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  • ShenMue 3

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 keving 1 comment

    Sega Vintage Collection 2 Brings Gunstar Heroes to XBLA, PSN

    090511-sega

    I was going to make a joke about how Croteam would be a great dev for Kotaku comment user “Ero-Sennin’s” mind-bending dream because they havent updated their website in three years and could probably use the work, but — whoa — they went and updated it today. Darn.

  • 3D Deathchase

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 keving 1 comment

    crash010008

    This is page 8 of issue one (February ’84) of Crash, the first really “modern” video game magazine, and it happens to be the very first review they ever printed. Naturally, it’s for 3D Deathchase, a late-’83 game that ZX Spectrum fans hold in such high regard that Your Sinclair called it the “best Speccy game ever” in a 1992 feature. I can sorta dig it. Certainly it’s the best game reviewed in this issue, and it’s a classic example of the pre-Atari-shock “play forever” action genre — gradually increasing challenge, simple rules, just enough visual splendor to keep your attention, a just-one-more-game addiction level (98%, if this review’s to be believed) that’s out of sight. Yes, even today. It’s particularly amazing because it’s only 16K long; if you were too cheap for a 48K Speccy model in ’83, no worries.

    Apparently 3D Deathchase is set in the year 2501. North America is lookin’ pretty good, huh?

    This review pretty well exemplifies how Crash handled reviews for the first few years — description of the game, then two or three paragraphs with criticism from different reviewers. At this point, Roger Kean, Oliver Frey, and Matthew Uffindell were the entire editorial team. I don’t know how they did it.

    You can also see how the review gives you a very quick outline of how to control the game. They never said this outright (and I think denied it when called out on it in a letter several months after), but I’m sure this was meant to be a service for readers who got their Speccy games exclusively from copied C-60 tapes passed around during lunch break.

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] Multitap

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 keving 5 comments

    Multitap (マルチタップ)

    Maker: NEC Home Electronics (NEC-HE)
    Release Date: 10/30/87
    Price: 2480 yen

    Up to 5 Players at Once?!

    mtap

    From the moment the PC Engine was conceived, “multiplayer” was the serious watchword. Multiplayer was possible on the Famicom and other game systems at the time, of course (Mario Bros. was the FC equivalent to Halo 3 in terms of multiplayer addictiveness, once you threw out that “co-op” BS and played by the Marquess of Queensbury rules instead), but it was strictly one-on-one. How about some party games where everyone in the room could get in the action? That question was on Hudson’s mind from the very beginning stages of the PC Engine’s design.

    Having the question in mind is all well and good, but the hardware needs to support it before it can become a reality. As a result, the hardware support for multiplayer was implemented, and the PCE went on sale, while the software to take advantage of it was still in development or the concept stage. Instead of throwing two controllers on the unit Famicom-style, the PCE wound up having a single removable controller port, requiring the Multitap for games with multiple players.

    Supporting up to five players at once on the PC Engine is an interesting example of “more is more,” something you don’t see very often in Japanese consumer engineering like this. They wanted to have as many controllers snaking out of this thing as possible, no doubt. Interestingly, the Multitap’s design remained unchanged (even in color) for the entire life of the PCE.

    There was just one problem: games that support five players at once had a tendency to not come out very much. One-on-one or co-op games really only needed two controller ports, which made the five on the Multitap seem like too much of a good thing. The hardware manufacturers of the age must have thought the same thing, as the PCE saw later third-party multitap peripherals like the Joytap 3 (Hudson, 3 ports), the X-HE2 (Dempa Shinbunsha, 2 ports), the Battle Tap (Big Club/Nihon Soft, 4 ports), and much later on, the Twin Tap (Sur de Wave, 2 ports).

    The first PC Engine game that supported the Multitap was Hudson’s YuuYuu Jinsei (1988). Even that, though, was simply a video version of The Game of Life, something that could be played just fine by passing the controller around the players with each turn, so it wasn’t much of a showcase for the accessory. The thing didn’t become practically useful until Namco’s Pro Tennis World Court (1988), which allowed for four-player doubles matches. Dungeon Explorer, an action RPG released the following year, was the first PCE game to support up to five players at once.

    PCE multiplayer didn’t really take off until Hudson tackled it in depth, releasing games like Super Momotaro Dentetsu (1989) and Bomberman (1990). These two titles became the standard party games on the PCE, getting ported to all manner of other consoles and staying in circulation as viable franchises to this day. Good things come to those who wait, apparently, because early PCE adopters had to wait a whopping three years for the Multitap to seem like a smart purchase.

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] Turbo Pad

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 keving 5 comments

    Turbo Pad (ターボパッド)

    Maker: NEC Home Electronics (NEC-HE)
    Release Date: 10/30/87
    Price: 2680 yen

    The PC Engine’s Standard Controller

    turpadThe Turbo Pad controller was originally released separately as an option for the PC Engine, which came standard with a PC Engine Pad equipped with just the I, II, Run and Select buttons. The Turbo Pad comes with two turbo switches with your choice of three speeds, and NEC marketed it as a controller upgrade at first. However, with only 200 yen of difference in the price of both systems, the “optional” Turbo Pad quickly found itself the standard choice of controllers among PCE users.

    This was actually the first peripheral ever released to use the word “turbo” to refer to a device that triggered button presses really fast for you. (Until this point, the native Japanese words renda or rensha were used.) It’s entirely possible the word was chosen because it matches well with the “Engine” in the console’s name…and it’s also not beyond the realm of possibility that this influenced NEC’s American department when they decided to call the console “TurboGrafx-16”.

    So why did NEC release a turbo pad separate from the console on the day of the PCE’s launch? To answer this, think about the Japanese game marketplace in the mid-80s. What sort of games would create a demand for turbo devices? It was, of course, the shooter genre, which was hitting massive proportions over on the Famicom. It was an age where the speed at which you could fire off shots, in many ways, dictated how good of a gamer you are. This was symbolized no better than by Hudson’s Master Takahashi, an adman and PR guy who became a virtual god to the Famicom generation because he could push a button 16 times per second. Not everyone can be Master Takahashi, sadly, and eventually “cheaters” across the land figured out how to modify their controllers to do that 16-button-press trick for them.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] AC Adaptor

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 keving No comments

    AC Adaptor (Original) (ACアダプタ)

    Maker: NEC Home Electronics (NEC-HE)
    Release Date: 10/30/87
    Price: 1200 yen

    acadaptEven the best game system is useless without power — and given that this was the mid-1980s, consoles still came with gigantic, heavy external AC adaptors that you had to balance very carefully as you plugged them into the wall.

    I’m not necessarily sure if this deserves a separate entry given that any console is going to come with one of these out of the box, but the adaptor was sold separately, and since different PCE models have different electrical requirements, it’s worth bringing this up as the “original,” so to speak.

    This adaptor, part number PAD-105, was included with the original white PCE, the Shuttle, the CoreGrafx and CoreGrafx II, and the SuperGrafx — in other words, any PC Engine that didn’t include a CD-ROM. It cannot be used with the Duo series, nor with the PCE GT or LT.

  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] PC Engine Pad

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 keving 1 comment

    PC Engine Pad (PCエンジンパッド)

    Maker: NEC Home Electronics (NEC-HE)
    Release Date: 10/30/87
    Price: 2480 yen

    (I called NEC-HE “NEC Home Entertainment” in the previous post. How embarrassing.)

    The First Standard Controller

    ppadThis is the controller that was included with the PC Engine, the white one, that came out October 1987. The standard one, in other words. They were sold separately as well in order to take advantage of the Multitap, one of the PCE’s top selling points at the beginning.

    Arguably, one of the main reasons that Nintendo’s Famicom was so successful in Japan was its controller, a simple mix of two buttons and the control pad borrowed from their Game & Watch series that served as the basic interface for all of its games. The PCE both learned from the FC and hoped to surpass it, so it’s perhaps little surprise that the system’s pad sticks to the FC controller’s basic blueprint: a pad and two buttons, marked I and II instead of A and B. The FC pad’s Start and Select buttons are on here too, labeled Run and Select and located in nearly the exact same place. The pad itself is flat like Nintendo’s, lacking the ridges seen on later game systems that made it an easier fit to the hand.

    The main difference from the FC pad is the fact that the pad is built on top of a plastic disc. The Famicom control pad is shaped like a perfect plus sign, making it both tough on the fingers and somewhat difficult to push in diagonal directions, and the PCE’s pad improves on this. Otherwise, the basic construction is identical. (Some of the PCE’s third-party controllers use a Nintendo-style pad, if you really insist upon it.)

    One unique feature of the PCE pad is the reset function, accessed by pressing Run and Select at once. Nearly every other system (including the FC, SFC and Mega Drive) put the reset button on the console itself, but with the PC Engine, NEC decided to put that functionality on the controller instead. I really can’t say why they went for this, but I remember reading somewhere that it was a side effect of NEC’s “Core Concept,” making it easy to reset the console no matter what kind of stuff was attached to it. This Run/Select reset function made its way to the PC-FX later on as well.

    The Run and Select buttons are largely meant for starting a game and selecting menu items, but some later games (usually fighters) use them as attack buttons.

    The original Famicom’s controllers were hard-wired into the console, requiring you to open up the system to remove them (a pretty easy procedure, actually). The PC Engine, meanwhile, has a single control port, meaning that only one player can use the system out of the box. You can insert and remove controllers quickly and easily, at least, and buying a Multitap allows up to five players to join in at once, not that there was much for five players to enjoy for another few years.

    Your choice of controller was also available from the very beginning, starting with the Turbo Pad that was sold separately with the PCE on launch. That controller’s exactly the same as the PC Engine Pad in shape and color; the only difference is the turbo switches on top of the I and II buttons. Hudson and Hori had already released turbo controllers for the Famicom by this point, given that Master Takahashi was making “turbo” a buzzword among Japanese kids at the time, and it makes sense that Hudson would make it a part of the PCE’s design from the start. The Turbo Pad was meant to be an upgrade from the regular pad, but at 2680 yen, it was only 200 yen more expensive than the standard model, making the PCE Pad seem needlessly expensive and the Turbo Pad the obvious choice when buying extra controllers. As a result, the Turbo Pad became the standard pretty quickly, getting packed in with the hardware starting with the Shuttle and CoreGrafx at the end of 1989. This makes the non-turbo PC Engine Pad surprisingly difficult to find in modern used-game shops.