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If you put something on the public web, it belongs to everybody. Scanning and uploading the hard work of real artists is an act of piracy, and you must approach it as such. Do it to spread your idea of beauty, not for recognition or respect. You don’t need my permission, but in case you wanted to know, you can use any of my scans however you want.
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What I’ve been spending my time with for the past two weeks, I’m pretty sure everyone who loves games gets issued one of these in heaven.
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friskywoods asked: Okay, you've got my attention. What kind of shooters do you like in a "so bad it's good" kind of way?
I find it really hard to like bad things!
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rupine asked: really awesome blog! thank you for posting!
Thanks! I haven’t really been posting much lately but I hope to change that.
My favorite sticks. Micomsoft XE-1HE Pro for PC Engine and ASCII Stick II Turbo for Famicom
I don’t get how you could love a stick that has only two buttons on the system that has one of the best SF2 ports but requires six buttons. >_>
I mostly use these for STGs, I like to play fighters on Sat/DC/NGCD.
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My favorite sticks. Dempa Micomsoft XE-1HE Pro for PC Engine and ASCII Stick II Turbo for Famicom
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Continued from Part 1.
When taken as a whole, the collection of games on a multicart or Famiclone represent the popular games of a particular era, the early days of the Famicom. Due to the system’s immediate and widespread popularity in Japan and parts of Asia, it’s early games are fondly remembered by a whole lot of people. The Famicom wasn’t just played by school kids trying to get the highest score in Star Soldier, it was just as popular with their parents and even grandparents. This set of games is designed to have a very wide appeal. Lots of the games listed are familiar to us in the west as well, many were popular arcade games here and were also released for the NES when it finally arrived. Some, like Lode Runner were only minor hits here while becoming incredibly popular in Japan.
What’s important to realize is that in Japan Donkey Kong wasn’t sitting on the shelf next to Super Mario Bros., F-1 Race wasn’t competing with Rad Racer. When the NES was released in the US, we had a great variety of games to play from the start, many of which were much more advanced than the older games. Some of the early games did get token releases here, but they were much overlooked for the new, amazing second generation NES titles. If we look at the multicart as the greatest hits collection of the first generation of Famicom games, some titles make sense to us and some seem haphazardly placed because they had absolutely no cultural impact here. But again, the lineup of a multicart is carefully constructed and there’s a reason for all of those games to be there. This article is going to highlight some of my favorite multicart staples that never got proper western releases, and try to explain their significance during their time.
Despite being based on a popular Hollywood movie, the first Goonies game was never released here. It was a big hit in Japan though, it’s side-scrolling action adventure style gameplay must have seemed incredibly fresh at a time when most Famicom games were simple arcade style affairs. Eight months later Konami released Castlevania.
This game was released in the US, although with sound and graphical changes and an increased difficulty. Multicarts contain the original Japanese version, and it was this game that really launched the vertical shooter; sure, it’s elements could be found in games as far back as Space Invaders, and Xevious sketched the basic formula, but Star Force took everything before it, left out what didn’t work and gave it a sense of style and speed that no game before it could touch. This game was absolutely massive in Japan. It launched the Hudson Caravan tournaments and the bizarre career of Takahashi Meijin. Hudson would take this formula and run with it in their own game, Star Soldier (another multicart staple) but this is the original, the first modern vertical shooter.
Before this was a game called Ninja-Kid (no relation to the Ninja Kid released in the US) and it was honestly pretty terrible. Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun stars the little brother of that game’s star and takes the basic jumping and shuriken throwing mechanic and refines it, speeding it up and creating more horizontal space to run around in; the result is a simple but addictive action game loved by everyone. This was one of those Famicom games that your parents played while you were at school.
Yie Ar Kung-Fu
Most of the games listed here are still fun to play, but you need some serious rose colored glasses to get any fun out of this. It’s the first real fighting game, and it was very popular with grade school kids in Japan, there’s no real need to play this today unless you were one of them but it carries a lot of cultural weight considering everything that came after.
Battle City has a simple premise: you’re driving a tank and must defend your base against 20 computer controlled enemies; it’s well enough designed to make that experience on it’s own a lot of fun, but what really makes it stand out is it’s two player mode and level editor. In two player mode you cooperatively defend the base, more interesting than the obvious deathmatch and possibly a first for this type of game. It’s simple level editor must also have seemed revolutionary in 1985. Another game that was a pretty big deal in Japan and never reached the west at all.
It must have been really amazing to see graphics like this on a home system in 1984. At this time most home racing games were top-down affairs; HAL have always been legendary about pushing hardware to it’s limits, not even a year after the Famicom’s release and they were making it do what was thought to be impossible. Today it seems choppy and isn’t very fun even for a NES racer, but in the days before Nasir Gebelli’s incredible 3D programming on the system this was as good as it got. It’s understandable why it was never brought here though, it’s excellent Game Boy sequel did make it over and along with Final Lap Twin on the TG16 sparked my love for racing games as a kid.
We got Galaga for the NES, but never it’s prequel Galaxian; luckily it’s on just about every multicart. After Space Invaders, this game was the next step in the evolution of the vertical shooter.
Road Fighter is simply Konami’s take on the top-down racing game and they pulled it off with their typical style and polish, at the time this was the pinnacle of the genre and a big hit in arcades, it was racing’s Xevious.
Of course most of us know this game, but the Japanese version found on multicarts allows you to club seals, they became polar bears in western releases. Does that make you want to write an angry diatribe about political correctness? Please don’t!
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When you think about the typical NES/Famicom pirate multicart what comes to mind is probably pretty negative: Outrageous claims about the number of games included, endless pages of slightly different hacked versions of a few games, the same first generation Famicom games on every one. If you’re stuck with a multicart or the built in games on a Famiclone you probably ignore most of what’s there and play the inevitable Super Mario Bros. or Gradius, the familiar games we in the west associate with NES nostalgia. In this article we’re going to look at some of the most common games on multicarts and try to explain their presence and significance. The “reference” multicart I’m going to use is the Supervision 52 in 1, it contains most of the common games and contains very few hacks or repeats (exactly two). You can see the full list here.
Most multicarts were not made with a western audience primarily in mind, or if they were it was assumed that the same games that were popular in Japan/Asia were also popular here. It would probably be safe to assume that a pirate cart maker in Hong Kong or Taiwan didn’t know that we got the NES in late 1985, two years after Japan and some parts of Asia. Most of the games on multicarts are from those first two years, and that’s where a lot of the confusion comes from. When the NES was finally released here, many of the games that were released during that early period were never brought over. Many of these games were pretty simple and publishers (probably rightly) assumed that we didn’t want to play games that reminded us of the failed consoles of the 1983 game crash.
There wasn’t really a game crash in Japan. Until the Famicom, there wasn’t much of a home game market at all, aside from early adopters of computers like the MSX. Arcades on the other hand were absolutely huge. Japan was in the middle of an arcade boom. In the US the NES got off to a slow start and gradually built up an audience as people realized this machine could do a lot more than the game consoles they were used to, in Japan the Famicom was an instant hit because it could replicate the arcade games at home, without the seeming complexity of a computer. It was not a “Mycom” or “Pasocom”, it was “Famicom”; a computer for everybody.
In Japan the Famicom launched in July 1983, with only three games: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. All were hits in the arcade and all can be reliably found on every multicart. A month later Gomoku Narabe Renju (a go game) and Mahjong were released, which brought an older audience to the system. These games also appear on nearly every multicart. Soon after came Mario Bros., a Popeye English tutor edutainment title, and Baseball which drew many fans of the sport to the system, many of which had never before played a home video game. The game releases for the Famicom were initially slow, two or three games a month. The initial early lineup seemed calculated to bring as many people as possible to the system and it was wildly successful, the Famicom boom had begun.
It’s possible to see a list of Famicom game releases on Wikipedia, sorted by year. If you look at the early games and compare with a multicart list you’ll see that a multicart is mostly a greatest hits compilation of the early Famicom, game selection calculated the same way as the console’s initial lineup was, to get as many people to buy the thing as possible. For a western audience this means a multicart is a great way to play the original popular (and mostly unreleased in the west) NES games, the ones Japanese kids were talking about during school breaks the way we talked about Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, and Mega Man. Playing a multicart feels a lot like playing Retro Game Challenge on the DS, and that’s no accident- the first RGC is about those early games and the original Famicom boom. In Part 2, I’ll highlight some of the best and most interesting multicart games, stay tuned!
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This interview was originally published in a book called Family Computer: 1983-1994 which was released to coincide with an exhibit called Video Game Exhibition -Level X- at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, which ran from December 4, 2003 to February 8, 2004. This is a reproduction of the English text from the bilingual book with no alterations. As far as I know this is the first time this interview has been published online.
-We have finally reached the 20th anniversary of the Family Computer. How would you look back these 20 years?
It was my youth. I was a game magazine writer, and had just started making games when the Family Computer was released. You know, I was pouring all my energy, practically devoting my life to games.
-What did the Family Computer mean to you 20 years ago?
We got acquainted with video games at video arcades, so the Family Computer was it’s reflection. Although the first Family Computer game was Donkey Kong, the Donkey Kong we knew, was that of the penny arcade. I was interested in knowing how loyal the Family Computer version was, to the one from the arcade. Although it was pretty close to it, there were some differences. So what were those differences; I think that finding them out became my basis for game developing.
-You once said that the first game from GAME FREAK, Quinty [Mendel Palace], was created by analyzing the Family Computer.
It became possible to see what was actually going on inside the Family Computer, when a machine for beginners called Family Basic was released. When I completely understood it’s mechanism, I went to Akihabara to buy a multi-use circuit board, added the terminals from my Family Computer, and run my programs over it. That was our first step. Then I made a long lasting battery to save the memory on the circuit board. It was all a handmade development environment.
-The handmade Quinty was released from NAMCO after 3 years.
I couldn’t think of another company. NAMCO games of the 80’s had this incredible aura. I could even say that I learned the A-to-Zs of game making from them. I wanted the NAMCO people to know that, and that was why I brought the game Quinty to them.
-What’s your opinion on Quinty, looking at it now?
It was punk. At that time, Family Computer games had restrictions on it’s hardware, and I think that most of them were ‘ordinary games’, due to their sales strategies. I just wanted to go against the flow of time, and it was also a very stoic manner of trying to show them the kind of games we thought were fun. For example the game representing the golden era of NAMCO, Pacman used 3 different animation patterns for Pacman’s movements. That is how they were able to make them look like they were actually eating. However, most of the Family Computer games had limited hardware, and they were only using 2 patterns of movements; such as opening and closing their legs to depict a person walking. I couldn’t forgive this type of animation that looked like a cheap picture-story. I thought that we had to draw several patterns to make them move, as movement is the core elements of games. We thought that it was important to dig in the most essential things such as the movements, instead of just using flashy colors; there weren’t games with such concept, besides Quinty. That is why I say that it was punk.
-After Quinty, you went straight to developing Pokemon. But there were a lot of difficulties before the game launched, right?
After the Japanese release of Quinty, I was thinking about releasing it for the U.S. market as well. So I rented a car and drove all over the West Coast, and visited a bunch of software developers there. However, everybody simply rejected them by saying that they were too cute. No one understood the respect we paid to the history of video games in Quinty. So it was kind of a body blow, and I started to ask myself what I really wanted to make. That became the roots of Pokemon. Thinking about ‘who I was,’ brought me back the Space Invaders boom. I was hooked on games through my Space Invaders experience, but what was I doing before that? I used to love catching bugs, crayfish… I also watched the re-runs of special effects monster films… I wanted to create a game with all my memories; that was the birth of Pokemon. I got the idea of creating a game close to my own roots, in which you had to catch the Pokemons in the mountains, or under the sea.
-Why did you select Game Boy as it’s platform?
I had some information regarding the specifications and characteristics of the Game Boy, before it’s release. Among these specifications, ‘data communication’ was printed as a key word. It said that they could communicate with each other by connecting Game Boys with special cables. My imagination grew as I thought more and more about this word. I imagined a chunk of information being transferred through data communication; I went wow, that’s gonna be something! And decided to create a game using that idea. I was quite sure that it was going to be a game that could only be made for the Game Boy.
-I understand that you exchanged quite a bit of information with Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto, as you developed Pokemon.
I always try not to miss any words Mr. Miyamoto is saying, because suddenly he utters very important things. I remember him saying “wouldn’t it be better if you had a scene where you could pick either of them,” when he saw our design documents for “Pocket Monster”. I was creating a ‘greedy’ game in which the player should be able to catch as many monsters as they wanted to. I was enlightened to hear Mr. Miyamoto’s idea of selecting one of them, while discarding the other. That idea ended up defining the first scene where the protagonist must select one capsule among three. I made the player choose the “Pokemon” that would be his partner.
-Why do you think Pokemon became a worldwide major hit?
Receiving a bicycle as a present, catching bugs and fishing. I realized that all of these experiences that I felt were just mine, were shared by all of the kids. I guess that’s why people around the world embraced it.
-My last question; I think that you can tell someone’s personality by his favorite Pokemon, but which is your favorite?
I like Poliwag. It is a tadpole monster which has a circle pattern on its tummy. Actually the patterns are drawn where the intestines should be. When I was a kid, I would go to the riverside to catch frogs, and I could see their intestines, because their skin was transparent. The Pokemon themselves are based on my own experiences. Poliwag is symbolic of that.
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