Lately, Japanese imports have begun to draw attention among collectors, as well as, those who are in love with discovering something new. Luckily, there are some Youtube creators who help spread the knowledge about these imports by either reviewing games, talking about various pickups, or discussing certain obscure games. One of those Youtube creators is BioPhoenix who debuted back on February 7, 2010. The channel revolves around discussing all sort of imports, reviewing them, and also doing gameplays every now and then. I had the pleasure to talk with him personally about various topics.
1- How did you discover imports for the first time?
I discovered them through emulation. I remember looking through a website for games I heard about but never played, like Chrono Trigger for example. But then I found that I also saw games with Japanese names or the ones that had (JPN) at the end of the file name that had an English name.For example the Sailor Moon beat’em up on SNES. Although I don’t think that was the first one I played that was a Japan import, I do remember that one pretty early on. I also discovered weird ones like Kart Fighter on NES the bootleg Mario fighter.
2- What pushed you to try out imports in the first place?
Probably because I always like to look into new things. I never knew about such things when it came to video games, and as much as I like the more popular games that get advertised well, I also love more obscure games that have weird ideas. Sadly, there are many games out there that do not have the same level of marketing, so most people would have missed out. Funnily enough, one of the first games I played on the PS1 was this strange game called Tecmo’s Deception and playing it at a young age was interesting, because it was so different compared to everything else I played, and whenever I would talk to people about it I never met anyone that said they knew about it before I told them. Hence.we can thank that game series for helping me want to discover games that most people haven’t heard of, and of course, Japan import games fit that bill for us in NA and PAL regions. and I also have to thank that game for making me the weirdo I am today haha.
3- Is it worth learning Japanese to play imports?
I would imagine it would be. However, I can’t read Japanese yet so I guess I can’t say that, in my experience, in my experience, it’s worth it. Though I’m sure if you could, it would allow you to play so much more given there are tons of interesting games that are text-heavy. So there would be no reading blocks.
(Nanashi no Game- The Nameless Game DS)
4- What makes these imports interesting to play?
There are many things that can go into this one. Firstly, the fact that most people outside of Japan would not have known about it unless they looked into it themselves or from other people. Secondly, there are a lot of video games that came out in Japan that would have been very difficult to localize and market to the western side of the world due to the way things were, and most people would not understand or relate to the Japanese culture. For example, there is a series in japan called Densha de GO! It’s a straight-up Japanese train simulator. Something like that would be hard to have a western release due to the difference between what appeals more to Japan and what appeals more to westerners. There are some games that are just so weird to put on paper like LSD Dream Emulator and Iblard: Laputa no Kaeru Machi a PS1 game based on Japanese paintings. So strange but yet so unique and interesting to try.
5- Your top 5 recommended Japan-only horror games?
Ok, so these are not in any order, but I will name the ones I played a good portion of and liked. 1.Clock Tower on the SNES. Pretty much a cult classic but it’s always worth mentioning for that it’s a really good and creepy horror game for its time. Even today the sound effects are still creepy. 2. Seven Mansions on Dreamcast. This game was interestingly made by Koei, a company that is not known for making horror games and I found it turned out pretty well. I was impressed by the fact that you could change to a different view perspective on the fly which makes it easy for more people to play with a style they like. 3. Iru on PS1. This game is very similar to the game White Day in the sense that it’s set in a Japanese high school where people get killed and a huge mystery is behind it all, I think the story and music make it really interesting and yes, I know its story due to someone being generous enough a live translation. 4. Sweet Home on the NES. A game based on a movie that was actually good and from Capcom. I don’t need to say much here since I’m sure most know about it being an early horror RPG but it is a pretty badass game that is also really challenging. 5. The Nameless Game on the DS. I only played a bit of this one but I found the concept to be really unique where it’s about a cursed video game and I liked what I played and I plan on playing more of it
6- What is the worst Japanese import you have ever played?
Oh boy, let’s see here. The first game that comes to mind is a game I reviewed back in November of 2019 called Armor Police Metal Jack on the SNES. No joke this is the worst game from Atlus I ever played. it’s a really bland and boring beat’em up that also controls poorly. Other dishonorable mentions are two fighting games being Hokuto no ken 7 a game based off one of my favorite anime series being turned into an unplayable mess. And the other being a PC98 game called Jikusousakan Hayate, a fighting game with hentai scenes and it’s god awful. these 2 games are just as bad as Pit-Fighter which is known as Shit-Fighter for being one of the worst.
7- What’s the console with the best imports?
That is tough, but I’d say either SNES or PS1. I always keep finding out more games on both systems to this day and there is so much variety on both for so many genres.
8- Can you name the weirdest Japanese import that you have seen?
Cho Aniki, enough said. I will mention others like Hakaioh: King of Cusher on the PS1 where it is about a guy who gets bitten by an insect and goes on a rampage breaking shit and it gets weirder and weirder. Also, there are some bizarre PC98 games I’ve seen, I can’t remember the names at the moment but there was this one I saw where you play as a caveman looking guy and you kill random people but it is very controversial, even more so than any GTA game ever because it crosses many lines. It also has a way to gain health that is really messed up. Knowing what the library of PC98 games are made of, and I’m sure you can imagine what it is.
The game is Sakusaku Daigoutou Returns.
9- Are there any good Japan-only beat’em ups you can recommend?
A really good one I like is Nekketsu Oyako on the Saturn. It has nice graphics, amazing music, over the top action and it plays awesomely. Another Saturn beat’ em-up that’s worth mentioning is Pu·Li·Ru·La. Even though it saw a NA release, it was only released on the arcades resulting in it not being well known. It also has an art style that reminds me of Ghibli Studio but I could also mention it as being weird since there is a level with digitized graphics that look like they were cut out of a magazine and it’s even crazier.
10- What is one import that you would recommend anyone to play?
For anyone that can play, I would have to recommend something that is easy to play without knowing much Japanese. So my number one pick as of now, and this is a game I remember finding randomly because I thought the name and cover art looked cool, would be Moon Crystal on the NES. An action platformer with some impressive graphics and sprite animation that is fun and gets challenging the more you play but it’s satisfying.
You can check BioPhoenix content from here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_pqrIhak0bq152uqq2zP3Q
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