After a slow start, the PlayStation 4 is now seeing much more frequent releases in Japan, which means one thing for you: there are some enticing imports to check out. And unlike the 3DS and Vita (and like the Switch), the platform actually makes it rather painless! Here’s a look at your best options for games you can’t get in the West.
Before we continue, a rundown of the PS4 importing process:
The system’s region-free and digital-friendly. You can play any disc on any system, and unlike the Vita, the PS4 can handle multiple accounts per system. Even if you don’t want to buy games that way, setting up a Japanese PSN account will let you check out demos of some games, and it’s generally worth it. There is that weirdness with mapping the cross and circle buttons differently between regions, but that’s not a big enough deal to bother importing a Japanese PS4. Of course, if you just want that cool Metal Slime edition… well, we get that completely.
Your credit cards won’t work on Japanese PSN. Thankfully, sites like Nippon-Yasan have easily-purchasable PSN credit codes, but… yeah, you’ll have to go through that process, and it’ll cost a bit more than the exchange rate. (That said, the exchange rate’s super-good these days, so it’s not that painful.)
PS4 games are still holding their value (and not that cheap). It’s much easier to jump into imports for a system that is on its way out in Japan rather than one that’s still in high demand, but if you want the newest and shiniest stuff, be prepared to pay. Japanese games regularly retail at $80-100 for standard editions, and that’s especially true about the boutique sorts of games that need a lot of money from a smaller audience to break even. And… then you’re going to have to deal with foreign currency fees and shipping.
Now, to the games!
Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session!
As part of the Taiko Drum Master series’ slow re-emergence in the West, we now have a game with full English menus! Created for the “Asia” market but in all releases of the game, this language-friendliness means you can play the (yes, still all Japanese) songs without memorizing menus or guessing at prompts. Also: did we mention that Taiko is really very good? If you’re unfamiliar with its rhythm gameplay, check out our video of the previous home release. This version has different songs but plays basically identically!
Sengoku Basara 4 Sumeragi
Those in the know generally credit the Sengoku Basara franchise with copying and then improving on the Dynasty Warriors formula (at least in terms of moment-to-moment combat), but the series didn’t sell particularly well in the West and we may not see another localized release. Sumeragi, the enhanced fourth edition of the game, offers a scope of content that isn’t quite Musou-like in nature, but comes a lot closer than many previous installments. If you like the idea of Warriors games but need something that’s a bit of a change of pace, it’s certainly worth a look.
Gundam Breaker 3
With an English-language release in Asia, Gundam Breaker 3 is certainly easy enough to play, but what makes it most appealing is the sheer depth of its model-building tools. You can create mash-ups of whatever you’d like, with a bunch of possible color schemes and paint finishes that will more than satisfy die-hard gunpla fans. Oh, and it’s a fun action game, too!
Daisenryaku Daitouakouboushi 3
The Daisenryaku games aren’t much to look at, but in a world that hasn’t seen a new Advance Wars in almost a decade, they’re there to pick up the pieces in the console turn-based strategy space. While a few of the games have seen release in the West (see Daisenryaku VII on Xbox and PS2), most of the franchise, and SystemSoft Alpha’s catalog as a whole, is import-only. And yeah, it makes sense: the games are crafted on a budget and are often a bit rough to get into. Still, though, if you’re a fan of Wars or Nectaris and want to see what that formula looks like after decades of iteration, you really owe it to yourself to check out a modern title.
The Idolm@ster: Platinum Stars
The idol-raising game has started to make cameo appearances in the West, but its true standard-bearer has seen no such appearances. It’s not the most import-friendly franchise, but this latest entry does its best to put more emphasis on the rhythm and give more enjoyment to those who can only stumble through it with our helpful guide. Read our review of the game for more!
Sengoku Hime 5: Senka Tatsu Haou no Keifu
Sengoku Hime is in the same genre, such as it is, as Eiyuu Senki: conquest strategy surrounded by alternate history and a suspicious number of female warriors. As usual with these games, the console editions edit out the adult content and present themselves as best they can without a major selling point, but if you did like Eiyuu Senki, this seems like the logical next step.
Natsuiro High School Seisyun Hakusyo
This is that game you’ve probably heard about that puts you in the role of a student with a camera and a questionable sense of propriety, then has you shoot enough girls and peek at them enough times that they fall in love with you. Whether you want that is probably something you know already, but it’s safe to assume that no one’s going to want to release this in the West. (Though stranger things have happened.)
Super Robot Wars V
We’ve never gotten a true game in this series in the West due to the massive licensing headaches of all the mecha series involved, but this latest main entry has an English-language “Asia” release and on a platform that’s highly conducive to importing. It also arrives at a time when Western players are more than ready for some SRPG action! Whether or not you’ve played the GBA OG games or the DS spinoff, this one’s a good pickup.
Blade Arcus from Shining EX
It’s rare these days to find an import-only fighting game; after all, they’re relatively easy to localize, and the fighting game community tends to get the word out fairly well about new releases. Still, this one’s likely to stay in Japan: a fighting game spinoff of the Shining series. Blade Arcus uses a take on the accessible fighter formula that’s driven releases like Persona 4 Arena: make sure anyone can pull off cool moves, but still leave some room for mastery. It combines characters from two Japan-only games, Shining Hearts and Shining Blade, which are two of the more well-regarded entries in the franchise’s spotty recent history. This console port is also the definitive version of the game, with up-to-date arcade patches and a few new characters, making it a more enticing proposition than a franchise like BlazBlue, which will inevitably see further updates down the road.
For more helpful advice for budding importers, check out our Guides section.