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How to Import Japanese Video Games in the U.S.

Updated on December 30, 2012
Screenshot from the first part of Final Fantasy 13-2
Screenshot from the first part of Final Fantasy 13-2 | Source

Importing Japanese Video Games

Having played video games since I was physically able to, I have constantly searched for new media to play. Around 5 years ago I started playing Japanese video games (sourced from friends that imported), and honestly couldn't imagine not having the resource my friends have become. However I felt it was important to understand how they do it in order to be able to do it myself, and so I write this now in order to share the experience learned.

There are many things that you must think about before importing games to the US. Many questions should be asked first: will the system read the game? Will you understand the game once you get it? Is it legal to get games from other countries like that? Will you be buying from a reliable source? Asking all of these questions is the start to the process of importing Japanese games safely, and it is what I intend to do here.

Why Import?

There are many reasons to import video games from other countries, especially Japan which is the largest video game producing country in the world. Japan has come out with millions of games, even the most popular series in America such as the Mario, Pokemon, and Final Fantasy. That being said you might ask, why should we import anything if it is being done naturally? There are two answers for that. Firstly, there might be a game that didn't make it over here even though it was mazing. The second reason could be that you just can't wait for something to come out here next year while it is being played over there right now.

Final Fantasy 13-2 Japanese Trailer

Screen Shot - Japanese FFXIII-2
Screen Shot - Japanese FFXIII-2 | Source

What Do I Need?

An interesting feature of discs is that many of them have region locks on them. In this case, if you are thinking about getting a Japanese video game for an Xbox you might consider researching the game you want to get on a list like this one which tells you what region systems you need. If you REALLY want to play a Japanese game that will not work on an American Xbox you might want to consider buying a Japanese Xbox, but most games are region-less.

"Is it legal?" was a question brought up by a friend of mine. The answer is simple - of course it is. However there are lists of banned games in America, mostly following pornography laws. Since there are those kinds of games, you may want to double check just to be safe.

The last thing you need to think about is an understanding of the language. It won't be a terribly enjoyable experience if you get an expensive game and find out that you cannot understand any of it. Many of the games that aren't over in America don't have any translation or anyone who has translated them online in order for you to understand what is going on. Unless it is something simple like an old Nintendo Mario game you may want to think twice unless you can read a good amount of kanji first. You should use the trailer above for reference - if you could understand what was going on you should be all set!

Where Can I Safely Buy?

There are many sites where you can buy Japanese Video games, however the one I have heard a lot of good things about is Play-Asia. This website has a list style buying place, or an auction house style area to purchase games. Be mindful of the prices, they can either be really high or low because they are used games - but try to look up the original price of the game so you know if you are getting a good deal or bad.

Happy Gaming!

When thinking about importing games from anywhere it is important to think about these issues. However, I hope that when you have imported something that you enjoy your purchase and that I have been able to help you think about your own (monetary) safety before and during the transaction.

Happy gaming!

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