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.

A wii Experience for the Famicom? Presenting the Dynavision Extreme

About a week and a half ago I was browsing around eBay one evening, as I had nothing better to do.  I then stumbled upon a seller that I had fond memories of, going back to my NES collecting days of long ago.  I decided to take a look through the seller’s current selection of wares, though it was more for simple curiosity rather than with serious intent on making a purchase.  My NES collecting days are way over and most of his items were related to the notorious gray box.  I thought I was going to escape my browsing session without doing any damage towards my wallet, but then I saw something that caught my eye.  There was one Famicom item for sale, published by the Brazilian game company Dynacom, and the auction was for a soccer / boxing multicart.  I figured that the game was just Nintendo’s Soccer and an old boxing game slapped together in a fancy package, but I instantly felt that something was amiss when I read the auction description itself.  To quote the seller himself:

“Hello, my name is Dynavision Extreme, and I am a videogame acessory for use with the Famicom console. I was manufactured in Brazil by Dynacom, and I am fully compatible with Famicom top loader consoles. I am in complete condition, new in box. You can use this wireless module on your foot to play soccer, or in your hand to play boxe. The cart comes with a sensor to detect your movements into the game.”

I immediately messaged the seller and he said he was traveling around America at the time, and was unable to take more pictures for me; however, he assured me that the game would run fine in a standard Famicom / Famiclone, and said that yes, the game was just like something on the Nintendo wii.  I felt even more intrigued by the device, and a quick Google search yielded inadequate results.  In the end curiosity got the best of me, and it had killed this cat – did I just make a $70 mistake, or would I be adding another bad ass piece to my growing collection of Famicom oddities?  Only time would tell.

As I was walking to work today, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if that Brazilian game cart arrived today?  I could then experiment with it over the three-day holiday.”  Almost as soon as the thought came into my mind, it was gone; in my opinion, it had been too soon for me to be expecting the package to arrive, especially when coming from Brazil.  But when I walked into work, there it was, sitting on the counter in all of its glory.  The next challenge would be to occupy my time until noon, when I could finally go home and see if I had purchased a gem or a turd.  It was time to find out the truth.

Dynavision Extreme Box

Dynavision Extreme Box

The front of the box just has the words “Boxe Futebol Virtual” listed in Portuguese.  Checking out the side of the box, I am greeted with the following message:  “2 Games Interativos para todos os modelos de Dynavision ou qualquer videogame compativel com Nintendo* 8 bits.”  For those without the Portuguese background, it basically states that the two interactive games are compatible with Dynacom’s own line of Famicom game clones, as well as other game machines that use Famicom games.

Checking out the Specs

So What Do We Get?

Turning to the back, we can see some brief descriptions of the two included games, Futebol Virtual and Boxe Virtual.  There are also photos labeling the various functions on the wrist sensor, as well as a caption that highlights the location of the sensor in the game cartridge itself.  Then it was time to make a decision:  since my Dynavision Xtreme was brand new, it was time to make the hardest decision of my life:  should I remove the shrink-wrap and take the Xtreme to the…well extreme?  Or should I just throw it up on the shelf in its pristine condition, leaving so many questions unanswered?  For those that know me well, the latter choice was no option of mine, so I shouted “Off with its wrap!” and one more cartridge’s virginity had been lost.

IMG_4042

I was a bit taken aback when I popped open the top of the box.  Expecting some secure method of housing game and sensor, I was actually a bit appalled at seeing the two items floating around aimlessly in the box, having fallen free from their restraints en route.  Tucked underneath the box was what seemed to be a manual, but after opening it up and thumbing through it, it turns out that it is a list of video game and electronic shops around Brazil, which were qualified at offering technical services for Dynacom products.  A totally unexpected and a bit of an oddity to include, if you ask me.

The game itself is housed inside an exotic-looking cartridge case, which is of the same design as the other Famicom cartridges that Dynacom produced over the years.  Turning the cartridge over reveals a sensor mounted on the back.  In my opinion, this is a minor design flaw, but we will get to that shortly.  Also included within the package is a small sensor, which you can attach to your wrist or leg via a short Velcro band.  The large button at the top of the bracelet functions as a convenient start button, and the whole unit runs off of a 3 volt lithium battery.

I then did a test run of the game, and you can view the results on the short demonstration video below:

As you can see from the footage above, the seller was right and the Dynavision Extreme does attempt to simulate the interactive nature of a wii game.  There are two gaming options, Soccer and Boxing.  The boxing mode is the best, imo.  The player is presented with a short, one round boxing match against the opponent.  If the player has trouble defeating his / her nemesis, he /s he can practice up in the training mode, where the opponent does not fight back.  Although a bit boring, this mode provides the player with the perfect opportunity to adjust the sensor so that it can provide the most optimal performance.

The soccer game is a bit less appealing to me, however – no matter what I do, I can’t seem to properly time my own kicks with the game, and thus the majority of the time, the sensor does not register my movement.  I then see the ball floating off screen, and I feel as helpless as a person does, when he or she watches as a ball slides towards the gutter during a game of bowling.  There is nothing you can do, but stand there and curse in pain.

Speaking of the sensor, there is a bit of a design flaw with this product.  In order to interact between the wrist strap and the game itself, I need to turn my Famicom around, so that the sensor (which is located on the back of the cartridge) can detect the movement from the wrist strap.  When I first fired the product up, I thought it was faulty, since it wasn’t detecting any hits.  Then I turned it around and the Extreme worked like a champ.  This is a minor complaint, I know, but I hate having to flip my system around every time I want to play this game.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with the Dynavision Extreme.  Although there are a few minor flaws, I think the concept of the games is pretty amazing, and it just demonstrates once again why I love unlicensed game companies so much – they are willing to take the risk and bring to life products that are bigger than life, even if there are a few minor kinks to get straightened out.  Furthermore, I have heard rumors regarding the existence of a ping pong game that uses the same technology as this cartridge, and I am in the process of trying to track it down.  If I can find it, I am sure you guys will see a review of it as well.  Okay guys, I need to get back to some boxing, so I’ll catch you later 🙂