One of my favorite games of all time is Parasite Eve. The story, scary atmosphere, combat, weapons, abilities, everything about it was awesome. So naturally, I was super excited to play the sequel, which I bought off eBay in college. I got the Japanese version because I was studying Japanese and was kinda hoping it would work on my Playstation (of course it didn’t). So I held onto it for years until I finally bought a PS2 while living in Japan. Man, what a let down. The worst part of the game was the awful Resident Evil style movement. The only other game with a sequel almost as inferior is Chrono Cross.
Anyway, now that I can read Japanese, I’m thinking of replaying classics like Chrono Trigger and ones I missed like Mother 2 (Earthbound) in its original form. However, figuring out what game is available and in what language is a big chore and often times confusing.
For example, the JP version of Chrono Trigger for the DS has both English and Japanese. But apparently, they removed the Japanese in the US version. Yes, they went out of their way to remove something already in the game for the US release. I guess because of the strong yen?
Nintendo loves to region lock and everything is locked down except for handhelds up to the DS lite. Unfortunately, that was too consumer-friendly so the newer handhelds such as DSi and 3DS are now region-locked. I guess it makes sense because their last region-free system did terrible (ie, fastest-selling handheld game console of all time).
Thankfully, Sony has seen the light as their products starting from the PS3 and PSP are region-free, which means you don’t have to buy one for each region. However, they have really started to lock down digital content on the Vita, a worrying trend. One annoying problem with Sony is that they switched the X and O buttons around for the US? WHY??? Sometimes with a Japanese game on a US console, you have to press X to confirm until you start the game. Then you have to switch to O until you go to save or quit. Then you have to switch back to using X. Argh!!!
Even with region free systems, while some games support both Japanese and English, unfortunately for the most part, you still have to import the game to play it in Japanese. Some games have dual audio options but don’t allow changing the text which is bizarre to me. In the end, it’s a big and confusing mess so here’s a list of some games you can play in Japanese WITHOUT having to import it from Japan.
Games with full Japanese support
If you have any games that have Japanese language option, please let me know! I like to play games in their original language (English games in English) so I’m more interested in games made in Japan that have dual languages.
Phantasy Star Online 2 (PC)
F2P MMO with an option to pay for items. Fans have been clamoring for a US release forever but not a problem for us since we want to practice Japanese! You need to register for a Sega ID and go through all that hassle (or good reading practice if you’re thinking positively). But once you’re signed up, there’s no region lock so just download (takes forever) and play!
If you’re a SMT series fan, you should definitely try this free MMORPG.
sweet ampoule (Android/iOS)
This developer has a bunch of Visual Novels on Android and iOS for free (yay!). I’m not sure what’s in it for them as I’ve played one (briefly) and haven’t seen any ads or anything of the sort and the reviews look good.
True Remembrance (PC)
More free visual novels. You can download TRUE REMEMBRANCE and 送電塔のミメイ for your PC.
- Imaginary Range
And also Imaginary Range Ep.2. This is a free interactive comic with various mini-games and items hidden inside the comic. You can change the language to Japanese by changing your phone’s language to Japanese. If your phone doesn’t have Japanese as an option (mine didn’t), you can install this app to force it.
Not sure about the iOS version. Let me know if you’ve tried have it to verify.
- Tokyo Alice
Another free visual novel. Haven’t tried it yet. Will update with more details when I get around to it.
- Akemi Tan, Mad Father, Aooni
Some indie, free horror games. Brrr. Scary.
Strange, surreal game but not a lot of text so might want to skip.
Not free (shucks)
Killer is Dead
The language is shown as supporting both text and audio in Japanese.
Resident Evil Revelations (PC/3DS)
In the PC version, text and audio can be changed to Japanese in settings. 3DS as well though it is region-locked. Haven’t confirmed other platforms.
Asura’s Wrath (PS3)
I just got this game so I can’t say much about it except that it does have full Japanese voice and text. But I read somewhere that you have to pay extra (DLC) to get the true ending…. ugh…
Resonance of Fate (PS3)
The text will be in Japanese if your console’s language is set to Japanese. You can select the language for voices between English and Japanese.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (PS3)
Allows choosing between English and Japanese voices, as well as, a larger list of languages for the game text. I just started playing and it looks good for the price. My first annoyance is that ship has too many screen transitions so it takes forever to get around.
The Last Remnant (PC)
The PC version (not Xbox 360) has both Japanese voice and text options. I only played the very beginning. The graphics are pretty good but the dialogue seems slightly out of synch. Might be just a config issue. You can probably get it for a great price if you wait for a steam sale.
Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy and the sequel Half Minute Hero: The Second Coming (PC)
Called 勇者30 and 勇者30 Second on the PSP. I got the first one on sale for $5.99. The Japanese text uses too much Hiragana for my tastes (no spoken dialogue) but it is strangely entertaining.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3 & Xbox 360?)
I’ve only tested the two but most of the Ninja Gaiden series seems to be dual-language. Need to set your console’s language to Japanese.
Need to set your console’s language to Japanese. This kind of game is better in English anyway given the setting and genre but I listed it anyway. Have not tried 2 and 3 yet.
- Soul Calibur IV and Soul Calibur V (PS3 & Xbox 360*)
I have the PS3 version of Soul Calibur IV and it has full Japanese support. According to a comment, the same goes for Soul Calibur V.
*For XBox 360, according to play-asia, only the US version is region free. So don’t buy the Japanese or Asian version and expect it to work on a US console.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger (PS3)
Has Japanese audio/text if the console’s language is set to Japanese.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (PS3)
This game apparently has Japanese audio and 4 options for the text: English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. The limited edition is cheap on Amazon so might be worth checking out.
Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PS3 & Xbox 360?)
Continuing with fighting games, Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has Japanese subtitles if you set your console’s language to Japanese at least for PS3. (Not sure about XBox 360 version though it’s likely the same).
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (PS3 & Xbox 360*)
Lets you change both the text and audio to Japanese via options.
*For XBox 360, according to play-asia, only the US version is region free. So once again, avoid the Japanese version unless you have a Japanese console.
This game has options to change both the voice and text. Sega in generally has been awesome in this regard. Thanks, Sega!!
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (PS3/Xbox 360)
This game doesn’t have full Japanese support but it does allow you to change the voice and subtitles to Japanese for the cut-scenes. The option to change subtitles is at least better than most other titles.
I only have the PS3 version so not sure about the 360 version.
This game can be configured to run in Japanese by right-clicking and selecting “Properties” from your steam library. You will then see a tab labeled “Language” where you can set it to Japanese.
Chantelise – A Tale of Two Sisters (PC)
Steam shows this game to have Japanese for both the interface and full audio.
Fragile Dreams (Wii)
The Wii is region locked but if you have one already for the US-region, this game apparently has both Japanese audio and text.
Pokémon X and Y (3DS)
Though the 3DS is region-locked, if you already own one anyway, you might want to pick this up for Japanese practice as it apparently supports 7 languages. However, it doesn’t use a lot of Kanji as it’s targeted for kids.
Persona 4 Arena (PS3/Xbox 360)
I almost didn’t want to list this on principle because it’s the ONLY region-locked PS3 game. I mean, like the ONLY ONE. It’s lame that they decided to use region-lock but the small consolation is that they didn’t feel scared about putting full Japanese support thanks to the region lock. The content is identical across regions so as long as you buy the game to match your console, it will have full Japanese support.
- Square Enix titles on Google play (and maybe iOS?)
I was able to get Japanese on several Square Enix titles by changing my Android’s phone language to Japanese including Final Fantasy 5 and Final Fantasy Dimensions. (Chaos Ring also has a language option right in the game). The same might be the case for iOS but I don’t have one to test. Let me know if you happen to have a copy of any Square Enix games on iOS.
If your Android phone doesn’t have Japanese as an option (mine didn’t), you can install this app to force it.
Interface labeled as supporting Japanese. Appears to be text only.
- One Way Heroics
Interface labeled as supporting Japanese. Appears to be text only.
Here’s some more I haven’t verified from this link
Devil May Cry 4
Little Big Planet
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Street Fighter 4
Digital releases that are download-only don’t come with any physical packaging and so require almost no distribution costs. So we should be able to buy all sorts of stuff from Japan right? After all, it’s just virtual 0s and 1s that speed across intercontinental fibre optic cables. Not so fast. Turns out companies still want to control distribution channels across regions, virtual or not. So here’s the breakdown of the usual jumbled mess of various policies and schemes.
Here are the list of games that have some degree of Japanese support. Steam now has a very helpful matrix that tells you whether the game’s interface, audio, and subtitles are in a certain language so make sure to check for full Japanese support by looking at both the interface and full audio. What’s baffling are games that were made in Japan like Ys I & II Chronicles+ have absolutely zero Japanese support (though you can hack some of them by messing with some files). Shame on you, XSEED.
While the consoles are region-free, your PSN account is not. You must select Japan as your region when creating your PSN account and it cannot be changed. You also cannot buy games on the Japanese store without a Japanese credit card or Japanese PSN cards. You can buy the latter on various sites but expect to pay extra for the service.
However, once you purchase a game, you can play it on your console for any user on the PS3 and PSP. So for example, I have a US and Japanese PSN account on my PS3 using two different email addresses. Once I purchase a game on one, I can install and play it on the other. However, oddly enough, avatars are tied to the PSN account so even though I downloaded some cool free avatars on my Japanese account, I can’t use it for my US account. There’s no way I’m paying money for those things so oh well…
The one big exception is the PS Vita which Sony has started to really lock down via updates. What you purchase from PSN has to match the account on the Vita and you can only switch accounts by doing a system reset on the machine. It’s really just unnecessary hassle which you can get around so I really don’t see the point of all this.
There are also some imports you can buy directly from the US store!
- Nintendo eShop
The advantage of region-lock means that if you have a Japanese 3ds or Wii U, you can buy Japanese games using a US credit card. Buyer beware though, Nintendo’s DRM policy is apparently very strict and you can only have ONE copy of the game on ONE system. So you know how you can play PSN classics on either the PS3, PSP, or PS Vita? So like, wouldn’t it be cool if you can buy a digital copy of Mother 2 on the virtual console and play it on the 3ds? Fuhgeddaboudit.
If you’re a PC gamer you can search by language on Steam. http://store.steampowered.com/search/#supportedlang=japanese&advanced=0&sort_order=ASC&page=1
Not all of the games in the results have full audio support for Japanese but the store pages do mention if that is the case.
If you already own any of the games you can change the language by right-clicking it in your Steam library, going to properties, language and then selecting Japanese.
Whoops, this would have been a better link since it shows actual games, not trailers and dlc too.
Awesome, thanks for the link! I generally prefer to play games in the original language so games like Borderlands 2, I usually just stick with English.
The US Chrono Trigger for the DS does not have Japanese available, unfortunately.
I’m a Nintendo guy, so I have to endure the region-locking crap. I have a Japanese 3DS and have bought a couple of games through the eShop (ブレイブリーデフォルト and NSMB2). It’s nice to be able to download a game in a few hours, rather than pay high shipping costs and wait days for the game to arrive. I imagine you can do the same with the PS3, PSP, and Vita, right? What are some good games for learning Japanese on those systems?
Argh, why did they go out of their way to take out something already in the game?!
Good idea on buying game downloads. I might check it out though I usually only buy used or discounted games.
I don’t own a PSP or Vita but for PS3, I haven’t yet played a must-have game. I have a bunch of so-so RPGs like Tales of Xillia.
The reason why Japanese language support in foreign copies of media is so sporadic is simply a consequence of how bloody protective Japanese media companies are of their domestic markets, who pay more than everybody else for media (at least in terms of list price/MSRP). A lot of people will import the cheaper US versions if it has the Japanese audio tracks available, so licensors tend to demand really stupid provisions like not being able to turn the subtitles off.
In fact, often times a lack of region coding is used as an excuse to withhold Japanese audio tracks from foreign markets. For example, Deadman Wonderland on DVD has English and Japanese audio tracks, while the Blu-Ray version only has the English dub. A few other anime (like Persona 4’s anime) published by the same company (Kadokawa) got similar restrictions. The reason, so far as I can tell, is that DVD segregates America and Japan into separate regions while Blu-Ray does not.
Also, technically, Sony’s products aren’t entirely region free. Most recently I heard there was a Japanese demo for MGS Rising that could be downloaded to an American PS3 but not played on one. The difference between Sony (and Microsoft)’s approach to regions and Nintendo’s is that Sony and Microsoft leave that decision up to the publisher while Nintendo outright refuses to allow region-free games on their locked platforms.
It would be nice if they had upfront labeling about the language options available in their products, but I get the feeling that media companies would prefer if nobody on the planet spoke multiple languages and never moved out of their own country.
Well, all PS3 games were region-free til recently. I think Persona 4 Arena is the first to region-lock. I guess it’s better having to import rather than everything being region-locked.
But seriously, why can’t there be a label for supported languages?
Borderlands 2 (PC/360)
Resistance 2 (PS3)
Infamous 2 (PS3)
Alan Wake (360)
Binary Domain (360)
All play in Japanese if your console is set to Japanese. (Borderlands 2 PC language can be changed from the launcher)
I played both Virtue’s Last Reward (善人シボウです) and Time Travelers (same title) in Japanese on my Vita and they were great. I’m currently playing Professor Layton VS Ace Attorney on my JP 3DS, and it’s pretty good, too.
I’ve completely given up on finding US-market games with Japanese in them. There are so very few that have it, and it’s just much less headache to simply import.
If only I could find reliable and safe JP PSN cards that are barely above retail, instead of 50% markup, I’d be happy. Why can’t they be like Nintendo and just let me use my US credit card?
Very nearly any Xbox Live Arcade/Playstation Network downloadable game will switch to Japanese if your console language is set to it. Yes, even games that were not developed originally in Japan.
I’ve found most recent disc-based console games tend to have the original text as an option. Resonance of Fate, Persona 4 Arena, Bayonetta, Nier, Lost Odyssey, etc.
So does Resonance of Fate and Nier (PS3) have both Japanese text and audio? I have Bayonetta and it only has English voices (though I believe that’s the case for all versions). I hate that I have to buy it first to find these things out.
Ok, I ordered Resonance of Fate. According to the reviewers on Amazon, it’s the same as the Japanese version.
Nier on the other hand is only English audio. Only Nier Replicant has Japanese audio (so confusing).
Yeah, Bayonetta never had a Japanese vocal track recorded for it, much like Resident Evil, Godhand, etc. etc.
Nier is an interesting case in that the version we got in the US was targeted specifically at Western audiences, while Nier Replicant replaced the burly father main character with a waifish pretty boy brother main character in order to get sales in the JP marketplace. They’re still effectively the same game, though.
A few years ago I bought 二ノ国 for DS. Japanese text with furigana, a few scenes made by Ghibli with Japanese voices, and a full 352-page book in Japanese (with furigana too) including easy short stories. Yeah, it was worth it.
Yeah, I’m totally going to buy the PS3 import unless the US version has full Japanese support. I guess it’s not out yet in the US…
In regards to the steam comments, simply setting your steam UI to Japanese will set games to that language by default if they are capable. A lot of the games don’t list Japanese support but in fact do have Japanese translations.
Fragile Dreams for the Wii has an option to switch both the audio track and game language to Japanese.
Looks like a cool game. If the Wii was region free, I would totally get it along with the Wii.
The Wii is region free if you take the time to soft mod it. There is homebrew to backup retail discs to a hard drive and from there patch the iso so it plays just fine. In this case, it will actually play faster since its reading from the hard drive instead of disc too.
What Anon said! I have the homebrew apps for my Wii which allow me to play games from the HDD. Works great and allows Japanese games to be played. I ripped my disc-based games and put them on the HDD, so now I’ve got my whole Wii collection all in one place–no more swapping out discs to play different games. Genius!
二ノ国 on the PS3 is great! I had it imported and I’m loving the furigana above pretty much everything. Also the US version of Soul Calibur 5 can show Japanese text if you change the system language, and the voices can be changed in the game.
Thanks, I’ll add it to the list. Is it the case for both Xbox and PS3?
Yes, I have a friend that has SC5 on the Xbox 360 and he says he can get it all in Japanese.
The Yakuza series (2-4 and Dead Souls) has Japanese audio and English subtitles as a default. I did learn a few words from it and you see a lot of Japanese cultural elements in it too. Too bad the release for Yakuza 5 in the states seems a bit bleak at the moment.
Yes, a lot of games (particularly Atlus games) do that but for someone who can understand Japanese, I find it annoying that I have to read dialogue that doesn’t have audio in English. This design choice is plainly catering to people who want Japanese audio but can’t actually read Japanese otherwise they would add subtitles for both languages.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen for the 360 and PS3 has Japanese text and voice options. I also have Soul Calibur V on Xbox and it does have Japanese text & voice support.
Sweet, that’s great to hear. I’ll have to pick it up when I have the chance.
Disgaea 1-4 on the PlayStation let’s you change the voices to Japanese in the options. Text is still in English, though.
Also, there are some mentionable Freeware games out there for PC users which have originally been created in Japanese.
Guardian of Paradise (along with some other’s):
English Patch: http://agtp.romhack.net/project.php?id=rakuga
Haven’t played this one because I actually don’t understand Japanese. However it looks fun.
Additionally you might also want to check out this thread: http://www.hongfire.com/forum/showthread.php/52951-Freeware-games-from-Japan
Nice, I’ll have to check it out sometime.
Oh, man. I’m jealous! Your NDS SMTIV is so beautiful!
I like tales of vesperia and I think you should try it out. The game is a ps3 , xbox 360 game. But the ps3 game has a version exclusive character important to the game. It is both in Japanese and English.
I just wanted to confirm that the 3DS version of Resident Evil Revelations has the option for Japanese audio and subtitles. I was actually under the impression that the PC version wouldn’t have it. It’s actually the first game I started playing in Japanese!
I’m not sure if the 360 or PS3 versions have the option, though.
Yes, I was pleasantly surprised that the PC version included Japanese. Not so much for the 3ds since it is region-locked. I wonder for the 360 or PS3 versions.
Actually, you don’t need to buy the Japanese import of a 3DS. Though, it’s true the 3DS is region-locked, the NA release of Resident Evil Revelations does indeed have audio, and subtitle options included for Japanese as well as German, and a few other languages I can’t remember.
That’s what I meant. No need for importing on this one!
Curious, what didn’t you like about Chrono Cross? I absolutely LOVED that game! I thought the story was solid, music was fantastic, and the graphics were great too.
I think it was mostly because I was expecting a sequel to Chrono Trigger and it also seemed to have too many random characters not fleshed out. I plan to try it again sometime since it seems to have good reviews but at the time it was totally disappointing.
I definitely recommend giving it another chance and (without spoiling the story) it actually IS a sequel to Chrono Trigger, but it’s not apparently until some time into the game. If/when you do, let me know how you like it! 🙂 I’ve played it three times and even imported the soundtrack because I loved the music so much (that was way before you could download video game MP3s for free).
BTW, I LOVE your complete guide to learning Japanese. For the first time in my self-studies, I finally really understand the difference between the wa and ga particles. Your explanations make SO much more sense than every other resource I’ve looked at. Thank you so much!!
Parasite eve JAP version have english?
No, it doesn’t.
With M4DS, you can bypass the region locking. If you buy the game, it’s technically legal, as well.
I have no idea what that is.
Tom again, and I wanted to mention a few things. First, I was looking for how to play Corpse Party, and found out that it was only released in the West as a digital download from the PSN for the PSP, but once I downloaded it, I was surprised to find that it actually contained Japanese audio, however, there are no options for Japanese subtitles or interface, so it’s purely audio only. Interestingly enough, there are no English voice overs.
Second, Tomb Raider technically has a download for Japanese audio on Steam, but for some reason it is very hard to find and purchase, and I had to do it through a normal browser vs the Steam App for whatever reason. You also have to spend money on it.
Anyway, those are few extra options if you’re not looking for directly importing games for Japanese audio.
Basically they are trying to region lock Tomb Raider Japanese audio because it’s supposed to be Japan only. I’m surprised you were able to get it.
Games I know of with Japanese audio and text support:
Demon Gaze – US release – Vita (a first person dungeon crawler by Experience) Bravely Default – US release – 3DS (turn based fantasy RPG by Square Enix)