo-2 off the shores of an overpopulated Japan. It appears the Japanese police force is hunting down these “ESPers” that are capable of psychic powers and the story takes place over a 24-hour period of time for three escaping females. None of this matters all that much since the game was only in Japanese (not localized on the MAME versions I’ve found), but the game is notable for several reasons. For starters the fact that you control a flying girl instead of a ship or vehicle will be the first thing you notice, and given the 1998 release of the title it’s quite possibly the first time this type of character is used in a shmup. Each girl has a barrier power, which allows them to temporarily absorb the power of the bullets coming at them and then release that energy back at their opponents. Aside from that the game is relatively a standard vertical shmup with plenty of explosions, bullets to dodge, and massive boss battles.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 8, 2013 at 11:00 am

Perspective: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 1 & 2 (PS1)

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persona_box Persona2_box innocentsin_box

I’ve only just begun Persona 3 with about five hours under my belt, but already I can tell I’m going to like this game. It’s a massive hybrid of so many genres woven together in a nice JRPG shell that sucks you in and gets you hooked, fast – just one more day, am I right? I’m glad to see that, too, because having just completed both Shin Megami Tensei Persona and Persona 2 (both Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment) I was beginning to fear I was missing something. That’s because by all accounts the first two installments in the Persona series (Persona 2 was split into two games and up until recently Innocent Sin was never technically available in the US) are a dated, rough ride through all of the confines and setbacks of traditional JRPGs along with a steep difficulty and very complex battle system to boot. From the start, both games are a daunting task and none of the remakes update the gameplay at all. In the end I only made it through with step-by-step instructions in a strategy guide, lots of patience, and a little luck. This is not what I signed on for and given the current landscape of this genre it appears that for most gamers the PS1 outings of Persona are caught between two amorphous worlds (much like the characters themselves) when the genre was drastically changing. After somewhere between 150-250 total hours to complete (there is no game clock, I’m completely guessing), a total of five different games, and an incredible hunger to extract the draw of the early iterations of the series I must issue a strong suggestion to bypass Persona’s roots and start with the third title, you’ll be thankful you did.

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The Japanese Always Get The Better Version: Contra (Famicom)

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contra_boxConsole: NES/Famicom
Released: 1988
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $26.01 (used), $399.95 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – Arcade, Microcomputers, PS2, DS (all are the Arcade version)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console (NES version), XBLA/PSN (Arcade ver) ($5 on all platforms)

With box art that is clearly Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone combining forces to be in a franchise that belongs to neither, Alien, this game has it all.  For the most part you and potential partner rush through eight levels, including a jungle that is ripped straight out of Predator, to attack bad guys and eventually aliens.  It’s a confusing game in America because nothing is spelled out for you, the game just drops you in the jungle without any plot, scene, or explanation.  Now that I’ve played the Famicom version (and the video below will show the complete game to you as well), it looks like there’s a decent plot that unfolds.  Since I don’t know Japanese nor can I read Kanji, what is actually conveyed is a mystery to me, but I’m sure the translated explanation is only a Google search away.  Contra not only introduced us to a frustrating and fun franchise, but it’s also where most of us learned the Konami code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start).  If you put this into the title screen you would begin the game with 30 lives (if you instead end the code with Select before Start you can start a two player game with both players having 30 lives), which was the only way most of us could beat the game when we were younger.  After years of practice I can now complete the game with the given 3 lives, although not flawlessly, and I prove it in the video below. 

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The Famicom version I’ve always heard is “enhanced” over the NES version and the two are worth roughly the same amount, so when I was picking up the title at a retro show I opted for the Japanese version.  It’s not really that different, but the changes of note are the aforementioned cutscenes, moving backgrounds, and slightly easier difficulty.  Either way it just goes to show that the Japanese version of most games will always be the better version.  Then again when this title released in Europe it was renamed to Probotector and features robots instead of humans (although in either version the enemies pop and explode).  Without further ado, I give you the completion video of Contra on the Famicom.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm

How To Be A Japanese Import Gaming Poser

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As a retro gamer, it’s inevitable that you have to acknowledge games from other countries, especially Japan.  Why?  Because many of the foundations of gaming began in the land of the rising sun and lets face it, there’s just something intriguing about integrating completely foreign languages and concepts to a domestic gaming collection.  Well and there’s that whole thing about a long list of amazing games that we never saw on our shores.  It wasn’t until this console generation that gaming started to go region free (unless you’re talking portables, which ironically just recently started segmenting by region after decades of being region free), and even now it’s really only the PS3 and 360 with plenty of exceptions.  Before that games were segmented into different regions for distribution, licensing, and localization, resulting in a diverse list of releases from country to country.  On a macro level your release decisions were segmented into three major regions: North America, Europe, and Japan.  Import gaming skates an odd line in America because Europe has the common language (English) but a completely different broadcast standard (covered here) that requires special modifications and/or hardware to play games on.  Japan has a language many Americans can’t understand (and more importantly in retro games, read) but has similar broadcast standards making most games essentially plug and play.  As a result you’re more likely to import a Japanese game than a European game, most likely choosing an action platformer or fighting game over, say, a high-end RPG.  But limiting yourself to just those games means all you’re going to play are licensing titles from the Super Famicom like Ultraman or PS1 games like Dragonball Z.  That’s where this guide comes in – it’s a cheeky, sarcastic look at the elitist gamer that thrives on Japanese titles and gives you starting hints at how to pretend you are a Japanese gamer in the know.  Those of us who love Japanese gaming are guilty of at least a few of these in our lives and who knows, maybe it’ll even give you the starting point you need to enjoy Japanese gaming.

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Written by Fred Rojas

August 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Blog, Import

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Deathsmiles (Cave)

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Welcome to contemporary shmup week, where we discuss recent games that have graced modern consoles and can be found on store shelves even now.  Developer Cave, probably best known for vertical shmups including the DoDonPachi series, has only created a few horizontal shmups and Deathsmiles is the only one that saw a true retail release in the US.  Of course it didn’t sell very well, the collector’s edition that comes with a faceplate and soundtrack is still found for about $20 in many retailers, but is still significant as one of the few Japanese shmups to release in the US.  It’s also interesting because it integrates many themes we’ve seen before including the fact that it’s part of the sub-genres cute ’em ups, danmaku (bullet hell), and has color integration like many Treasure shmups.  If you’re into shmups in the least, the content-heavy title is worth picking up at full price, let alone the meager cost found nowadays – on a personal note, make sure you get the Collector’s Edition, it’s so worth it for a few more dollars.

Unlike many shmups, Deathsmiles features four (five in the Mega Black Label version, see below) young witches that you can control as they take on hordes of demonic forces.  Each of these girls are young, between the ages of 11 and 17, each with thier own version of magic (typically elemental) and familiar.  A girl’s familiar will follow them around, blocking bullets and firing counter bullets as well.  In the arcade version the familiar moves opposite the controls that the player uses for the girl (ie: if you move your girl to the right the familiar will move to the left around the girl).  This game has plenty of different modes, power-ups and strategies so definitely look them up online, but the most compelling aspect is that you basically have a 3-bar life counter that is persistent (status carries over level to level) and you get a game over when it runs out.  There are various ways to refill the counter in addition to knowing techniques that can prevent the loss of life (1/2 bar for collisions and full bar for getting hit by a bullet) including knowing the areas on your witch that are invulnerable and using a familiar as a shield.  After being defeated, an enemy releases items and “counter bullets” (yellow in color) that increase your score counter and in turn strengthen your shots and give you optional powers and attacks.  Once you’ve gotten used to the items (and started to memorize the levels) you can delve into the balance of saving and collecting these power-ups.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Darxide (Frontier)

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Darxide is a game that probably few people know about given all of the obstacles it faces to get into gamers’ hands.  First off it was released on the 32x…only in Europe…and it had a very limited print run.  I haven’t been able to find out how many carts were produced, but the game fetches hundreds of pounds in its native land.  I found one on eBay for about $700 (and that doesn’t even count the fact that the game will only run on a PAL/European 32x) and the gaming store I borrowed the game from sells the game with a European/PAL Mega Drive/32x combo for $900.00.  Assuming you can get beyond that expensive barrier for entry, you’re supposedly awarded with a decent shmup.  Now that I’ve played it, I’m not so sure I can agree.

Darxide was developed by Frontier Games as a launch title for the Sega Neptune, which was a hybrid Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and 32x combo console in one.  In truth, you can do a little work arounds and get a 32x to fit into a Genesis 2 case still attached if you remove all the plastic components, but due to some issues with a permanently installed 32x (a few Genesis games and all Master System games won’t work with 32x) I never actually did it.  Either way the failure of the 32x for several reasons we’ve covered, resulted in the cancellation of the Neptune and Darxide without a good release window.  Being a native United Kingdom developer, my guess is that it was cheapest and best to launch the game first in Europe and based on its success to release it worldwide.  Well in 1995 the 32x and Darxide failed in tandem, resulting in the game’s overall rarity and exclusivity.  I must say having played it that it takes on a similar arcade on-rails shotter feel like Star Wars Arcade and Star Fox, but with cleaner, more impressive graphics.  It also runs very smoothly in comparison to its more popular brethren.  The gameplay, on the other hand leaves much to be desired.  I guess you should just see for yourself before I say more:

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Converts

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So now you want to import consoles and games, do you?  Well you’ll be happy to know that it is entirely possible on most consoles, however there are some things you’ll have to be aware of before you do it.  This article discusses the different things you have to do to both the electric and video signal of various imported consoles.  It will also briefly discuss how to get foreign games to play on US consoles, if possible.

Electricity Differences
No matter what console you are using, it’s important to know the differences between electricity in the US, Europe and Japan.

Japanese Consoles in the US
As you’ll see plenty of times in this article, Japan is quite similar to the United States in many ways, including power.  We use 120 volts as our standard for power.  Japan doesn’t appear to use a ground (or at least none of the Japanese consoles I’ve ever gotten do, never been to Japan itself), so all plugs from Japanese consoles will be two-pronged and fit in an US outlet.  Also fortunate is the fact that most consoles, especially retro ones, will use AC adaptors that work in the US.  Never interchange US power supplies into Japanese consoles, you could fry the console or worse.  For example, if you import a Famicom, use that console’s AC adaptor and not an US NES one.  For newer consoles like Japanese PS2s and PS3s, you may want to check the back of the console, but I think those are good for AC 100-240 volts for worldwide distribution, but I could be wrong.  Basically if it generates heat, be very careful and do a search for advice from a reputable source (no, Yahoo! Answers is not a reputable source).  Also if you want to be completely safe, there are Japanese voltage converters that allow use of Japanese products here.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Localization

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Ghostbusters released on almost every platform in the 80s, but if you picked up the NES version you would be greeted with an all-too-common error: the completion screen proudly exclaims “Conglaturation!!!”  Back in the late 80s I was a mere seven when playing NES games and improper spelling or verbage was something I shrugged off as not understanding.  I never assumed the game was wrong, I just assumed that I didn’t get it.  See, back in the 80s most games were lucky to get a decent translation, let alone a full localization, and it made playing many of the Japanese games difficult.  Nowadays it’s a completely different world – pioneers like Atlas and Square Enix have full-blown localization departments that are hellbent on creating the best possible experience for a specific regional audience.  It’s more than just a translation, it’s a retooling for another culture.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm