By Michael Mygind
There are some awesome retro imports out there that a lot of people don’t know about. So, this is a feature that I’ll be writing from time to time to put a spotlight on some of great foreign games that I feel are worth checking out. I won’t go into great depth, but I’ll explain why I like them and let you be the judge. Before I start, I will note that all of these games are accessible regardless of a language barrier. So, RPG’s and text adventure games will most likely not be making many lists since their gameplay is so dependent on the text. Until I acquire European (PAL) games, all recommendations will be for Japanese games. Also, at the bottom of the column, I’ll include a little information on how to play these games on your American console if you are new to the import scene and don’t feel like buying an import console. Lastly, feel free to suggest any import games that you’ve become fond of in the comments so that we can open more eyes to some great games that we might not have gotten on our side of the world!
Super Puyo Puyo 2 Remix (1996, Compile, Super Famicom)
Super Puyo Puyo 2 Remix is the revised sequel to a popular Tetris-style puzzle game on the Super Famicom. It made my list for multiple reasons. It’s a fun, colorful game with beautifully animated sprites and the option of simultaneous four player gameplay with a multi-tap. It’s also quite affordable. A fun fact is that the original Puyo Puyo was ported to US consoles, but did not have the same characters or branding. Its release on the Sega Genesis, Master System and Game Gear would be Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine while its Super Nintendo release would be Kirby’s Avalanche.
Money Idol Exchanger (1997, Athena, Game Boy)
Money Idol Exchanger is another puzzle game and a Game Boy port of a Neo Geo arcade game of the same name. The objective of the game is to consolidate coins into larger increments from 5 to 1,000 before you become buried in coins. It’s a game that is best explained by watching, but it’s unlike anything that I’ve ever played and is incredibly addicting. It is also compatible with the Super Game Boy with a special on-screen background. It also received an arcade accurate port on the Playstation, which you just might see a review on in the near future…
Sonic Wings (1993, Video System, Super Famicom)
This is the only game on the list that is not an exclusive to a particular region. Sonic Wings is the Japanese version of its American release, Aero Fighters. This is the first game in the amazing series of vertical scrolling jet-fighter arcade shmups with hundreds of enemies and screen-clearing power-ups. Now, why is this game being featured in a list about awesome import games if it’s not a region exclusive? Because there is a startling difference in price. At the time of this article, Aero Fighters for the Super Nintendo is currently selling for anywhere between $250 to $450 online due to a very limited release in North America, making it one of the rarest SNES games. Its Super Famicom counterpart, Sonic Wings, has a going price of about $30. Being a long-time fan of the series that wanted to experience this game at home on my SNES, I was floored when I saw what Aero Fighters was going for. But, then I started looking into imports and noticed this loop hole of sorts. The name is different and it’s for a slightly different system, but for roughly 1/10th of the price, I will happily play the Japanese version.
Playing Import Games on your American (NTSC) SNES and Game Boy consoles (Myself nor Last Token Gaming assume responsibility over any damages that are made to a console or games by trying any of the suggested methods. Tamper at your own risk.)
Super Famicom: Unlike the NES and the original Famicom, Super Nintendo (SNES) and Super Famicom (SFC) games are made exactly the same and can be played on either system with one stipulation: Their cart shapes. Inside every SNES console, there are two tabs that will lock into two slots on the bottom of every SNES cartridge. SFC games do not have these slots, meaning that they will not fit all the way into the system. This leaves four options for playing these on your American SNES console.
- Swap the Cartridge Cases: Use a gamebit screwdriver to open up a SNES game and a SFC game and swap the boards. While tedious, a SFC game will play just fine when put inside a SNES cart. You can find a gamebit for about $5 online and it will become a necessary part of your collection when it comes to repairing and cleaning games and consoles.
- Modify Your Console: Hold open the flaps on the cartidge slot and use a pair of needle-nose pliers to carefully snap off the two tabs inside of your SNES console. You will then need to sand these down until the SFC game will fit. This is a quick procedure because of how weak the tabs are and it won’t require you to pull apart your console. It will be counted as modifying your console which some collectors will frown upon, but it can double the console’s playable library and is the most convenient method in the long run. This is my personal recommendation.
- Modify a Game Genie: Snap the tabs off of a SNES Game Genie adapter just as instructed in the previous method. I cannot personally vouch for this method as I’ve never tried it and the plastic on the adapter is a lot stronger than the flimsy plastic that the SNES was made with, leaving the potential that you can permanently damage this accessory if you break off more than you planned. If done right, you’ve created an import adapter without doing any tampering to the console itself.
- Use an Adapter: An import adapter will do the job without requiring any tampering at all, but it won’t be cheap. These are quite uncommon and can run for $50 or more each.
Game Boy: Plug in the game and play! There’s no region encoding and the carts are exactly the same, making for one giant library of games to begin with!