12 Great Recent Japanese and European Games Worth Importing

12 Great Recent Japanese and European Games Worth Importing

These exotic works aren't sold in American stores, but they're worth tracking down.

The days in which import games were a must for any serious gamer have long since faded into memory. Blame it on globalization, or on the fact that Japan doesn't produce as many esoteric classics these days, or maybe a combination of the two.

Still, that doesn't mean Americans get to enjoy every great game to see the light of day in Japan — or Europe, for that matter. For those who still find themselves bored by this summer's drought of notable releases, dabbling in the more interesting recent Japanese games to come down the pipeline could offer a pleasant diversion until things pick up here at home. And hey, maybe you'll learn a bit of some other language in the process.

Here for your edification is a list of worthwhile import release from the past few years. Most if not all of these games should be available for retail prices or less through import services or on eBay, and will run on consoles you can currently buy at retail... though of course some of these games suffer from region locks. But that's OK, because I've also made a note of those locks as well as the severity of the language barrier you're likely to have to deal with. So go on, live a little. Expand your horizons. Play something none of your friends have so they can hate you for being a smug hipster. It's a noble venture.

Boku no Natsuyasumi 3

Sony | PlayStation 3 | Japanese
Region-locked? No
Language barrier: High

If you're not familiar with the Boku no Natsuyasumi series (aka My Summer Vacation), my recommendation would be to start by reading the definitive resource on the subject. The third entry in the series, like its predecessors, requires some Japanese language proficiency for maximum enjoyment, but the relaxing pace and theme of lazy summer days transcends language.

Captain Rainbow

Skip/Nintendo | Wii | Japanese
Region-locked? Yes
Language barrier: High

One of Nintendo's stranger Japanese-only releases, its flamboyant weirdness definitely accounts for its failure to make its way into English. But if you're up for wrestling with the language barrier, it makes for an amusing romp through the more obscure corners of Nintendo's history, with a heavy emphasis on solving life problems for long-forgotten minor characters.

Disaster: Day of Crisis

Monolith/Nintendo | Wii | European/Japanese
Region-locked? Yes
Language barrier: None

No one knows why Nintendo announced this game for U.S. release and then changed their minds; by all accounts, it's a pretty entertaining adventure, and hey — there's an English localization just waiting there. On the plus side, if you have the means to play European Wii games (we won't ask how you go about it), you can enjoy Disaster the way it was meant to be played: Right here, in AMERICA!

E.X. Troopers

Capcom | PlayStation 3, 3DS | Japanese
Region-locked? No (PS3) Yes (3DS)
Language barrier: Moderate

A fast-paced, anime-styled blend of Monster Hunter and the tragically cancelled Mega Man Legends 3, E.X. Troopers doesn't quite make up for the death of that long-awaited sequel... but it's pretty good regardless. You need to wade through a bit of Japanese dialogue to get things going, but the zippy shooting action needs no translation. Incidentally, the PS3 version works on American systems, while the region-locked 3DS release is better for local multiplayer. Either way, it's worth checking out.

Freshly Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland

Vanpool/Nintendo | DS | European/Japanese
Region-locked? No (DS) Yes (DSi/3DS)
Language barrier: None

Is it any surprise that a game starring the most outlandish character from The Legend of Zelda has proven to be equally bizarre? No. No it's not. Tingle's solo adventure revolves around money, but in the greedy Wario way; cash isn't simply something you hoard, it's something you barter with and use for in-game status as well.

Game Center CX 2

IndiesZero/Bandai Namco | DS | Japanese
Region-locked? No (DS) Yes (DSi/3DS)
Language barrier: Moderate

You probably know the Japanese TV series Game Center CX; if not, go listen to this week's Retronauts... then check out the first game based on the show, Retro Game Challenge, which Xseed localized a few years back. Got it? Good. Now import the sequel, which features more loving simulations of 8-bit games. The RPG parts may be a bit Japanese-intensive, but the convincingly retro action of the rest of this package speaks to the heart of every nerd.

Ginga Ojousama Densetsu Collection

Hudson | PSP | Japanese
Region-locked? No
Language barrier: Low

I mentioned Sapphire as one of the rarest and most expensive PC Engine CD-ROM2 games in our recent TurboGrafx-16 retrospective, but there's good news — you don't have to pay $700 for a copy. You can snag it for closer to $30 if you pick up the Japanese import of the PSP rerelease. It's a shooter, so you don't need to know the language to enjoy it; just blow things up. In space!

Ose! Tatakae! Ouendan 2

iNiS/Nintendo | DS | Japanese
Region-locked? No
Language barrier: High

You know Elite Beat Agents, you love Elite Beat Agents. And you can play more Elite Beat Agents if you don't mind dealing with a little Japanese text — and who would? Music is the universal language, and the little mini-dramas that play out as your cheer squad performs its maneuvers of encouragement come across. So basically you have an entire new game of songs and patterns to deal with, and it's hard to complain about that.

SaGa 2: Goddess of Destiny

Square Enix | DS | Japanese
Region-locked? No (DS) Yes (DSi/3DS)
Language barrier: High

If you loved Game Boy classic Final Fantasy Legend II, well, good news! There's a remake for DS, and it looks and sounds glorious, and it has some significant gameplay improvements as well. Bad news: It only ever came out in Japan. Still, it's worth playing for any fan of the FF Legend/SaGa games, and it works similarly enough to the original that your familiarity with the Game Boy version will get you through the game. And if you track down a legitimate copy of the software, you can feel good about playing the excellent fan translation....

Slime Morimori Dragon Quest 3

TOSE/Square Enix | 3DS | Japanese
Region-locked? Yes
Language barrier: Moderate to high

Square Enix seems to have given up on Dragon Quest in the U.S., which is a shame given that the games we're missing out on are so great. Like this, the sequel to the wonderful DS adventure Rocket Slime. Vaguely Zelda-like in its design, Slime Morimori 3 feels more like classic Dragon Quest than ever before by replacing the previous game's tank battles with a pirate ship you can sail freely around the world. While there's a fair amount of talking in foreign languages to contend with here, ultimately the snappy action speaks for itself.

Super Robot Wars O.G. Infinite Battle

Banpresto | PlayStation 3 | Japanese
Region-locked? No
Language barrier: High

Actually, I have no opinion about this game one way or the other, but it's here for senior editor Kat Bailey's sake. She gets angry if we go more than a couple of weeks without mentioning the Super Robot Wars series. Thankfully, this franchise tends to be fairly consistent from one sequel to the next, so if you've played something like Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier for DS (one of the few chapters of the franchise to have been localized into English) you can find your way through this one easily enough. Big robots, tactical combat, ridiculous combat attacks...

Trip World

Sunsoft | 3DS Virtual Console | European/Japanese
Region-locked? Yes
Language barrier: None

If you're planning to pick up an import 3DS to play games like Slime Morimori 3, well, I can think of a whole lot of other games worth hunting down. But you definitely don't want to miss one of the most unique — not to mention most expensive — Game Boy games ever released, Sunsoft's Trip World. A whimsical, expressive adventure, Trip World doesn't have much story, nor does it offer much challenge. But for $3, it's a journey worth taking on your import handheld.

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