Several years ago, I had stumbled across an interesting Game Boy Tetris cart, ID number DMG-TR-ROC. The cartridge sported an official Nintendo seal, seemed like a Taiwanese version of the game. A few months later, I snagged another one of these carts: DMG-ML-ROC. Super Mario Land. A Taiwanese release. But that was it. Three more years of searching, and nothing else ever turned up, aside from a few more (loose) Tetrises.
Game Boy collecting for such regions as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and general Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, etc) is incredibly niche. At one point I dreamed of getting a nice collection of these official Chinese games, though it just didn’t seem feasible, at least not in the way that I had envisioned. My short collecting spree did place me in contact with a tight circle of other collectors with a similar collection range, however, and as a result, I began discussing the mysterious ROC carts with one such person, as I was selfishly trying to peddle my goods. This would be my first time to actually take a stab at creating a theory to explain the existence of these carts and their conditions, and it seems that I was not so far off from the truth.
Up until now, I have never seen either of the Taiwanese games being sold as boxed specimens. In every case, the cartridges were in a loose, naked state, devoid of both box and manual. Then there was the fact that the only two games I had ever seen turn up were Mario and Tetris. It seemed as though these two games might have been pack-ins for an official Taiwanese Game Boy machine. The only problem though, was that I had never found one of those Taiwanese handhelds. So I had to start my quest again.
Browsing through internet auctions, talking with friends, and digging up other relevant contacts turned up nothing. I managed to confirm the existence of official Taiwanese Game Boy Color and Advance machines, official Asian region GBA machines, as well as the fact that the original monochrome Game Boy was distributed in Malaysia, in its own special packaging. As I began gathering more information about the distribution of Game Boy machines around Asia, the plausibility of the two ROC games being pack-ins increased drastically. Then last week I had a breakthrough.
I found a dude that was selling a broken Game Boy machine along with a box and some paperwork. Although the picture was quite small, the packaging seemed to suggest that it could belong to the elusive monochrome Game Boy that had been eluding me for so long. And the paperwork that came with the machine all seemed to be in Chinese, though once again, the photo wasn’t much to go by, as the resolution was small. Since the price was low, I took the risk and made the purchase. My excitement turned to horror though, as soon as the seller messaged me and asked which side of the box I would prefer that he affix the address label. Quickly writing the seller back, I explained that I was a collector, and was willing to pay extra if he shipped the items in a mailer instead. Luckily he agreed to my request, and I could barely contain myself as I tore open the manila envelope I received in the mail today.
Tucked between two pieces of cardboard was a monochrome Game Boy box. As I looked at the inside flaps, I was filled with joy as I discovered the following printed on it:
That’s right, it says DMG-GBTR-ROC. I dug further into the package and I saw a few manuals, and I’ll be damned, there’s a manual for Tetris. And the part number is DMG-TR-ROC.
Great to be able to confirm that the loose Tetris carts I found were indeed packaged with the original Game Boy units sold in Taiwan. The machine I received was purchased in Toys R Us, according to the price sticker. Ironically enough, Toys R Us in those parts now just sells modern-day NOAC Famiclones.
Whether the Super Mario Land cart was also distributed as a pack-in is anyone’s guess, but it seems safe to say that it most likely was passed around Taiwan in this way. Until we find another box containing Mario as the bonus game, we won’t know for sure though.
So what about the broken Game Boy that was included in the set I bought? Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say regarding it. That Game Boy machine just seems to be a standard DMG-01 release, though I would suspect that it could be the same machine that came with the box. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be anything marking it as a specific Taiwanese machine, unlike the later Game Boy units (i.e. Color and Advance) had, but that’s just the way things go I guess.
I’m glad to have checked another want off my list; now I just need to track down one of the official Famicom machines that circulated around the island. That should keep me occupied for another five years 😉