For most gamers importing Japanese games is a novelty, allowing us to play slightly different versions of games that eventually made their way to North America. Maybe there was a change made during localization, like the post-race animations in Super Mario Kart, or maybe the game simply never officially left Japan. Games like Konami’s Beatmania only ever saw one release, giving Americans only a small taste of the over two-dozen Beatmania versions available for the Playstation and Playstation 2. Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be detailing, step-by-step, the process of playing import games on the various consoles I own.
The Sony Playstation is perhaps the easiest system to play import games on, not counting consoles that don’t have any type of region lockout like the Playstation 3 or Nintendo DS. While most systems that are easy to play imports on requires at least some amount of modification or extra software the Playstation only requires a North American game disc and a zip-tie. This guide assumes you’re using the original style Playstation. I don’t own a PSOne so I can’t say for sure how to do this on that style of Playstation or if this method even works with it.
- Trick your Playstation into thinking the lid is always closed.
Open the lid and locate the round button at the back-right. When the lid closes a plastic tab depresses this button which tells the console the lid is closed. Push down on the button with the square end of the zip-tie and insert the flat end in the gap between the button and the well it sits in. Use a pair of scissors to cut the flat end of the zip-tie off so that it’s somewhat flush with the rest of the case. You’ll want to leave the tray open during these steps but once the game loads you can close the lid.
- Turn on the Playstation with a North American disc inside.
I’d suggest using a disc you don’t care about, like a demo disc or a sports game due to the aggressive handling you’ll have to do with the disc. During this step the system is looking at the disc content to verify its a legitimate game disc from the correct region.
- Pull the disc out and pop in the import disc.
After the Sony Computer Entertainment logo and its white background fade to black pull out the disc and replace it with the import disc as quickly as possible. I believe this is when the console is reading the table of contents from the disc so it knows where different key assets are physically located on the disc.
- Put the North American disc back in.
Once the console detects the presence of the disc it will spin at its normal read speed. After about six seconds the disc will slow down noticeably. You should have a pretty large window of time to swap discs here.
- Put the import game back in.
After the North American game is swapped back in the Playstation should try to boot it. As soon as the Playstation logo disappears pull out the North American disc and put the import back in as quickly as possible. The screen will probably stay black a second or two longer than normal, then you should see the opening cinematics.
That’s it. Assuming you already have a game from your region and a zip-tie this method should cost you nothing but the time it takes to jam the button and swap the discs back and forth. If the instructions here don’t quite click I’ve also made a video detailing the steps above.