Progression of Ending Man Clone Machines

Woah! Stop the press! Is this really an update to fcgamer’s blog?! Yup, it sure is. The fact of the matter is, I’ve been away too long. Thanks goes out to FAMICOM_87 of the Famicom World forums for inspiring this one.

Everything started a few days earlier, when I had posted a listing on Famicom World for some Famiclone machines that I was selling. Some of the members had noticed that one of the machines, an Ending Man S-500 Famiclone, had nickel batteries tucked inside it. I had noticed this as well and thought it to be a bit odd, but I am not keen on messing with things about which I am uninformed, so I left them sit until other members suggested I remove the batteries.

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This dialogue had led FAMICOM_87 commenting how he was surprised that my Ending Machine was a chips-based machine, and therein lies why I am writing this post. Likewise, I am not scholarly enough to check out the whole line of Ending Man clones from past until present; therefore, I will focus on the models that I personally own.

The earliest model Ending Man machine I own is model S-200. Not particularly interesting, this is a chips-based machine, which of similar design to real Famicom machines. One of the major differences though is that the machine is gray, in color. Because I purchased this machine used, I am not sure if the multicart was included originally or not, though it was there when I received the machine. I tried to open up the machine to take photos, but one of the screws was too tight, and worried about stripping it, I stopped while I was ahead. The S-200 model is just a minor pit stop in the Ending Man series, anyways.

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I reckon that Ending Man’s S-500 line of Famiclones was the most popular, judging by the number of S-500 machines I’ve found compared to other Ending Man products. This particular product is also the unit that marks a distinctive change in the Ending Man product line; it underwent several small changes, before ushering in a new line of NOAC-based Famiclones.

My earliest S-500 Ending Man machine dates to 1990, around the 38th week of the year, if the chips are to be believed. On the outer shell, the machine is referred to as “The World’s Most Popular Video Game System”. The information describing the holes on the back of the machine is contained within a white rectangle. The buttons on this machine are a bluish-purple color, and the sticker on the back is white. In addition, there is a black piece of plastic “protecting” the game cartridge slot. While there may be earlier machines than this one, machines with these properties is where I will start the discussion.

The next Ending Man clone in my collection looks the same from the outside. Blue buttons, the same gibberish about being popular worldwide, etc; however, if one turns the machine around, he or she will notice that the indicator stating where the power adapter and audio / video inputs belong, has been changed. The sharp corners have been rounded, and the font has been changed. The chips on this machine date to 1990 and also 1991.

The third machine looks virtually the same as the second machine, though the sticker on the back has changed from white to black! The chips here date upwards to the 42nd week of 1991, one of the later machines manufactured that year.

By the time we reach the fourth Ending Man S-500 machine, cosmetic differences become more apparent. The slogan running on the top of the machine has been shortened: instead of reading “The World’s Most Popular Video Game System”, it has been changed to the uninspiring “Computer Video Game”. The Ending Man text and logo have also been shifted down on the machine front, and the S-500 model number has been relocated as well. This is the notorious machine that had contained the batteries – it dates to 1992. Another difference is that by now, the buttons on the machine are now yellow.

Moving onward, the next machine in my possession is an Ending Man S-500A; it is precisely at this point, where I believe Ending Man had switched from using discrete chips to a NOAC-based product. From its appearance, this model looks quite similar to the previous Ending Man machine, though instead of the “Computer Video Game” and Ending Man logos being printed directly onto the machine, they are molded into the plastic. The sticker on the back of the machine is now a round circle bearing the company’s name, and the machine itself is a NOAC machine.

Interestingly enough, Tiger would base their TG-2002 machine off of the S-500A Ending Man model; under the hood, these two machines seem to be the same.

The latest Ending Man machine I personally own is the S-600 model. It looks like they tried to add a sensor onto the cartridge ejection button, and the logo and model number placement have been readjusted, putting them back to the same position as the original Ending Man S-500 machines. The slogan still reads “Computer Video Game”, and this time the back sticker is incredibly generic, housing only a serial number and the word Kenga, suggesting that this particular machine was part of the Ending Man set of clones branded and released under the Kid Ken brand. Inside, this machine is also NOAC-based, with the PCB listing it as S-500TA.

Although I am sure there are more Ending Man machines in circulation, I hope that this list of models / small tweaks can show everyone how this clone company had continuously adjusted their S-500 product, over the short duration of a few years, before advancing to a NOAC-based clone.

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Hiryuu no Ken Game Bundle

For the past several months, collectors and gamers alike have been going crazy about Nintendo’s recent release of the NES Classic and Famicom Mini, cutesy plug ‘n play machines shaped as smaller versions of the gaming consoles we hold dear to our hearts. Back when the releases were announced, I had heard that these were being done to celebrate the 30th year anniversary of the NES, but the dates don’t totally match up, so who knows, maybe I am just having a dumb moment. Either way, I discovered a neat little bundle a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share it with everyone. Since I don’t read much Japanese, maybe my search queries are just atrocious, though I prefer to think that the item I am about to unveil is just really obscure.

The Hiryuu no Ken (Fist of the Flying Dragon) game series first appeared on the scene in 1985, lining arcades in Japan and North America. The franchise would continue to find success on a number of different gaming platforms, finishing up with a Japanese-exclusive release on Game Boy Color, Hiryuu no Ken Retsuden GB. This chapter of the series would appear right before Christmas of 2000.

Recently I had been surfing the net and I stumbled upon the following:

Hiryuu no Ken Retsuden Box Set?

Hiryuu no Ken Retsuden Box Set?

Note the words “20th Anniversary” in the corner of the box. At first blush, it seemed as though this was a special commemorative package that would pair the Hiryuu no Ken Retsuden game with part three of the Famicom series, 5 Nin no Ryuu Senshi. What 20th anniversary would have been celebrated though? That of the game franchise, or perhaps the original release of Hiryuu no Ken III? Also, could such an awesome feat as Culture Brain making their Famicom game available for purchase so late after its release be real? The more I thought about the package, the more questions I had, and finally curiosity got the best of me. By then, it was just a matter of waiting for the package to arrive, so that I could examine things for myself.

When things finally did arrive, I decided to take a peak at the rear of the box before cracking it open.

Do Other Bundles Also Exist?

Do Other Bundles Also Exist?

The back of the box shows some pictures from the Hiryuu no Ken Retsuden game, as well as what appears to be some advertisements for some other games. I also found a copyright date of 2000 on the box, but it seems that this is just linked to the GBC game, rather than the release date of the bundle.

Like Two Peas In A Pod...

Like Two Peas In A Pod…

Peering in from the top, we can see boxed copies of both Hiryuu no Ken Retsuden and Hiryuu no Ken III: 5 Nin no Ryuu Senshi, two peas in a pod, sitting happily together. And time for a shot of the two games outside of the bundle packaging:

Famicom And Game Boy Pieces

Famicom And Game Boy Pieces

Sadly, it seems that both games are just normal retail versions – there doesn’t seem to be anything marking them as belonging to this 20th Anniversary package. I’ve seen cases of Hiryuu no Ken III floating around for sale before, so my best guess is that Culture Brain still has (had?) a nice amount of unsold stock, and decided to bundle it with unsold product from their GBC release, as a way of moving some old inventory. With a significant anniversary coming up by 2005, it seems like this would have been the perfect way of clearing out the extras. This is all speculation though, so if anyone has some concrete information about this release, please get in touch with me!

Confessions of a Bootlegger

Five

Five

You see that binder over there? Yeah, it doesn’t look like much. To you, it might just look like a bunch of magazine pages tossed together in a three-ring, wrinkled by time, with numbers scribbled across page after page. Here and there, a note finds space on an otherwise-filled page. Yeah, garbage to most, yet this is one of my treasures, let’s call him “Five”.

Five doesn’t belong in our world today; he’s too old fashioned, and not handsome enough to compete with those X Box and PS guys. He was a 16-bit stud in his day though, and has seen a lot through the ages, before retiring to a dusty shelve in the residential corners of an old shop in Taiwan.

If we run past the narrow road filled with the strange aroma of exhaust fumes mixed with food from roadside vendors, we will come to the remains of an old game shop of long ago. Five’s companions have disappeared in ages gone by, to make room for gaming modernity. But even that has fallen to the wayside, as smart phones edged their way into the scene.

When you go to the counter, ask for old man Wang, and he’ll tell you a thing or too. Business is slow, conversation is great, but only if you can speak the local tongue. Mr. Wang is standing behind a glass counter, once-filled with treasures. Now, nothing occupies this real estate, aside from a couple of dusty PS3 boxes. Peering behind Mr. Wang is an ancient computer, two floppy drives sticking from it’s tower. A fat monitor sits next to it, covered in grime. Curious, I inquire.

“Oh that thing,” asks Wang, pointing to the computer. “Let me show you something, I’ll give you a look.” Wang disappears for a few moments, mentions hitting the bathroom as well before returning. “Be patient for five minutes”, he tells me. When he reemerges, Wang is carrying Five under his arm and throws it on his counter. “This”, he tells me, “goes along with that”, and I settle down for a story.

“Back in the early 90s, Super Famicom was starting to become popular over here. People also had Sega Mega Drives, but it was not the popular brand. Compared to Super Famicom, everyone felt that there were less games to choose from, and besides, the people’s favorite was always Mario, not Sonic.” Wang stated my exact feelings. In my household, Nintendo was also the fan favorite. Growing up, I knew few people with Segas.

Wang continued, “All of the Super Famicom games, you can see them in Five. It’s a catalog of sorts. Copied games were the norm here, and for good reason. A single cartridge would cost $1000 (local money), but we could get that cost down to $100. Here’s what we’d do.”

Homemade Index Page with Game Titles and Numbers

Homemade Index Page with Game Titles and Numbers

At this point, Mr. Wang reached under the counter and pulled out a dusty Super Nintendo machine, nearly jet black in dirt and grime. Attached was a game copier. And without loading up the computer, he prepared to demonstrate what he did.

“$10,000”, he chuckled. “That’s what this thing cost. Throw in the SNES and that was another $3000, $13000 total. Sega also had copiers, same price. But with less games came less popularity. So I bought a copier, and copied the games onto that old machine over there. Kids and teenagers would come in, pay me $100, and within minutes they’d walk out with a brand new Super Nintendo game, all on one disk. If in the same situation, if you could buy one cartridge or ten floppies for the same price, which would you choose?”

I smiled and nodded, as the answer was clear to me.

More Games One Could Select

More Games One Could Select

His setup was basically like the Nintendo’s Famicom Disk Writer machine, only it consisted of a generic computer, Taiwan-produced copiers, and standard floppy disks. And the link between consumer and the copies was Five, the beat-up magazine pages stuffed inside the binder. Presumably the numbers aided in locating the game file on the computer, to make copies.

Game 844, 32 M

Game 844, 32 M

With my treasure in hand, I thanked Mr. Wang and climbed back into the saddle, prepared for the long journey back home. As the wind whipped through my hair as I rode down city streets and over bridges on that cloudless night, I couldn’t help but turn over the things I had heard minutes earlier – a shopkeeper proudly explaining the dynamics of selling in a country uninhibited by copyright law. And to have a token of that moment, a folder that had witnessed thousands of copies being made in a bygone era, priceless. A true piece of history. As always, the best things in life are free.

The Ultimate Famicom Software Guide v. 2.0

Hi guys, finally I’m back  🙂  My life had been filled with darkness for the past several months, but finally the sun has come out again.  I am quite excited to post some new material on FC Game Land in the next few weeks, as I have a lot of obscure and interesting material to post!

Today though, I would like to present everyone with a small update, namely The Ultimate Famicom Software Guide v. 2.0.  This release has been in the making for quite some time.  After the launch of my first release, I noticed some large mistakes in the guide, such as somehow missing Final Fantasy II.  Furthermore, I added another 50+ additions to the list, including some educational carts, unlicensed releases, NES exclusives, etc.

I am expecting some new cartridges in the mail in the near future, so hopefully a third version of the guide will be released within the next month.  In addition, I have a very special reworking of the guide planned for the future, but that won’t be finished for awhile.  Until then, enjoy v. 2.0  🙂