Today, I am here to make a (not) special little post about why you should never buy legit games from China, and you should instead pirate the hell away if you ever find yourself interested in a Chinese game. In fact, the only time when you should buy a game from China is when you are interested more in the limited edition goodies than the game, because those are actually worth your money. (Note: I am generally in support of buying my games if possible, so I’m clearly making an exception here.)
All right, maybe I’ve just been playing the wrong games, as made-in-China PC ports of console games don’t exactly sound like the smoothest-running products, but if they’re going to try the whole porting business and release fabulous limited edition bonuses worth more than the game itself, they might as well make sure the game works well. Perhaps domestically made PC games will run and install better, but who knows? I have a copy of 仙剑奇侠传5 lying around from my trip to China, but I have not installed that yet. I have tried installing several other games though, and the experience is as far away from painless as you can get.
My first Chinese PC games were the Sora no Kiseki trilogy, a giant box consisting of all three games and bonus goodies like a guidebook and keychains. While FC and SC installed and played fine, The Third required activation. The process seemed simple enough: you enter the code and press activate, it connects to the server, and bam, you can play the game! Unfortunately, the game seems to be too old, and was unable to connect to the activation servers. Let’s ignore the fact that the trilogy release was quite new when I bought it, and not having support of a re-release of an older game is like a big “fuck you” to newcomers. I thought “ok, maybe this isn’t working because I’m connecting from overseas,” but Chinese users seemed to experience the same problem too, and suggested looking for a nodvd patch even if you have the legit copy of the game. I searched for it, and guess what I found? The nodvd patch! On the FUCKING OFFICIAL FORUMS OF THE PUBLISHER! After clicking though countless download links that provided the entire game cracked! So rather than trying to fix its servers, Gamebridge (that’s the Chinese publisher who I am going to mention many times in this post) just goes “yeah, do what the pirates do.”
Then the next game I got from them was Zero no Kiseki. This game, being a new release when I got it, activated and worked just fine. I beat the game without ever resorting to any patches or saying “fuck it, I’m playing the patched PSP version instead.” The problem is that the game’s DRM is nasty as hell, allowing you to install the game on one computer at a time. Want to install on a different computer? Better uninstall and deactivate from the computer you installed the game on. It didn’t sound so bad, until my laptop ceased to function and I bought a new one, while recovering my old hard drive (as an external hard drive) and data. So I booted up Zero no Kiseki, and voila! The activation screen pops up again! And the code that came with my game didn’t work, because I had already used it on my old computer which died before I could uninstall, because I totally knew that computer was going to die. Good thing I beat the game before bidding farewell to my old laptop.
Okay, so I have not played through Zwei II yet, but I managed to install it fine and it didn’t seem to require any activation (just need disk in disk drive). It seems like Gamebridge did it right, but I have not actually played through the game, so I have no idea if any problems are going to crop up in the middle of gameplay. Also from Gamebridge is Memories Off 6 (which came in the same Amazon bundle as Zwei II, as well as two other games that I have not touched yet). While that game installed fine and plays fine, Gamebridge was too cheap to pay for the license for the voice acting, so we have the entire visual novel with the voices stripped. It’s the same situation as Koihime Musou with MangaGamer, except they actually put the voices back in after selling 2000 copies, whereas Gamebridge clearly doesn’t give a fuck about its customers and probably sold more than 2000 copies, considering China’s population, high amount of otaku, and the relative popularity of the Memories Off series (it’s one of the most well-known galge series in China). Furthermore, this was a PC port of a Japanese console game, so the only place you would be able to find the voice pack is on Chinese sites extracted by some people from the PS2 version. To add to the pain, the Chinese like to use file-hosting sites that have a time limit for its files, so most download links of the voice pack were long expired. The only working one I found is still downloading as I type, and there is no guarantee that it will work properly considering how several netizens seemed to have problems with it.
The most nightmarish encounter I’ve had with Chinese PC games is the Princess Maker 1, 2, 3 compilation for Windows XP. The games described above actually managed to install and run, and the problems usually laid with activation. Not this time, for the publisher isn’t Gamebridge. Of the three games, Princess Maker 3 was the only one that I managed to get running. PM1 installed, but when I tried to run it, the “please insert disk” prompt always popped up despite the cd already being in the drive. I couldn’t get past that at all, and my searches for a nodvd patch ended up in naught for the game is too old and whatever links I found were expired. PM2 failed to even install, as error messages detailing the failure to copy or find a certain file in the CD popped up during the installation process. Well, I guess I gotta suck it up and use DOSBox. At least PM3 seems to be playable.
There are several Chinese games that I have yet to install, but I will be genuinely surprised if they manage to work without errors. I have not touched Ys Seven yet, because I have a perfectly functional English PSP version, and I only bought it for the awesome limited edition that I would have thrown money for even if it didn’t include the game itself. According to some people who have tried installing, it does nothing to improve my impressions of Chinese PC games. As previously mentioned, I have yet to try installing any Chinese-made games, but I have no doubt that there will be annoying DRM.
So yeah, as you can see, my experience with legit Chinese games has been very painful. No wonder China is full of pirates. Console/handheld games that should run smoothly due to everyone having the same hardware aren’t for sale officially, and only receive fan translations which naturally require downloading ISOs. Whatever is available for the PC is either ported from consoles (badly, often), distributed by companies that don’t give any fucks about their users, or both. Why pay to have the middle finger in your face, when internet piracy has your back? A forum user who bought his games said, “why is playing a legit copy so much more troublesome than pirating?” When you need to bypass anti-piracy for your legit copy, it’s time to say “fuck this shit.”