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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Elf Legend

The weather has been quite terrible in my local since last night; a super typhoon was headed my way, so I brought my cat into the game room, where we slept together. It felt much better to be on the inside, to get away from the howling winds and rain for just a few minutes. And the way that the glass doors to the balcony were shaking, it is only a matter of time before they break. So it was a wise decision for my furry buddy and I to move as far away from the outside as possible. We could have hung out in the bathroom all night too, I suppose, but that would have been one shitty experience, I am sure.

As always, it seems that typhoons always come on the weekend. I can’t have a hot date, and I can’t go shopping. I can’t even waste away my time in a brewpub, frantically stuffing french fries into my face. Nor do I get the benefit of having a day off from work. No, I am always stuck at home with a severe case of cabin fever, praying that things clear up by Sunday (which they won’t). And then I look around the house desperately for something to do. So I usually turn to my backlog of games, which is a good thing for you guys, since you get to enjoy a nice update 🙂

8 in 1 Multicart with Elf Legend

8 in 1 Multicart with Elf Legend

Over the past three and a half years, I ended up with a special 8 in 1 multicart in my possession. Unlike a lot of my collection, I don’t remember where I got this one from, though I suspect I either purchased it locally or grabbed it from a guy in Thailand. The multicart itself is numbered XB-F868, and was most likely made to go with the XB Famiclones that have been circulating around. Briefly playing through the cart when I first got it, I knew it was a keeper, but it was only a few months back where I finally had time to play through this cartridge properly. And that brings me to Elf Legend, the game I want to talk about.

Up until now, I have never seen anyone reference Elf Legend online. Google searches reveal pictures of cosplay folks dressed as Link. Perhaps the game is undumped, I’m not sure. So what is Elf Legend exactly? It is a hack of Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers 2, and quite frankly, it is the game Chip n Dale 2 should have been.

Elf Land Title Screen

Elf Land Title Screen

Our adventure starts out with two schmucks standing together on the title screen. Reminiscent of the Teletubbies, I actually thought that this was some sort of Teletubbies hack before doing more research and seeing that the names were all wrong. Either way, I am not the expert on said topic, and XB did publish an original Teletubbies game on one of their multicarts, so this could indeed be another Teletubbies game. Either way, it’s still just a hacked version of Chip n Dale 2.

Choose John or Pika

Choose John or Pika

The protagonist’s names are John and Pika, so I guess that lizardish character is supposed to be related to Pikachu somehow. After choosing your character, your receive a military-style briefing, which turns out to be quite humorous, but for the wrong reasons:

Cock say “You will perform a hard mission, that is you will to rescue Mario who was seized by enemy. Okay?”

What the Cock Say?

What the Cock Say?

Phew. Just from the text alone I thought this game was going to cross Rescue Rangers with some sort of fetish, but it appears that the one character’s name is “Cock”. Last time I played through the game I didn’t bother to read the introduction, and it added some confusion towards the end of the game. The Engrish in this game is pretty funny, and the ending sequence is even funnier, due to the poor name choice of Cock. But we’ll examine that later. Furthermore, why should I rescue Mario? Maybe he ended up kidnapped in Super Mario Bros. 17, which is a hack of the original Rescue Rangers. Who knows. Either way, sorry Mario, I love you, but I’d rather rescue the beautiful princess to your pudgy ass.

Stage One

Stage One

Elf Legend itself is essentially Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2, although it has been heavily hacked. Although the stage layouts remain the same, some of the enemy sprites have been changed, along with those of the hero. Other background graphics have also been changed here and there, where needed. The pirates also messed around with the pallet of the game, and thus (imo) the game seems much more vibrant, much more alive. I prefer the brighter colors to the boring ones of the original game.

In addition, some of the music has been changed. The first stage’s tune, for example, has been sped up and tweaked so that it doesn’t sound anything like the original. While I wish that more of the music had been changed (level two, I’m looking at you…), these minor changes all add up and help to separate the game from its original incarnation.

Stage Two

Stage Two

To be honest, I used to hate the second installment of the Rescue Rangers series; growing up, Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers was the very first game that my brother and I owned, alongside Rescue: The Embassy Mission (technically Dad’s game) and Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt. My brother and I played Chip n Dale for hours growing up, and we also played with my brother’s childhood best friend. With a game steeped in nostalgia, we were excited to learn of the sequel, many years later. Then when we finally did manage to obtain a copy of part 2 from Funcoland, we were highly disappointed. The stages were generic, the music felt lackluster, and the game was ultimately just a shadow of what the original was. This led to my brother and I bashing the sequel quite often, saying things such as “Rescue Rangers 2 sucks”, yet about a year ago we met back up and decided to give the game a fair shake, ultimately concluding that the game isn’t a bad game at all – it just isn’t fair to compare this game to its nostalgia-fueled prequel.

Welcome to the Harbor

Welcome to the Harbor

And that is part of the reason why I like Elf Legend so much. The game tries to distance itself from the Rescue Rangers franchise, yet the enjoyable play mechanics from the original Rescue Rangers game are still intact. So those of us who grew up with the original Rescue Rangers game, yet missed the sequel (and I suspect the vast majority of us did, seeing that the sequel got a late release) will be able to enjoy the game for what it is, without directly comparing it to the original gem. Thus nostalgia doesn’t stop us from being biased towards the game, doesn’t stop us from enjoying it.

Fat Cat's Replacement

Fat Cat’s Replacement

I also find the dialogues to be extremely amusing. For anyone that has studied Chinese, or has many Chinese friends, these translations should be quite familiar. They warm my heart, as I have many friends that say things of a similar vein, just due to not being proficient in the English tongue. One of the dialogues, for instance, says something about “use run”, which really cracked me up. Many of my friends say “use walk”, “use run”, etc, such as “We can catch that bus if we use run.” I guess it is not so funny for many, but if you know people that actually speak in this manner, it becomes somewhat endearing. With that said, I am sure there are many grammar constructions that English speakers use when translating directly into Chinese, which come across in the exact same way. 😉

I Dream about Our Cock

I Dream about Our Cock

The end of the game has possibly the “best” dialogue of all, thanks to the one character having the name of Cock. When you beat the game, the ending rolls, and a few sentences in, we are presented with the following beauty:

Pika: “As if I dream about our cock praise me now…”

Then another character (Jone maybe, I forget) has the following to add:

“You are so romantic.”

The initial time I played through this game, I had skipped the introduction screen, so I had no idea that the one character was named Cock. Can you imagine playing through the game and being presented with this sort of text at the end, out of context? Suddenly Elf Legend went from G to X-rated, in a matter of minutes. Maybe this is just coincidence, or maybe these are sexual innuendos, which the hackers had intended. We’ll never know for sure, but we can use our own judgments here 😛

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 🙂

The Unofficial Waixing Science and Technology Game Catalog

Two weeks ago I became temporarily under house-arrest, thanks to the sudden realization of a dream.  For the longest time I had wanted to own a pet cat, and I had been in talks with my girlfriend about this.  A few weeks back, we visited an adoption agency on a whim and when we had gone in, I could see in my girlfriend’s eyes that we weren’t leaving without one of the kitties.  And we did.

Now being responsible for a two month old kitten, I have been trying to juggle my time between work and tending for him (Richard).  In some ways, this has put a cramp in my style – instead of hopping on a random train during the weekend and seeing where I end up, in some town far, far away, I need to stay close to home, so that I can feed Richard his breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack.  On the other hand, being close to the house forces me to think of ways to entertain myself locally, and that is where the Waixing guide comes into play.

As a few of my collector / gamer buddies know, I have been talking about writing a guide for the Waixing games since the summer.  Since Richard arrived and I was trapped at home, I have been slaving away at designing a catalog of sorts, which attempts to showcase all of their games.  It is a checklist, but I also have hopes of turning it into a guide that will be very useful for gamers too, which have a mild interest in Waixing’s products.

To download my guide, please click the link below:

The Unofficial Waixing Science and Technology Game Catalog

I hope someone will find this guide useful, and if you have any comments or information to add, please let me know.  Thanks!

Famicom Does It All: Whac-a-Mole Mats, Karaoke Machines, and Maracas

The possibilities with Famicom are endless…and that is why I like it.  Unlike its counterpart in America and Europe, the Famicom received more add-ons; the zapper, power pad, and ROB the robot were three of dozens of interesting items.  Two or three karaoke peripherals were released on the Famicom, as well as a hammer for playing a whac-a-mole game.  Even some of the mahjong games made use of special controllers.  To this day, new items are being created for the Famicom, and that has led to the production of some very interesting items.

Remember the dance pad craze of the 21st century?  Yup, some companies in China took the liberty to design some dance pads and games that utilized the power of our beloved 8 bit machine.  Then there was the Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds fad.  Yup, you guessed it, the Famicom received ports of those games as well.  And I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if sitting somewhere, in a sketchy shop situated down an alley in mainland China, would be a cheap guitar controller and Famicom cart designed to simulate the “Guitar Hero experience” on the Famicom.  None of these have been found, to my knowledge, but it is only a matter of time.  Until then, we will just have to entertain ourselves with other oddities, such as the Jazz Samba clone machine.

Awhile back, I had discovered a semi-local shop near me that had some Famicom items for sale.  Stopping by one Sunday afternoon, I began browsing through the piles of junk – bras, glassware, shoes, and broken computers, just looking for something of interest.  I then stumbled upon something that appeared to be an odd Famiclone of sorts, the Jazz Simba.  The box showed a cheap-looking Famiclone on the front, as well as some copycat Playstation controllers and a pair of maracas.  Intrigued, I immediately grabbed the box and then rushed home to experiment with the Famicom clone.

Jazz Samba Famiclone

Jazz Samba Famiclone

Popping up the hood of this beast, I was greeted with a familiar sight:  a generic-looking Famiclone, complete with cables and controllers.  To be honest, this wasn’t anything exciting – unlike some of the Asang machines of similar design, this Famiclone didn’t even include any built-in games.  Bummer.  But what about that mysterious box with the words “Jazz Samba, E2000” written on it?  Hmm.

Contents of the Jazz Samba Package

Contents of the Jazz Samba Package

Next I decided to investigate the mysterious Jazz Samba box; after all, the product received its name due to this peculiar box.  Located on the rear of the box is AV out ports, as well as a plug for a power supply.  A tab situated on the right of the box pulls open, revealing the internal guts of the Jazz Samba machine (I thought the tab would open into a battery compartment or something of that nature).  I powered up the machine and was greeted with the following:

Mis Amigos, Cha Cha Cha!

Mis Amigos, Cha Cha Cha!

Cha cha amigo, emar 2000.  What a surprise, what we have is another Famiclone of sorts.  Since the other Famiclone included in the package didn’t make use of included maraca controllers, I guess that maybe this machine will.  The woman holding the maraca on the title screen would be the first clue to this, I guess.

Jazz Samba Song List

Jazz Samba Song List

So I go and get the two maraca controllers, and plug them into the Jazz Samba machine.  I then try to awkwardly maneuver the song selection menu using these controllers.  Each maraca contains one button…the maraca plugged into controller port 1 allows you to confirm the song (i.e. the start button) whereas the maraca plugged into controller port 2 moves the cursor up and down the song menu.  So you need to manipulate both controllers at once, if you want to successfully select any of the 10 songs included in this game.

Dance!  Dance!

Dance! Dance!  Donkey Kong!!!

Okay, so then you choose your song.  Because I am lazy, I will go with the first song, Long Road.  Some catchy music fires up and you are immediately thrown into the game.  While Donkey Kong dances at the bottom of the screen, small circles float towards the rings located in the upper half.  When the ball is inside the ring, shake your maraca and the words “Good” will appear.  If you mess up, you will be greeted with the words “Bad” instead.

The Mysterious Owl Cat

The Mysterious Owl Cat

As you progress through the song, the background screen changes.  As highlighted by the above example (a different song, btw), the screen changes from that of the castle to one inside the castle, where a creepy cat-owl stands perched on a ledge, ready to pounce.  To be quite frank about it, I was sucking at the game in unbelievable proportions.  Even though I kept receiving “Bad” marks, the game didn’t shut me out, in the five minutes or so that I played, so I have to wonder if you can actually lose the game from bad performance.  Next time I host a party, I’ll have to break out the Jazz Samba and then I can find out the answer to this perplexing question.

The truth is that I probably won’t ever be proficient with the Jazz Samba machine.  My rhythm is off too much, and I just don’t have the patience or time to kill an hour or so of my life, playing with this thing over and over again.  For those that are wondering, I am also one of those stereotypical white guys that looks like he is having a seizure when he is “dancing”.  On the other hand, I really like the Jazz Samba for what it represents, for what it truly is:  a unique Famiclone that attempts to mimic the popular games of the newer generations.  Us grandpas that grew up on the original Nintendo can still keep up with the younger generations, thanks to the Samba machine.

Below is a short video of me playing with the Jazz Samba.  I would like to apologize for the quality of the video, as well as for the quality of my gaming.  Holding the camera with one hand, and two maracas with the other makes for a rather poor gaming session, but at least you can check out the music and get a better feel for the game.  Enjoy!

TV-Boy

A few weeks ago, a man with a crooked smile nervously approached me.  “You like Game Boy?,” he asked as he passed a bag of games towards me.  “Sure,” I answered, quickly thumbing through the games, “How much?”  He gave me a figure that I felt comfortable with, and I extended my arm, cash in hand.  Moments later, the games were mine, and I hopped a bus bound for home, as fast as I could.  Those games were mine!

Among a sea of crappy titles, I did discover a few diamonds in the rough:  a Waixing RPG, some Sachen games, possibly a Yong Yong game or two.  More interesting though, were the three game cartridges that went with the TV-Boy game machine that I had picked up a few weeks earlier.  Like the Cai System from last post, it felt great to be able to find a game player and the proper software, so that I could try the thing out and see what it was about.

TV-Boy and Games

TV-Boy and Games

Inside of the TV-Boy

Inside of the TV-Boy

In design, the TV-Boy is slightly larger than a Game Boy Color machine, though it is also a bit smaller in size than an original Game Boy.  Stealing the design from the Game Boy, the TV-Boy has an LCD screen with a built in brick game.  In addition to the generic brick game, the TV-Boy is compatible with a series of cartridges, once again inspired by the Game Boy.  The carts are housed in cases that are quite similar to those used by Sachen for their unlicensed Game Boy releases.  Despite the similarities in size and shape, the cartridges are not compatible between the TV-Boy and Game Boy.

TV-Boy Cart VS Sachen GB Cart

TV-Boy Cart VS Sachen GB Cart

Furthermore, the TV-Boy contains AV ports on top, and a controller port on the bottom of the machine, allowing one to connect a generic 9-bit Famiclone joypad.  There is also a spot to plug the TV-Boy into a power supply, or if you desire, you could run the game off of four AAA batteries.  Now that we are done examining the exterior of the device, let’s see what secrets are contained within the game carts.

138 in 1 Multicart

138 in 1 Multicart

As the first cartridge loads up, something familiar stands before my very eyes:  a generic menu with the words “138 in 1” written across the top.  Randomly choosing a game, I scroll down the menu and select “Aladdin III”, which as we both know, is just an alias for Caltron’s Magic Carpet 1001.

Caltron's Magic Carpet 1001

Caltron’s Magic Carpet 1001

I quickly sample a few of the other games as well, before ejecting the cart and throwing in the 76 in 1 game cartridge.  When this one loads up, we are presented with yet another generic menu screen. Pocket Silver is an unlicensed original Pokemon game, which sometimes appears on Famicom multicarts.

76 in 1 Multicart

76 in 1 Multicart

Pocket Monster

Pocket Monster

So yeah, are you guys surprised?  The TV-Boy is nothing more than a Famiclone, and the game cartridges are just NES multicarts packed into Game Boy-style carts.  I have also heard rumors that there is an adaptor for the TV-Boy that allows you to directly connect Famicom carts to the machine, but I can’t confirm this either way.

Overall, the TV-Boy is a fun little Famiclone.  I really like the look of this one, combining both the Famicom and the Game Boy to give the machine a special feel.  On the other hand, the TV-Boy also has a few major flaws.  To begin, the control pad is a bit stiff.  Although I didn’t notice it so much when playing the LCD game, I have noticed it with the NES games.  This isn’t a good thing, but maybe we can just think of it as providing our all-time favorites with a new challenge.  The bigger problem, however, is that the amount of games available for this machine is limited.  No one knows how many of those special multicarts were made, and even 100 different carts were produced, they are so rare these days that the chances of being able to find new games to play is miniscule.  Alas, I guess this isn’t a serious problem either though, as most folks that are purchasing the TV-Boy are probably gamers / collectors like me 😉

The Amazing World of Keyboard Famiclones [Part I]

I’ve been getting a lot of questions and requests lately regarding keyboard Famiclone machines, so I thought I would comment on a few of the different keyboard models, which I personally own.  To be honest, I am not exactly a huge fan of these machines – while impressive and fun to tinker with from time to time, the actual use of a keyboard Famiclone is quite limited, for a Westerner with a proper computer, and to use the machine solely as a gaming device is also a bit overkill.  Although it can be hard to imagine someone using one of these machines as an affordable alternative to a computer, the keyboard clones are still fun to have around.

Little Com-

Boxed Little Com

Boxed Little Com

My favorite keyboard Famiclone (to date, I have a second potential favorite that we will briefly take a look at later) has to be one that was marketed by Asder during the mid-2000s.  Asder Korea distributed the clone I own, but rumors exist of some Arabic-language variants as well.

Little Com Contents

Little Com Contents

Little Com Printer Port

Little Com Printer Port

One of the first things I noticed about this machine, the Little Com, is the outstanding quality of the product.  Opening the package reveals two joy pads, as well as the main unit itself, a full-sized keyboard made of durable plastic.  Peering towards the back of the machine, I spot a printer port, suggesting that the Little Com could actually be used to print out documents.  Also included is a massive instruction manual, containing information on how to use the machine, programming information and more.  If only I could read Korean!

Main Menu Screen

Main Menu Screen

Powering on the machine loads up a screen, which allows one to access the built-in software included in the Little Com.  Included in the package are a variety of applications, such as several mathematics games, a music program, a text editor, and F Basic and G Basic programming tools.  There are also several games dedicated to teaching children the English alphabet.

Alphabet Hit Marmot

Alphabet Hit Marmot

Text Editor

Text Editor

For a Famicom fanatic like me, though, the most interesting games built into the unit are none other than Porter, Balloon Monster, and Magic Carpet 1001, three of our favorite selections from the infamous Caltron 6 in 1 cartridge.  Since this produce was developed by Asder, all three of these games are legitimately included in this product.

Balloon Monster

Balloon Monster

Magic Carpet 1001

Magic Carpet 1001

Asder would also publish an additional software pack for their keyboard machine, known as the PC-95.  Included on this cartridge are more games aimed at teaching children English.  If you tire from all the computer applications, the machine has a Famicom cartridge slot built in as well, so that you can enjoy playing your favorite Famicom games of yesteryear.

PC-95 Software

PC-95 Software

Word Game

Word Game

Overall, I find this product to be worth the money.  Although a bit limited in capability, the Little Com would be the perfect way to familiarize children to the world of computers.

Cyber Computer-

Cyber Computer

Cyber Computer

Another keyboard Famiclone I have is known as the Cyber Computer.  Unlike the Asder machine, this one looks a bit cheesier.  The Cyber Computer is basically a fake laptop that you plug into your TV.  The built-in keyboard has a cheaper feel to it than that of the Little Com, and unlike the Little Com, there is no additional software or applications built directly into the machine.  Aside from the cheesiness, this machine has nothing going for it.  Let’s move on, shall we?

Diamond Leopard King-

Diamond Leopard King

Diamond Leopard King

Before examining the Famiclone itself, we know that things are going to get a bit ugly just by examining the box.  Although the machine is the Diamond Leopard King, there certainly aren’t any leopards or diamonds in sight.  Instead, we see Shrek and crew in the corner, while a picture of the game machine takes up the other two thirds of the box.

Diamond Leopard King Contents

Diamond Leopard King Contents

Unlike the other two clones examined, this one comes with a mouse.  Yes, now we have a mouse for our Famicom.  The control pads and gun are standard fare.  In terms of quality, the keyboard itself feels very cheap imo, and there are no games built into the machine.  Instead, two cartridges came with the Diamond Leopard King.  The one cart is quite generic, containing many classic Famicom games, whereas the second cart is a bit more interesting.

English/Spanish Translation Game

English/Spanish Translation Game

The 48 in 1 game pack contains many interesting applications.  There is an English-Spanish dictionary, Solitaire, and IPA program, Mine Sweeper, Poker, etc.  As with the Asder programs, it is interesting to see these games on a Famicom cartridge, but I find it hard to imagine that people would actually crank out a game of Mine Sweeper on the Famiclone than on an actual computer.  I can’t really say much else about this machine, as it is PAL formatted, and my TV is only NTSC compatible.  Like the Cyber Computer reviewed previously, the Diamond Leopard King really doesn’t offer much of interest for Famicom collectors.

SB-2000-

SB-2000 Box

SB-2000 Box

The last clone I am going to make mention of tonight is the SB-2000, which was developed by Subor, a Chinese Famiclone manufacturer.  Before continuing forward, I just want to say that I owe Patrick a big thanks for this one, and that I hope to examine this beast closer in the near future, after I get paid (and can thus try some ways of getting around the PAL / NTSC problem).  When I can work around the compatibility issue, I think that I will find that this will become my favorite keyboard Famiclone, kicking the Asder machine to slot two.

The box itself shows the Subor machine hooked up to some sort of monitor, as well as a printer.  From this image, it becomes easy to view the SB-2000 as a valid replacement for a computer from the start.  When I open up the package, I also see a few differences between this machine and the others that I have examined tonight.

SB-2000 Contents

SB-2000 Contents

SB-2000 Disk Drive

SB-2000 Disk Drive

SB-2000 Ports

SB-2000 Ports

Unlike the other keyboard clones, where everything was directly built into the keyboard (sans the controllers), the SB-2000’s keyboard is an add-on, just like everything else.  The controllers, mouse, keyboard, etc. all plug into the disk drive, located at the back of the box.  As well as containing a disk drive (and several floppy disks containing some mysterious programs, which I have yet to discover), the SB-2000 also has a cartridge slot, and a printer port.  The SB-2000 seems to be well-built, and as a machine, certainly appears to be capable of being used as a replacement computer.  I hope to be able to investigate the SB-2000 more in the near future.  And by then, I might also have a few more keyboard Famiclones to examine as well, so stay tuned.

Exploring Sachen’s Game Boy Releases – Part II

I highly recommend that you read Exploring Sachen’s Game Boy Releases – Part I of this article, from yesterday, before proceeding with reading this article.  I think it will make things a bit easier to understand, when discussing these old Sachen games.

Sachen Monochrome GB Releases

Sachen Monochrome GB Pretender Releases

Yesterday, I showed you a picture of what I said was a set of monochrome Sachen games, CIB.  The truth is…I lied to everyone.  When examining the games in closer detail, I came to realize that most of those carts were simply the Color 4 in 1 game packs, housed inside the wrong cases.

Sachen Game Boy Cart Progression

Sachen Game Boy Cart Progression

The above diagram clearly depicts what I am talking about:  Sachen’s original run of monochrome multicarts on Game Boy used the labels seen on the games on the left side of the diagram.  By following the red arrows across, we see that some Sachen 4 in 1 Color cartridges were improperly placed inside the old cases originally used for the monochrome games.  Unfortunately, one cannot differentiate whether the game is the original (monochrome) version, or the rerelease (Color) version, without loading up the game and physically checking whether it says “Color” on the game selection menu, has copyrights from 1993 or 1999, etc.  Another way of determining which Sachen game you have (the black and white version, or the color version) is to try to play the game on a Game Boy Color.  The original monochrome carts will not work on a Game Boy Color machine.  Finally, by following the last red arrow along the diagram, we see what a standard 4 in 1 Color cart looks like, which has a different label art and is clearly marked as a color version.

In my opinion, the green arrows reveal the reason why these mislabeled carts exist.  After making the black and white carts, Sachen decided to revamp their code and then remarket it for the Game Boy Color.  After running out of the proper cases for their carts, they decided to use up their extra 4 in 1 monochrome cart cases and labels.  For those who collect Sachen games, this is a typical move from that company.

The two true Sachen monochrome 4 in 1 carts I purchased in Taiwan.  The imposters, aka the 4 in 1 Color carts with the mismatched labels, were purchased online from a seller in Portugal, who had found a small cache of the Sachen carts.  I imagine that many other collectors purchased a set of carts from that seller as well, thinking that they were getting the original versions, but it turns out they are just the Color rereleases.  Bah, I never would have seen this coming, but it is Sachen we are talking about.  Now it’s time to sell my duplicate carts.

Exploring Sachen’s Game Boy Releases – Part I

With so many Sachen Game Boy variants floating around the world, I believe that it might be of some use for the collector if these releases were examined more closely. Just today, I discovered that I even ended up owning basically two sets of what turned out to be the same product, and thus I hope to shed some light on the variants and releases floating around out there, so that people can make a better decision as to which Sachen Game Boy carts they want to collect.

Sachen, aka Thin Chen Enterprises, seemingly became involved in the development of software for handheld gaming devices during the early 1990s, possibly in 1992. Thin Chen initially ported several of its Famicom games to the Watara Supervision, an obscure handheld machine, which, at the time, had been hyped up to be a major competitor to Nintendo’s highly-popular Game Boy. In addition to the ports from its Famicom library, Thin Chen would also design a few new titles, which would be released on the Supervision.

By 1993, Sachen would branch out and develop games for several other portable gaming machines, including the Mega Duck and its equally obscure cousin, the Cougar Boy. It was during this time that Sachen would also begin developing games for the Game Boy, which were advertised under Sachen’s alias, Commin.

During this time period, roughly forty different Game Boy games would be developed.  Most of these games are strikingly similar to their counterparts for the Mega Duck / Cougar Boy machines, though the MD/CB games are not physically compatible with the GB, and vice versa.  Which release came first is anyone’s guess, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the games were indeed compatible with each other on a programming level, thus being developed and subsequently hacked or something along that lines.  Below is a list of games that Sachen developed for the original Game Boy:

-’94 Explosive Brick
-2nd Space
-Ant Soldiers
-Armour Force
-Arctic Zone
-Black Forest Tale
-Bomb Disposer
-Captain Knick Knack
-Crazy Burger
-Deep
-Dice
-Don Laser
-Duck Adventure
-Electron World
-Flea War
-Hong Kong’s Mahjong
-Japan’s Mahjong
-Magic Tower
-Maze
-Pile Wonder
-Puppet Knight
-Railway CMD
-Sky Ace
-Small Gorilla
-Snake Boy
-Store Tris
-Street Rider
-Suleiman’s Treasure
-Taiwan’s Mahjong
-Trap & Turn
-Trouble Zone
-Vex Block
-Virus Attack
-Worm Visitor
-Zip Ball
-Zoo Block

The above-mentioned 36 games were released on 4 in 1 multicarts for the black and white Game Boy machine, and were released in boxes such as the ones seen below.  These cartridges were exported across the globe, and each pack included an English manual, as well as a localized manual in a variety of languages, such as German and Portuguese.  Some of the 4 in 1 game packs were also published in Germany and distributed there by Nic Nac Electronic-Land.  These cartridges are housed within special cardboard boxes, containing German text.  They look nothing like the boxes shown below.

Sachen Monochrome GB Releases

Sachen Monochrome GB Releases

Tucked away inside one of the above 4 in 1 boxes was a flier from Commin Games, which advertised some of their game releases.  To quote to advert, “Searching for cool Game Boy – compatible games?  Here you are!”  The flier then goes on to displaying twenty different single-cart Game Boy releases, each with a part number B—.  At first blush, one might believe that this flier was really advertising the Mega Duck / Cougar Boy games, since the titles listed were only released on the Game Boy in the four packs discussed above.  On the other hand, the part numbers do not properly match with the Mega Duck / Cougar Boy releases, and the flier also specifically mentions Game Boy in its opening line.  Does this mean that there are about twenty different single cartridge Sachen games for Game Boy, which are so obscure that no one has yet to find them?  While I would love if this were indeed the case, findings thus far have shown other evidence that these carts actually exist.  Hmm.

Mock up for Beast Fighter

Mock up for Beast Fighter

The most interesting cart shown on that flier is Beast Fighter.  Beast Fighter would not be released during this time, and would only eventually be released on the Game Boy, seven years later (in the year 2000).

During the first few years in the 21st century, Sachen was still around, cranking out new game products.  During this time they released several new Game Boy games, including Beast Fighter, Street Hero, Thunder Blast Man (aka Rocman X), Jurassic Boy 2, and 2002 Gedou Zhanlue, which would be their final game release.  These games would be released for the Game Boy Color, though most of them are backwards compatible with the Game Boy.

From the pictures below, one can easily identify the local and international versions of the game.  The copies sent abroad were packaged in the larger, square boxes, whereas the Taiwanese cartridges were housed in the smaller, petite boxes.  Interestingly enough, while some of the boxes indicate that they contain multilingual instruction manuals, they don’t.  The international versions contain English as a lingua franca, and then they also have various localized manuals inside as well.  Another large difference between the international and Taiwanese boxes is that the international versions are larger, thus allowing more artwork to be displayed.  Although this is the case, I had my first contact with the Taiwanese versions, and thus prefer the look of those boxes.

Beast Fighter, Taiwanese and International Versions

Beast Fighter, Taiwanese and International Versions

Jurassic Boy, Taiwanese and International Versions

Jurassic Boy, Taiwanese and International Versions

Three Other Taiwanese Sachen Games

Three Other Taiwanese Sachen Games

Now let’s say a few words about the three games displayed in the above picture.  Whereas there is little of interest to discuss concerning Street Hero (it was released in both an international and Taiwanese version), the other two games – 2002 Gedou Zhanlue and Rocman X – have several things worth noting.

2002 Gedou Zhanlue would be the last game published by Sachen.  Unlike their other Game Boy releases, this title never saw the light of day outside of Taiwan (and possibly other Chinese-speaking pockets around the globe).  The game itself is text intensive, and is of little enjoyment to anyone who cannot understand Chinese.  That brings us to one of Sachen’s rarest releases for the Game Boy:  Rocman X / Thunder Blast Man.

Rocman X and Thunder Blast Man

Rocman X and Thunder Blast Man

Thunder Blast Man and Rocman X can be considered the same game.  It seems as though the Rocman X version was released for the Chinese-speaking market, whereas the Thunder Blast Man version would be released abroad, sometimes showing up for auction in Europe.  Either way, aside from a different title screen and changed character sprites, the two games are virtually identical.

Comparison of RMX and TBM

Comparison of RMX and TBM

Hands down, these are two of the rarest Sachen Game Boy games known to exist, and due to being released exclusively in a blister pack, it is almost impossible to find a “complete” copy of Thunder Blast Man for sale.

During Sachen’s reappearance in game development, they would recode their original black and white Game Boy multicart packs, and recode them so that they would be compatible with the Game Boy Color.  These Game Boy Color 4 in 1 packs are the same as the black and white versions, only the menus have been cleaned up a bit, and of course the games now can be enjoyed on a GBC.  The Taiwanese versions were released in blister packs, and so were some of the various international versions, sent across the globe.

Sachen Game Boy Color Games

Sachen Game Boy Color Games

Besides these 4 in 1 multicarts, Sachen would also try to squeeze even more money out of their cash cow by releasing a variety of other Game Boy Color multicarts, which all contain the same material as can be found on the originals.  For example, Sachen teamed up with Home Entertainment Suppliers, and released four different 8 in 1 game packs for the Game Boy, which each combine the games from two of the four in one packs.  Some of these carts eventually made it for sale in Germany, with German manuals.  Of the Sachen Game Boy releases, these carts are my least favorite, as they don’t bring anything new to the table, and the packages are also just so damn ugly.

One of HES's 8 in 1 Game Packs

One of HES’s 8 in 1 Game Packs

More HES 8-in-1 Game Packs

More HES 8-in-1 Game Packs

Then we have two 16 in 1 game cartridges.  When I compared the game lists to the contents of the above carts, I came to realize that the first cartridge (16B-001) is just a combination of the above 8B-001 and 8B-002 carts, whereas the 16B-002 cartridge contains the games from 8B-003 and 8B-004.  These game compilations were released in Taiwan, for sure, and it is unknown whether they made it elsewhere across the globe.

Super 16 in 1

Super 16 in 1

One of the fun things about these two cartridges is that they use a dipswitch located on the top of the cartridge to switch between the two menus, which each contain 8 different games.  This is a throwback to the old Famicom multicarts made by Bit Corp, which used dipswitches to switch between the various titles housed on the cartridge.  So for a quirkiness factor, these carts take the cake!

Nice Switch on this Cart

Nice Switch on this Cart

The largest Game Boy multicart that Sachen would develop was the 31-in-1 Mighty Mix.  This cartridge was another cart developed for release in Australia by HES.  The cart contains Thunder Blast Man, Jurassic Boy 2, and most of the games from Sachen’s black and white catalogue.  Luckily, this game’s packaging is a lot nicer looking than the others published by HES.

So for those who are looking to obtain a complete set of Sachen Game Boy games, this is what I would include on my list:

-The 9 monochrome Game Boy 4 in 1 packs
-The 9 rereleased Game Boy Color 4 in 1 packs
-The 4 8 in 1 HES cartridges
-The 31-in 1 HES cartridge
-The two 16 in 1 game cartridges
-The six single Game Boy Color releases (Beast Fighter, Jurassic Boy 2, Street Hero, 2002 Gedou Zhanlue, Rocman X, and Thunder Blast Man*

*I would personally include Thunder Blast Man on the list, as it is basically a similar situation as Stadium Events and World Class Track Meet are on the NES.  While the two games are very similar, different packages, title screens, sprites, etc. would make me include both of the games on a complete list of Sachen games.

Attack of the Angry Birds

It’s hard to imagine that is has been over three years since the Angry Birds franchise took the world by storm.  The start of 2011 was a difficult time for me – I was unemployed, my grandmother had recently passed on, and I was on the verge of becoming an alcoholic, polishing off bottle after bottle of various Sam Adams brews, while submitting my resume to jobs across the globe.  For the first half of the year, I barely stepped outside of my house, as I had little money and no ambition to go anywhere or do anything.  So by July, when I started a new job in a strange town in a galaxy far, far away, it came as no surprise that I was clueless when a few children came up and spoke to me about the latest trend of fowl with anger management problems.

Due to some differences between my manager and me, the new job wouldn’t pan out as planned, so I gathered my things up and moved an hour and a half away, to a new job, which I still have to this day.  It was here where I would meet my ex, who was as consumed by the original Angry Birds game as, well…everyone.  I was soon captivated by the game too, but a few months later and I realized that although highly addictive, Angry Birds would never reach the same status of Tetris, at least in my mind.  This wouldn’t stop the game companies from attempting to cash in though:  several sequels would eventually be released under the Angry Birds name, and an unofficial Famicom port of the game would also begin to circulate around markets and shops all over Russia, Thailand, and China.

Angry Birds Cartridge

Angry Birds Cartridge

This morning I received a package in the mail from Estonia, which would contain a copy of the aforementioned forbidden fruit.  Like all Famicom games of this day and age, the physical quality of the cartridge casing is mediocre, at best.  The plastic feels cheaply made, and the actual circuit board containing the game is quite miniscule, taking up about one fourth of the game’s case.  And as to be expected, glob tops are used inside, the bane of Famicom collectors.  Nevertheless, it is nice to see some new games being added to the Famicom’s vast game library, especially something a bit different than all of the Chinese RPGs, which software powerhouses Nanjing and Waixing were so notorious for developing, just five or six years ago.

When I power up the Famicom, I am greeted by a nicely-done title screen displaying some graphics and the words Angry Birds at the bottom.  Pausing, for just a moment, I find it hard to believe that I am actually going to be playing Angry Birds on the Famicom, a machine that had been forgotten by so many.  Next, I am presented with a menu that asks me to select an episode; like in the real Angry Birds games, you have to unlock the various episodes to play them.  Since none of the episodes were unlocked, I had to start playing from the beginning.

Title Screen

Title Screen

Select an Episode

Select an Episode

What happened next was a bit funny.  The actual game loaded up, and I saw one of the red angry birds sitting patiently in the slingshot, waiting for me to help it kick some pig butt.  I selected the angle I wanted and I fired.  Darn, I missed the pig!  I tried again and one of the red birds collided head-first with a green swine.  Before I knew it, I was on episode two, and at that point I decided to call it a day.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Watch Out Pigs!

Watch Out Pigs!

As to be expected, there are many differences between this demake of Angry Birds and the official game, mostly thanks to the limitations of the Famicom.  Like the mobile phone game, this Angry Birds on Famicom consists of several episodes, which each contain several stages.  The variety of angles from which you can shoot the slingshot is quite limited, with only about five or six possible configurations existing.  In addition, the variety of pigs and birds is gone:  only the red angry bird and generic green pig remain.  Finally, the music track used in this game is terrible, if I can be completely honest about it.  Finally, the gameplay just feels slow and sluggish on the Famicom, when compared to the mobile version of the game, something that ultimately takes a lot of the fun out of this version of the game.

At its core though, the game remains faithful to the original, making it a unique conversation starter, as well as something that collectors might enjoy playing around with.