Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've got on their minds. Today, Gavin ponders why he's spending time and money importing Nintendo curios from the East that he's not even sure he'll play...
It all started with Morita Shogi 64.
If you're not familiar, that's a shogi game (Japanese chess, if you like) for Nintendo 64 developed by SETA. Naturally, it never saw release in the West, what with it being a sequel to a Japan-only launch game and showcasing a Japanese chess variant. That's no slight on the fine game of shogi, just an acknowledgement that if you're going to release a chess-like game on the intentional market, best for your bottom line to make it plain old chess.
Morita Shogi 64 came on a unique style of N64 cartridge (or 'Cassette' as they were known in Japan — I always liked that). A bulging protrusion on its rear side allows for a little internet cable slot on top. Yes, if you hooked up your game to a phone line, you could play shogi online on your Nintendo 64 back in the late '90s.
As you can see, it's pretty neat. And being 'pretty neat' is all it takes to get someone like me to dive onto eBay and start hitting 'Watch' on lots of things — that's where the trouble starts.
As many of you will have no doubt experienced, all it takes is an innocent tap of the 'Add to Watchlist' button and nine times out of ten you'll soon receive an offer with a modest discount — typically 5-10%. It's not much, but if the item is already reasonably priced, it's a surprisingly tempting tactic to get you to pull the trigger on something you really don't need but which is, yes, pretty darn neat. 10-20 days later (typically), the best type of package arrives at your place of residence — a parcel from Japan.
If you've never bought an item from a Japanese seller, it's no exaggeration to say that the care and attention lavished on even the smallest parcel is, generally speaking, a cut above sellers based elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, I've received beautifully wrapped, properly protected items from other countries — and I'm certain it doesn't apply to all Japanese sellers — but I've yet to receive anything that hasn't arrived in perfect condition, neatly and precisely packed.
And that beautiful Japanese customs label makes the whole thing feel luxuriously exotic, too; forbidden, even. These mysterious video game jewels were never intended for the lowly, sweaty-handed likes of me! That 'Not For Resale' stamp on every Japanese Nintendo game I own is proof positive that this particular item shouldn't be in my possession. What can be more tempting than that?
So, I carefully sliced open the parcel, peeled off layers of expertly-taped bubblewrap, and finally held my illicit prize aloft. Yes! I now possessed Morita Shogi 64.
And on my shelf it went. I think I fired it up once just to check it worked, but I honestly don't remember. I was probably willing to trust that it was in full working order. The terrible truth is that it really doesn't matter.
Most game purchases I make will definitely get played. The NTSC version of Wave Race 64 was a real education in PAL slowdown that just had to be sampled, and I fully intend to enjoy every last one of the JP Game Boy games I've acquired when I get an afternoon to myself. Sin & Punishment was an even more essential pick-up — a seminal Treasure rail shooter that never released in the West. Well, except on Virtual Console on Wii. And Wii U. And on Nintendo Switch Online a few months after I shelled out for the NTSC cart. Hey, that box art though, amirite?
My latest import arrived recently. Following on from Zion's amazing EarthBound video and the accompanying 'Mother's Day' articles Team NL assembled in early May, I decided to finally pick up the N64 'Definitive Edition' of Mother creator Shigesato Itoi's fishing game, Itoi Shigesato no Bass Tsuri No. 1. What can I say — I liked the look of the yellow cover, and the idea of Itoi-san teaching me to fish appeals.
Fishing (the real-life variety) is something that started appealing to me over the last few years. I suddenly realised that the idea — for most fisherpeople — isn't to head out onto the water and 'hunt' a lunker while wearing a funny hat, but rather to sit in the sunshine, breathe in great lungfuls of fresh air, enjoy the sound and motion of the lapping water, and tap your foot on a cooler of glistening, ice-cold tinnies. Fishing, as I see it, is an excuse to get away from it all in the great outdoors; bagging some dinner at the same time is an optional bonus.
The very small amount I know about fish and fishing, however, comes from Ocarina of Time and Animal Crossing. With this in mind, I thought perhaps the genial Itoi-san could introduce me to the basics before I go to the considerable trouble and expense of procuring waders and rods and all that game, all in the hope of enjoying a quiet beer on a lake. Nobody enjoys putting their fingers in slimy worm buckets, surely?
The plan, then, was to fire up the game alongside the Google Translate camera app — which still remains for me a wondrous piece of Star Trek future magic — and see if I've got what it takes to best the (digital) bass. But if I’m honest with myself, will this ever actually happen? Well, I would have to dig out and set up my Japanese N64, and ideally, I would want to do it through a CRT so lag doesn't hamper the development of my angling skills. So I need to get one of those flashy PVM monitors, which could take a while.
As the guardian of two small humans, I’m not blessed with an abundance of free time anyway. In fact, it's far more likely that Itoi Shigesato no Bass Tsuri No. 1. and its poppin' yellow cover will only ever be enjoyed on the shelf. Which it will! But buying games with little or no intention of actually playing them? I've been there before, although at least I could read the text in those games if I ever get to fire them up.
As if that wasn't enough, I researched the fishing game some more and chanced upon a certain peripheral produced by ASCII specifically for Itoi's N64 angler. Of course, I took one look and before you know it the Watch button had been hit and the offer came through...
It's not too late for me to come back from the edge of this particular abyss. My Japanese Nintendo collection is still comparatively slight — just a handful of exclusives really! Mother 3, Captain Rainbow, one of the Custom Robos, the JP version of Metroid: Other M with the awesome box art, a couple of Famicom Disk System games, a few others. It's tasteful! I haven't spiralled into acquiring the entire 64-bit mahjong catalogue just yet.
Appealing to my Nintendo Life colleagues in hope that they'll talk me down is about as helpful as you'd expect. The aforementioned Zion was as psyched as I was about ASCII's Itoi fishing rod. And let's not even talk about Mr McFerran's collection, often showcased on his enviable Twitter feed. One look at the retro collection housed at Nintendo Life HQ is enough to make any red-blooded retro gamer weep. Weep, and then crack open the eBay app and scroll yourself to sleep in the wee small hours.
X is the latest thing I'm eyeing — once again, primarily because I like the look of the box. Actually, that's not quite correct. X is a thoroughly noteworthy first-party Game Boy release from Argonaut which did incredible things on a system that shouldn't have been able to handle it. I picked up the DSi sequel recently on the soon-to-be-shuttered DSi store, so there's a gap to be filled in my collection, right? "Worth owning for its historical value alone," a colleague reassures me. Yes. As a Nintendo fan, it's surely my solemn duty to have this on the shelf. *Adds to Watchlist*
Play it, you ask? Well of course I could. But it looks awful pretty just on the shelf.
Feel free to share your more exotic and/or inexplicable game and peripheral purchases from other territories with a comment below. No judgements — we’re all friends here.
Japanese sellers really do make a larger effort. I bought Masayoshi Takanaka’s An Insatiable High on vinyl from Japan and it came beautifully gift-wrapped with a little bow on it.
@nessisonett Agreed. eBay and Amazon Japan have both delivered the goods as far as quality is concerned.
I love how the headline reads like someone at a confessional.
'Welcome to Importers Anonymous Gavin, care to explain why you're here?'
'I just really needed Goemon Mononoke Sugoroku, ok?'
All the Japanese goodies in my collection aren't from buying online.
All of my Japanese N64 games and Mario's Picross are from a guy who does import them. My Pokémon Snap has a Hard-Off sticker, though.
Right now I have more Japanese N64 games than American N64 games. People think games with serious abuse on their cartridges are worthy as much as when the games were brand new.
My Japanese Mario Tennis GB was casually found in a market in my city.
My copies of the two Ouendan games, my Japanese Shulk amiibo and the recent Bayonetta Player 2 amiibo are from different guys who were selling them on Facebook. Bayonetta P2 has a label, I'm guessing it's from Play Asia. Japanese Zero Suit Samus amiibo is from a geeky store that sells imported items (still lamenting that I didn't buy the Kirby Café soundtrack).
My Japanese Smash Donkey Kong amiibo is a particular case, I got it from a video game store in my city that doesn't sell Japanese products save for some Pokémon poker cards they had a few years ago, so seeing a Japanese amiibo in there was a surprise. It sat there on the shelf for quite a while, especially considering it was the only Donkey Kong available in the area until I nabbed it.
It had a label and apparently it was imported by a different distributor than the usual Latamel, who handles everything Nintendo in Mexico.
I read some comments that in other stores around Mexico they also had other Japanese amiibo, I particularly remember someone spotting a Japanese Luigi and a Japanese Pac-Man.
Of all the Japanese things I own, there are only two games I cannot truly play due to the language barrier: Pikachu Genki Dechu and Fushigi no Dungeon: Fūrai no Shiren 2 〜Oni Shūrai! Shiren-jō!〜.
I have a Japanese version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for PS2 that I got from a thrift store. I only bought it because it looked kinda weird and it was only $2.
They have a term for this, it's called 'hoarding'.
I've too have started buying Japanese games recently, I even bought the Pokemon X and Y Gold 3DS off eBay a few months ago to play some Japanese games. Though I am not fluent, I am actually learning Japanese and am using them to improve my reading comprehension.
The title applies to my collection, except with the hope that both points will one day be rectified.
I have a collection of third-party manufactured Famicom carts (from the few licensed third-parties authorized to do as such). I had to buy one sports lot just for one bizarre cart. A baseball game by Sunsoft I accept I will never remember how to pronounce its title correctly, it had a built-in slot for update carts (physical DLC, they actually released two of them but I don't own them).
i used to teach english in Japan and stayed away from japanese only games like the plague. good thing that twilight hack for the wii existed otherwise i'd be playing nothing new
I’ve been buying all of the Japanese “big” box games for the N64, most of them come with something extra in the box, Mario Kart 64 has a two-tone controller, StarFox has the rumble pak and IIRC Perfect Dark, DK64 and Majora’s Mask all come with the RAM upgrade. They don’t get played either as I just use my EverDrive for the games. 😅
My first console was a Wii/GBA. For me, I would never buy games from older consoles because I just don't own those consoles and I never plan to. I'd much rather experience those games thru VC means or emulator, playing them on original hardware does not mean anything to me.
I feel too guilty when I see games I've bought that I haven't played. I'd only have a few rows of games on my Switch homescreen if it wasn't for cheap games on eshop, or crazy eshop discounts.
When I saw this headline just now I was like "yup that's me as well, guilty as charged"
We've all been here at some point I think.
Just imported my first Japanese Switch game: Aleste Collection. If you like box art, check out the stunning art on Tiger Heli and Same! Same! Same!
Today I learned that Shigesato Itoi made not one, but two bass fishing games.
I thought his only Nintendo games were those in the Mother / Earthbound series.
I’ve got two Japanese games, I had more but then decided that I really didn’t have the room for them.
The two games are Aquazone DS and The Tower DS.
Thanks to translation apps playing these two aren’t an issue.
I am quite chuffed to own a couple of boxed Japanese games, even though I will never be able to play or understand them. I guess it's just the uniqueness of the box shape and art that does it for me, not to mention the manuals. They look cool up on the shelf of interesting items, too. ^_^
“Help me guys! I have too much disposable income and wanted to brag about it. Help me!”
(I’m just teasing btw)
The only one I've bought is a PS Vita game, IA/VT Colorful. But as it's a rhythm game, knowing Japanese isn't required to enjoy it, once you figure out all the menu options mean.
Get a load of this rich fatcat over here
I will never understand how people buy things in languages they can't understand. It is the same as people who buy games and keep them sealed for "display" purposes.
I have a couple on the vita I got a couple of years back. After coming to my senses their now listed on eBay.
I can read and understand some Japanese letters (not all) so I have no problem to play some Japanese games I bought.
Even I could finish Yokai Watch 3 Tempura 3DS with Japanese language that I got from my local online shopping website with very cheap price.
When humanity can eliminate it’s “need” to accumulate, we’ll all be better off
Maybe just buy the box? I personally never buy a game unless I'm going to play it, because at that point to me it's not "preservation" it's seratonin. Also it's the reason people who actually want to play the game have to pay high prices or resort to piracy, because so many people just collect it but never play it and never share it.
@BulkSlash I love the big box Japanese n64 games, think I’m now 50/50 with PAL/JAP games now
Despite current market value, Japanese games do have more historical value. I mean, the people who localized Super Mario Bros are not the original team, and they changed quite a lot thr labels and box art. That's not the creator's vision.
In my quest to switch out PAL for NTSC I've gone for JAP versions to save money, nothing too complicated.
But it's one of the reasons I've started learning Japanese.
I put a stop to this when I was buying games I didn't even have consoles for.
I am guilty of owning only one JPN game which I have little hope of ever playing. It's not very rare, and it's a loose copy, but it's very meaningful to me:
Dragon Quest 4 for Famicom.
It’s funny to think I need the “released only in Japan” sequels to have a full series of a game.
(Glances at Trails in the Sky FC followed by two cases with kanji written on the side)
I got Itoi Shigesato no Bass Tsuri No. 1 from a subscription box service. They send me a lot of import N64 games. Some of them are sports, but I get a few gems that I don't need translations to play, like Smash or Mario Party
That's how I buy Saturn games on Amazon & Ebay. Mostly they were much cheaper. (tho that DEPENDS on the game itself).
Same for JP DS & GBA games. They're much affordable & the ds is region-free. So I bought Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, Canvas Curse, & Squeak Squad that way.
That said...I only buy ones that I DO understand how to play. But I first look for gameplay videos before I even do.
I think I've bought over 40 JP games now...I think.
Recently bought a PSVita from Japan that was listed as Good condition. It was nearly mint to me. I love importing used games from Japan because I can trust the conditions of the games to be more accurate in description.
I also recently got the Shining Force 3 trilogy on Saturn for a decent price and they all came in complete in box in perfect condition.
@Fizza What a coincidence, I just beat Goemon Mononoke Sugoroku last month after having it for like 7 years. It has its very apparent problems, but it's an enjoyable enough game for what it is.
This kind of saddens me. I mean sure, games do look awesome on shelves. But then again... games are made to be played. I buy quite some games, but I only get ones that I intend to play at some point. This was my very reason to start studying Japanese many years ago, and it remains to be possibly the strongest reason: there are just too many interesting and exciting Japanese exclusive games out there that I would really like to play.
@Diogmites “Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've got on their minds.”
It’s certainly making no claims at being the former.
This, I don’t understand. But I am also not a collector. I have a number of Japanese games, but if I haven’t gotten to any of them it is due to backlog (I have no free time anymore really) but never just to say I own something that I had no intention of using. I always feel like doing that deprives someone that would do more than let it sit on a shelf the chance to play. Holdover from not having many games growing up. Besides moving is painful.
I do this all of the time….except they aren’t Japanese. I see a game that looks cool. Play it once or twice, only to give up bc I don’t understand….
Japanese sellers are really nice. Sometimes they'll even pack in a few extra free goodies in your package out of courtesy which is super nice of them. I bought a rare Animal Crossing JP amiibo card on eBay and the seller packed a bunch of Animal Crossing stickers and a tiny mini amiibo card album, all for free even though all i did was buy a single card for 35 dollars. That was really nice of them.
...maybe start taking Japanese lessons?
The one time I got a game from another country was when my mom accidentally got me the pegi version of PMD DX.
Though I guess it’s gonna be 2 or even 3 soon. (Kao the kangaroo and klonoa phantasy reverie)
@Chibi_Manny They basically made it worth it, gotta love that effort.
Google Image Translate is something I recommend but if you want to see trainwreck botched translations that give you the laughs.
@NotArmani Yes, it's hilarious seeing the word for shark (same) be translated 100 different ways.
I own over 200 switch games.
My single Japanese game is Okami. The front cover is beautiful.
Buying games you won’t play is a slap in the face for people who can’t afford all the games they want to play.
@Mr_Fox "Buying game you won’t play is a slap in the face for people who can’t afford all the games they want to play."
I guess I won't tell you about all the books I own that I'll never read...
But it will please you to know that a few years ago I sold over 100 board games, over half of which I'd never played. Progress!
I have amassed a pretty extensive back catalogue over many years of gaming, and have often questioned myself as to if I am a 'collector' or not. But I came to the conclusion that if you don't have an obsession to collect them all, which I don't, then really I am a 'hoarder' and totally agree with @SteamEngenius .
I have a pretty silly amount of boxes full of old games, consoles and peripherals which people would probably call a collection but I promise I didn't buy anything with collection in mind, so it can't be that. I do have a few things that I have bought and kept in boxes, but again I did that because I liked the look of them that way, the purity.
All in all I think lots of you will get to my age and thing the same as me, which is 'What the hell I am going to do with all this stuff!
Yes its that gorgeous artwork that draws you in, especially on the retro 8, 16, 32 bit stuff
@dartmonkey For the record, Japanese people still call individual games "cassettes". Even if they're on discs. Or digital downloads. It's weird. I also bought a lot of import games years ago that I figured I'd eventually get around to, and usually didn't. Years later, I read and speak Japanese and still don't go back and play the ones I kept (I guess they're no longer imports if I live here?) because laziness still prevails.
I'm glad I got this type of thing out of my system back when these games weren't that expensive to collect.
@Doctor-Moo I’d love the PC Engine Tiger Heli artwork on a T-shirt, and I’m not one for gaming tees usually.
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