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Revision as of 03:39, 3 August 2016


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Webmaster's Blog

Gale Racer (Saturn)

CRV (talk) 05:33, 3 August 2016 (CEST) [permalink]

Seen here: Chicago's world-famous palm trees

The first game released for Sega's System 32 arcade hardware, Rad Mobile was impressive when it came out back in 1991. Three years would pass before there was a home system powerful enough to contain it. Enter Gale Racer for the Saturn.

The object, like the arcade game, is to drive from Los Angeles to New York and claw your way to first place. But does this Saturn version perfectly replicate the arcade experience? Not quite.

The moon from Sega CD Mansion of Hidden Souls (left) appears as an emblem in Gale Racer (right). That's probably because both games were developed by System Sacom.

While Rad Mobile moves seamlessly from locale to locale ala Out Run, Gale Racer pauses the game between stages to show you your time and load the next section. This really changes — some might say even ruins — the flow of the game.

Other vehicles on the road are made of polygons instead of sprites, which looks a little janky. The draw distance is lower, and the frame rate is not as smooth. The whole game seems a little buggy and a little glitchy.

Gale Racer was handed off to a company called System Sacom, which was known mostly for adventure games. Former Sacom programmer Hiroshi Ogino wrote an e-book about his time there, and he devoted a chapter to his experience porting the game. Not surprisingly, it was quite difficult; the arcade cabinet and image/stage data were made available, but not the source code.

Sega of America was at one time planning a US release, as it was mentioned in a press release announcing the Saturn's early launch. GameFan reported that the US version would "be completely repaired to mimic the arcade game perfectly." I asked Ogino about it, but he seemed to have no recollection. [1]


Post updated October 27, 2019

Change of Heart: Secular Developers Turned Christian

CRV (talk) 05:36, 30 January 2016 (CET) [permalink]

A joke, circumstance, opportunity, a calling. Whatever the reason, some secular developers switched to, or at least tried their hand at, making Bible-based video games.

Wisdom Tree

Wisdom Tree logo

The most well-known example grew out of Color Dreams, a publisher and developer of unlicensed games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Color Dreams founder Dan Lawton allegedly came up with the idea of doing religious games as a joke.

Early on, Wisdom Tree took the older, more violent Color Dreams games and inserted family-friendly, Bible-related content. Sunday Funday: The Ride (NES) is basically a hack of Menace Beach, while Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land and Joshua & the Battle of Jericho (NES, et al.) were based on Crystal Mines. Since then, Wisdom Tree has put out a number of original educational and entertainment titles and continues to sell them on its website. Color Dreams is still around, doing business as StarDot Technologies, making surveillance cameras and related equipment.

See also:

[more...]


Credit to the creators/uploaders of the videos above

Japanese-Developed Digitized Fighting Games

CRV (talk) 00:58, 24 December 2015 (CET) [permalink]

The success of Midway's arcade blockbuster Mortal Kombat birthed many imitators. Would you believe some of them came from Japan?

Reikai Doushi (1988, Arcade)

While Mortal Kombat was the breakthrough hit that influenced a lot of games, it was not the originator of the digitized fighting form. Neither was Pit-Fighter. No, that honor goes to this little number by Home Data (now Magical) featuring a colorful cast of grotesque Chinese puppets.

[more...]


Floating Runner (PlayStation)

CRV (talk) 23:11, 5 September 2015 (CET) [permalink]

Hey, it's a 3D platformer that came out before Super Mario 64 and before analog control was standard on consoles. That's pretty cool, right? Right?

In Floating Runner, you lead either adorable bounty hunter Lay or adorable priestess Cress on a journey to find seven crystals to save Crystal Land. Adorable enemies will try to stop you, but you can stop them with your adorable weapons.

As adorable as everything is, there are problems, and you can't blame them all on age. Some make the game unnecessarily frustrating to play at times and could have been avoided. Let's run down the list:

1) Your default weapon shoots in an arc. There are other weapons, but you have to find them scattered throughout the different worlds.
2) The enemies are way too fidgety.
3) Stage layouts can be disorienting. The lack of camera controls doesn't help. (You can only switch between two angles.)
4) Controls are slippery, making jumping on platforms tricky.
5) There aren't too many health potions around. (Yet the first stage has five!)
The inside of the US manual uses the original Japanese artwork, unlike the cover.

Better weapons and less ponderous stage layouts would have gone a long way in making a better game, but it's not all bad. The frame rate is brisk. The music is pleasant (though sometimes repetitive), as is the mix of flat-shaded and texture-mapped polygons. It's still a charming game.

For many years, it was a mystery who developed this pioneer software. There are no ending credits. Xing is the only Japanese company name that appears in-game or on the game, but they were just a publisher.

Modern technology allows us to look inside the data and find an unused T&E Soft copyright notice and list of credits. It's not clear if they were supposed to be displayed on-screen. It's bizarre that a company like T&E Soft would make a game like this and leave their name off.

Hydlide creator Tokihiro Naito talked very briefly about Floating Runner during his interview in The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers Volume 2. He didn't know anything about it, unfortunately; he was about to leave T&E Soft and had little interest in their in-house games. He said it may have been developed by the Osaka branch. A check of the names suggests that is the case. (T&E Soft's Osaka branch [formerly Xtalsoft] is where games like Red Alarm were also made.)

D4 Enterprise, the company behind the Project EGG service, acquired the rights to T&E Soft's back catalog in 2019. Floating Runner can be found in their list of properties.


Post updated January 31, 2020

Panzer Dragoon Mini (Game Gear)

CRV (talk) 16:35, 24 June 2015 (CEST) [permalink]

Panzer Dragoon Mini title screen

Towards the end of the Game Gear's life in Japan, Sega rebranded it the Kid's Gear in an attempt to market the system to children. One of the handful of titles released under this brand was Panzer Dragoon Mini, but there's nothing particularly cute about it. This is just Panzer Dragoon, stripped to the bare bones.

After you choose one of three dragons to control (not ride, apparently), it's on to the action. You make your way through several stages, shooting down enemies with either your regular shot or a lock-on laser. (There's no berserk attack despite the game coming out after Zwei.) Sometimes the camera shifts to the side, but that's about as exciting as it gets. (Even the R-Zone version had camera control.) There are mid-bosses and end bosses, but their attack patterns consist primarily of moving back and forth spraying bullets.

The backgrounds and especially the sprites look nice. The music is pleasant as well; whoever did these arrangements should be commended. (Hitoshi Sakimoto's works list says he only programmed the sound driver.) It's just a shame the game isn't better.

That's a tough thing to say, because it was clearly made by capable people. (My guess is the development period was very short.) All the evidence here points to Rit's as the developer; Rit's also made some original RPGs, most notably the Dragon Master Silk series, and worked on many of the old Shining games. In addition, the president of the company — the artist known professionally as Hiroshi Kajiyama (who passed away in 2018) — acknowledged working on the game on Twitter.

Some images from SMS Power!

Panzer Dragoon Mini Panzer Dragoon Mini Panzer Dragoon Mini Panzer Dragoon Mini

Post updated March 11, 2020

Pinball Spirits (Windows)

CRV (talk) 04:48, 14 May 2015 (CEST) [permalink]

I like me some video pinball; I've amassed a decent collection of video pinball games. So when I found out about a pinball game that involved GDRI veteran Opera House and only came out in Japan, I was interested. Actually, even if it isn't great, I want it.

But good luck finding it - not only is Pinball Spirits a Japanese exclusive, it's available only for Windows. There's a copy on Amazon Japan for under $60 US. Enjoy the cover shots at the link because that's all you're gonna see.

Such is the world of Japanese Windows games. They seem to be among the most poorly documented and poorly preserved, unless there's something going on that I don't know about (which is possible). At least shopping sites like Amazon have games listed.

There's more than just eroge. Did you know Konami released games like Henry Explorers (Crypt Killer) for Windows in Japan?

Fun fact about Pinball Spirits: It was produced in cooperation with the non-profit Tokyo Pinball Organization. Read more about them here.

Hyper Rally (PlayStation)

CRV (talk) 04:48, 12 May 2015 (CEST) [permalink]

The 32-bit generation was one abundant with rally racing games, from Sega Rally to Colin McRae Rally. Then there's Hyper Rally.

I've watched videos on Nico Nico Douga, but I will bite my tongue since I have not played the game. I do like the music; it sounds like '90s-era, T's Music buttrock, as heard in games like Lords of Thunder. Cross-referencing names in the credits with VGMdb, it is T's Music, so kudos for that at least.

Hyper Rally turns up on the website of Triad, a company headed by Minoru Yuasa, who worked as a sound producer and composer on many Telenet games. However, I can't read most of the rest of the names in the credits, so I can't determine their involvement at this time. (I can't figure out kanji.) Satoshi Hatsuya was the game's director and a graphic designer. He also worked on Steel Empire for the Genesis.


Credit to the creators/uploaders of the above videos

Sega on Nintendo: Sega Arcade Games on the Famicom/NES

CRV (talk) 04:26, 29 January 2015 (CET) [permalink]

After Burner & After Burner II Tengen released After Burner in the US, and Sunsoft released After Burner II in Japan. Neither live up to their arcade counterparts, but they're both arguably better than the Master System game. As for the Nintendo releases, some places suggest one is a modified version of the other, but I'm not so sure.



[more...]


Five Westone Games That Aren't Wonder Boy

CRV (talk) 04:21, 7 December 2014 (CET) [permalink]

Westone Bit Entertainment logo

Westone Bit Entertainment and related company Bit Angel filed for bankruptcy on September 24, 2014. Most know Westone for the Wonder Boy and Monster World series, but they did so much more. Let's take a look back at five of their notable titles:


1) Jaws (NES) The shark that terrorized moviegoers years earlier made its way to the NES, courtesy of American publisher LJN, contractor Atlus, and subcontractor/developer Westone.

According to an interview with Westone president Ryuichi Nishizawa, development took about two months to complete with a crew of three people. The final product is very much an old-school, arcade-style game that's rather easy once you get the hang of it, not to mention incredibly short. If it looped and got more difficult like many old arcade games, that might have been an improvement.

[more...]


Abadox (NES)

CRV (talk) 03:33, 1 November 2014 (CET) [permalink]

Parasitis has swallowed the planet Abadox, and Princess Maria. Your task is to make your way through Parasitis' body, save Princess Maria, and keep the rest of the universe from being consumed.

It's clear from looking that this is another shooter, and it's clear to shooter fans that this one's influenced by Konami's Life Force, what with its "organic" theme. The stages even alternate between horizontal and vertical perspectives.

Many people have complained about Abadox's difficulty. I'm reluctant to agree it's as hard as they say, but it can be frustrating. Like some other shooters, one mistake can cost you all your power-ups, and it's a chore to get them back. At that point, you might as well start over. (The game's not that long.)

Most of us can agree, however, that Abadox has a great soundtrack. It was provided by Kiyohiro Sada, who once worked for Konami. The game's director was Atsushi Okazaki, who apparently also had a stint at Konami. Neither appear to have been involved with Life Force.

The game was produced by manga artist Go Nagai's Dynamic Planning, but God only knows what that means.

As far as I can tell, the programming and graphics were done by I.T.L. The only graphic artist credited is Hidenobu Takahashi. It is unconfirmed whether this is the same Hidenobu Takahashi who directed Grandia.

Credit to the video's creator

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