Exploring Imports on Actual Hardware
You might be wondering why the Nintendo Family Computer is being listed in the "MISC" Section, when it's technically the NES. Well, the reason why is because I'm limiting my exploration to "Foreign Only" releases. Looks like I was a bit late to the party on this one, oh well, that's kind of the usual for me in life anyway.

See, I started getting interested in collecting for the Famicom, or "Nintendo Family Computer", really starts with a amaglamation of multiple things...

  1. First was my encounter with iTSR's NES page back in the late 1990's that listed all kinds of cool stuff that we (in the US) as this thing called "retro Gaming" was just starting out, were just becomeing hep to. It was nuts to think there were floppy disk games, a different Super Mario Bros. 2 release, Castlevania III (Akumajou Densetsu) with extra sound channels...and that's just the very beginning.
  2. I downloaded some kind of 256-in-1 thing (similar to the Sup' 400-in-1 console for NESticle (the popular NES emulator at the time) and saw a lot of cool games on there that I rather well liked. It both introduced me to things from the early "Black Label" era such as Wrecking Crew and Urban Champion, but also to strange outside stuff like Antarctic Adventure (Konami's first game, and quite an awesome and cute release).
  3. I was looking to get all 4 Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior) releases for the NES and could not find IV at a reasonable price, I started looking as early as 1999, I got Dragon Warrior IV for $156 by trading in a huge chunk of my pre-existing collection for it in 2021. I remember being a little cranky because I could not read Japanese but would have loved to play the original Famicom releases as/is, especially the "rougher" looking original Dragon Quest from 1986 with it's unidirectional sprites and less as polished graphics.
  4. The more I explored the Japanese catalog via ROMs on my own, I found a lot of games I liked well before people were importing Famicom games, such as Akumajou Special, Kero Keroppi 1 & 2, Hello Kitty, Star Luster, and so on. These Japanese releases and even some of those wonky hacks found on the xxx-in-1 famiclones and multicarts have some appeal too, such as Warehouse Boy and Lawn Mower (which is like an NES port of the Christopher D. Orr DOS game).

However, years of collecting cartridges like a greedy bastard and then recouping some nice chunks of change from it (not the reason I was collection I might add, it was curiosity what was behind all the games, I've got so many favorites for the NES at this point it's hilarious). So I re-released many of those seldom touched carts and controllers and stuff into the wild, and decided to set some ground rules before taking on this Famicom collecting expedition. This time, I'm following logic, ethics, and trying NOT to drive prices up as much as I can.

First off, I'm a married man with a wife. I don't have time ot be dicking around with Japanese hardware with variacs and weird TV channels I might not get to just to play games on the original Famicom hardware. I also don't need the microphone because I don't plan to be collecting anything like The Legend of Zelda that requires it. Which comes to the next part. My wife is already farily pissed at me every time I do another massive MS-DOS load or another 5 hour afternoon with a soldering iron trying to hotrod some old piece of tech to do something the original designers never intended it to do. So I'm sticking with my trusty "Franken-NES" I've had since's got the NES10 disabled and runs like a champ. I also have a Retron AV in Turquoise and Fuschia as well. My TV setups are a nightmare enough with a retrogamer and a movie buff with an appreciation for old media under one roof.

I'm ignoring all games that were released in the United States, even under an alternate title, except in VERY special cases. Very Special being a situation like Castlevania III/Ajumajou Densetsu once I mod my NES to take audio expansions. There's just no point. So I'm going to rob someone in Japan from the opportunity to a SMB3 cart just because Mario shrinks when hit every time? Nah, I think I'll pass. Dragon Quest MIGHT be another example too, since I'm tempted to learn Japanese, even if a little (I listen to a lot of Japanese rock music like P-Model and Hikashu so it might be nice to actually listen without having to resort to Google Translate on Hirapedia or somewhat), and I'm also a HUGE 8-bit era Dragon Quest fan anyway.

The only releases I'm interesting in importing in their natural format are releases that don't require a lot of text reading. There's a lot of good lists and YouTube videos for this, I've even found some (and rediscovered a few) through the sup-400-in-1 I got last year for my 39th birthday.

However, I might take a dip into reproduction carts for the same reason - Holy Diver would be one of these, as would Gimmick. They are just too expensive for me to justify as a native Famicom release. Other cases might be translations, like Sweet Home, or maybe Dragon Quest, because that could mean foregoing learning a second language as I go over the hill (but hey, what's stopping me, as I quite well like the lyrics as they are translated).

But overall, the goal for me is to get my hands on some games I like for the fun of it that I can't get on regular NES, as I prefer actual hardware, and I have 2 converters. These converters also limit me to "standard sized" carts and maybe Akumajou Special.

Christmas of 2022 I asked for a Famicom adapter I'd found on Amazon, because I was stretching for ideas for xmas presents for myself, and figured "ya' know, I see lots of Famicom import carts on E-bay for dirt cheap, some of them I'd really like, maybe I'll ask for that, and if I get it, it gives me something to look forward to". But then began the ardious process of deciding what Famicom games to import, which brings me to today.

See, I'm not exactly your average "gotta' catch' em' all" "collector" type anymore, I'm more of a refined, mature, 40-something retrogamer who is very discerning and thoughtful about what I want to snag for my collection these days. All too often I would end up with piles and piles of carts I don't want or play. And I don't want to make a nasty impact on the Japanese market or markets elsewhere by snaging their local releases and lessening the pool for nostalgic gamers everywhere else in the world. After all, if it were not for the exclusives in other countries, this page would not exist.

One thing I have that many people looking into this side of retrogaming don't, is a mocodum of electronics skills (IE, I know where to find the mods and how to install them to allow the VRC4 and VRC6 sound expansions on an American NES-001 console so if I chose to get Castlevania III for for Famicom or one of those VRC4 titles - I can have the AWESOME music (not to mention easier playability of the Japanese CV3 release)). So I'm at a benefit. One thing about me and my vintage devices is I like to push them to their limits - consoles included, and the NES has a lot of GREAT potential, including mine becoming a Globetrotting beast. Plus mines the perfect vintage example to do this to, because it's truly a "Frankentendo" anyway, I used THREE NES consoles to build the one I'm currently using, and it's technically only my third NES I've owned in 30 years.

Another thing is I'm tempted to learn at least a little Japanese possibly. I know it's harder, but I was watching a lady on YouTube This morning that explained some of the verbal/pronuounciation differences, and I dunno, despite being of Scandinavian/Scottish/German descent, it made sense to me to see "clipped vowels" as a verbal function in a language. So maybe I could learn this, that'd be nice, I'd LOVE To replay Dragon Warrior in it's original Dragon Quest incarnations (though I'm at a point I could play at least I and IV blind without reading at all, lol). Of course, I always make lofty goals like this and fail - just being brutally honest with myself, but who knows, I end up feeling like I'll do nothing, and then go all-in on it. Go figure. Besides, I have a good teacher in those old P-Model albums I like to listen to.

Anyway, let's move on to talking about Games, and how/what/why/why-not I would procure them. I'm going to start with one's I've played, and move into the ones I have not.
The Games
So, Famicom imports are not all Japanese Exclusives. Of course all the usual suspects existed their, albeit some in altered forms. Things like Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Urban Champion, and whatnot are pretty much the same game we got in the USA. The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros USA/Doki Doki Panic: Dream Factory, Dragon Quest (the first one), Metroid, Castlevania III, and others were released here but in Japan they were either different in a big way (Dragon Quest with it's directional talk menu, uni-directional character sprites, no shoreline, a password system rather than battery backed save, and a racier storyline), The Legend of Zelda on Famicom Disk System with enhanced music and yelling into the 2nd controller microphone to startle an enemy, a double release of Doki Doki Panic: Dream Factory created for some kind of FCI sponsored event in Japan for the Famicom Disk System, later adapted to Cartridge as Super Mario Bros. USA - which we got in the United States as our version of Super Mario Bros. 2 - which speaking of Super Mario Bros. 2......

Now we get the Japanese/Foreign-in-general exclusive games. These are games like Holy Diver (oh hell yes!), Akumajou Special, all the Hello Kitty series games, Star Luster, Milk N' Nuts, Door Door, Shigeru Miyamoto's Devil World, and the list goes on and on and on. But of course, you only need to import SOME of these, and some of them can be quite expensive, like Holy Diver, and some of them are really cheap, like Antarctic Adventure or Star Luster.

Note that I'm reusing some screenshots from my "Sup' 400-in-1" Console here, so if the colors look off or a little goofey, that's why, as I was introduced to even more exclusives on that console! So without further adeiu, let's get this table started......
Screenshot Cartridge Description
Antarctic Adventure (Kekkiyoku Nankyoku Daiboken) - I learned of this game on that old Contra 400-in-1 ROM I downloaded in 2001 to my 486. It was originally a game for the MSX, ported to the Famicom, and later ported to DOS using an MSX Emulator by the "Friend's Network". This is one of my favorite "simple" exclusives. Basically you play as a Penguin (I like to think of him as being Pingu TBH), having a nice little foot-rally around the arctic circles of....Austrailia? Anyway, you jave to jump over holes, avoid Sea Lions, and capture fish that jump out of holes in the ice for high score. I'm seriously considering this one because I know my wife will love it (it's cute), and I like it because it's fun to play and has a "driving sim" quality to it despite you being a Penguin instead of a car. It's also rather inexpensive in Famicom format. As to why it never came over, beats me, maybe because the USA does not hold a revelrance for Penguins that the rest of the planet does?
Devil World - Shigeru Miyamoto - the creator of Zelda and Mario - created this sometime between Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. in 1984. It's rather obvious why this game never made it to the USA, because in the 1980's, we were super conservative as a nation, as we had Ronald Regan in office, a Republican, and thusly, we had the Christian Coalition and 700 Club zealots running around burning records and books by metal bands and anything that so much as uttered the words "Hell", or "Devil" - remember the PMRC kids, and then how Metal Badass Dee Snider SCHOOLED em' without even shedding his metal livery and using a crumpled up piece of college rule paper to read his professional and concise debate to them? So now imagine the Washington Wives when they'd bear witness to a game where you're a chubby little cutesy thing in hell pushing crosses around killing demons as Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodius, Satanas, Lucifer - aka The Devil, looks onward at you screwing up his world. I actually played this my first time on the 400-in-1 and actually found it to be a lot easier and better than I was expecting.....sort of an Auto-Scroll Pac-Man type game.
Akumajou Special: Boku Boku Dracula-Kun (Castlevania Special) - This one is in the YouTUbe video above and I believe was the first one I play in that video. The internet in general seems to have REALLY caught onto playing this one recently, which has driven prices up, but not too badly, at least it's not $225 like some of the other carts I've been seeing. It's also one that would not need a translation for me to enjoy it as/is. That said, it, IMHO, is a bit better than the Castlevania mainline releases. The controls are smoother, the character moves more. As to why this did not come to the states. Well...first off...we boys from the USA were likely not going to want or like this game for it's cutesy factor, we wanted to be the big, tough, older Belmont dude with the whip killing what passes for photorealistic graphics on an NES, not a cute cartoon of Dracula fighting his own minions as a kid. The second don't have to look further than the first boss enemy - a butt plug shaped fatman in a white hooded sheet with a swastika on his forehead - anyone from Alabama or where there's a chapter of blonde, bald, blue-eyed elitists knows for a fact that this is bad juju! I argue you're beating that racist fucktard up! Not supporting him! Actually, kinda makes Kid Dracula pretty badass if you ask me if he's murdering racists.
Kero Kero Keroppi no Daibouken 2 - I played this many times in my time checking out Japanese exclusive releases. This is Kero Kero Keroppi the Frog's game for the Famicom - a part of that whole Hello Kitty/Sanrio universe. Basically it's a cute side scroller centered around the Frog from Sanrio Town, and it plays amazingly well. It has smooth controls, smooth scrolling, and has a feel somewhere between that of Super Mario Bros. 3 and a well put together FNaF Minigame. This one has been on my list for awhile, and it's another cutesy one the fam might enjoy.
Holy Diver - Holy Divahhh! Yes, when I first heard this, I thought it'd be something like an aquamarine version of Devil World, or something. Then I wrote it off for awhile...only to hear later on that this indeed was a METAL game, in the Castlevania vein. Yes, a game revolving around Metal Mythos - where's RazorFist?!? Apparently there are heavy metal music references everwhere including even the title which is both a (Ronnie James) Dio song and album (and one of my personal faves)! C'mon, as a shredder, how can I resist a game with characters named Zakk and Randy? Unfortunatley this one is rare and only available in Japan, and brutally hard, but the METAL of it makes it worth it. I might try playing it first. So it'd be an expensive import. That said, I might pick up the reproduction for the actual NES for $25. And forego the adapter for this one.
Akumajou Densetsu (Castlevania III) - Released in America as "Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse", what is so intriguing about the Japanese release is something I cannot really show you in pictures or text, but rather what you can HEAR! This is one of those games that made use of sound expansion chip, aka, the VRC6, which gives it an audio quality somewhere just a few shades beneath a SoundBlaster card for a PC. The vibe I get is similar to the NEC PC Engine (aka TurboGrafix 16 as we called it in the states). But not only is the audio awesome, but the gameplay is a little easier in this one for some reason, one of the only cases I've ever heard of where Japan made their own stateside games easier than those in America. Got to wonder what Howard Philips thought of that after the whole Super Mario Bros. 2 Japan issue, lol.
Dragon Quest - And just when you thought we were safe of more Dragon Quest 8-bit fanboyism here, I post this. THIS is the ORIGINAL Dragon Quest released for the Famicom in Japan in 1986 - the very beginning. Notice how different the screenshot is from the Dragon Warrior we got in the united states. That's because when it was localized as Dragon Warrior in 1989, Nintendo did a complete overhaul on the Enix original to make it look better. The graphical differences are that character sprites are a little different, and only face the 4th wall - requiring directional navigation for talking to NPCs, and there's no shorelines. Also, the font is different, giving it a bit more of a "stripped down" feel. There is no battery backed save, instead it uses a password system. Pretty neat. Not quite sure I'd want to import it, but tempting being as I'm a huge fan of 8-bit Dragon Quest.