One of the most annoying parts of collecting and playing videogames, especially years ago, was that if you wanted to pick up an exclusive game from Japan, you had to go ahead and purchase an entirely new system in order to play said game. Being a huge Dragon Quest fan, and also a fan of Shmups, importing was a must. If you owned a Sega Saturn for example, importing was pretty much the only way to have any fun with the system. Ok that’s a bit of a stretch, but there were so many more great Saturn games released in Japan compared to North America. Back then if you wanted to get into the import scene, you had no choice but to purchase a console from the region you were looking to import from. Sure you could modify your console, but that only really picked up during the PS1/2 era. Thankfully for Saturn fans we had an alternative in the form of a memory cart that removed the region lock.
As someone who has heavily imported in the past, the news that both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox One will have no region locks whatsoever has been tremendous. Will it mean I’ll race out and start buying thousands of Japanese games, not likely because the market just isn’t what it used to be. That said, the option is there if I decide I eventually want to import something.
When looking at Nintendo, I’m not surprised in the least that their home consoles are region locked, because they’ve always been. With carts we used to be able to pick up converters and whatnot to bypass the lock, but once they went to discs it became a little more complex. My launch model GameCube is actually modded to play import games because during those days Japan would get so many classic Nintendo games before North America, so it was completely worth it. With the Wii I never bothered to import anything as I wasn’t the biggest fan of the system, so no loss there. As of right now there’s not too much I’d import for the Wii U either. The only game I’m interested in for the Wii U is Dragon Quest X, but that would have only been for the site, not for personal pleasure as it’s an MMO and requires a subscription.
So while it’s not the end of the world the Wii U is region locked, I can’t figure out why their portables are. The fact the the 3DS is completely region locked makes no sense to me. It’s a portable, and portables should never have region locks on them. The whole point of these systems is that you take them with you. If I’m in Japan, why should I be forced to buy an entirely new system instead of a game or two I’m interested in? The funny thing is all previous Nintendo portables were region free. The DS started region locks for downloadable software, which locked software based on your IP if I remember correctly. I was still able to import Dragon Quest IX and was easily able to finish the whole game, and even write an import play test without importing a brand new DS.
So why is it that the 3DS is region locked? If someone can explain it to me I’d greatly appreciate it, because I’d really love to import the Dragon Quest VII remake. There’s been no mention at all about the game coming to North America, and it looks awesome. Check out these two commercials for the game.