The Konami Computer

Konami Computer

Konami Computer

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

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

"Konami" Brand Nintendo Game

“Konami” Brand Nintendo Game

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

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

Bootleg Tetsuwan Atom Cart

Bootleg Tetsuwan Atom Cart

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

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

A Closer Look at the PCB

A Closer Look at the PCB

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

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

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

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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 🙂

Famicom in the Middle East

Having had a good friend from Saudi Arabia back during my university days, I have always been intrigued by that region of the world.  Curiously enough though, I wasn’t collecting games during that portion of my life, and Mashari and I were too concerned with meeting girls to worry about something as trivial as Famicom.  I never did ask Mashari about gaming in the Middle East, and this made the chance to talk with a collector and gamer from that region even more exciting for me.

My initial introduction to the gaming world in the Middle East would be from a few seemingly minor points mentioned in trade correspondence with another collector in regards to some Sachen games he was selling.  The European collector (name withheld for privacy reasons) had been selling 72 pin Nintendo NES Sachen games, and I wanted to try to clear up the mystery as to where those cartridges were initially marketed.  When asked if the games were being sold in Italy during the early 1990s, the seller replied saying “Sachen games I saw some sellers starting [to sell in] 2005…we are speaking of Arabic people specialized in selling cheap electronics / used electronics and the games coming used from North Africa.”  In a message a year prior, he had also mentioned that how “10 years ago I purchased to a sort of Arabic market 50 carts all together, all of them were new despite some were [being] sold without box (those I wanna sell now).”  So to sum it up, Sachen NES carts were being sold in Italy at Arabic markets back during the early 21st century.  Ironically enough, this was also around the time that the games were being imported en masse in the United States by game collectors and resellers.  While interesting in its own right, and opening up more mysteries than it solves about the Sachens, I hate to admit that I have gone off on a tangent already, before even getting started properly.  People selling games at an Arabic market in Italy have little to do with the actual gaming scene in the Middle East.  Now if you’ll excuse me, while I go off on one more tangent, which has a bit more to do with the topic at hand.

This past summer I had received a Famicom clone from a gamer buddy in the Netherlands, who always amazes me with his generosity and knowledge (thanks Patrick!).  Well packed in the same package as some of those keyboard education Famicom clones I had reviewed several months back was something called the “Home Computer 3600”, a generic-looking Famiclone.  The bad part about this machine for me was that it is a PAL machine, but I really like the box art, which feels reminiscent of an old Atari console box.

Home Computer 3600

Home Computer 3600

The machine itself is nothing to write home about; it is a generic-looking Famiclone that has been stylistically designed to mimic a real Famicom.  The included light gun feels incredibly cheap, though the controllers are nice since they are detachable, something I feel is an upgrade compared to the legitimate Famicom hardware. Going back to the box, I love the text is mostly written in Arabic.  You can even see the company’s seal of quality, which you can examine in closer detail below.

Rinco's Quality Guarantee

Rinco’s Quality Guarantee

As you can see, the company guarantees the quality of their Famiclone for six months.  But wait, what company was responsible for the production of this Famiclone?  The answer should come as no surprise, namely Rinco.  Rinco was a Taiwanese company that expanded its operations to mainland China during the early 1990s.  In addition to manufacturing Famiclones, Rinco received most of its fame in the collector’s sphere as the publisher of The Dragon, aka Lee Dragon, an unlicensed beat ‘em up game featuring Bruce Lee.  Lee Dragon is quite a difficult game, but in my mind it is noteworthy for two reasons.  First of all, this game has a language selection built in, with the choices being English and Arabic.  Given Rinco’s dealings in the Middle East, it seems quite likely that plenty of copies of Lee Dragon were exported to the Arab world.  Secondly, it is worthy of a mention that Lee Dragon is thought to have been developed by some people, who used to work for Sachen.  Maybe Rinco had something to do with distributing Sachen games in the Middle East, though at this point it is only one possibility churning around in my mind.  And that is enough talk about Rinco too for the time being.

Last summer I had the pleasure of talking with a Saudi Arabian gamer, and he had mentioned the following to me:  “I have sweet childhood memories with Famiclones made by Rinco | Home Computer.  The unique [thing] about them that every one has a copy of Captain Tsubasa, “Captain Majed here” [with an] Arabic translation, and some of them have games like Castlevania, Megaman, [while] others had Jungle Book, Captain America and The Avengers and Aladdin and such.”  Captain Tsubasa must have been quite popular since it received its own Arabic translation.

1996 12 in 1 Game Cartridge

1996 12 in 1 Game Cartridge

Today, while I was out and about, I picked up the above cartridge, along with some others.  Normally I am not a big fan of multicarts, and this one looked particularly generic so I had low expectations as to its contents.  But as I was purchasing some other games, I hated to leave this one behind, so I decided to take the gamble and purchase it anyway.  When I loaded up the cartridge I was greeted with the following generic menu.  The game list basically met my expectations, so I felt neither happy nor sad.

Savia 12 in 1 Menu

Savia 12 in 1 Menu

I figured I might as well see what games were on the cart, since I wasn’t able to discern all of the games based on the titles. When I selected the second game, Capitan Majio BDE, a crazy thought briefly crossed into my mind.  Could it be?  Noooo, it couldn’t be…well yes, it could.  And it was.

Adnan's Captain Tsubasa 2

Adnan’s Captain Tsubasa 2

Here we have Captain Tsubasa Volume II, translated into Arabic.  It turns out that this is the original Arabic translation of the game, translated by Adnan around 1995.  At this point it is unknown whether Adnan had translated this game of his own choosing, or at the request of a game publishing company.  What is known, though, is that his translation would later be revised and distributed as a ROM patch in 2006, under the name of ExtraOrdinary.  To make things a bit confusing, it seems that another gentleman named Mahmood S. Lattouf also took it upon himself to translate Captain Tsubasa Volume II into the Arabic tongue; however, the Lattouf translation is newer and is not the original one that had circulated around the Middle East during the mid-90s.

Unfortunately, the Captain Tsubasa translation is where this article needs to end.  Aside from the unofficial Arab translation, I don’t have much more information to share with you guys about actual gaming in the Middle East.  I’ve heard that older games can still be found there, but that they are scarce and a bit pricey.  If I can, I hope to talk with a few fellow gamers from this region and be able to post a follow-up to this article; however, since this requires the help of some other people, I can make no promises.  Either way though, I will leave you guys with a few more pictures of the Adnan game translation, for everyone to admire 🙂

A Screenshot from Adnan's Captain Tsubasa 2

A Screenshot from Adnan’s Captain Tsubasa 2

A Screenshot from Adnan's Captain Tsubasa 2

A Screenshot from Adnan’s Captain Tsubasa 2

A Screenshot from Adnan's Captain Tsubasa 2

A Screenshot from Adnan’s Captain Tsubasa 2

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 😉