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!

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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

Catalog Pages 3 - 4

Catalog Pages 3 – 4

Catalog Pages 5 - 6

Catalog Pages 5 – 6

Catalog Pages 7 - 8

Catalog Pages 7 – 8

Catalog Pages 9 - 10

Catalog Pages 9 – 10

Catalog Pages 11 - 12

Catalog Pages 11 – 12

Catalog Pages 13 - 14

Catalog Pages 13 – 14

Catalog Pages 15 - 16

Catalog Pages 15 – 16

Catalog Pages 17 - 18

Catalog Pages 17 – 18

Catalog Pages 19 - 20

Catalog Pages 19 – 20

Catalog Pages 21 - 22

Catalog Pages 21 – 22

Catalog Pages 23 - 24

Catalog Pages 23 – 24

Catalog Pages 25 - 26

Catalog Pages 25 – 26

Catalog Pages 27 - 28

Catalog Pages 27 – 28

Catalog Pages 29 - 30

Catalog Pages 29 – 30

Catalog Pages 31 - 32

Catalog Pages 31 – 32

Catalog Pages 33 - 34

Catalog Pages 33 – 34

Catalog Pages 37 - 38

Catalog Pages 35 – 36

Catalog Pages 39 - 40

Catalog Pages 37 – 38

Catalog Pages 41 - 42

Catalog Pages 39 – 40

Catalog Pages 43 - 44

Catalog Pages 41 – 42

Catalog Pages 45 - 46

Catalog Pages 43 – 44

Catalog Pages 47 - 48

Catalog Pages 45 – 46

Catalog Pages 49 - 50

Catalog Pages 47 – 48

Catalog Pages 51 - 52

Catalog Pages 49 – 50

Catalog Pages 55 - 56

Catalog Pages 51 – 52

Catalog Pages 57 - 58

Catalog Pages 53 – 54

Catalog Pages 59 - 60

Catalog Pages 55 – 56

Catalog Pages 61 - 62

Catalog Pages 57 – 58

Catalog Pages 63 - 64

Catalog Pages 59 – 60

Catalog Pages 65 - 66

Catalog Pages 61 – 62

Catalog Pages 67 - 68

Catalog Pages 63 – 64

Back Cover

Back Cover

Interesting Famicom Disk Hacks

Those that are closest to me already know that the bane of my existence in the vast sea of Famicom goodies is that infamous little add-on, HVC-022, the Family Computer Disk System. Although this extension of our beloved red white machine might have also received attention and praise during its initial launch, the Famicom Disk System (FDS) can be compared to the stereotypical sunbathing, chain smoking, tattooed beauty of our youth; when we run into them unexpectedly at the supermarket, twenty years later, they fail to impress with their yellowed teeth, alligator skin, and the unintelligible remnants of what used to be a dragon tattoo. That, my friend, is what our Famicom Disk System has become.

Broken belts, misaligned magnetic heads, corrupted disks…these are all ailments that the FDS constantly suffers. Last week I spent several minutes realigning the magnetic head on my disk machine, and although the results were excellent in the beginning, by the time I moved away from plain vanilla disks and started throwing bootlegs and unlicensed crap its way, the machine choked and started sending me constant error messages in return. With cartridges, I never have these problems, and I am never left in the awkward position of trying to guess whether a game disk is just acting finicky, or whether it has actually gone bad. Ick, these failings easily make the little Famicom disks my least favorite part of the whole Famicom game library, despite all of the hidden gems tucked away so nicely on those little floppies from yesteryear.

Approximately two years ago I obtained around 40 or 50 different copied disks from a guy located in Indonesia. The games were all labeled with numbers on the top of their plastic cases, as well as on the disks themselves. Artwork was also printed out with care, and stuffed in with the unlawful games. Were these being used for rental? Private consumption? It was hard to say, all I knew was that I wanted to add these to my collection.

Copied Famicom Disks

Copied Famicom Disks

A few weeks later, a package arrived from my contact and I eagerly perused the stash that I bought. Mario 3, Tetris, Crackout…it was all here. I grabbed my first disk, stuffed it in my twin Famicom and voila! I just whipped myself into an error message! Rinse and repeat. I must have tried to get half of the disks to run; my anger grew as the disk system starting spewing out exotic error messages, each being stranger than the one previous. At this point it dawned on me that I would need some sort of disk copying device to run these game. Sadly, finding such an item for Famicom-era is easier said than done. A few months later this dog did have his day though, and for about $30 I wound up with a boxed Turbo Game Doctor 4+ on my doorstep. To run that beast though, I also needed a standalone Famicom Disk System, since it wouldn’t work properly on a Twin Famicom. I dropped another $60, and once the final piece in this crazy setup arrived, I would once again plop down in front of the TV, eager to unlock the mysteries of the Indonesian disks.

My Disk System Station

My Disk System Station

The first game I would pop in would inevitably be one titled Mario Castlevania, according to the handwriting on the disk. The artwork for this game is quite amusing in itself. Mario, apparently stolen from the cover of Mario Golf Japan Course, has raised his hands again to swing something. Instead of a club, he decides to take on a new profession – that of a vampire hunter! It is time for our favorite hero to enter the world of the undead, the world of Dracula and the Belmonts.

Mario Castlevania Disk

Mario Castlevania Disk

As the game loads up, I am left unfazed, as I see the familiar Castlevania title screen. Judging from the cover art of Mario Castlevania, this comes as no surprise. I then choose a file and it is time to get going!

Mario Castlevania for FDS

Mario Castlevania for FDS

As the name suggests, Mario Castlevania is…well…err, it is the original Castlevania game with Mario hacked in. On another page, Nathan White has the following to say about Mario Castlevania:

The is just the first three levels of Akumajou Dracula (Castlevania) with the Simon Belmont sprite switched out with a Mario sprite. It is a pretty neat little experiment, but unfortunately it is little more than just a sprite swap- you retain none of Mario’s abilities or game mechanics. The game also ends after just the third level, but it is an interesting curiosity regardless.”

Although his description of Mario Castlevania is pretty much spot on (the only difference between this game and the original Castlevania is the Mario sprite, nothing else has been changed), the game does not terminate after level three.

Mario Castlevania, Level 5

Mario Castlevania, Level 5

The fun continues up through the final battle with our favorite vampire, Dracula (sorry Edward, move over).

Mario vs Dracula

Mario vs Dracula

Despite the minimal changes to the game, this is easily one of my favorite Famicom disks, as it basically encapsulates everything I love about the Famicom in one game, namely a fun game, bootleggers with a great imagination that are also lacking in ability, weirdness, and obscurity. Nice!

Mario Zelda for FDS

Mario Zelda for FDS

Scanning through the large pile of games, the next disk that caught my eye would be number 59, Mario Zelda. Unlike Mario Castlevania, which I had read about before (and was ironically enough the sole reason that I purchased this particular lot of games), I had never seen anything of this Mario Zelda game. The artwork showed Link photoshopped in Mario’s world, but alas the disk gave me an error when loading it. And it had given me an error message the next time I tried to play the game, and the next time. For two years I tried to load the disk and for two years I lost sleep over the contents of disk. I am being completely honest here, without any embellishments. Before writing this article, I decided to pop the game in for another try, just in case, and low and behold, the game loaded this time!

As to be expected, I was greeted with a familiar sight, the title screen for Super Mario Bros. It seems that when Mario went to Transylvania to save the humans from Dracula, King Koopa slipped in to the Mushroom Kingdom and made off with the princess. Since Luigi is such a coward, Toad and the other mushroom retainers had no choice but to ask Link to be their substitute hero, and he answered their call.

Mario Zelda Title Screen

Mario Zelda Title Screen

Mario Zelda is quite similar to Mario Castlevania. It is just a generic hack of Super Mario Bros., where Link is stuffed into the game instead of Mario. Unlike the Castlevania game though, there are some interesting points about this game. To begin, Link’s sprite looks normal when he is walking, but if he stops to take a rest, he suddenly turns into this two-headed demon.

Normal Link

Normal Link

Two-Headed Link

Two-Headed Link

Instead of going to warp zones, Link prefers to go to the Gold Lion. Is this sort of like a Purple Ganon?

The Gold Lion

The Gold Lion

And at the end, when Link rescues the princess, she refers to him as Mario. Did Link drug Princess Peach just to score her, while Mario was away on his other adventures? I guess it is hard to say, since people rarely discuss this chapter in Link’s life.

Sorry Mario, Link is Peach's New Squeeze

Princess Peach’s Main Squeeze, Link

The last game of particular interest was Aladin Ekivalen. In Bahasa Indonesian, the words just translate into “Equivalent Aladdin”. The artwork itself depicts Subcon, and I can see Wart and Mario duking it out, with the Konami Man and other Konami characters joining the fray.

Aladin Ekivalen for FDS

Aladin Ekivalen for FDS

To my disappointment, thus far when loading up the game, I only get error 27 messages, so until the disk cooperates with us, I guess we don’t get to know what sort of greatness this disk holds.

To sum things up, I feel the disk hacks such as Mario Castlevania and Mario Zelda are pretty neat. In this day and age, this sort of hack is nothing special – everyone has made some sort of rom hack where just one or two sprites have been tweaked or swapped. But this sort of hacking wasn’t really so common among the layman during the era that these disks were made. So while I might feel underwhelmed by today’s standards, these games are quite amusing to see and play, when framed in the right context. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get back to adjusting my disk system’s head again, as it seems to be misaligned…

Zhongshan Subor Educational Electronics Company (Subor) has made a name for themselves in many circles, thanks to the large variety of interesting Famiclones they managed to produce over the years. In addition to several generic Famiclones that are not worth mentioning, Subor made whole computer packages comprised of disk drives, keyboards and the works. One of Subor’s machines was emulator-based and contained a built-in SD Drive, which allowed gamers to load roms from their memory cards directly into the machine. Few are aware, however, that Subor also had exclusive software designed for use with its large array of pseudo-computer Famiclones. That is what I want to discuss today.

One of the most popular themes in educational software has to do with the learning of foreign languages. Just as Americans can purchase dozens of budget PC titles promising to teach the buyers how to speak French or Spanish, English software was the rage during the 80s and 90s. In Japan, Nintendo released a Popeye English game, and Sachen’s Middle School English was another English-based game. Subor would also follow suit, and one of their products was English Word Blaster.

Below you can view the front and back sides of an advert for Subor’s Word Blaster game. The product naturally makes use of Subor’s keyboard, and the game itself is housed inside an oversize Famicom cartridge.

Subor's English Word Blaster

Subor’s English Word Blaster

Screenshots for English Word Blaster

Screenshots for English Word Blaster

An interesting point in Subor’s history is the fact that they had teamed up with Jacky Chan to promote some of their products. As can be seen below, one such item that Chan had promoted was the aforementioned English software. I wonder how many children actually used this product to learn English, and I am even more curious as to how many people learned English to an adequate level with this thing. Maybe it inspired people to go on and continue with their studies independently, who knows?

Jacky Chan Supports Subor's Products

Jacky Chan Supports Subor’s Products

Next we have another advert, this one is for another educational Subor game. This time the cartridge is a two in one program.

2 in 1 Educational Software

2 in 1 Educational Software

Finally, let’s examine a few fliers that showcase the actual clones that run these games. Our next leaflet lists the words “English Word Blaster” at the top in rainbow colors, though the picture itself just shows the Subor486B clone running an educational program. The accompanying text discusses the features of their Chinese / English computer (Famiclone).

Subor's SB-486B Clone

Subor’s SB-486B Clone

And finally we have another old advertisement from Subor, this one is dated December 1993. It shows the Subor 586 clone, as well as the Chinese / English SB 486B model. The backside of the flier discusses some of the features of the bundled software programs, and also lists the prices of the clones. The SB 486B model was being listed at 486 yuan, whereas the SB 586 is only half the price at 250 yuan. The latter model seems to plug directly into the controller port in a Famiclone, though unfortunately I don’t have one of these to play with.

Subor Models SB-486B and SB-586

Subor Models SB-486B and SB-586

Information about the Software

Information about the Software

Finally, I just want to say a few final thoughts on the material presented above. To begin, I find it a bit regretful that the quality of these pictures is not the best; however, my cat Richard, had been living up to his name (“Dick”) and my scanner has been in need of maintenance since last December. So for now we have to enjoy these interesting adverts from the quality of an unsteady hand and a ten-year old digital camera.

In addition, I just want to thank my good buddy Pai cui ke, who hooked me up with this stuff. Pai cui ke is a serious collector located in the heart of Europe. A former mechanic gone rogue, this guy went to the deepest parts of China and Hong Kong, joining gangs, sharing drinks, and smoking cigs with members of the triads, all in the name of underground video game greatness. I better shut up for now though, before Pai cui ke or his henchmen aid me in swimming with the fishes. Thanks bro for everything, I hope to send your next shipment sometime soon 🙂