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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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 😉

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.

Harpooning a Whale: Vast Fame’s “Zook Hero 2”

Earlier this week I managed to snag a copy of a Game Boy game that had been eluding me for the past two years, Zook Hero 2.  Despite its quirky name, Zook Hero 2 is actually an unlicensed game of high quality, being sought after by collectors and gamers alike.  But we shall see a bit more of the game itself in a few minutes.

V.Fame's Elusive "Zook Hero 2"

V.Fame’s Elusive “Zook Hero 2”

My personal quest for Zook Hero 2 begins somewhere in 2012, which is the year when I first discovered Vast Fame.  Vast Fame was an unlicensed gaming outfit located in the former Dali City, Taiwan, and had been in operation from the late 90s until about 2003, when it seemingly disappeared.  As Vast Fame was located in the city in which my girlfriend grew up, I had asked my girlfriend about their existence.  She is not a gamer though, and was thus clueless as to its presence in her old stomping grounds.  Since Vast Fame was only located about an hour from my home, I decided it would be best to swing by the area and investigate things for myself.

Armed with only the company’s address and a fat wallet, I would later pay a taxi driver to take me to the former site of Vast Fame.  Imagine my surprise and disappointment when the cab driver pulled into a residential area chalk full of apartments.  After snooping around the area and confirming the address, I came to realize that Vast Fame’s company must have been headquartered in a small apartment of sorts, which suggests the size of the company itself.  Not one to give up though, I went to a nearby convenience store and grabbed a couple of beers, before checking out a small game shop that had been around back in the day.

The information gathered at the game shop would lead to yet another disappointment.  The owner of the shop had no idea that Vast Fame had even existed, despite the fact that it was basically located in his backyard.  The shop had sold Game Boy products in days gone by, but he didn’t have anything from Vast Fame.  To me, these few scraps of information suggest that Vast Fame was quite a small operation, or perhaps even a side venture from someone in charge of a larger gaming operation.  No matter what the case may be, in terms of unlicensed Game Boy games, the original Vast Fame set has been quite difficult for me to track down, and Zook Hero 2 had eluded me twice.

Once I had seen what appeared to be a boxed copy of Zook Hero 2 for sale but after inquiring about it, I was told that the game was long gone.  I used this opportunity to snag a mint copy of the box and manual for Zook.  About a year later, I would catch word of someone else who had a copy of the game, but they refused to sell it to me, claiming that (once again) only the box and manual were to be had.  In short, in the span of roughly two years, two Zook Hero 2 game packs had gone AWOL.  I eventually connected with someone that had a loose copy of the game, and I was tickled when the package arrived earlier this week, thus brightening the day of my lonely Zook box and manual.

Zook Hero 2 is perhaps one of the best unlicensed games available for the Game Boy Color.  Essentially, the game is an unofficial addition to the popular Rockman (Mega Man) franchise.  Inspired by the Rockman X series, the game itself is an original work, which contains original graphics, music, and coding.  Like its prequel, Zook Hero Z, Zook Hero 2 features tight controls, and it is a welcome addition to any Game Boy collection.  Below you can view an eight minute video of Zook Hero 2 in action – the video was not recorded by me, however, since I do not have any high quality means of recording the game.  The video was captured by Star-Spangled Shazam, another gamer.

Sometime after the original Taiwanese release of Zook Hero 2, a Chinese company (often attributed to being Li Cheng) would market Zook Hero 2 in China under the name Rockman DX3.  In addition to updating the packaging, some changes to the game program would also be made, which essentially made the rerelease version of the game inferior to the original, Taiwanese release; however, as with most of these games, the Chinese reprint is much easier to track down than an original Vast Fame copy of the game, thus posing an interesting question:  is it better to own a slightly inferior version of the game, or none at all?  To me the answer was clear, opting to purchase the Li Cheng Rockman DX3 to play until I could find an original.

Li Cheng's "Rockman DX3" Reprint

Li Cheng’s “Rockman DX3” Reprint

All in all, Zook Hero 2 is an obscure Rockmanclone that will quench the thirst of anyone looking for a new challenge in the Mega Man universe.  As with most of their unlicensed game releases, Vast Fame hit a homerun with Zook Hero 2, a game that I cannot recommend enough.