Baby I Swear, I’m Just Heading to the Love Motel to Play Sachen Games!

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My journey with the so-called Sachen Box started about a month ago, as I was doing some research online late one night. Just as I was about ready to call it quits for the night, I noticed an old Japanese gaming device listed for sale. I wasn’t sure what the thing was, so I decided to take a closer look, and it was then that I saw the Sachen name printed on the sole controller. This piqued my interest, so I sent a message to the owner. After waiting around for about half an hour in hopes of a response, I then decided to call it a night, still thinking about the machine.

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While in bed, I laid awake, wondering what could possibly be on that machine. The owner said that it had Famicom games built into it, and that the Sachen Box had been used at a hotel / hotspring resort in Japan. For the uninitiated, I’d like to share a little story about the culture over here, which I think can safely be applied to Japan as well.

Every weekend my mates and I go out cycling, and to get out of the city, we often need to go through a dumpy little town known as Caotun. Aside from a few local delicacies, Caotun has nothing at all going for it, yet on Sunday mornings at 7:30 there is always a huge influx of traffic heading there. Odder still, most of these cars are luxury Euro cars. The intentions soon become clear though, by the wide variety of love motels and shady massage parlors scattered around the perimeter of the little town. Esentially, the wife goes over to help out at Grandma’s for the morning, and so Daddy takes the mistress out for a little fun, before Mommy returns. Dare I say more? For reference below, inside one of the lovely motel rooms in Caotun. So much fun to be had there!

caotun motel

Sachen definitely targeted this sort of demographic back in the day. A large portion of the games they had developed were mahjong or gambling games, and frequently naked women would appear as a reward for winning. Mahjong games, paper/scissors/stone, and even the classic slide puzzle were all guilty of this. It was definitely a part of Sachen, and at some point, they decided to enter into a partnership with Hacker International of Japan, to have some of their dirty games published abroad.

To me, the hotsprings resort usage and their relationship with Hacker International made me feel almost certain that there might be something very valuable or interesting built into this machine. Maybe some unique and undocumented Sachen material was to be found, or even an early version of one of the games that Sachen initially developed, which would later be published by Hacker. Maybe there was some sort of game that was halfway between the Sachen and Hacker versions? As my mind raced ahead in thought, I even started to wonder if there could be some unreleased material built into the machine. Journey to the West? Bridge? But at mid three figures, during a virus pandemic, I just felt quite tight when it came to the desire of splashing the cash.

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That’s where OptOut and Pa Cui Ke come into play. These guys have known me for quite some time, and after showing pictures of the machine in question, OptOut (he’s cheap bastard, sorry mate, but it’s true) and Pa Cui Ke both told me to grab it, immediately. Leading up to asking them for their thoughts, I had asked the seller for pictures of the games, and she said that she’d oblige, but only on Sunday, and it was only Wednesday or Thursday at this point.

At this point, I was feeling quite torn as to what I should do. I felt the Sachen Box was special, but again, there was the whole money and virus situation. Pa Cui Ke offered to lend me the money if need be, and just the kindness and dedication he showed in that moment made me realize that I definitely should pick this thing up. Then it was time to negotiate the sale with the seller.

I messaged the seller and offered her a price of $100 less than what she was asking, though I told her that I’d transfer the money immediately. She promptly declined. She said that there was another guy that had messaged her, who would personally head down to southern Taiwan, coronavirus be damned, on Saturday to inspect the item and then purchase it then and there, for her asking price. I felt like Family Guy’s Quagmire when he had to decide whether to purchase the real estate at Prescott Towers or not. I bit hook, line, and sinker, and the box was mine.

The next week, I started obsessivly checking my P.O. box. I expected to get the machine on Monday, but it wasn’t there. I then received a message from the seller telling me that she refused to ship to a P.O. Box, so I had to get the Sachen Box shipped to my work. Great. All the secretaries were quite interested as to what I had bought, until I started telling them that it was an old game machine from a love motel.

Later that day I carried the machine home for about a mile. I plugged it in, hooked it up to my television, and bam! Nothing. The mechanics seemed to work, but I couldn’t get any image to appear. This went on for quite some time as I tried all the RF adaptors I had. Then I consulted with the seller about how to hook the machine up, yet I still couldn’t get any image from the thing. Chatting with another expat helped me get the TV set to the proper channel, but no dice, no image. And then my TV crapped out on me.

That Thursday I went to the largest secondhand television shop in the city, to try to source myself another CRT television. When I arrived, I was basically laughed out of the shop though ironically enough, I had purchased my old CRT television from there, just a few years prior. I then took to social media and asked a local Facebook group if anyone knew where I could get a CRT television, or could get one repaired via a housecall. A very kind expat, Arielle, said she just happened to have a CRT TV that she wished to get rid of, for free, so I was in luck. Neither of us have a car though, so setting up the logistics seemed to be yet another problem.

I asked Arielle for the weight of her TV, as well as her address in the city. She only lived about a mile away, and since the TV clocked in at about 50 pounds, I decided I’d just pick it up and lug the thing back to my apartment. So that Friday, I walked to her apartment after work, and I carried a 50-pound fat TV back to my apartment, during rush hour, in broad daylight. One mile. By the time I finally arrived at my place, I felt so sore, from the lopsided weight of the TV, the sharp corners plunging into my skin, and the heat. The sour icing on the shit cake was when the guy running the shop next to mine asked, “Oh, I see you bought a new TV, eh?” I felt really foolish over the whole thing, though it’s one of those situations like trying to explain to folks why you buy records, instead of just streaming music.

With the new TV in place, I hooked up the Sachen Box once again, yet I still ran into the same problems of not getting any picture. After my initial bout of this, several weeks earlier, I had started trying to disassemble the box, figuring that if there was a loose connection or another problem, it could possibly be repaired. Let’s discuss the disassembly process for a bit now.

Initially, I unscrewed the outside screws on the Sachen Box, and tried to remove the metal casing. At first it started to slide open, similar to how a PC’s case would open; however, after opening about two or three centimeters, the thing refused to budge. Looking inside the machine I noticed that there was a post in the center of the Sachen Box that connected directly to the outer metal piece. The post was connected in such a fashion that it was preventing the whole thing from being opened. I then undid a few more screws, but they just unscrewed the RF port in the back and the Famicom cartridge slot. The bottom of the box had a few more tiny holes, which could possibly be tiny screws, though if they actually were screwed then they were stripped beyond belief. But as Pa Cui Ke told me, “This was designed and assembled by humans. Since it was assembled, it can also be disassembled.”

The key to unlocking the Sachen Box seemed to be, literally, a set of three locks situated on the front of the machine. Pa Cui Ke sent me a few videos on how to pick tubular locks, and although the process seemed simple enough, I didn’t have any of the proper equiptment to turn it into a reality. I decided to do the next best thing though, and hauled the Sachen machine down the street to the nearest locksmith, one day after work.

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The shopkeeper looked at the locks and he said to me, “I don’t have the equiptment to make you a key for this.” I told him that I just wanted the locks opened, and $10 later, the largest lock was opened. It was to the tray that held the 100 Yen coins. By opening that drawer, one could also see a counter that showed how many times a coin had been inserted into the machine. On my particular Sachen box, the counter was just shy of 1500 uses. I guess most people would rather get laid than play Sachen video games, if given the choice?

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The two smaller locks couldn’t be opened, though. The locksmith said he didn’t have the right tools for those, and also stated that the small size was rare, something not normally seen in Taiwan. Once again I hit a roadblock. I left the matter boil in my brain for a few days, and then the next Monday I took the machine to another locksmith. Although the shop was a bit more rundown than the first shop, the owner searched through his drawers before he found a key to open the other two locks. He then showed me how to use the key, and gave it to me gratis, saying that I probably needed the old key more than he did!

When I got home and hooked the Sachen Box up again, I discovered that the other two locks were actually switches to control which aspects of the machine would be functional. One of the locks could shut off the gaming portion of the machine, and I am making an assumption that the timer for the “free game” demo could also be shut off.

Although this was nice, once again I was at a standstill. There were no more screws to be undone, the machine wouldn’t function, and I couldn’t get the thing opened. That was until today. While purchasing some electrical tape over my lunch break, it dawned on me that if I could open up the box just enough to slip my hand inside, I could retrieve the Famicom pcb sticking in the cartridge slot, plug it into one of my Famiclones, and then see what software was included with the machine. It was a done deal, I decided to just go for it!

For the rest of the afternoon, I was in a great mood at work. Sachen, Sachen, Saaaaacccchhhheeeen! I grabbed a few beers on the way home from work, and after cracking one of those open, I started to massage the Sachen Box down, preparing to violate it. I then managed to crack it open enough to stick my hand in and retrieve the game PCB. I plugged it into one of my Famiclones and… NOTHING! I then cleaned the contacts, and tried again. What I saw shocked, me, yet it also made me burst out laughing.

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As it turned out, the game installed in this Sachen Box wasn’t an unreleased game, nor was it a Sachen pornon game. People weren’t playing on this machine while trying to get in the mood for some hanky panky. As it turns out, the PCB was for one of the most common Famicom multicarts of all time, a generic 64 in 1 game cartridge! Super Mario Bros., Battle City, Lode Runner, and all of the classics. They were all there!

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Ultimately, I probably felt someone the same as Quagmire did when he actually visited the real estate that he bought, ultimately disappointed in the actuality of it; however, I guess Sachen realized that in a very casual setting, people might want to play some video games while in a love motel, and that their own games just wouldn’t cut it! I’ve been to a few motels in Taiwan with Xbox games, and I even tried them out with the people I was with, so when looking at it from that viewpoint, I guess it’s not so hard to understand Sachen’s decision on this one.

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Either way though, the Sachen Box is boss – I still haven’t figured out how to open the thing up completely, which showcases how robust the machine actually is. For anyone else that wants to track down one of these, good luck – definitely 10000x rarer and cooler than an actual Famicom Box.

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.

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.

Game Genie – Unlock the Power! (A Disorganized Writing)

Sometimes I feel as though collecting for Famicom can be an odd beast, some sort of mythological bird that slips through your grasp time and time again. On the Nintendo side of things, we take a lot for granted, namely the ease at which games are sorted and lists are compiled. There are NTSC games, mostly surfacing in North America, and PAL games. Although there are a few PAL exclusives as well as many which are available in NA only, the mileage covered and countries counted is not so great. And that is what makes Famicom collecting so weird.

On Famicom, the “canon” titles were all released in Japan. Some of those titles were then exported to other Asian countries, but they are still part of the “core” collection. But then Taiwan, Hong Kong, and possibly other countries received some official licensed variants that never made it to Japan. And when it came to unlicensed games…Korea had it’s own set of exclusives, as did Russia, Taiwan, China, and so on. It is no longer a two-continent battle; the availability of Famicom titles varied drastically by region, with the scope and range being much broader than anything on the 72 pins side. Enter, Game Genie.

I honestly believe that aside from the most hardcore of the bunch, most collectors and gamers reading this page will shit themselves when they learn that the infamous Game Genie cheat device swam around in Famicom waters, as well as the Nintendo ones. Everyone can recall the notoriety surrounding Codemaster’s Game Genie: there was the lawsuit from Nintendo, the delayed release times in the United States, and the antagonistic “Thank You Canada!” adverts plastered throughout Canadian media, receiving none of Nintendo’s oppression in the great country up north. And as we all know, after a long and tireless fight, Galoob would eventually market the Game Genie in the States, every kid could finally discover what was on the other side of the flagpole in Super Mario Bros., and life would be complete. But the Game Genie was not finished with its journey – there was still one last adventure for it, and it was the 60 pins ride.

Game Genie on Famicom

Game Genie on Famicom

You see, Codemasters has an intimate relationship with Asia…at least their unlicensed works do. As many might recall, childhood Codemasters favorites such as Micro Machines and Dizzy would make an appearance on the Nintendo, though those games would be somewhat “special”. Instead of appearing in gray game cartridges, these titles found themselves locked inside magical gold or silver cartridges, complete with a special switch on the back. For the European market, the cartridge design was even funkier, and the programmes were housed in Game Genie-esque carts. Yes, I used the British spelling since we are referencing a company hailing from the UK 🙂 Simply put, these carts were unlicensed, released without Nintendo’s approval.

What does this have to do with Asia? To sum things up simply, Taiwan and Hong Kong were the go-to places for unlicensed game companies, when it came to accessing a healthy supply of IC chips and PCBs. As such, the Camerica-published (and Codemasters developed) Nintendo games all contain PCBs manufactured from the aforementioned region.

Even more interesting, though, is the fact that the same manufacturer (BIC, and later Realtec) had also purchased the rights to the whole line of Codemasters’ Nintendo software. As such, Micro Machines was released on Famicom, as well as Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, Ultimate Stuntman, and other fan favorites. In fact, some of the Nintendo multicart-exclusive Codemasters titles were released on Famicom in single cart packages. The largest area of distribution seems to have been Poland, with the basic Pegasus package containing a 5 in 1 cartridge of Codemasters goodness.

The artwork on these Famicom Codemasters games can be a bit quirky, and thus they seem to be unofficial products; however, they were all licensed by Codemasters themselves. In my own personal opinion though, these Famicom version are much harder to track down than their 72 pin cousins.

Realizing that Codemasters had an enterprising business running in Asia, it comes as no surprise that their Game Genie cheat device would also make an appearance on the 60 pin format; however, this device is much rarer than it’s 72 pin relative.

One of mis amigos, Danilo, helped me to obtain one of these Famicom Game Genies for my collection – I love you bro, and hope I can help you out as well! Since the Game Genie I possess traveled from Argentina to Taiwan, making a brief pit stop in Chile, I am unsure how this compares to locally-distributed versions, but alas I will talk about what I have as well as what I know.

Game Genie was heavily promoted in Taiwan, judging by the adverts and reviews in gaming magazines of the time. Both Famicom and Sega versions made it to Asian shores, though I have never seen any mention or evidence of Game Boy or Super Famicom Game Genies existing. Likewise, although Game Genie was heavily promoted in these parts, I’ve never seen one for sale, outside of South America. Take it for what it’s worth.

The Game Genie I possess comes in a box quite similar to that of it’s 72 pins brethren; English is prevalent up and down the box, as well as French (perhaps this is the remnant of Game Genie’s Canadian launch?). The box just seems to be a 90s “photoshop” edit of the original, with Camerica replaced with Realtec. In addition, a code book is included, though of course it is the generic Camerica version. This is not all too surprising, considering the fact that some of the BIC / Realtec Famicom releases contained Camerica-version boxes and instruction manuals. The reuse of materials is appalling, to be quite frank about it.

On a more interesting note, the package also included a second code book containing cheats for games off of a 76 in 1 multicart. I am quite curious, will these codes work on the original versions of the games? Or will they only work on the multicart versions? This is something I will have to check out later.

Otherwise, there is little to say about this device. It is just Game Genie. Because I grew up without using a Game Genie (I only got a Game Genie for the Nintendo in 1998 or 1999), I don’t have a large use for this item, since I don’t feel a need to cheat myself through the older games. I do particularly love Game Genie for allowing me to access secret areas of games though. But I love the Famicom’s Game Genie even more, for what it is is: a Western device that ended up making it to Eastern shores as an obscure footnote in gaming history.

More Information about Mysterious Daou Infosys

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.

$85 Games Lot

$85 Games Lot

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.

The Mysterious Daou Infosys Game

The Mysterious Daou Infosys Game

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.

Whirlwind Manu Code LB16,  Twin Bee

Whirlwind Manu Code LB16, Twin Bee

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.

IMG_6207

Uncensored Pic of the Front Label

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.

The Story of Kiddy Sun in Fantasia

Sometimes you stumble upon a game and you just have the urge to buy it. That’s what happened to me with Kiddy Sun. When I first discovered Kiddy Sun in Fantasia, it had been offered up for sale for a high price. I wasn’t keen on the price, but the game looked rather interesting, and even better, it was obscure. So I struck when the iron was hot, and a few weeks later the game ended up sitting in a drawer, where I stash my rare Famicom carts. The reality was that Kiddy Sun wasn’t nearly as magnificent as I had originally suspected – at best, it was a hack of my least favorite game in the Adventure Island series, namely part one. Sadly, as far as game play is concerned, Kiddy Sun doesn’t offer much, but we will discuss that in a bit. Let’s first look at the history of the game, which is quite interesting in and of itself.

Kiddy Sun in Fantasia

Kiddy Sun in Fantasia

When Kiddy Sun first started circulating around the internet, it was initially thought to be an unauthorized hack of Hudson’s Adventure Island game. The game itself only turned up for sale in Taiwan and China, and as mentioned earlier, the game itself was just a modest hack of sorts. The hack itself is credited to Era Tech in 1987, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t mean much. I also own game hacks that are credited to NTDEC. So overall, although the build quality seemed a bit higher than the run-of-the-mill pirate cart, the lack of general information about the game and the program itself just had the makings of a bootlegger’s dream. Except of course, that wasn’t the case at all.

Kiddy Sun is rare, but even more so, it is obscure. Few know of this game’s existence, but in reality, the game is a licensed product. The answer to the Kiddy Sun legitimacy can be found in a scrap of information posted by taizou of the Pirated Games Central Forum, in a thread about a nongoodnes rom set: “One random thing I just realized- ‘Kiddy Sun in Fantasia’ is in there, which I’ve seen before and I assumed was a pirate hack of Adventure Island, but it’s copyrighted to Eratech and Hudson had a HK and Taiwan joint venture caled HuERA, so maybe its actually a licensed hack?” In reality, that is the entire truth. But I will outline how I arrived at that conclusion below, so that everyone can see the truth about Kiddy Sun (and update their Famicom lists).

As mentioned earlier, the Kiddy Sun game is attributed to a Taiwanese company known as Era Tech. Era Tech is a part of Era Communications, a large multimedia company that has been involved with Internet, multimedia distribution, satellite TV broadcasting, etc. So a quick trademark search for “Era Tech” yields us the trademark for Era Tech, which matches the image on the game cartridge. Let’s see.

Era Tech Trademark

Era Tech Trademark

The company that applied for this trademark is as follows: “年代科技股份有限公司”. Yup, that is Era Tech’s Chinese name.

Although I had a hunch that taizou had discovered something of interest in his post regarding HuEra, the page that he had linked to was of little interest. The logo for HuEra was quite different from the Era Tech logo, and aside from pure speculation, there was no concrete evidence to link the two companies.

Modern HuEra Logo

Modern HuEra Logo

Today I happened to run into one of my buddies, and he gently pushed a stack of old gaming magazines into my hand. I thanked him and threw these ancient volumes into my bag, which would result in a backache. Try towing about twenty different magazines on your back for ten hours! When I got home though, I decided to thumb through the various issues that I had received, and on the back cover, I stumbled upon the following advertisement: “Enjoy Hudson”. At the bottom the advert was credited to “Hudson Era Soft Co.”, and the logo looked very familiar 😉

Comparison of Logos

Comparison of Logos

Just to confirm things, I decided to do a quick search to see who exactly owns (ed) the HuEra trademark, and oops, it happens to be these fine folks, namely 年代科技股份有限公司 (Era Tech). So that settles it, although Kiddy Sun in Fantasia is a hack of Adventure Island, it was created and distributed by Hudson’s Taiwanese division. To sum it up, the game itself is a licensed hack, and as such, is one of the rarer licensed Famicom games out there. So for those of us that are collecting Famicom full sets, let’s update our lists from 1051 games to 1052. Kiddy Sun will be happy to join its brothers and sisters. 🙂

Why was the game produced? I would love to know the answer to that one, but thus far I have been unable to find a true answer. If I were to guess, I would posit that the game was released in a similar manner to All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros., namely a special promo for some sort of raffle or prize with the Era Tech broadcasting company.

Kiddy Sun Title Screen

Kiddy Sun Title Screen

In terms of the game itself, Kiddy Sun is a hack of Adventure Island. The game starts on Area 1, Round 2, as opposed to the first stage in the game. In addition, many sprites have been changed. Master Higgins is missing in action, and instead of collecting fruit, the player collects other delicacies. The enemies and bosses have also been reworked, and the level order has been tweaked. Last but not least, new music has been added to the game.

Perhaps my favorite part about this game is what it is, rather than the game play itself. Although Taiwan had received an official Famicom launch and a handful of Taiwanese-version games, everyone (rightfully) associates the country with the rampant piracy, which would eat away at Nintendo’s marketing efforts there. As my one buddy told me, all of the shopkeepers preferred to sell the counterfeit games, since the stores could obtain them for a cheaper price, and thus the profit margin was higher. But despite all odds, a unique (licensed) game came out in Taiwan. All signs point towards Hudson being behind the Kiddy Sun game release, and it no doubt was slated for a Taiwanese release only. So Famicom collectors end up with an official, weird, promo-ish cartridge to track down and collect, which happened to be distributed in Taiwan. Very cool.

Stage One

Stage One

Stage 2

Stage Two

The Konami Computer

Konami Computer

Konami Computer

Back in June I had been browsing through some pictures and I stumbled upon one of what appeared to be a Famicom or Famiclone. It looked similar to the traditional red and white machine that we all know and love, but displayed on the front was the Konami logo, along with the words “Konami Computer”. Otherwise, I didn’t receive any information about the machine itself. All I know is that the pic have shown above was taken by donnyf88, and the machine belongs in his collection. I may try to reach out to the owner at a later point to see if I can get more information about the machine, but I think it is likely that there is little evidence of a concrete nature to exist for such an exotic item as this.

I asked some others if anyone knew anything about this particular machine, but aside from seemingly being a Famiclone, there was nothing else known about the device. My initial thought was that the console was made by the same folks that made the “Konami” series of bootleg NES games, such as the one show below (picture once again stolen, and this time I don’t remember where I got it from, sorry). Games like this were quite often sold in countries such as Indonesia, and IMO the same folks that produced these games were probably also related to Spica and Supervision, other bootleg brands that were commonly found in Indonesia.

"Konami" Brand Nintendo Game

“Konami” Brand Nintendo Game

The question still remained though, as to why the game cartridges (72 pin versions) would not match up with the machine (60 pin machine). I just chalked it up as another one of those questions that would never be answered, as is the case with a vast majority of these obscure items. But I accidentally ended up with a potential answer (and even more questions) to my question, last weekend, after purchasing a lot of Famicom boots.

When I first received my bag of goodies, I was quite excited, as there were a lot of interesting items in the set. My excitement soon turned to horror though, as I started testing the games and discovered that a quarter of them were duds. At that point I decided to start opening the games one-by-one to clean them, and fortunately after removing layers of grime and dirt, I was able to revive a lot of the games. During this tedious process was when I made a startling discovery.

Bootleg Tetsuwan Atom Cart

Bootleg Tetsuwan Atom Cart

I busted open a Tetsuwan Atom game cart for cleaning. The shell itself was generic one with the nonsensical word “Tpita” on the front, and “Toito Corporation” on the rear. Even more shocking was the contents held within. The pcb itself was stamped with Konami’s logo, and so were the rom chips. To my untrained eye, the board itself appears to be 1:1 identical with the official Konami board, and although the chips have some variation to the ones pictured on Bootgod’s site (check it out here), the chips on my cartridge also have Konami logos stamped, as well as ID numbers similar to the official chips. Sadly my scanner is broken and my digital camera is also kaput, so all I can display at the moment are some crappy phone camera shots. But this discovery provides few answers and even more questions.

The items that are worth discussing (imo) are as follows: (a) whether the board / chips themselves are real, (b) whether this cartridge was designed for use on the above Famiclone, etc.

A Closer Look at the PCB

A Closer Look at the PCB

To address the first question, it seems plausible that the circuit board is a legit Konami board. Maybe Konami outsourced their cartridge production to a Taiwanese manufacturer, and the same company produced extra pirate versions after hours, to increase their profits. For all we know, Konami themselves might have produced these carts, sort of like generic brands of cereals being produced along side their well-known kin. Konami had some sort of dealings in Taiwan during the 1980s and 1990s, up through the modern times, so it is within the realm of possibility.

As mentioned above though, the codes on the ROM chips do not match up perfectly with the ones shown in Bootgod’s database, despite the fact that the chips in my cart are also stamped with Konami’s logo. So maybe these chips are real chips, maybe not. Maybe Konami ordered the production of this product under the table, or perhaps the guys at the company just decided to produce bootleg games using the (official) parts they had sitting around. We’ll probably never know for sure, but either way, the shell is not legit.

That leads us up to the second question, whether this cartridge has any relation to the Konami Famiclone. Sadly, once again there is no concrete information, and only pure speculation. Initially I would have guessed that there may have been a relationship between the two products, but after seeing that the Famiclone game I have seems to be a duplicate of the official item, it makes the issue become a bit odder in my eyes. If Konami were producing a second, illicit run of games, I think it seems unlikely that they would be so bold as to also display their logo on a Famiclone. So I really don’t know what the true story is, but I am sure it must be a pretty interesting one.

Super Mario Bros. (256 Worlds Version)

Super Mario Bros. 256 Worlds Version

Super Mario Bros. 256 Worlds Version

I remember semi-recently being informed of a secret in the original Super Mario Bros. Game, which had eluded me for years. Most Western gamers are sure to remember the infamous “Minus World”, and I also knew about the Famicom Disk version of Super Mario Bros. having a different minus world of sorts, which was still accessible by the warp zone trick that everyone is familiar with. What I wasn’t aware of was that in the cartridge version of the Japanese Super Mario Bros., 256 different worlds existed, literally hundreds of new levels.

Mysterious World 9

Mysterious World 9

According to this article, rumors initially began circulating in Japan about a world 9. After a lot of investigation, it would be discovered that by swapping out Mario for Tennis, and then for Mario again while the Famicom was powered on, the game would load up to one of the secret glitch worlds. Later, a safer method of accessing the stages (by using Family BASIC) would be discovered. Still, these two methods for exploring the hidden Mario stages can be a bit inconvenient, and that is where the Super Mario Bros. 256 Worlds cart comes into play.

The State Select

The State Select

The Super Mario Bros. 256 worlds cartridge is sort of like the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” debate. It is hard to say if the bootleg game companies edited their game carts after knowledge of the original glitch spread, or if these carts were manufactured and hacked independently by the Chinese pirates, in a similar manner to how the stage started on or the number of lives might be edited in some pirate games. Either way, the so-called Super Mario Bros. 256 worlds cartridge is just a regular (bootleg) Super Mario Bros. cart, with a level-select directly built into the title screen. Pressing the B Button allows the player to cycle through and choose what world he or she wants to start on, including the hidden stages!

World A-1

World A-1

The hidden stages themselves are fun to play through and experiment with once or twice, but since they are glitch worlds, many are unable to be completed, and thus the allure quickly fades away. Likewise, I also have no idea just how common / rare this particular bootleg of Mario is. In outward appearance, the game cartridge just seems to be a standard Whirlwind Manu product, though checking a few of my other Super Mario pirates revealed them to be just normal versions of the game, i.e. sans the stage code. Either way, this game is a fun one to play around with if you have an afternoon to spare.

I’ve Been through a Whirlwind: Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

Awhile back I had “scored” a catalog containing information about the various game cartridges that the infamous pirate outfit (Whirlwind Manu) had produced. Manu had distributed copied Famicom games across the globe, with their territories spanning from Taiwan all the way to places such as Argentina and Chile in South America. As luck had it, I saw an informational booklet or pamphlet go up for sale with info about this company, and although the asking price was rather steep, I took the chance and immediately bought the booklet. I wasn’t even sure what the booklet was, exactly, since there were no pictures of the inside to be had. Since I’m a sucker for this sort of stuff, though, I plunked the money down and eagerly awaited for my package to arrive in the mail.

After receiving the brochure in the mail, I had received requests from a lot of people, who had all wanted to see the contents of the book. While I am not against sharing information like that, and preserving it for all, a busy scheduled coupled with laziness hindered my progress of fulfilling the request. I then had promised to set aside some time to scan the item, hoping that I could have it completed before December of 2014 rolled around, but fate had other plans for me. As luck would have it, my new kitten would play on my scanner, and something got bollixed up. My computer stopped acknowledging the scanner’s presence, and there was nothing more that I could do. So I was unable to fulfill my promise, no one got to see the contents of the magazine, and my evil cat succeeded at breaking one of my items. Don’t worry, I took it out of his monthly allowance, and he is still trying to catch cockroaches and mosquitoes to pay off the debt.

Tonight I decided that it was about time to share the contents of the Manu flier with everyone. Although my scanner is still broken, I took pictures of the entire catalog. As one can see, the flier shows the artwork and gives a brief description about many of the games that Whirlwind Manu had bootlegged. Some of the descriptions are pretty funny to read, and although a nice reference source, the catalog is incomplete. Still, it would be an invaluable resource for those that are trying to collect all of the Whirlwind Manu games. At one point I was actually work towards that goal myself, but I then just became fed up with purchasing an official version of the game, as well as a Whirlwind Manu version, and thus I stopped. As I said earlier, beggars can’t be choosers, and I hope you guys enjoy this rare glimpse into one bootleg company’s knavery.

Catalog Front Cover

Catalog Front Cover

Catalog Pages 1 - 2

Catalog Pages 1 – 2

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Back Cover

Back Cover