Posted by taizou at 2014-02-27 01:18:03 Hummer Software
, Plug & play
So I've covered a cart-based handheld, an all-in-one handheld, a multicart and a clone; you may be wondering at this point, is there an area of obscure low-budget Chinese console gaming I haven't yet poked my nose into? why yes of course there are several of them. but today I'll be taking a look into the magical world of the plug & play controller, a class of devices that predated (and have now been mostly displaced by) those aforementioned all-in-one handhelds.
These began as straightforward Famicom clones which took advantage of smaller NES-on-a-chip hardware to dispense with the console and squeeze the whole package into a controller which plugged directly into your TV; possibly one of the first was the early/mid-90s IQ-901 from famiclone pioneers Micro Genius but the form was later popularised in the late 90s by the interminable N64 controller lookalikes like the Mega Joy and Super Joy and Power Joy (and probably some other types of joy), all of which came bundled with collections of very much unauthorised copies of old NES games.
It was only around the early 2000s that plug & plays transcended the bootleg nature of the early stuff and went legit; in China the likes of Jungletac would start developing their own original games for Famicom-based systems, later branching out into more capable hardware from Sunplus and others, while in the US and Japan various companies got in on the act with a string of licensed releases.
The one I've got here is a later example, running a rarely seen type of 16-bit hardware. I've decided to split it into a few posts, as it has quite a lot of games and I'm going to screenshot the whole lot (not least because it's much easier to take screenshots from something with TV-out than the handheld I covered previously) - in this post I'll just cover the packaging and console.
So it's the Sunnyflyer 30 in 1 16-bit... thing! It also has a name in Japanese, ゲーム悍な将; ゲーム quite straightforwardly means "game" but as far as I can tell 悍な将 makes no sense, so there's that.
Sunnyflyer was based in Taiwan and spent most of its life as a maker of model planes - I have no idea why they decided to get into game consoles, but they did (albeit probably only rebranding from other manufacturers), and then seemingly went out of business shortly after. A lot of their old stock ended up on Taobao; there's a Sunnyflyer Famiclone that crops up there sometimes, and I've also seen a lone dance mat on a Taiwanese auction site.
The back has a game list in traditional Chinese - this important information being in Chinese does kind of betray that the Japanese text all over the front is just for show (if that wasn't already apparent from it making no sense), and the console was probably intended for the Taiwanese market all along.
The top of the box identifies it as a "plus & play" system and illustrates a flipped version of the system plugged into a clipart CRT TV, and there's even more (probably nonsensical or stolen) Japanese text.
And the bottom, with manufacturer/distributor details and such.
The other two sides just have some screenshots of the games on here, which I'll be showing you later anyway, but have these as a ...preview, I guess.
There's also the repeated text "EMG 2008 30 in 1 user gnide" which, aside from being misspelt and entirely out of place, handily reveals the year this thing was made and the hardware it runs; "EMG" is the series of game systems-on-chips made by Elan Microelectronics, the latest of which is EMG2000a, but this might use an older one.
So that's about it for the box - let's take a look at the console:
it is... a fairly ugly thing, to be honest. Control layout is quite standard - there's a little faux-analogue stick and a D-pad, plus A, B, X and Y buttons (though I have no idea if the X and Y buttons are mapped separately internally or they're just wired to A and B as is common on similar consoles - certainly no games on here do anything unique with them).
4 AA batteries go in the back, in that bulge which also helpfully makes it quite uncomfortable to hold. The battery life seems decent enough - it would be nice if you could use an AC adapter instead, but that's not the way of these things.
Anyway! That's the externals covered (there was also an instruction sheet in the box that I forgot to take a photo of, but it is both uninteresting, brief and in Chinese so you aren't missing much), next up I'll get onto the games - stay tuned!
Posted by taizou at 2014-02-13 01:01:10 Clones
, Game Boy
Some consoles get cloned a lot. Others don't get cloned at all. A rare few occupy the strange middle ground where they were cloned maybe once or twice, but the clones never really caught on; one of those is the Game Boy Color. Strange, given how popular it was, and how much pirated software exists for it - the original Game Boy saw a few clones (though still not many) but the Game Boy Color had... two, that I know of. Both of these were from the same company, which is either called Gangfeng or Kongfeng Industries depending on how they feel like romanising it, and both saw a brief production run in China but were never really exported. Today I'll cover the first, and I'll come back to the second some other time.
It's... the GB Boy Colour! Nice to see the British spelling there, although they lose a few points for picking a name that would expand to "Game Boy Boy Colour". This is actually the successor to a previous Kongfeng console called the GB Boy, which was (as you may have guessed) a clone of the mono Game Boy, in the style of the later Pocket revision; that hardware was reused by a number of manufacturers but the GBBC seems to be a Kongfeng exclusive. So let's take a look at the console:
Aside from the name and the slightly redesigned buttons, it does look an awful lot like a Game Boy Color, and in fact it feels a lot like one too; the plastic is really high quality and it doesn't feel cheap at all. The link cable port is present and correct too, and there seems to be an infrared port although I'm not entirely sure if it works or not. And you'd probably never notice anyway since only about three games used it.
It takes 2 AA batteries just like the original, and the battery life seems decent enough, although sometimes it seems to drain one of them for no particular reason when the console is switched off, so maybe don't leave them in. It also takes the same AC adapter as the original - they really have gone all-out with the cloning here.
Switch it on and you see the GBBC's major improvement over the original... the screen is backlit! (Despite the box claiming frontlit, which must be a first - a clone manufacturer understating the capabilities of their clone?) The screen does have a slightly stretched aspect ratio (probably to be expected, I doubt anyone makes GBC-standard screens anymore) but it's generally lovely.
The boot screen here is much like the original, even with the familiar Game Boy boot sound; instead of "GAME BOY" it says "GB BOY", but they've also (perhaps inevitably) hidden the Nintendo logo (while still checking for it internally), which is a shame because it means you also don't see any of the fancy custom logos used by unlicensed game makers. If you run a mono Game Boy game it supports all the same colour palettes as the real thing; it does seem like they've cloned the boot ROM exactly.
Here it is next to a real GBC; the camera flash makes both screens look pretty much the same, which really really doesn't do the GBBC justice, so here's a flashless shot (blurry, but you get the idea):
Game compatibility is excellent; licensed games all seem to run perfectly, and all my weird unlicensed stuff works exactly the same as on the original, like Digimon 3 here:
It even runs an Action Replay with no problems. The one exception I've found is a single multicart that won't boot on the GBBC but does on a real GBC, but it's probably some odd mapper trickery on the cart to blame. Running the same game side by side with the real thing, the GBBC does seem to be very very slightly slower, but nothing noticeable in normal play.
Sadly, no clone is without its flaws, and the GBBC has one or two. The biggest, for me, is that the internal speaker only seems to be wired up to one of the stereo audio channels (either left or right, not sure which); this means for games that make use of stereo you'll lose out on anything that only comes through in the other channel. Some games are quite badly affected, others aren't affected at all. It works fine with headphones though. The screen covering is unfortunately very susceptible to scratches, as well; mine sits in a drawer most of the time with nothing on top of it but it has still somehow accumulated more scratches every time I take it out - you may want to invest in a screen protector (a generic mobile one cut down to size should do the trick) if you get one of these.
Despite all this, though, it's still a very impressive clone, and if you're willing to use headphones to sidestep the audio issue it's a great way to play GBC games on a much nicer screen.
Posted by taizou at 2014-02-11 02:40:23 Misc handhelds
So I've covered the Game King previously as an example of a Chinese handheld with its own proprietary cartridge format - a bona fide almost-Gameboy in the tradition of the mighty Gamate and various others littering the pages of gaming history - but much (much) more common these days are the all-in-one type affairs, those which usually take the sort of hardware previously found in plug and play TV systems and forgo any kind of cartridge slot in favour of bundling a selection of pre-loaded games. One of the more successful in this field has been Jungletac, the company behind:
the 12 in 1 Colour Games Console! Yep, a games console in colour. Exciting. If it was 1997. Or if you've just been playing on a Game King, I suppose. This particular version was distributed by Premier Portfolio International, a UK based company seemingly engaged in the supply of overpriced crap for in-flight shopping catalogues and the like (although I got this one on eBay). The side of the box describes it as "fun for all ages" and claims "twelve arcade games in one", by the way, although that's the usage of the word "arcade" meaning "games that have never been anywhere near an arcade but they look like they sort of could have in a weird alternate version of the 90s".
Out of the box, the console now refers to itself as a "Classic Max Pocket", which is Jungletac's usual name for this line. As for the hardware, it's quite an unremarkable little design, sadly lacking in frills like a headphone port or TV out (other Jungletac handhelds do have them but it seems to be the distributor's choice whether to include them or not) but the d-pad is fine (if shiny; apologies for the fingerprints), the buttons are fine, and the screen is nice, as I will attempt to illustrate by taking a picture without the flash:
That's Jungle Soft's logo, by the way, Jungletac's name for their internal game development division; all the games here have a 2007 Jungle Soft copyright, although they have been known to outsource (particularly to Nice Code) so the games here may or may not be 100% their work - but I think they probably are. And those games are:
- Bubble Blaster - Just a Puzzloop clone. Or possibly a Zuma clone, which would make it a clone of a clone. Maybe you could even call it a Luxor clone if you like - there are just infinite onion layers of unoriginality where this game is concerned. Either way it's a fairly well-done implementation of the concept - the controls work nicely and it never feels like your balls are sticking in the wrong place like some of the lowlier clones, so no complaints here.
- Jewel Master - Columns clone! Actually judging from a few telltale elements (like the use of the word "Jewelry") it's probably a clone of Hwang Shinwei's unlicensed NES Columns clone Magic Jewelry (a common multicart staple back in the day). what is it with this thing and clones of clones? if it was still 2010 I might be inclined to use the word "cloneception" (but it isn't, so I won't (except just then))
- Night Wings - a horizontally scrolling shooter, pretty much like Scramble. Or exactly like Scramble, with better graphics and some irritating farty music.
- Space Castle - A Space Invaders clone. except there are some powerups and for some reason it's set in front of a rollercoaster.
- Move Fun - A Bejeweled-type game with a mouse, and some fruit, and the most generic name ever given to anything ever.
- Push the Box - Oh go on, guess. (it's a Sokoban clone)
- Hero Legend - Clone of Don Doko Don featuring someone who looks vaguely like Link. in red. This one suffers from some severe slowdown though, which is a shame.
- Win or Lose - Some kind of mad bastard Breakout where infinite balls just rain down at you from the top of the screen and you have to bat them away for points. Possibly an odd choice of name in that this is the only game in the system in which you can't win or lose, you always play for a fixed amount of time and just attempt to beat your high score.
- North Salvation - A Mr. Driller clone! Mr. Driller doesn't get cloned enough, honestly. This version is reframed as, I guess, someone digging in the Arctic for some reason, and instead of air capsules you have to collect heat capsules. Also all their efforts at disguising the game are kinda thwarted by the fact that they just went and put "Driller" at the top of the screen. Unfortunately it's waaayy too slow which kinda kills the fun of the original :(
- Mini Golf - pretty self-explanatory I think. mini golf game. it works.
- Hard Win - Another one of those names that tells you absolutely nothing about the game. Basically a stream of coloured balls come from a thing at the top, flow down a series of pipes and you have to move some pipes or flippers so they're sorted into the correct coloured jars. It's not as boring as I just made it sound.
- Gear Race - An overhead-view vertical racing game, sort of like Road Fighter except you can (and indeed should) just ram all the other drivers into the side of the road.
As per usual this also comes with a manual in a few different languages; the English version seems like it was written by at least two different people with wildly different levels of English proficiency, so Bubble Blaster has a nice coherent description in reasonable English and then Night Wings comes along with something like "This is continue to use the core game rule of the plane fire"
Anyway, I said I'd come back to the box, and here's why:
The back of the box has a selection of screenshots of the games' title screens, but some of the screenshots here actually contain considerably more detail than the versions displayed by the console. An easy one to compare is Space Castle since it's right there on the front; here's the box screenshot vs what it actually looks like:
This, coupled with the slowdown in a couple of the games, would seem to suggest they originally ran on more powerful hardware and have been ported down to whatever this thing runs; there are maybe five or more different variations of 16(ish) bit hardware used in Jungletac consoles, so presumably these screenshots show the original versions.
Also, like pretty much every Jungletac console, this thing holds a secret - hold down A and B when you turn the power on and you get this little self-test screen:
... So that's it! Not a bad little console really, although its selection of 12 games seems positively minimalist in comparison to later Chinese handhelds that come in closer to (and sometimes even above) the 100 mark. Which I'll have to cover at some point. And it'll take me ages. ;_;
Posted by taizou at 2014-02-09 19:47:28 Famicom
, Nice Code
Multicarts! For the Famicom! If you have any experience with these things, you no doubt know the perils of high stated game counts, where just about anything above a 50 in 1 is likely to contain repeats, and anything above 10 frankly could still be suspicious. But not anymore! A welcome trend coming out of China recently has been to release Famicom multicarts with game counts running up to the 100s that actually have the stated number of games on them! (more or less) And I have a couple of them here - let's start with this 198 in 1:
This one was released under the CoolBoy brand (酷孩); some previous carts (including other
high-capacity multicarts and reissues of Waixing games) were released by a company called Fuzhou
Coolboy Electronics Co., Ltd (福州酷哥电子有限公司) but the Chinese name is different (酷哥 kù gē
rather than 酷孩 kù hái) and seemingly this is not the same outfit, because when you turn
it on you see:
The menu credits "深圳市仁顺科技", Shenzhen Renshun Technology - a different company doing very similar things under a very similar brand. Presumably either they're connected somehow or one ripped off the other.
A piece of paper was included with the game list in Chinese, which is nice, if you can understand it:
for those of you who can't, here's the full game list in English, as it appears in the menu:
- CONTRA 1
- CONTRA 2
- CONTRA 3
- CONTRA 6
- CONTRA 7
- CONTRA 8
- FINAL MISSION
- DOUBLE DRAGON 1
- DOUBLE DRAGON 2
- DOUBLE DRAGON 3
- DOUBLE DRAGON 4
- CHIP & DALE 1
- CHIP & DALE 2
- CHIP & DALE 3
- ROBOCOP 1
- ROBOCOP 2
- ROBOCOP 3
- ROBOCOP 4
- TINY TOON 1
- TINY TOON 2
- TINY TOON 3
- NINJA GAIDEM 1
- NINJA GAIDEM 2
- NINJA GAIDEM 3
- HOT BLOOD WRESTLE
- HOT BLOOD STORY
- HOT BLOOD SOCCER 1
- HOT BLOOD MARCH
- ADVENTURE ISLAND
- ADVENTURE ISLAND 2
- ADVENTURE ISLAND 3
- ADVENTURE ISLAND 4
- NINJA TURTLES 1
- NINJA TURTLES 4
- STREET FIGHTER 201
- KICK MASTER
- MIGHTY FINAL FIGHT
- STREET FIGHTER
- MORTAL COMBAT 4
- THREE EYES BOY
- SNOW BROS
- KYUUKYOKU TIGER
- POWER RANGER
- GULF WAR
- BUBBLE BOBBLE 2
- DARKWING DUCK
- KERO KERO KEROPPI
- GUERILLA WAR
- DEAD FOX
- POWER BLADE 1
- ZIPPY RACE
- LUNAR BALL
- MAHJONG 2
- TETRIS 2
- TANK 90
- F1 RACE
- CHINESE CHESS
- LODER RUNNER
- CIRCUS CHARLIE
- SUPER MARIO
- EXCITE BIKE
- MACH RIDER
- LEGEND OF KAGE
- DR. MARIO
- STAR FORCE
- SKY DESTROYER
- MIGHTY BOMB JACK
- ROAD FIGHTER
- ALADDIN 3
- ICE CLIMBER
- HARRY POTTER
- TWIN BEE
- SPARTAN X
- PIKA CHU
- DONKEY KONG 1
- DONKEY KONG 2
- DONKEY KONG 3
- DONKEY KONG 4
- AIR ALERT
- AWFUL RUSHING
- BURROW EXPLORER
- BUG'S WAR
- BOMB KING
- BASEBALL NEW
- COAST GUARD
- CUB ADVENTURE
- DEPTH BOMB
- DEVILDOM DOOM
- DUNE WAR
- FIRST DEFENDER
- FIVE DAYS
- FRANTIC MOUSE
- FRUIT DISH
- GARDEN WAR
- HEXAPOD NEW
- HEXAPOD WAR
- MAD XMAS
- PANZER ATTACK
- POLAR BAT
- SEASON GARDEN
- SHREW MOUSE
- STAR FIGHTER
- SMALL DINOSAUR
- SILENT HUNTER
- THE ARCHER
- TWIN CARDS
- UNDERSEA ARENA
- AETHER CRUISER
- AIM CRUISE
- JUNGLE BOOK
- TOM AND JERRY
- AIR WOLF
- ALIEN 3
- SUPER SPY HUNTER
- SWORD MASTER
- TAITO BASKETBALL
- ALL-PRO BASKETBAL
- SUMMER CARNIVAL'9
- INDIANA JONES
- RACE AMERICA
- BRUCE LEE 2
- BANANA PRINCE
- ROCKIN KATS
- NINJA CAT
- IKARI 3
- PANIC RESTAURANT
- THE LEGEND OF PRI
- TOP GUN
- NEWZEALAND STORY
- MISSION IMPOSSIBL
- MONSTER IN MY POC
- GUN DEC
- CONQUEST OF THE C
- MARIO 10
- MARIO 12
- MARIO 14
- WAR WOLF
- HOT BLOOD BASKETB
- HOT BLOOD ICE HOC
- HOT BLOOD NEW REC
- HOT BLOOD SOCCER
- HOT BLOOD VOLLEYB
- LIFE FORCE
- RUSH'N ATTACK
The games listed in italics above are Chinese originals by the developer Nice Code Software; they're mostly fairly simple (their later games are better but sadly far less common) and I think most of them are dumped by now, but a couple of the more interesting ones that aren't (as far as I know) dumped are Season Garden and Zoom:
Season Garden is mostly your typical whack-a-mole game, Nice Code have certainly covered this territory before, but (as the name possibly implies) the seasons change and there are some cute touches like how the dude in the top left changes along with them.
Zoom is basically a fly-upwards-avoid-the-obstacles type of deal which later received a graphical overhaul and an extra "ing" in this VT03 version.
A few other things that aren't immediately obvious:
- "Street Fighter" is inevitably the "Fighter Street VI 12 Peoples" version, which is one of the worse Street Fighter ports out there, but also the most common on multicarts :(
- Super Mario Bros runs waaayy fast, I think too fast to even be the PAL version; it might be hacked somehow
- Donkey Kong 4 is actually Donkey Kong Jr. Math; don't get your hopes up about it being the Hummer Team one or anything
- "Pika Chu" is the Pokemon-themed Tetris game by Nice Code, also known as "Poke Tetris"
- Harry Potter is the hack of Magic Carpet 1001 with really really really bad music
- Gulf War is just the regular version of Silkworm
- and Superman has had his copyright screwed around with:
(If there are any others listed you aren't sure about, post a comment!)
All in all, it's a pretty great compilation, really. Almost every Kunio game! Recca! Banana Prince (the German version, no less)! A nice combination of popular games and obscure stuff, plus a selection of Chinese originals (which, okay, is probably of more interest to me than most people). One thing I could fault it on is that they saw fit to include a bunch of Mario hacks but not Super Mario Bros 2 (either version) or 3, but still. It's a good cart!
Could it be improved, though? Someone certainly thought it could, because here we have:
The JF2181 218 in 1 Super Game! Basically the same cart again, but with twenty more games added to it. The manufacturers in this case are unknown - there's a big space where Renshun Technology's name used to be in the menu, so presumably it wasn't them, but other than that it's mysterious. And blue. And made of cheaper plastic.
I won't bother with a full game list this time as it's so similar to the cart above; a few have been rearranged as well as new games added, so the first 10 now looks like this:
- CONTRA 1
- LIFE FORCE
- RUSH'N ATTACK
- TOP GUN
- KERO KERO KEROPPI 2
- PLEASANT GOAT
- ANGRY BIRDS 2
The new games here are all pretty interesting: we have Kero Kero Keroppi 2, actually the English fan translation (version 0.9, no less) of that game, "Angry Birds 2", an Angry Birds-themed hack of New Zealand Story, and... Pleasant Goat!
Yep, it's a hack of the German version of Banana Prince featuring the popular Chinese cartoon character. Of course it is. The new sprites are actually pretty cute; unfortunately they have slightly ruined the game by attempting to pull the standard hacker tactic of making it start on level 2-1 (to make it look less obviously like the original game), because it actually sends you back to level 2-1 every time you die, meaning you effectively have to complete the whole game in one life or reset and go back to the password screen each time. Which is a shame :( If it's ever dumped I'd quite like to hack the hack and try to fix it. Still, at least the original Banana Prince is on here too.
Everything from there on is the same as the 198 in 1 (aside from those games that were plucked out and moved to the first page), until you reach no. 202, where we find the remaining 17 extra games tacked onto the end:
- SILK WORM
- SD FIGHTER
- CHASE H.Q 2
- TEMCO WORLD CUP S
- MARIO 16
- MARIO MISSING
- HOME ALONE 2
- MICKEY MOUSE 5
- DISNEY 2
- NUTS AND MILK
- BALLOON FIGHT
- KUNG FU
"Silk Worm" here is actually the untitled 2003 Iraq War-themed hack of that game (featuring George W. Bush, naturally); SD Fighter is just Mighty Final Fight again, Mickey Mouse 5 is Mickey's Adventures in Numberland, Disney 2 is Doki Doki Yuuenchi and everything else is what it says it is.
Posted by taizou at 2014-02-08 18:49:05 Game King
Here's something I picked up from China recently - brought to you by the fine people of Time Top/TimeTop/Timetop (hey they're just as inconsistent as me!), aka Guangzhou Daidaixing Tec. Electronics Co., Ltd., it's...
China's No.1 low-resolution interchangeable-cartridge handheld console, the Game King 2! (游戏王第二代) The newest model GM-222, to be precise - this seems to be the only one that's still in production, and games are much harder to find, but the fact that it's still in production at all is pretty impressive considering this is a 10 year old obscure Chinese console format; if it lasts another few years it'll even have outdone the Game Boy (which was more or less discontinued the same year the Game King was released).
On the back, aside from the usual shakily translated descriptions and warnings, you'll find the odd blood-dripping logo for the entire Game King line, which appears somewhere on pretty much all Game King products. There are also story briefs for the built-in games; in Chinese the first one ties in both Drifter and Miner into a single story, but for the English version they just slapped the Drifter one on there :(
On opening the box you're presented with the console and an overwhelming chemical smell (which I think comes from the cheap plastic tray more than the console itself).
Hiding under the console is a manual printed in about ten different languages (and depicting a console with a dragon design around the screen which the actual thing doesn't have); here's a sample of the English version: "When the player bumps against the stone, the player's vitality red cesby 1 grade; The player's vitality is 0 when bumps against other enemies, or fall into thedeep ditch,;And the player loses one life . ." - I can't vouch for the other languages but I can tell you the Spanish version goes as far as to translate the name of the console as "Rey de Juegos", which was nice of them.
So here's the console itself - earlier versions of the Game King were quite obviously based on the GBA and PSP, but since then Timetop has moved more towards original designs, and here they've come up with something.. certainly original, anyway. Despite being called a Gameking 2, this model doesn't have the frontlight (or fake colour backdrop) found in the previous PSP-lookalike Gameking 2, and instead reverts back to a non-lit screen in the style of the original Game Boys. Unfortunately this particular version also has four separate buttons posing as a D-pad, which isn't the greatest.
...And the back - not much to look at here. Takes 2 AAA batteries which I assume will last forever in this thing.
As you can see, the screen is very low-resolution, like an old mobile phone; every Game King comes with the same 3 built in games which I think have been reasonably well-documented elsewhere so I won't go into too much detail; basically Drifter is an Adventure Island clone (with Castlevania music), 2003 is a 1942 clone and Miner is a Bomberman clone. Originality isn't really their strong point. I have no idea who actually developed these games, whether Timetop did them in house or what, but they're reasonably well-done given the graphical limitations.
Anyway, that's it for the console, but I also have three multicarts for this thing, so more Game King to come!