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

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

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

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

caotun motel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.