by rampage, 16 October 02
This FAQ was written after the frustration I experienced seeing almost daily threads asking the exact same questions about mod-chips for their consoles.
A mod-chip is a device which allows you to bypass region encoding on software which prevents you from playing Japanese imports on an American system. There can be a dizzying array of devices which promise to do this. This FAQ will let you know some of the basic dos and don'ts for console modding.
This is not a definitive guide, and is not designed to say how to install a mod-chip. This merely describes some of the options out there for your console.
I'll try to cover all major consoles which have Bemani titles available.
This is the big hot-button issue these days with the recent introduction of DDRMAX. There are many PS2 mod-chips out there and it can get quite confusing as to which to use. Most are lousy and not worth your time!
As of this writing there are three mod-chips for the PS2 which will play import originals without swapping. They are the Messiah, Origa, and Nova chips. The Messiah chip is considered the best PS2 mod-chip out there, but they are expensive and difficult to find. I have an Origa chip and it works very well. These chips are very difficult to install and I recommend having a professional perform the installation. To give an example, the Messiah chip has 23 wires and up to 50 solder points! These three mod-chips are the only ones which can play import originals (and do so without requiring a disk swap)!
I wouldn't recommend any other PS2 mod-chips. They will not play original imports, require disk swaps, and will only play CD-R backups. If it claims to be "solderless", "one-wire", or "plug and play" that means it probably will not work well or at all. Read the fine print. If the mod-chip will not play import originals, it's probably not worth your time.
PS2 mod-chips have varying degrees of compatibility with PSX original/backup import games.
I highly recommend you look at this web site which has an excellent comparison chart of many PS-2 mod-chips at: http://ps2modchips.com/charts.
If you do get a mod-chip make sure it'll work with your version of the PS2 hardware. The date code and model number are on the serial number label on the back.
A couple of additional notes. Most PS2 mod-chips will only allow you to play Japanese imports, not European imports. Most PS2 mod-chips do not defeat DVD region encoding.
There are a huge variety of PSX mod-chips out there. You'll want to get a "stealth chip". Older mod-chips only defeat region encoding during boot up of games. Newer PSX games will check many times for a system region to defeat older mod-chips. Stealth chips intercept this signal and continue to send the right region information to the software thus defeating the anti-mod protection.
PSX mod-chips aren't terribly difficult to install but do require basic soldering skills. If you're not comfortable with soldering have a professional do it. Most chips have between 4 and 8 wires.
As with the PS2, different models of the PSX require different mod-chips. Make sure the one you buy is compatible with your hardware version!
All PSX mod-chips will allow you to play import originals and CD-R backups.
The GameShark is an "external mod-chip". It will play older import PS titles but doesn't have stealth capabilities so it will not work with newer titles. It also requires disk swapping.
I prefer the free solution for the Dreamcast: the Utopia boot disk which can easily be obtained over the Internet. I use it to play imports and have yet to have any problems.
If you want to buy a mod-chip for your Dreamcast they are pretty easy to find and have 4-6 wires. They are relatively easy to install, and should be universal.
No Dreamcast mod-chip will allow you to play backups. Utopia, however will.
Quick Note on Peripherals
Despite what some web site may tell you there is no region encoding on Bemani peripherals. Special peripherals like the KeyboardMania controller are unlocked by the software and have nothing to do with what region your console is.
There is a modification solution out there which is right for you but ask yourself these questions before you buy: