Saturday, May 27, 2017

Reproduction Spotlight: Mega Box Reproductions - NEC PC Engine & PC-FX

Reproduction video games seems to have become a topic that is widely debated. For the gamer who just wants to play a game on original hardware, it's a blessing. For the collector who has the original (rare) game, reproductions can hurt the value if their...dare I say investment? 

For me this is nothing new. When Takara, the original manufacturer of Transformers toys started re-releasing many of their original toys, the "value" of the original toys on the secondary market took a nose dive. While this was temporary with toys, it seems to be temporary with video games too. There will always be those who want the real, authentic product.

The thing about that is there are many video games these days that are just stupid expensive. One of these games is Zenki for the NEC PC-FX. This is one of the few games that an English speaker like myself can play on a system that is widely full of dating sims, strategy games and visual comics...all heavy in the Japanese language. Zenki can fetch well over $500 USD on the secondary market...if you can find it.

Several months back I ran across Jon Stover, owner of Mega Box Reproductions in a Facebook group. I sent him a direct message asking if he was able to make reproduction games for the NEC PC-FX. He said he had never done so before, but thought it was a possibility. I first had asked him if was possible to make a custom case for a disc only game I had purchased on eBay, PC Engine Fan Super CD-Rom Vol. 3. You see, this "game", or sampler disc contained a playable demo of Tyoushin Heiki Zeroigar...or better known as Super God Trooper Zeroigar. 

(click on the images for a larger view)


This game is (sadly) the only shmup released on the PC-FX. I've been dying to play it ever since I learned of it's existence. One day my eBay search for the sampler finally yielded a result so I pulled the trigger on this disc only release. Jon said he thought he could help me out, but I needed to supply him with the cover and back. I did several Google image searches and finally found what I needed. The cover/booklet had a vertical orientation, which was different, but ultimately proved no problem for Jon to print up. He did a great job creating this jewel case for me, including the spine. I know some people don't care how a game looks on the shelf, but I could stand just having a naked case for this disc.

After I had got the ball rolling on this one, I started to wonder if Jon could make a reproduction of the actual Zeroigar game. After several DMs on Facebook and sending him a few more images, he was able to create a reproduction for me. The first one used an English patch of the game and unfortunately it was a little glitchy, so he quickly offered to send me another disc. This one played perfectly. Check out the great job he did with both the case and the disc art.

I had no idea that Jon was going to also make the spine sleeve for the game. This was a very nice treat to receive! If you've never played the game, there are a lot of anime style cut scenes that advance the story of the game. The first time I played I watched most of the scenes as it's interesting, but since I ended up w/ the original version w/ Japanese dialog I couldn't really figure out what was going on. The gameplay itself is above average. It isn't nearly as good as some vertical scrolling shmups I play on the system's predecessor, but it isn't bad. I'm so glad to own this because I just didn't see myself dropping $200 USD on this game.

While Jon and I exchanged messages via Facebook regarding these two projects, I also asked him about one other...Zenki. Yes, the fabled, super expensive side scrolling beat 'em up. Now that I had given Jon some practice w/ PC-FX games he thought he could tackle this project as well. Unlike Zeroigar that came packaged in a standard jewel case, Zenki was released in one of Hudson's larger overized clamshell type cases. I just happened to have a donor game (Angelique Special) so I gutted the case and put the game, manual and insert aside and awaited for my package to come. Jon did a great job making sure the insert he printed up wouldn't be damaged in transit. Once I assembled the packaging, I was amazed. Jon did a great job recreating the insert...of course with a few small changes here and there to denote it was a reproduction.

I'm not sure why Hudson used these larger cases for some of the PC-FX library of games, but I personally love them. It gives you that Neo Geo like feel and they look beautiful on your gaming shelf. The game is really fun to play and I do plan on doing my own review for the blog at some point. I highly recommend you head over to Jon's Etsy store, Mega Box Reproductions and order your own copies of these two highly sought out, English friendly, expensive games. Yeah it would be cool to brag that I owned the originals, but at the end of the day I do like to play games and this is a great way to do that.

Mega Box Reproductions also offers more than just what I have shown. Since he made these for me he as also branched out in to Sega Saturn games. There are several expensive shumps I'd like to try eventually. I have purchased a few PC Engine reproductions he's made and just like the work he did on these PC-FX games, the PCE games are just as beautiful and play perfectly.

(click on the images for a larger view)

I haven't spent as much time w/ Fray CD as I would like, but so far it's a fun game and I've enjoyed what I've played. Beautiful packaging. I particular love how be makes the spines blend in with other Super CD-Rom 2 games.

I love this Macross game. A side scrolling shmup, this one I sat and played for about an hour the day it arrived in the mail. Colorful images, beautiful packaging, including the disc art. 

As you can see Jon Stover does some BEAUTIFUL work with his NEC reproductions. While Fray CD or Macross aren't that difficult to find and the prices of the originals aren't out of reach for some, I can't recommend him enough for the PC-FX reproductions be made. If you have the console and you can't speak/read Japanese then surely you are like me and limited with the games you can actually play and enjoy. Zeroigar and Zenki are both great games that unless you have a lot of expendable income, won't be playing anytime soon...unless you head over to his shop and place your order today.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Transformers: The Headmasters (Nintendo Famicom Disk System)

Transformers: The Headmasters
Takara, 1987

If you follow my toy blog then you'll know I'm a pretty big fan and collector of Transformers. When I first learned that there was a Transformers game released for the Nintendo Famicom I was beside myself. Then I played the game. Let's just say it's easily one of the worse video games I've ever played. Even this Transformers fan can't make excuses to enjoy the game...even though I wanted to like it.

If Takara didn't learn their lesson with their first Transformers Famicom effort, The Mystery of Comvoy, they tried again. This time however they released a game on Nintendo's Famicom Disk System and went with the Headmasters theme.

The game looks and plays a lot like the original, but this time you control Rodimus Prime instead of Ultra Magnus. The game does let you choose which planet (level) you'd like to play. I remember you had Cybertron, Earth and a few other planets to choose from, but if I'm being honest the game is so bad it doesn't matter which planet you go to as they all leave a lot to be desired.

If there are any redeeming qualities for this game over The Mystery on Comvoy, it's that you have a health meter. No more one hit kills. You also get to play as the other Autobots that you rescue and being that it's a Disk game you can save at certain points in the game. Of course these redeeming qualities only come into play if you can make it anywhere in the actual game! Just like it's predecessor, this game is tough as nails and pretty unforgiving. This is one of those games that'll make you want to hurl your controller across the room in frustration.

After about 10 minutes I had to call it quits. When a game is so difficult that you can't make any progress it just sucks out all the fun. I tried and tried and tried. I really wanted to like this game, but I just can't recommend it at all. Maybe as a display piece if you're a Transformers fan (it isn't the easiest game to come across), but if you are just a fan of video games all I can say is stay away, very far away! If you want to play a good Transformers video game, my recommendation is the Playstation 2 "Armada" game or the War for Cybertron games on the PS3/Xbox 360.