Multitap: Spice up your game nights with these imports

February 6, 2013


Import games and party play don’t usually mix, generally because the language barrier, while surmountable, is less easily done by you and all your friends simultaneously. Even still, there are some great local multiplayer games that just never made U.S. shores, and here are some we think are most worth checking out. You just may need to go… a bit further from the mainstream to get there.

A bit more import work: Dream Mix TV World Fighters, Tales of Rebirth

If you’re looking for something relatively recent but want to play something locally, it’s not uncommon to have to go back one generation before the online-only onslaught. Unfortunately, the PS2 (and, in the case of Dream Mix TV World Fighters, the GameCube) isn’t region-free, so to play it legally, you’ll need a Japanese console. Still, though, these are two you should consider. Dream Mix TV was the first real attempt at replicating the Smash Bros. formula, and it does so with an unorthodox roster mashing up Konami, Hudson and Takara properties. There are a few higher-tier characters in the mix, like Bomberman, Megatron and Solid Snake, but it doesn’t take long for the roster to get super-obscure. Still, though, that’s a lot of the game’s appeal. (Can’t import? Yeah, just stick with Super Smash Bros. Melee.)

Tales of Rebirth is an interesting import option, though at least one player really needs to know a decent amount of Japanese to navigate the game’s narrative. Arguably the most prominent Tales game to miss a Western release, it’s a standalone game with a distinct aesthetic and a battle system that harkens back to the series’ early days. Modern releases like Tales of Graces f are a bit more accessible, but if you’ve navigated one English release with a group and had fun, you may be ready for the next step. (Can’t import? The closest you’ll get is probably Tales of Legendia, another PS2 release with a small following.)


Go retro: Super Puyo Puyo Tsuu Remix, Battle Cross

The Super NES plays Super Famicom cartridges, if you’re willing to snip a bit of plastic off your hardware. Take advantage of it with some SFC imports, which are relatively cheap these days and just as fun. A great entry point? Puyo Puyo. We’ve gotten many Western installments of the game, both under the Puyo Pop name and in licensed form (like Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Kirby’s Avalanche). Unfortunately, we didn’t get a solid party-play installment. Remix adds variety and four-player competition to the mix, and is by far the most accessible game on this list. Puyo is the prototypical Japanese puzzle game, designed for competition rather than solo play, and as a result it works much better in this format than something like Tetris.  (Can’t import? Dr. Mario 64 may scratch the same itch, but if you want true Puyo, try download play on the DS’ Puyo Pop Fever.)

Would you rather go for a racing game? Why not try Battle Cross? (Actually, here’s why: it’s a bit hard to find, even on eBay.) The game takes cues from both Super Off-Road and Mario Kart, making a single-screen racer with items and boosts. It’s almost the Bomberman of racing games, both in presentation and in play, and can really get you playing for hours.  (Can’t import? The Top Race mode in Kirby Air Ride takes many of the same cues.)


Gather the handhelds: Taiko no Tatsujin DS, Jump! Ultimate Stars

While it’s simply not practical to ask three friends to import the same game, Download Play does open up the option for DS multiplayer with just one purchase. The Taiko Drum Master series didn’t really catch on in the U.S. (bad timing?), but party rhythm games can be a lot of fun if done right, and Taiko usually is. The series has fun song selections, from game tracks to classical to weird J-pop, and it fits right in with any “let’s play weird Japanese games” plans.  (Can’t import? The Donkey Konga games were very, very similar, and if you manage to track down four bongo controllers, it really can’t be beat by any Taiko.)

One of the more infamous “stuck in Japan due to licensing reasons” games is Jump! Ultimate Stars (and the earlier Jump! Super Stars), a mash-up fighter of many top-tier manga franchises. It looks similar to Smash Bros. at first glance, but the mechanics add a lot more customization. You equip teams and support moves by placing them into a screen-sized comic frame, and better pieces are larger. The story includes some interesting game types (though if you don’t know Japanese, figuring out your goals is trial-and-error), but the multiplayer modes are much more straightforward. It’s a large, polished game, and a heck of a lot of fun.  (Can’t import? A One Piece-only game with similar gameplay was released in English… in Europe. Bleach: Dark Souls isn’t exactly the same, but could be fun for a similar group.)