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Locked Out: Importing Made Easy

One of the biggest questions Genesis gamers have is whether or not they can play their import games (read: Mega Drive and Mega CD) on their U.S. Genesis system. The answer is somewhat tricky and leads to a lot of confusion as to exactly what is and isn’t compatible. When the Genesis was launched in the U.S. in September of 1989, there wasn’t really any lockout in place. Gamers were gleefully popping their Mega Drive games into the console and playing without incident. Some games, like Ghouls & Ghosts and Revenge of Shinobi, actually had different title screens, and still others, like Strider, featured things not included in their American counterpart. Yes, importing was a wonderful thing back then; being able to play a title months before it was released stateside was as hard as making a phone call to your local game shop.

Things began to change, however, when Sega started releasing a new batch of Genesis consoles in 1990. A licensing screen now appeared when the console was powered on, informing gamers that the days of free compatibility were a thing of the past. See, Sega had gone through a lot of trouble with companies like Wisdom Tree and Electronic Arts reverse engineering the console to release unlicensed titles (more on that can be found in our interview with programmer Kevin McGrath), so they took strong measures to curb the practice. In the process, they locked out games from other regions.

Exactly what is a territorial lockout? According to Trevor Wilson’s excellent FAQ, it can be explained thusly:

The software routine is different in each game and always resides in a different part of the program code. Basically, what the routine does is to check the hardware address in RAM that specifies what kind of Genesis the game is running on (Japanese, US, European, etc), and if that doesn’t match the intended territory, the game locks up with an error message.

Now, to get past the regional lockout, you have several options. The simplest is to buy a Game Genie or any of several converters, like the Mega Key, Super Key, Pro Action Replay, or Datel Universal converter. A Honey Bee cart won’t help, because it only acts as a pass through for MD carts, which were round at the bottom instead of pointed, like Genny cartridges (you could get around this by slicing off the edges of the cartridge port with a warm knife). The Game Genie only works with a handful of games, and requires specific codes. The Mega Key, on the other hand, is universal, working through switches for each region. A problem with the converter is that it’s somewhat fragile, especially around the contacts area, and that it can cost a pretty penny.

Arguably the best way to play all your imports is to simply mod your Genesis. It’s an easy process and very worthwhile, since you’ll now have access to all games from all regions, without any testy cartridge passthroughs to worry about. My model two Genny is also modded for s-video and stereo, and the difference is incredible.

Until you’re able to mod your console, however, you’re going to have to look for alternate methods to play your imports. Be it though a Game Genie or converter, Sega-16’s got you covered. We’ve compiled a neat little guide for both methods.

Galoob’s Game Genie

Not a good choice as a long-term converter, the Game Genie is still useful for those who only want to play a handful of import titles, or those who are impatient to play while they look for a viable, permanent solution. Entering codes just to be able to play may seem like a pain nowadays, but back in the day, gamers were more than willing to go through the effort. Though the list of supported games may be small, the quality is there. Alien Soldier, Monster World IV, Pulseman, and Yu Yu Hakusho are more than enough reason to get into importing, and if this is your only choice to do so, then consider yourself lucky that a device that sells for less than $10 on eBay can open the door to such bliss. Lamentably, the Game Genie is not compatible with the Majesco-released model 3 Genesis (is anything?).

Even if you’re not planning to use as a lockout bypass, the Game Genie is still well worth having, due to the immense amount of codes out there.


Alien Soldier (EUR/JPN PAL, A version)
Alien Soldier (JPN NTSC, B version)
Bare Knuckle III
Contra: The Hard Corps (JPN)
Golden Axe III
Monster World IV
Rockman Megaworld (Mega Man: The Wily Wars JPN)
Thunder Force IV
Yuu Yuu Hakusho Makyou Toitsusen (Treasure)



Mega/Super Key Converter

Converters are undoubtedly the most common and simplest manner to bypass territorial lockouts, and it’s easy to see why; they’re extremely simple to use. Simply place your MD game on top of it and then pop them into your Genesis (exactly like the Game Genie). The Mega Key was very user-friendly, providing switches for each country. The Super Key took things to the next level, adding PAL/NTSC switches for bypassing lockout based on video format! If there’s a downside to using these great peripherals, it’s their cost. Both fetch quite a high figure on eBay and most gamers who have them are reluctant to give them up. They’re also a bit fragile near where the contacts meet, and even so much as dropping the converter from waist height can fracture the casing, causing the contacts to pop out of place. This is a common occurrence with such devices (Arcade’s Phantom 1 MVS/AES Converter for Neo Geo is equally fragile), so be sure to treat yours like a lady and always keep it in a safe place.


Datel Pro Action Replay Converters

Even more scarce than the Mega/Super Keys, Datel’s line of converters is another alternative for the import-savvy gamer. The original PAR works along the same lines as the Game Genie but goes the extra mile by including a “trainer,” of sorts. According to ConsoleDatabase.com:

The “Trainer” may be accessed from the Pro Action Replay’s menu (accessible by pressing the reset button) and enables the user to discover new codes for any game. This means that you can potentially find codes for every Genesis game you own, while the Game Genie will only allow you to use the codes provided in the book or on the Internet, unless you want to go through the process of encoding hexadecimal values into the letter codes used by the Game Genie. The other advantage of the Pro Action Replay is that you may enter up to five codes at once, whereas the Game Genie will only allow you to enter three at once.

The codes available for the PAR are for the same games as the Game Genie.


Alien Soldier (EUR/JPN PAL, A version)
Alien Soldier (JPN NTSC, B version)
Bare Knuckle III
Contra: The Hard Corps (JPN)
Golden Axe III
Monster World IV
Rockman Megaworld (Mega Man: The Wily Wars JPN)
Thunder Force IV
Yuu Yuu Hakusho Makyou Toitsusen (Treasure)


The PAR 2 was the next logical step in the evolution of the technology, and offered some features that are now standard, such as built-in codes, storage for up to 100 new codes. Just be sure to use it with one of the three standard Genesis models, as the device will supposedly not work with the Sega CDX. All accounts report that the controller will not respond when it is in use. Interestingly enough, both of the JVC-made consoles can fit Japanese and PAL carts without any trouble, due to their lack of tabs on the cartridge ports.

Datel Pro-CDX/CDX-Plus

If you’re looking to play Mega CD games (PAL or Japanese) on your American unit, or any combination of console and game from different regions, things are even tougher. Unless you mod your Sega CD, all you can do is scour the four corners of the globe to find a Datel Pro-CDX or CDX-Plus. These very rare adapters will allow you to play games from any region on any console. The Genesis’ multiple redesigns eventually made the first model obsolete, but the CDX-Plus is one gem that works like a charm. Granted, it’s not perfect, since it won’t work with a 32X installed, and prevents you from using the reset button on a model 1 CD unit (it can be accessed from an on-screen menu). Black Hole Assault doesn’t work with the CDX-Plus, but who cares? Most other games, like Alshark, Burai, and Heavenly Symphony function perfectly. Again, both converters can fetch upwards of $60 on eBay, so if you find one, hold on to it.  Your only other real option would be to burn a copy of the game, and play it on your Sega/Mega CD. This hasn’t been 100% confirmed, though, and may or may not work, depending on the variation of console, as well as the game involved.

Some games produce different effects when placed in a console from another region. Some are unchanged, others have notable differences, and still others refuse to work at all. So how is the discerning gamer supposed to know if a certain title works with his console? By using our handy guide, that’s how!

First off, here’s a list of those that simply will not work in a given mode:


Do Not Run in English Mode (Jap)
Do Not Run in Jap. Mode (U.S.)
Do Not Run in 50 Hertz Mode (U.S.)
Do Not Run in 60 Hertz Mode (PAL)
Akumajou Dracula Vampire Killer
Xenon 2
Alien Soldier
Bio-Hazard Battle
Sonic Spinball
Bare Knuckle III
Castlevania Bloodlines
Streets of Rage II
Chameleon Kid
Cyborg Justice
World of Illusion
Contra: Hard Corps
Dragon’s Fury
World Series Baseball
Eternal Champions
Gunstar Heroes
FIFA Soccer ’97 Gold Edition
Monster World IV
Gauntlet IV
Gunstar Heroes
Rolling Thunder II
Super Monaco GP II
Lightening Force
Super Street Fighter II
Mazin Saga
Thunder Force IV
OutRun 2019
Virtua Racing
Phantasy Star IV
Yu Yu Hakusho Makyou Toitsusen
Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy’s Invention
Rocket Knight Adventures
Street Fighter II: SCE
Shining Force
Shinobi II: Return of the Ninja Master
Streets of Rage II
Streets of Rage III
Sunset Riders
World of Illusion


If there are any titles missing, please contact us and we’ll promptly add them!

If you are planning to mod your system, be warned that some games will experience changes depending on whether the console is set to U.S. or Japanese. Here is a list of some of those games, and their effects:


Plays In:
Battle Mania 2
Eng. & Jap.
System info screen appears when both controllers are removed
Bonanza Bros. (MD)
Columns (MD)
Eng. & Jap.
A modem option appears in the menu
Dragon’s Fury
Devil’s Crush (MD)
Eng. & Jap.
Dynamite Duke
Eng. & Jap.
Japanese version is harder.
Elemental Master
Eng. & Jap.
Japanese version is harder.
Fatal Labyrinth (MD)
Fire Shark
Eng. & Jap.
Different title screen with Kanji characters.
Eng. & Jap.
Character’s names and game instructions are in Jap.
Forgotten Worlds (MD)
Eng. & Jap.
Japanese text available in menu, only mentions Jap. licensee.
Eng. & Jap.
Game plays in Japanese.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Eng. & Jap.
Different title screen with Kanji characters, start further back when killed.
Insector X
Eng. & Jap.
Hot-B named as company, instead of Sage’s Creation. Fire rate is slower.
Marvel Land
Eng. & Jap.
Jap. version says “for Mega Drive” or “for Genesis” Purpose unknown.
Super Monaco GP
Eng. & Jap.
Game plays in Jap.(selectable from menu).
Mystic Defender
Eng. & Jap.
Opening screen replaced by graphics, character sprite changes, levels have names, lightning magic is different, character named Kujaku in ending.
Eng. & Jap.
Attract mode loses sound, startup screen says “push,” not “press” start button, TM dates are reversed, default options are different.
Raiden Trad
Eng. & Jap.
“Licensed to Sega” text is gone in both versions, second screen only has Jap. part.
Revenge of Shinobi
Eng. & Jap.
Title changed to Super Shinobi, credits show at end.
Rolling Thunder II (MD)
Rolling Thunder II (U.S.)
Eng. & Jap.
Sonic the Hedgehog II
Eng. & Jap.
Tails renamed “Miles.”
Streets of Rage
Eng. & Jap.
Title screen changes to Bare Knuckle, all text is in Jap., clock resets at bosses.
Streets of Rage II
Eng. & Jap.
Title screen changes to Bare Knuckle II, Skate is renamed “Sammy” if setting is changed after console is powered on.
Thunder Force II
Eng. & Jap.
Title screen says “Mega Drive,” company name is Tecnosoft.
Thunder Force III
Eng. & Jap.
Company name is spelled “Tecnosoft.”
Eng. & Jap.
Japanese title is Tatsujin.
Twin Hawk
Eng. & Jap.
Title changes to Dai sen Pu Hurricane in Kanji.
Wrestle War
Eng. & Jap.
Wrestler is blond in Eng. version and black-haired in Jap. version.



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