How-To: Play Import Playstation Games

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

#ProjectDream

Today I was notified of #ProjectDream. Initially I was flooded with stories of Sega’s long fabled Dreamcast 2. Current speculation says the Dreamcast 2 would be a small form-factor PC running an Intel Core i5 CPU and a GTX 740 GPU, would be backwards compatible with Dreamcast games and potentially Saturn games, and cost less than building your own PC. Adding fuel to the fire, Project Dream, the gang perpetually insisting their members are hard at work infiltrating Sega to make the Dreamcast 2 a reality, has posted a countdown timer on their website insinuating that some revelation will be revealed at the end of 2015. SEGAbits already has a lengthy article going into the history of this nonsense but here’s some key points that show this as being complete horse-ass:

  • Why would Sega invest in a new console?
    Really they wouldn’t. If any of this were true it would essentially be a Steam Machine, but then why build PCs at all when you can let other companies handle the financial risks of building these computers? Sega’s arcade hardware is already based on Intel x86 processors, nVidia graphics chips, and TDK solid state drives, why not repackage the software for distribution on Steam or a propritary storefront like EA’s Origin or Ubisoft’s Uplay? In a best-case scenario Sega could rebadge a special edition of an existing Steam Machine and call it a day.
  • Who’s going to pay for it?
    There are conflicting reports of it being both crowd funded as well as Sega interns, also members of Project Dream, working on proposals to bring to Sega’s higher-ups. Theoretically Sega could buy enough hardware in bulk to reduce the price of a consoles/PCs to below typical market rate but again, why? It’s a huge risk for a company that’s already struggling. Relying on crowd funding is laughable. History has shown that large-scale operations like this simply cannot be Kick Started; at best it would be supplemental to corporate funding.
  • Who’s going to buy it?
    Gamers already have a huge pool of hardware to play games on; Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Wii U, 3DS, Vita, tablets, phones, laptops, and dedicated gaming PCs. What incentive is there for gamers to drop another $4-600 on a box that only does things other hardware already does?
  • What are they going to play?
    The main selling point I’ve seen for the Dreamcast 2 is support for original Dreamcast games. There are three huge roadblocks here: physical media, licensing, and everything else.
    Dreamcast games came loaded on GD-ROM discs, basically CDs with a higher capacity. The current story being told is that games could be inserted into the Dreamcast 2, “installed” onto its hard drive, and played “natively” in 1080p over HDMI. Who is going to make new GD-ROM drives in enough capacity to make it cost effective? If there’s an optical drive it would need to support at least DVD, more likely Blu-Ray, meaning they’d need to manufacture a single drive that supports CD-ROM, GD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and BD-ROM all in one slim package. Once the games are somehow inside the system can they even be played? Legally, probably not. As many of us have seen with Xbox 360 emulation on the Xbox One and Playstation 2 emulation on the Playstation 4, most of the supported titles are are first-party with third-party titles rolling in over time. Aside from licensing the games, each game typically has music licenses which are very strict about how the game, and thus the music, can be used. So assuming the game is on the system and it’s legally allowed to be played, how is the game going to run? Sega would either need to reproduce the original Dreamcast/NAOMI hardware in a very small package (think Gamecube support in the Wii) or find a way to perfectly emulate the Dreamcast hardware with over 99.9% accuracy. If the Dreamcast 2 can’t play Dreamcast games it becomes a PC, so again, why would Sega invest in building gaming PCs?
  • Who is behind the countdown page?
    It sure as hell isn’t Sega. Aside from being hosted on ProjectDream.co, the name of the group unaffiliated with Sega, the background video announcing things like “Powerful”, “Next Gen”, and “Dream” is hosted on a YouTube channel called Games For You with the title “DC Revival Petition.” The rest of the videos are Shenmue gameplay with one video showing a copy of Shenmue running on an Xbox 360 emulator. Sounds official to me. Also the font used is Take Cover. Usually companies like Sega or the agencies they contract work out to don’t use free fonts.

So what could Sega be up to? Well, probably not much, but if they were going to make another push into the home market I have two theories. First, since their arcade hardware is all off-the-shelf PC hardware they could theoretically open up a distribution platform on PC like Steam, Origin, and Uplay, allowing users to buy arcade games with some restrictions to prevent arcades from building their own cabinets. This could upset arcade owners and potentially cut into Sega’s arcade business so that seems unlikely. The second possibility, which in no way do I think is even remotely plausible, is building an emulation layer, like the Xbox 360 emulation in the Xbox One, allowing users to download and play games from Sega’s arcade library. At that point, though, they may as well port the games and package them on compilation discs.

Any hopes of new Sega hardware in the home have been crushed, but there is some good news! There was once a real thing called project Dream, an RPG developed by Rare between Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie. Check out the video for a brief history.

Dragon Ball Z + Ford?

I’m not usually a fan of companies, or more likely the ad agencies they contract with, using Intellectual property I grew up with to sell me products. More often than not it feels like pandering and I end up liking everything involved a little less. That being said, this commercial for the Ford Focus strikes an amazing balance between informing me of a products and it’s features and respecting the source material. And it’s pretty funny to boot.

Gym Battle Episode 2

Today’s trip to the gym was a little different than yesterday. The game felt a lot more grindy than it did yesterday which meant I was a lot more distracted by 2 Broke Girls on the gym’s TVs, which in turn made the game slower and less interesting. However, I did push through to Professor Sycamore’s lab, beating him in a battle, and receiving my second starter, Bulbasaur. Despite cycling for about the same time as yesterday I burned more calories and cycled further as well (stats below). I’m starting to think that, rather than major battles being my checkpoints, I should maybe start to look at milestones in the game. Maybe making my way through a cave system or arriving in a new city.

Oh. And apparently I can’t go the whole two hours anyway since my gym only validates parking for 2 hours. So 90 minutes it is.

Time: 90 minutes (187 minutes)
Calories:
325 (615)
Cycled:
15 miles (24.5 miles)
Badges: (1)
New Pokemon:
8 (30)

*Totals are in parenthesis.

Gym Battle Episode 1

My last job was at a car dealership taking photos and creating ad copy for their online advertising. This meant I was outside for six or seven hours each day, running from one end of the massive property to the other, climbing into and around all sizes of cars, trucks, and SUVs. I would also take the bus to work which added even more walking. Before that I had a typical desk job but frequented the gym that was across the street from where I worked. All this to say that, while not ripped, I’ve typically been active and somewhat fit. At my current job there’s been a lot more sitting and the only lifting I’ve been doing is the gallons of water it takes to refill my computer (I’ll do a separate post about that soon). I’ve gotten a little soft around the edges. In college you’d call it the Freshman 15 but at my work they often call it the Microsoft 20. I’m a little over six feet tall and at my peak fitness I was about 165 pounds. Now I’m 186 and none of that gain is muscle. It’s time for some of it to go.

I was largely inspired by Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns‘ system of keeping in shape; walking on a treadmill while gaming. During a Reddit AMA he answered a few questions about his weightloss.

I put a treadmill facing a wall, hung a TV on the wall and walked (slowly) while playing games.
Longest so far was ACIV, I walked 232 miles.
During my 60lb weight loss, my longest was when I walked 137 miles playing Fallout 3.

Don’t play FPS games. I almost crippled myself playing Halo once. I instinctively walked left when turning left and stepped off a moving treadmill.

I don’t have a treadmill but I do have a dusty gym membership. I’m not sure where I got the idea but I decided on erasing my save on Pokemon Y and challenging myself to get on a treadmill or cycling machine and not get off until I’ve beaten the next gym leader. I wasn’t sure if this was even possible since I doubt the game can be completed in 9 hours, counting the Elite Four and the Champion as a single gym encounter. So probably saying either beating the next gym leader or not leaving until I’ve walked/cycled for two hours. It sounds grueling and I’m sure it might be. I started this experiment yesterday and cycled for about 95 minutes, burning nearly 300 calories in the process. Hopefully my 3DS and I survive.

After each session I’m going to post some stats because, aside from being fun and interesting, they should also help track my progress and keep me motivated. Here’s yesterday’s.

Time: 97 minutes
Calories: 290
Cycled: 9.5 miles
Badges: 1
New Pokemon: 22

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Due to a series of completely preventable events coalescing into a perfect storm of data loss I no longer have any of my website databases. Any posts I’ve written here or on my photography site are all lost to the ether. I guess it’s fine, though, since now I have to get to restructure my sites, something that would have been a lot more daunting with months or years of posts. In the mean time things are probably going to be looking rather default.