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Ye Olde Import Game

In today’s interconnected world, gaming has never been so transparent, especially when it comes to imports. If you want a game from Japan just hop on Amazon and go get it. If there is a certain title you want localized, well then just petition your heart away until you get your wish. It wasn’t always this easy though. Not so long ago importing a game was a dicey affair and more often than not it resulted in more regret than joy. Allow me to reminisce about the good ol- scratch that, the dark days of importing games.

Before I get into all the hurdles we had to jump through just to import, a little background on my first experience. It was ‘New Mobile Report Gundam Wing: Endless Duel’ for the Super Famicom, quite the name isn’t it? An old childhood friend whose name I can’t remember for the life of me, let’s just call him Gundam Kid, was the proud owner of this tongue twister of a game. He described it to everyone at school as “imagine Street Fighter but with giant robots!” You see giant robots are like the bacon of the gaming world, they instantly make any title better and no you can never have enough of them. We were hanging on Gundam Kids every word and you can imagine my delight when he invited nearly every kid on the block to check out his new crazy Japanese robot game.

There we were, about ten kids huddled around Gundam Kid’s TV, jaws to the floor as he showed us a cartridge we had never seen before. It certainly resembled an SNES game, but it was sleeker, a bit more refined. Gundam kid told us how this game wouldn’t play on a regular Super Nintendo unless you ‘heavily modified’ it. Looking back the kid was a master salesman and we were just a bunch of slack jawed yokels hanging on his every word. If only we knew that ‘heavily modified’ really meant jabbing a screwdriver into your SNES to knock some plastic out, but I digress.

New Mobile Gundam something or other booted up and let me tell you it was pure magic. How could such a game be kept hidden from us? Nintendo Power never mentioned this; Funcoland wasn’t selling this, what gives?!? I ended up leaving Gundam Kids house determined to get my own cool Japanese game. Little did I realize that importing was more of a hassle than anything. There were no forums to turn to, Gaming magazines never talked about it, it was the ultimate YMMV.

By far the biggest deterrent in importing back then was the price. Adjusted for inflation, a typical SNES game would run you anywhere from $80-95 USD. Import games were usually double that price and then some! In the end, you’re talking about dropping close to $200 bucks! In kid money; well that’s a king’s ransom, not to mention one hell of a gift to ask for from your parents.

However let’s say you do get mom and dad to agree on purchasing this overpriced game for you, well who are you buying it from? Unless you were fortunate enough to live near a store that carried import titles your one and only option was the magazine ads. Remember those sketchy import ads, usually on the last page of GamePro, promising all sorts of eastern goodies? These are the kind of business models we had to deal with back then. You sent a check in good faith to this random PO Box and in a few months time you may or may not get what you paid for.

So you've agreed to be robbed out of house and home, now you patiently wait for your mystery game to arrive. I say mystery because literally that’s what it was. We often joke about purchasing games back in the day based on cover art, and that is partially true. Fortunately gaming magazines and rental stores helped to dispel some mysteries for certain titles but with imports, it was truly a shot in the dark. I remember a buddy of mine thought he purchased an RPG game for the Saturn only to wind up with one of those dating sim games. That’s a hard a pill to swallow.

Now let’s say you were one of the lucky ones though, you received your game in the mail, now how are you going to play it? Region free wasn’t a thing back then, the trials we had to go through just to play a game, I’m shaking my head just thinking about it. From chipping plastic away in a Super Nintendo, paper clip tricks for the PSX, and shoving a plastic knife into my PS2, all I can say is MacGyver eat your heart out!

Finally though we are at the last stage, actually playing the game! You’ve hobo-hacked your console, you’ve emptied your wallet; you deserve to have a bit of fun! You press start and then low and behold you’re stuck. The game is saying something but its hieroglyphics as far as you’re concerned. You soldier on, pretending to have fun with this game you don’t understand but it’s no use. You now come to the ultimate realization that this was a horrible idea and you’re never going to do it again.

Suffice to say there are few things I miss from the dark days of importing. The high prices, not knowing what a game was about, forever getting stuck, and not even being able to play it natively, good riddance to all of it! Therefore we must never forget the pioneers that made today's import scene possible. The Gundam kids, the accidental dating sim kids, and the countless others who trudged on for a better tomorrow, I salute you!

lex-10203132d ago

I've imported a couple games, Sword Art Online, The Irregular at Magic High school, and Fire Emblem Sealed Sword. I have to say I really love Sony's policy on region free consoles. It makes it very easy to play these great games that never make it to American shores (or in the case of SAO make it very very late)

caseh3132d ago

Hah I remember those days, best experience for me was discovering the Sega Mega CD over the friend of a friends house. He had imported it from Japan like two days before, I had never even heard of this beast before. A console that uses CDs, WTF!?

Then he powered it up with Earnest Evans in the drive, my god that sh*t blew my mind. I think that was my first experience of full on audio dialogue in a game, despite the fact it was in Japanese it just sounded immense.


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isarai2h ago

Honestly smart move, there's enough pvp, operator/hero based pvp GAAS games with this same generic style out and upcoming.

Vits2h ago(Edited 2h ago)

That is really sad. Not only cancelling Hyenas, but the other unannounced game and cutting funds yet again for Creative Assembly. This would be the first time in a decade that Sega let those guys do something other than the Total War series and the last time this happened, Creative Assembly delivered one of the best horror experiences out there in the form of ALIEN: ISOLATION.

I get that profitability is low. But maybe it's because Creative Assembly has been stuck putting out yearly releases of the Total War series. Those games are great, don't get me wrong but the market is extremely saturated with them and they are limited in public as they are only available on PC and PC players are know for making their favourite titles last a long time. To the point that people are still playing Total War Shogun 2 from 2011 at reasonable numbers...

So I feel this is a very bad move. It basically boxes the studio in a situation where they are unlikely to improve their profitability. Now not only they will go back to the same yearly franchise, but they will have to do that with a lower budget and likely team as well.

purple1011h ago

Can't understand how it would save them money.

If the game was basically finished then surely release it and get a little cash. Surely the money has been spent already and now the easy bit is to release it. ?

Terry_B1h ago

It was supposed to be an online only game that gets updates for years. These would have cost em more than the development so far probably if the game bombs

Terry_B1h ago

They could have canceled it months ago already after seeing the reaction to the trailer(s). Nobody was caring or hyped about this.

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