16bitman’s Guide to Obscure Games: Playing Import Games 101

  Table of Contents


Many moons ago I got a Playstation, and before long I came upon Metal Gear Solid. This game amazed me. I didn’t just finish it; I collected my stealth camo and went back for my bandanna, and then I wanted lots of ghost pictures. And a tuxedo. Got my Spiderman Ninja save icon. One of the tantalizing bits in MGS was the reference to an earlier Kojima game, Policenauts, which I instantly I wanted to play. I had a friend solder a chip in my PSX and the rest is history.

I’ve played a lot of imported games since then. So when Chris raised the idea of an article for an oddball import “top ten” I cheerfully volunteered.

Hardware

Cartridge systems
These are the easiest imports to play. In the case of Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64, the territory protection is mostly physical. A Super Famicon cart is bigger than a SNES cart and it lacks the grooves on the side to fit in your Super Nintendo. To defeat this you can use a pass-thru cart like a Game Genie or Game Shark. Sometimes you can just remove offending plastic fins that prevent the import cartridge from fitting. Carts can have lock out chips that need to be defeated with PAR codes, but such games are rare.

Sega Saturn
Though I was able to physically modify my Playstation to play import games, I don’t like that approach very much. On the Saturn, I prefer 4 in 1 carts from companies like Satellite or EMS. It works like a Gameshark with some extra features: memory management, a huge memory cache you can save games on, as well as an extra 1 to 4Mb of RAM needed for some Japanese Saturn titles. Plus comes with PAR codes and can be programmed to hold more. Did I mention it plays imported games too? The only downside to these carts is that not all games are supported. Fortunately, the list of unsupported games is very short; you can skip King of the Fighters 95 and live with KOF 96 and 97 just fine.

Sega Dreamcast
‘Casts can be chipped but I prefer to use boot discs. Fan or hacker made discs like Utopia can be burned from downloaded files, and there are also commercial boot discs available. Run the boot disc and then insert the import GD-ROM when cued to do so. Voila.

Playstation

The original Playstation is one the most hacked systems available. This gives you many choices for your importing pleasure. Installing MOD and Stealth chips is one way to go, but in recent years a number of solder free methods have also become available.

  • Game Enhancer. This hardware mod fits in the parallel port of an old model Playstation. It works much like the 4 in 1 cart for Saturn but it requires you to start the process with an original game from the same region as your machine. Then you swap it (like you were changing discs on an RPG game) to play your import game. Cheat codes are also supported.
  • CD-X Change 2 Boot Disc. My current favorite. It will run on any PSX or PSone. You boot the system with the CD-X disc and then insert the import. It also has a PAR code engine.
  • Emulation. Programs like VGS or ePSXe will allow you to play imported Playstation games on your home computer. While it is never exactly the same as playing on a real console it is often good enough to get a sense of your game. Combine this with a Playstation-to-PC adaptor and you can even use the original Playstation controller.
  • PAL Playstation One. European gamers have a nasty habit of getting Japanese games translated for their market. Then for what ever reason, these games don’t come to North America. Games like Hellnight! This injustice can be corrected however.
    • PAL2NTSC codes. These are codes that fix the color of a PAL game to display on a NTSC US television. They work like any Gameshark cheat code. These codes can be found online or generated using a program called Palpar. Palpar 1 finds 16bit codes that will run on a standard cheat engine. Palpar 2 builds 32 bit codes that will only work on a Game Enhancer kind of device.
    • The import player boot disc. A hacker group built this disc to defeat anti-MOD games and automatically fix PAL games to NTSC and vice versa. The CDRWin files needed are common online.
    • Zapper 2. Another game hacking tool. To use this I rip the ISOs from PAL games with Easy CD 95. This will result in a reading error but you can safely ignore it. You don’t need the last chunk of image. Zapper then reads the ISO, generates a patch, and will even apply it for you. Reburn the game and it is fixed for your NTSC TV. It works best for games that are data track only. A Zappered backup still needs to be played on a modified system of course.
    • A VGA Magic Box- I want one for Christmas! Hook your S or composite cables to this box. Connect the box to your computer’s monitor. They vary in quality and features but they should read and display any PAL or NTSC signal properly. If you can boot it, you can see it and thus play it.

Frequently Asked Importing Questions

Q: My game has no music (or just the first track).

A: This is a common problem with imported Playstation games that have redbook audio. I have had it happen with games like Destruction Derby 2 from Japan and Tank Racer from Europe. The only “solution” is to live without the music or rip the game disc and play the music on a CD or MP3 player while you are using the game.

Q: I can’t get a working PAL2NTSC code!!

A: Not every game can be cracked. I’m still working on the problems with games like Three-Sixty (a PAL racer), Formula One Arcade (PAL Sony 2002) and Lone Soldier (PAL). I can only suggest you research your import game before you buy it. Find out if other people have got it to work. Track down some codes and reviews.

Q: I want to start importing games. What is the easiest place to start?

A: Japanese games for a cartridge system. Alternatively, most older PS1 titles from Japan will work well with MOD or boot-swap system. You can’t go wrong with a Sega Saturn and a 4 in 1 cart either. Once you get into Dreamcast games or PAL games things are more complex. Try checking out some of these helpful links.

Now you know the tricks, it is time for the treats.

Go on to Page 2, Import Horror Games