Tonight I was hit by a bout of insomnia, for some unknown reason. During the past two weeks, I had been schlepping myself into work earlier than I had in years, due to the unfortunate hiring of a manager. To put it quite simply, new bosses equal a harder work performance, more fake smiles and the like from yours truly. Throw this on top of my already hectic schedule of a new part time job, and it’s no wonder why I’ve felt like I’ve been barely making it through the week, suddenly wondering how Monday ended up turning into Friday. Rinse, wash, and repeat.
As part of my “make a good impression on the new manager” campaign, I gave up putting away a can or two of Red Bull while at work. I guess that must have been what made my sleep problems surface. This afternoon I indulged in two coffees, and suddenly bam, I can’t sleep at night. Can one’s high caffeine tolerance truly decrease in a matter of weeks? It seems suspicious, but all I know is that it’s 4 AM and I haven’t gotten much more than a half-assed wink of sleep, and I had two coffees this afternoon. Coincidence? Who knows, but that is the story I’ll be feeding my girlfriend as I gently drift off to sleep during the new 007 movie we are slated to watch. My sufferings are your blessings though, and finally I have some time to add a few more scraps to the pile about the mysterious Korean game company, Daou Infosys.
The folks at Hardcore Gaming 101 suggest that Daou Infosys first came to surface producing original MSX/Zemmix games, typically featuring licensed characters from Korean animations. They would also go on to develop a handful of Sega Master System originals, as well as set of Famicom games including Dooly Bravo Land and The General’s Son.
Fewer people are aware, however, that Daou also produced a few Korean Famiclones, as well as a Karaoke machine for the Famicom with its own software. And then there are the ties to Color Dreams and Tengen. Yes it’s true, Daou officially licensed Tengen’s unlicensed Skull n Crossbones, Toobin’, and Klax games and distributed them around Korea during the 90s. Even more interesting is that they also obtained licenses for Color Dreams games, and the children of South Korea were also suffering through Baby Boomer and Crystal Mines, as well as horrors such as Challenge of the Dragon and even worse, Menace Beach, just like the American children in a world so far away.
I’ve always pondered the following question, namely whether Daou also obtained distribution licenses for other Color Dreams / Tengen originals. The part of the Color Dreams catalog being developed by Sachen doesn’t seem like a likely candidate for a Daou release, but something like Captain Comic is surely in the realm of possibility. But due to these games being so damned scarce, it seems that even the locals aren’t 100% sure what exists and what doesn’t.
So that brings me to last week. I saw a set of Famicom games for sale, mostly comprised of filler. A clone machine was also in the set, but for the $85 asking price, the set just wasn’t that great. I’ll post a pic and you guys can be the judge.
Now this isn’t the original picture that I saw of the set, but I deleted that picture a few days back, and this one still gives the same basic feeling. It was all “meh”, except for the one game I saw in the corner, with Korean writing on it. I recognized the logo immediately and thought, “Wow, a Daou Infosys game”. So I bought the set of games despite the price and quickly paid.
This is where the story gets complicated. A day later, the seller sent me a message and told me he wanted to refund me $10 for “the game with the Korean writing”, as in his words “it didn’t function”. Since I only made the purchase because of this game, I was quite upset, and I also figured someone was trying to backdoor me. So I threatened the seller with bad feedback, declined his refund offer, and told him I was interested in the game whether it worked or not. At this point I was also feeling a bit upset, since I was just curious as to what game was on this cart. There were astronauts floating out in space, so I speculated that perhaps this was a Korean Captain Comic. Had I discovered an unknown Daou release? Below you can see a closer picture of the cartridge, but I covered up the Korean text to save the surprise for those that can read the words from that tongue.
Eventually I did manager to convince the seller to send me the game, and when I received a large package last week while at work, I could barely contain myself, anxiously waiting to go home so that I could test the game out and (hopefully) get it up and running. I had no problem getting the cartridge to play, but it turned out to be the biggest disappointment of the century. My dream of a Korean Captain Comic was dashed, when the familiar title screen for Twin Bee loaded up. Twin Bee?!? Seriously? I paid $85 for a bootleg copy of Twin Bee?!? To add insult to injury, the title screen wasn’t even hacked or anything. Then I reset the game and discovered it was actually a 4 in 1 multicart, with Twin Bee, 1942, Super Mario Bros., and Xevious. What a boring combo.
When we look at the back of the cartridge, we see the cart ID LB16, and when comparing this to Whirlwind Manu cartridges, we see that LB16 is indeed Twin Bee. So it doesn’t even seem as though the seller pulled a fast one by swapping cart PCBs or anything sinister like that.
This finding showcases something that has until now never been brought to light though. It seems that in addition to their unlicensed games, Daou was also releasing bootleg Famicom cartridges, and they may have even had ties to the company that manufactured the Whirlwind Manu games. It certainly wouldn’t have been the first link of this sort, as the Korean Famicom brand, Pascal, seems to have had ties with Bit Corp, and then there is also the situation of Kuk Je Academy distributing Sachen games in Korea.
So overall, I paid $85 plus had to wade through some drama for what amounts to nothing more than a glorified multicart with Twin Bee. It was quite the disappointment, but at the same time, you never know what you may find unless you bother to take the risks and jump on the opportunities that arise – you win some, but you also loose some, and at least my curiosity was settled. Furthermore, we also learned a bit more about Daou Infosys, specifically that the company was also involved with producing bootleg Famicom carts to accompany their legal products.