Computers are great. You can look at anything around the world, and even buy video game from other countries and play them.
Well, I guess just buying them and playing them isn’t really true. While games in languages that use roman characters (think Spanish or French) should play fine on our English understanding electronics (well, other than the language barrier you may or may not be able to get through), languages like Japanese offer a different hurdle our computers have to go through. Since Japanese is a non-Unicode language, most English computers can’t run Japanese programs correctly. Instead of Japanese characters, you’ll get a bunch of weird characters and question marks, and the program itself tends to crash. That’s not very fun if you’re in the middle of a game!
So, how does one play their precious moonspeak games? There’s a few ways to do it. First, you can change your system’s location. By changing the computer’s location, you can make it think like a Japanese Unicode computer, and therefore (usually) play Japanese games without having to worry about crashes. Changing to a different location on Vista and beyond is easy:
Start Menu -> Control Panel -> Region and Language -> ‘Language‘ tab
From there, you can change the ‘Current Location’ of your computer. Click the drop-down menu, select ‘Japan’, and restart, and you’ll be good to go!
However, there are some disadvantages to simply changing your computer’s location. First, while most programs and applications still run fine and are in English, any program created for an International audience (think the installation discs that comes with things like digital cameras and printers) will show up in Japanese, as well as applications that grab local news and other information will display items from Japan. Also, while your computer’s current location might be in Japanese, some Japanese games still may not display and run properly. Finally, while changing the current location is a easy as following the steps and choosing ‘United States’ instead of ‘Japan’, if you have to change it (and restart) every time you play a game it can be very troublesome.
Thankfully, there’s a solution to this, and it’s relatively painless… and that’s AppLocale. AppLocale, according to Microsoft, is:
…a temporary solution to these limitations caused by non-Unicode applications running on the Unicode (UTF-16) based Windows XP. AppLocale detects the language of the legacy application and simulates a corresponding system locale for code-page to/from Unicode conversions.
Basically, it emulates the whole ‘current location’ spiel temporarily without having to change your system’s location… and it’s very easy to use, too! Go ahead and download the installer, and we can begin getting this helpful solution.
If you’re using Windows XP… great! Just install AppLocale and skip to ‘So Now You Have AppLocale Installed’.
If you’re using Windows Vista or 7… things won’t be nearly as easy. Unfortunately, AppLocale was made for Windows XP and Windows XP alone, with no real alternative for later Windows OS’s. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t use it… there’s just an extra step you have to go through.
If you try to install AppLocale on Vista or 7, you’ll probably get this message– “There is a problem with this Windows Installer package. A program required for this install to complete could not be run. Contact your support personnel and package vendor.”— and it will shut down the installer. Bummer. The problem, however, isn’t with a missing program… it’s with Vista’s and 7’s Security Settings (or User Account Controls, or UAC)! You know, that annoying little pop-up that pops up all the time asking “Is it really okay we open/install this? REALLY?”… and we have to turn it off. Yes, you can actually turn those off! You can thank me whenever.
Anyway, turning off the Security Settings isn’t too difficult, if a bit hidden:
Start Menu -> Control Panel -> User Accounts -> Change User Account Control Settings
From there, turn the setting down to ‘Never Notify’. Then open the AppLocale installer, and it will go without a hitch!
But, if you don’t want to turn off the UAC… well, why not? Whatever reasons you have, there is an alternative. For that, though, you can check out this article for installing AppLocale using Elevated Commands, and this article to learn what Elevated Commands are and how to do them.
So now you have AppLocale installed… congrats! We’re almost done. Thing is, having the application installed alone won’t work… you have to use the application itself! It’s really easy, though.
When you open AppLocale, it’ll give you a short synopsis of its purpose, and also the recommendation that if you use certain non-unicode languages constantly, that you should change your system’s location. On the next screen, you have two choices: Add or remove programs or launch an application (default). It’s here that you browse your computer’s files and pick the Japanese game in question.
After picking the game and clicking ‘Next’, AppLocale usually detects the language of the application on its own. If it doesn’t, though, you’ll have to go into the drop-down menu and pick the correct one yourself. Since this is mainly about getting Japanese games to work, the correct option for Japanese is the bottom most one; you’ll know you have the right option if there’s three characters, with none in parenthesis.
Then, finally, after all of that… your game will be properly running in Japanese! No more question marks and weird symbols, but straight up Japanese. You can now enjoy your game with actual words and without non-Unicode error crashing!
That about sums it up for making your computer understand Japanese games without constant errors. It’s a lot of information to be sure, and some of it can be confusing, so if you have any questions, ask away! Also, if you have something to share that I missed or could be helpful, feel free to let me know!
Also, My Digital Life is a great resource for learning how to make Windows bend over backwards for you, and also for news about, well, digital things, so check it out!