Part 1 was focused on retro gaming, and now it’s time to figure out how you can play modern games in Japanese. As I said, I don’t like using emulators for moderns games because they’re buggy, slow, and an even bigger pain to configure, so I prefer to actually try and play the games on consoles. Here’s how to get these games.
1. Find games that give you the option to change the language. I’m thinking of games like Sonic Adventure 2: Battle for GameCube, where you can adjust the language. This is a very cheap and good way to get Japanese games, although there aren’t many games like these.
2. Buy a Nintendo DS Lite. These are completely region free, so you can buy Japanese games without having to buy a Japanese system or mod a system you already own. As before, try to play games you’re already familiar with when starting out, but I’d like to recommend a couple anyway.
Pokemon Black/White: This games is great for both beginners and more advanced students. The gameplay is self-explanatory, so even if you haven’t played this particular game in English before, you’ll figure it out quickly. Also, it gives you option to play it with or without kanji, so if you’re not ready for full-blown kanji yet, you can change it to all hiragana.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks: To be totally honest, these are pretty weak games as far as the Zelda franchise is concerned, complete with gimmicky controls. However, these games are excellent for learning/practicing Japanese, as you can tap the kanji you see to get a reading of it! No more scrunched up, hard to read furigana! That feature alone makes these games worth it, although I didn’t care for them as much as other Zelda games. Oh, but I found “Spirit Tracks” to be much better.
3. Mod your system. For me, the cons outweigh the pros here, but modding your system to allow you to play Japanese games, as well as homebrew games, is pretty popular. Now, I’ve only ever done this once, with an old Wii I got, and I didn’t mind it. I’m glad that I didn’t do it on my actual Wii, though, because modding a system means that you can no longer update it.
Modding can also be hugely expensive. I haven’t found a PS3 equivalent of this (and of course not a PS1/PS2 equivalent), but if you want to save money on modding your Wii, there’s a software this guy is selling for much cheaper than the hundreds of dollars you have to spend to have someone else do it for you, and for cheaper than buying a chip. Just ignore the blatant, in-your-face advertising this guy does to try and get you to buy his product.
4. Buy a Japanese Wii/PS3/PS2/PS/etc. This is pretty expensive, but it’s how I like to do it. A tip I’d like to share, however, is don’t buy from Amazon Japan (their shipping will kill you if you live outside of Japan), but buy from a site like PlayAsia. If you live in Japan, go ahead and buy from Amazon Japan, but for those of us who live outside of Japan, that can get expensive very quickly. Granted, anytime you buy a Japanese language game, no matter where it’s from, it will always be a bit more expensive than the English version!
I’d also recommend you stick to a Wii, which PlayAsia is finally offering again (I’ve waited months for them to restock these!), or a PSP. There’s nothing wrong with a PS3, if you really want one, but they’re horribly pricey. XBox 360 isn’t very popular in Japan, so finding good Japanese games for it just isn’t worth it.
Well, I’d say that’s that. It’s much cheaper to just buy manga and anime, but if you really want to play Japanese games, then hopefully I’ve covered all the different ways. Good luck!