I want to talk in defense of the ROM and emulator. I don't mean using them to play current games, that I have some moral qualms with. But to play older games? Absolutely.
One of my favorite games, Seiken Densetsu III (or Secret of Mana 2), was never released in the US. It was in Japanese on the Super Famicom only. The one reason I know of this game and have played it is because of a Japan fanatic friend I had in junior high. I have no idea how her journey lead to ROMs, emulators, and Seiken Densetsu, but it did and she thought I would enjoy it as well.
As a result, I spent many happy hours on my computer loading up the Seiken Densetsu III ROM into the Super Nintendo emulator icon. Being 14 and aware of what 'illegal' meant, I sometimes did feel guilty. I would push this aside by insisting that the only legal way to play this game was to import the Super Famicom and the game, then learn Japanese. It seemed like an absurd amount of effort to put in for just a game, and why bother when some kind souls had already made a perfectly translated version that I had access to?
Over the course of my junior high and high school career I started a file three to four times. I would always reach a lapse in play, forget what I was doing and have to start over, or I would switch computers and lose my original save file. I haven't gone back to try and find a new emulator in years now, but I still look on those days fondly with the belief that I'll never get to finish the journey.
That is, until a few weeks ago.
My birthday gift from Zach came in late, and it was a real doozy: a fan translated, Super Nintendo cartridge copy of Seiken Densetsu III, proudly displaying the label 'Secret of Mana 2.' When he handed it to me I had just finished an 11 hour journey from London back to Seattle and was in that loopy mental space that traveling across the world elicits. I blinked down at the cartridge, registered that it said 'Secret of Mana', then smiled and thanked him. My brain kept working though, rolling over the '2' in my mind like a tiny fascinating stone, and amid the sea of thoughts I realized, 'They never released a second one in the States. What am I holding?" It was then that I looked closer at the label and realized that I recognized the characters as being from Seiken Densetsu III. That's when everything came together, and I managed to spit out more enthusiasm toward him for the incredibly awesome and thoughtful gift.
Very soon I will be starting yet another journey into Seiken Densetsu III, a journey that began 14 years ago, and this time it will be on a console the way it was intended. I can't wait!
Sound off! Which amazing games did you get to play via ROM and emulator that you couldn't have experienced otherwise?