Saturday, May 14, 2011

Transformers Mystery of Comvoy And a Note About Old School Japanese Pre-Transformers

In keeping with my recent fascination with 80s robot toys from my childhood, I thought I'd do a post here about one of the worst games ever released for the Famicom: Transformers Mystery of Comvoy.

The awfulness of this thing is legendary. It is only slightly better than turning on a cart-less Famicom and trying to use the controller to make the gray screen do something. The first sign you get that this game was probably rushed through production is the fact that nobody caught the obvious spelling error in the game's English title. This type of thing is a pretty common occurrence in Japan, though it is rare to see such a flagrant mistake on a product made by a big company like this. Always pays to have a native speaker double check these things, I always say.

I'm not sure that the gameplay on this thing is even worth reviewing. The guys at 1Up have already done t a good job of it here. Having played this stinker and not gotten past the first level I can vouch for it being every bit as frustrating as they say. I think I'll just comment on one element that really illustrates the bad-ness. It is a horizontal shooter. Among other things, enemy tanks come at you. But your character's gun, which only shoots straight, is actually too high to hit the tanks. It is physically impossible to actually shoot the enemy with your gun. Your character just continuously points his gun too high to hit them and all you can do is watch in anger as each shot flies harmlessly over the enemy tanks. That is how poorly designed the thing is.

In the game's defence though, its awfulness means that it is probably one of the cheapest vintage 80s Transformers toys out there. You can get these for 300 yen (3$) or less pretty easily. Its a boring gray cart, but I do like the label art. Very Transformer-y. So if you like old Transformers stuff, or infamously bad video games, then its kind of a neat thing to have.

To change gears here a bit, I'd like to put in a word about the Japanese origins of the Transfomers toyline. Why? Because I'm very keen on the things and its my blog. So there.

The original Transformers are descended from a couple of Japanese toylines produced by Takara, the same company that made this game. Most of the original Autobots are basically copies of an early 80s toyline known as Diaclone. I have one of these, the Fairlady Z Car Robot:
This is without a doubt my favorite toy. It actually looks kind of....classy. The name "Fairlady Z" is really cool, and the sleak lines of the car are pretty smoove:
Note the two little human figures in the above photo. Unlike Transformers, Diaclones were not supposed to be sentient robots but had human drivers. Each of these toys came with one such figure. Somebody had accidentally put a second one in the box of mine when I got it, which was a nice bonus.

The box is pretty sweet too, Transformers fans might recognize some other first generation Transformers on there:
The bottom has a nice cut-away image of the car:
All the bits and pieces:
Not only is this my favorite toy, it is also far and away the most expensive retro thing I have ever purchased. These things are insanely hard to find, especially complete in their original boxes like this. Just the little human figures retail for about 50 dollars each (so getting an extra one was a real bonus). I'm embarrassed to admit how much I paid, but lets just say it was in the five figures.

That is 5 figures in yen, not dollars. I didn't spend THAT much on it. Still, it was enough to cause me to hyperventilate on leaving the store and then spend about 14 hours curled up in the fetal position full of self-loathing for having turned into one of those guys who spends ridiculous amounts of money on trophies like this.

Anyway, long story, not important.

The other toy series that Transformers are descended from is called Microman. Most of the original Decepticons come from this series. I have one of them, a cassette that turns into a helicopter:
I love this thing because it is the exact same size and shape as a regular cassette and comes with its own regular cassette tape box. The helicopter isn't quite as impressive. Like the Diaclones, these came with human figures.
I really dig the back of the box. The photo on the lower left demonstrates that it is, in fact, capable of being put into a regular tape player. the little energy chart on the lower right also looks like a crude predecessor to the ones they put on the back of Transformers boxes.

My "Microman Cassette Machine" doesn't actually have a Transformer equivalent, though some of the other cassettes from the same series ended up as the cassettes that went with Soundwave in the original toyline. Because this one turned into a helicopter rather than a robot (or some other sentient being) I guess they decided he wouldn't work as a Transformer. For that reason he is way cheaper than the ones that did become Transformers and I got this thing mint in its box for only 6000 yen (about 70$).

As a side note, the Microman series actually spawned two toy franchises in North America. In addition to the Transformers, they were also the basis for the Micronauts who came out in the late 70s. I used to read the Marvel Micronauts comics as a kid so these are kind of double-retro to me!

Related Posts:

- Japanese Gobots!


  1. Arino's playthrough on GameCenter CX of MYSTERY OF COMVOY is a must-see.

  2. Very interesting post! I loved Transformers as a kid -- and Go Bots, too :) I think I knew they were of Japanese origin, but I had never read about those beginnings until now.

  3. Nate - yeah, I love that show! I haven't seen the Mystery of Comvoy one but it is on my list of must-see stuff.

    Bryan - Thanks! I had both when I was a kid too. Fun toys.

  4. Nice!! On the back of the box I noticed Red Alert, Ironhide, Ratchet and Prowl. I could be mistaken, but I think that green Bronco might be Trailbreaker.

    And your Fairlady Z ended up being Bluestreak here in the states. I am jealous! :)

  5. Correct, sir, he is Bluestreak!

    This Fairlady Z is also the answer to a Transformers mystery - why did the Bluestreak box show a picture of a blue robot when the toy itself was silver? Because they simply took the same cover art off of the original Fairlady Z and used it on Bluestreak's box as well!

    Good job identifying the other Transformers on the back. I knew Ratchet (I had him as a kid), but couldn't remember the names of the others!

  6. Have you ever considered doing posts about one game? Say for example you go to one of the many stores that sell Famicom games and you come across one you've never heard of, of maybe it's one you like but no one else has heard of, and maybe you play a few minutes or what have you and talk about it. Knowing you, you'd probably bring up some games I've never heard of... and I love finding out about new games on old systems.

  7. I was never a Transformers fan really but those toys look really nice! I laughed when I found out that the Nissan Z cars are called 'Fairlady' in Japan (I think it was Gran Turismo that did it) - they always seem to have more interesting names :)

  8. Skyrunner - for you, I will do just that! I've been thinking of doing something similar for a while, actually. Just buying an obscure game and doing a blog post about it from purchase to the point at which I get bored with it! Stay tuned....

    Simon - Yeah, I like the name a lot. Fairlady is a pretty cool name for a car, IMHO.

  9. Cool! I can't wait to see what game you post about first~

    Also, have you ever played Hoshi Wo Miru Hito? That's a Famicom game you could probably write a good article about. It's known as "densetsu no kusoge". If I've piequed your interest, I'd be more than happy to tell you more.

  10. LOL, you raised my interest so I just looked it up on Wikipedia! Looks interesting, I don't have that one and don't think I've seen it in any local shops. It must be a hard one to track down, but I like a challenge! RPGs aren't usually my forte, but if I find it, I'll give it a try!

  11. I think you'll be in for a... treat.

    You start at level 0. The enemies in the area are completely overpowered, one of which can petrify you... and no mercy-kill game over. You move slower then old men. The cheapest weapon you can get is weaker than your fists, which only do 1-2 damage. The graphics glitch if you try pressing two directional keys at once. The password system doesn't save character experience.

    It's like The Room (if you've heard of that) of JRPGs: absolutely terrible, but you keep playing just to see what they get wrong next.

  12. LOL, I do enjoy stuff that qualifies as "So bad it is good" so I will have to check that out! Thanks!

  13. Anytime, fellow Famicomaniac. ;-)
    If you do find it, be sure to post about it. I'd love to see what you have to say about it!

    Also, it's worth noting that some fans of the game teamed up and made a really kick-butt remake that borrows heavily from the early SaGa/Final Fantasy Legend games. It's worth checking out... I already beat it, and it was AWESOME. There's a link to the download page on the English Wiki article if you're interested.

  14. Thanks! LOL, I've never beat anything myself so I'll probably just give it a good run around for a while! I'll check that out too, though probably after I've tried the original Famicom version.

  15. Speaking of kusoge-deemed RPGs, I'm not sure how crazy you are about SuFami games, but if you ever see one called Maka Maka, spelled out as 摩訶摩訶, you should pick it up. It's known as being released without bug testing due to release deadlines, and it put the company that released it out of business! Despite that and it's glitches, it's still a really fun JRPG. I personally enjoyed it, and, well, it'd still be a nice piece of history to own.

  16. Thanks. LOL, to be honest Super Famicom RPGs are pretty low on my list of "things I like to play" but I'll keep an eye out for that one on your recommendation! :)

  17. hi, congratulations for your blog, i find it very interesting and useful, i was in japan early this year and its very annoying the gameshops and toyshops they have.. i like your reviews and the gameshops you name here of kyoto. Just for information... how much did you pay for that bluestreak? where did you find it? ... i have wanted a blue bluestreak for a long time... i´m a videogame and also a diaclone-microman-transformers collector... would you sell it to me? :) if you are interested, please mail me.. on the other side keep on collecting famicom and keep on blogging man, its a lot of helpful and interesting here!

  18. Hi,
    Thanks for the message. I paid about 300$ for it at a shop here, it was a bit of an expensive purchase! Not sure if I want to sell it, but if the price is right I probably could:)

  19. Say, my dad has one of those cassettes, it turns into a blue robot dude.