As much as I love this hobby, the truth is I have never bought import games before. I’ve been given one (as seen in picture), and played quite a few, but never did I lay out my own cash. The main problem was finding a way to play them. I just didn’t want to spend extra money for a Japanese console/fliptop/Freeloader disc in addition to premium price for the game itself. As for the Dreamcast, I didn’t realize its import friendliness until it was too late. It hasn’t been much of a hindrance, as localizations for worthy games have become more common (even for fighters).
This weekend I finally brought home my first import game, Salamander Portable. It was a nice and easy choice. The game was apparently imported by at least a few non-specialty retail outlets (including Fry’s), and was common enough that some shooter fans talk about it like it received a US release. It is also on the PSP, which continues the tradition of handhelds being the friendliest grounds for import gaming. I probably could have payed less if I shopped around or bought it earlier, but chalk it up to being an impulse buy.
I am glad to say it will be worth it in the long run, as the game is a grand slam. I had never played anything in the Salamander/Life Force series, but I find them to be very enjoyable, more so than even some of the Gradius games. In addition, the collection includes two “bonus games”, likely so that the disc has the same amount of content as Gradius Collection. One of them is the MSX game Gradius 2, which is not the same as Gradius II.
The other is Xexex, which is fairly unknown but pretty incredible, especially considering its age. It is also nice to see that the compilation is laid out exactly like Gradius Collection is, complete with the same menus and options. It is even entirely in English. The only Japanese comes from the games themselves, from the title screens and Xexex’s story scenes. I know many Japanese games are said to be “import friendly”, but this has nothing to localize (aside from packaging). In fact, the only reason this probably didn’t come out here is because not all the games on the disc had a western release.
Between this and my observations of some of Jay’s import collection, I am considering doing an article comparing East VS West in regards to packaging and even in game presentation. There are some marked differences, and contrary to what some might think, Japan isn’t always better. My only fear with this idea is that I’m not knowledgeable enough to do the topic justice. Perhaps a collaborative effort then? Maybe the readers might have some good ideas.