The Quest for a Japanese Xbox 360 Part 2 – The Travails of Importing

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

I’ve gone through this ordeal before, so I am suitably prepared to encounter it again. But man, if there’s one thing that’s always true about importing video games and consoles, there’s always unexpected expenses associated with it. I’ll just use my Japanese PS2 as an example. I believe I purchased it nearly 7-8 years ago; at that time, PS2 consoles cost somewhere in the $150 USD range (at least for the old, bulky model). The cost associated with the Japanese PS2 came to somewhere around $179.99 USD, which seems like a fair mark-up until you consider that they need to ship this box from Asian regions. Play-Asia, the site to which most importers frequent, is located in Hong Kong somewhere, so the shipping costs hit me for somewhere in the $30-40 range. Thankfully, due to a lack of actually customs costs, that’s a relatively cheap example, but things look a bit worse this time around.

As you know, the Xbox 360 all but died upon the release of the Xbox One, although it seems the money is still too good for Microsoft to resist with its core install base. However, in Japan, the system was and continues to be on life support; nobody is buying a new Xbox 360 in Japan, that much is for sure. As such, import shops know that the only people purchasing those systems derive from non-Asian countries, and mark up their prices accordingly. A new Japanese Xbox 360 will set you back $299.99 from just about any shop that sells it; most carriers also don’t want to deal with the risk of having it break in shipping, so prepare to pay $50+ for express shipping to your country of origin – more outside the United States, I suspect! Imagine that, $350 dollars for a dead system; I would NOT consider that a good deal.

As such, I’ve thrown my lot into the second-hand Japanese Xbox 360 market, which presents some rather slim pickings. Certainly there’s tons of them in Japan, but shipping them out ends up with the same shipping debacle as previous. No, we need something in the United States already, preferably as late a model as possible. Remember that the Xbox 360 came with lots of fun technical hurdles – namely, the Red Ring of Death, among other console manufacturing problems. I had my own RROD sometime in the fall of 2009, and my North American Xbox 360 runs fine since its repair via Microsoft (I’m pretty sure it’s an original model, the notorious one, so even taking good care of the Xbox did not prevent a problem!). As such, I need to search for a reliable model, one that won’t break on me; if it does, then I’m down a hundred or more dollars, at the very least, with a bunch of games I can’t play.

Scared yet? Nah! If you do the research for these sorts of weird purchasing projects, you’re usually fine. Finding that balance between price and function presents difficulties, of course, but you can certainly save a lot of trouble just via research. Just for example, you can actually get a reliable old-model Xbox 360 using a few simple tricks. See, in the early days of the Xbox 360, it actually has a different looking power connection, seen here:

Xbox360_Model_Guide

To put it simply, the first model chipset (called the Xenon, with a later revision of the Zephyr) often ended up with the RROD due to power consumption. The second model, Falcon, alleviated this somewhat with a lower voltage, among other factors. Still, that didn’t fix the problems of the Xbox 360 in its entirety, as plenty of the consoles continued to fail. However, circa late 2008, Microsoft finally solved the problem with the release of the Jasper chipset, which exists as the most reliable old Xbox model. Trouble is, how do you figure out the difference? One way comes via power cord inputs, which you can see above (apparently, I have a refurbished Xenon or Zephyr, though my bet is on the latter since I received my Xbox in late 2006). The more reliable way derives via the voltage output:

jasper_find

And there you go, the lowest voltage out of the lot remains the most reliable one. Of course, one could just as easily go for a later model Xbox and avoid those problems altogether, an admirable goal. The Slim and E models contain their own problems, even if they don’t reach the heights of extraordinary failure rates like their older model cousins. I’ve heard plenty of stories of failed disc drives, among other follies; that said, they probably will last longer if I had to take a guess. At the same time, such models will set you back quite a bit in terms of money, considering that importers and eBay sellers alike know people will jump for the latest model first. If you’re searching for used models, you also need to consider whether or not it comes with accessories (the S and E models use completely different power supplies, and also hard drives, than the older one), which all creep up the cost.

Honestly, I don’t exactly know what route I will take at this juncture. I don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount, but I also don’t want an Xbox 360 that dies immediately upon use. It’s a tough situation, to be sure, and the actual solution has not yet presented itself in all my scouring of the Internet. More than likely, it will come down to a monetary cost that seems reasonable to me, and that’s truly based on first-hand experience, budget, and subjectivity more than anything else. Even so, I’m glad I accrued all this useless knowledge – it’s always a better idea to plan and figure things out, rather than to act like a fool. That goes especially for the possibility of faulty electronics, which I’m sure most early adopters know full well!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • Bradley Erickson

    I have an import Japanese console from the first year. It surprisingly actually still works.

    I was curious, though, are you just buying for the shmups? I have Chromehounds and a few other games, but I haven’t found much else that’s great. I thought the original Xbox games were much cooler, like Metal Wolf Chaos.

    If you end up with one and find some neat games, I hope you share them!

    • Zachery Oliver

      Mostly my objective is to buy lots of shmups. I suppose this is just me, but 1. I like physical media 2. I don’t know how many of these games will reach America, even via Steam (the CAVE Steam announcement does not dissuade me) 3. I fear the time when the digital licenses run out on some of these things, so I like to keep my options open.

      It’s unfortunate with the region-locking of certain games and all!

      • Sapphire Densetsu

        On the topic of the Cave steam announcement, they’re probably going to be porting every game they developed against the M2 DirectX SDK (so every 360 port excepting DOJBLEX and Ketsui, and those will probably be handled separately for PC ports as well since 5pb/MAGES has also signed on to port their titles to PC and publish through Degica). In addition, the first port will probably be either Futari (nice infamous game to ease people into the genre, has that sort of Crimzon Clover appeal to it), or Mushihimesama HD (same kind of deal, just with better music and much less annoying VA). More likely it’s going to be Mushi HD, since Degica mentioned on Twitter that it’ll be one of Softdrink’s favorite games.

        On a related note, what’s your opinion on the upcoming Eschatos PC port?

        –Sapphire

        • Zachery Oliver

          I’m very happy to actually see any of these games on Steam at all, really. Any kind of presence is better than none, after all! The convenience alone is incentive enough for me, doubly so if they include some of the obscure first-print DLC.

          That said, I already made the 360 jump already for Ketsui (picked up the limited edition for a reasonable price), and I’m just looking for a reasonable copy of DDP:DOJ on 360. I already own the PS2 version, but I feel the need for HD and relative convenience (MAME is ok, I guess). My current monitor is not taking too kindly to the PS2’s 480i, for whatever reason! Also, it doesn’t hurt that my PS2 Hori seems to be malfunctioning.

          Do you think it’s going to be the original Mushihimesama? I’m honestly not sure at this point which one would be the most accessible. Obviously it’s probably NOT a Donpachi game by any means, but one never knows when it comes to CAVE and the West. So far, it’s been Deathsmiles and Akai Katana, neither of which would have been my first choice.

          As for the upcoming Eschatos port, I’m somewhat torn between going for the Wonder Pack (since Ginga Force hasn’t been announced for Steam yet, though it probably will appear) and simply buying it outright. I’m curious about the pricing, since the Steam listing is up but there’s no price as of yet (I’d guess $14.99 USD, but you never know).

          • Sapphire Densetsu

            According to Twitter, base game will be priced at 1490 yen and DLC will be priced at 548 yen per. So between that, and Blackbird mentioning that the deluxe pack will discount the price of Judgement Silversword as DLC from the overall purchase price, I’m going to estimate $15 or there about.

            Anyways, on the Cave games, yeah, they’ll probably be localizing one of their vertical titles first, as those are the ones that everyone knows Cave for, and the ones that have the most pent up demand in the West. In any case, the actual title announcement could be as early as tomorrow. And as a final note on ports, you probably don’t want DOJBLEX. Even with the patch, it’s still completely messed up compared to MAME or Arika’s WL port. Ketsui is fine though. In any case, I’d just hold out for the inevitable PC announcement and enjoy it through MAME in the meantime.

            –Sapphire