Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kung Fu Fighting!!

Kung who?  Kung FU!

Despite being insanely busy over the past two months I was nonetheless able to make a few acquisitions to my precious Famicom collection that I would now like to post in a boastful manner about.

About a month ago I was able to wheel and deal with the always excellent fredj on Famicom World for the above copy of Kung Fu!

I have been wanting a copy of that one for a long time but it is pretty crazy expensive here.  They have a minty CIB copy of it at Mandarake in town here for 63,000 yen (about $750 US), which is way out of my price range.  This was a slightly beat up cart only copy which allowed it to fall within my trading budget.

As you can note from the above photo, Kung Fu is very similar to Spartan X.  That is because it is Spartan X, just with a different name.   There is a bit of a history as to why this game was released with two names.  Here is the story as I have been able to gather from my surfing of the Japanese Famicom related internet.

Spartan X is the Japanese name of the Jackie Chan movie Wheels on Meals, which was a big hit here in 1984:

The game was released in conjunction with the film and thus had the same name.  This, I should note, came as news to me.  I had always assumed Spartan X/ Kung Fu was based on Bruce Lee`s Game of Death because....well because it IS Game of Death.  You use kung fu to fight an army of villains from floor to floor up a Chinese looking building to the boss at the top.  Exact same thing.

Anyway, whatever.  It is based on Wheels on Meals and not Game of Death.  No big whoop.

Nobody out there seems exactly sure about this, but it is the considered opinion of Japanese bloggers that Nintendo only had a license to use the film`s name for a limited time.  When it expired they switched the name of the game from Spartan X to Kung Fu, the same name the NES release was given.

I`m speculating here, but since this name change probably came late in the release`s lifespan they must have only sold a handful of copies with the Kung Fu name, hence the present rarity of that version.  Except for the title screen it is basically the same game.

In preparation to write this post I actually tracked down a copy of the movie Spartan X to see what it was like. It is kind of.....strange.  Jackie Chan plays Thomas who, along with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, are pitted against a bunch of bad guys who also know Kung Fu.  Sylvia in the film isn`t actually Thomas`s girlfriend.  Thomas and all of the `good guys` in the film seem to be bizarrely chaste virgins who have no obvious motivation to want to help Sylvia, a prostitute/ theif who stole all their money and doesn`t seem to have any sexual interest in any of them.

If you avoid trying to make any sense of the plot or characters though it does stand out as one of those so bad it is good movies. Lots of 80s style kung fu kicking and that sort of stuff.  Sylvia does get kidnapped and Thomas and friends do actually have to fight their way through an army of kung fu bad guys to rescue her at the end so there is some similarity with the game, though all this takes place in Spain for some reason.  There is a lot of humor throughout, some translates well, a lot does not.  Still worth a viewing though!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Puck Man Says: I am so Pucking Awesome.

Went to Mandarake two days ago. Looked in their glass case. Saw the above. Price was reasonable.

So, you know, I was all like:
Puck Man! Woo yeah!

This is one of those little bits of gaming history I have been looking to snag for the longest time. As every retro game collector with a penchant for useless trivia (ie every retro game collector) knows, Puck Man was the original name given to Pac Man.

When they discovered the ease with which the `P` in Puck could be turned into an `F` by 1980s kids with their devilish (dare I say?) senses of humor, they hastily changed the name to Pac Man.

So I don`t think it was ever known as Puck Man in North America, but for a short time that was the name of the game in Japan.

It is very hard to find physical remnants of this little quirk in the history of Pac Man, in fact my new Tomy handheld is the first time I have seen anything with Puck Man on it. By the time the game was released on the Famicom here it had already adopted the new name so I don`t think there are any other home game releases with the Puck Man title.
It was pretty cheap owing to the fact that it did not come with the box (which would have been a nice touch but I`m not complaining). I ran straight from Mandarake to the 100 yen shop to pick up some batteries and was really pleased to find that it works perfectly.

For an early 1980s handheld it is a pretty good game. You have two settings, amateur and pro. I`ve only tried amateur. Basically it is Pac Man only the screen isn`t the same as in the arcade or console versions and you don`t have the same range of movements. The sound effects are awesome though, it plays the Pac Man tune when you turn it on. Music to my ears. Literally.
Controls are pretty simple.

I love everything about this actually. The design is perfect. It actually looks a bit like Pac I mean Puck Man. It also looks somewhat like a microwaveable container with buttons. But, you know, in a good way.

A very nice addition to my growing handheld collection:)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Them Hard Off Label Peeling Blues. I got `em. Got `em real bad.

Famicomblog is...almost back! One more week and I should be back to normal! In the meantime I thought I`d take an hour here to do an homage post to the Hard Off price tag blues which, as the title suggests, I got.

It seems every hobby has its common annoyance that enthusiasts enjoy complaining about. For Famicom collectors resident in Japan far and away the biggest of these has to be the Hard Off price tags. You can find some really great deals in those shops, but when you get your stuff home you always have to deal with the Hard Off price tag blues. They use the most ridiculously adhesive price tags in the world.  They are a massive pain in the ass to get off. And they always put them directly on the cart!! Heaven forbid that you should find some good CIB stuff at one of those shops because it will have one of these price tags directly on the box and it WILL remove part of the surface of the box when you take it off.

Let me show you what I`m talking about. Take this copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for the Mega Drive I got at one a while back at a Hard Off here in town:
105 yen is a good deal, but that price tag? Here is how it goes. Step 1: Start at one of the corners:
That gets about 10% of it off:
Step 2: Have a go at the opposite corner:
Now you`ve got kind of a V shape going there:
And Repeat:
And Repeat:
Until you have a cart that is mostly clean:
And a pile of sticky little price tag remnants to dispose of:
2 hours well spent.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Exed Exes on Waikiki Beach

I was in Hawaii for a few days earlier this week. Unfortunately it was not a pleasure trip, but rather for business so I didn`t have much time to myself. I did manage to sneak in a few hours on Waikiki beach though.

Before leaving Japan I thought it would be nice to bring one of my Famicom carts along for the trip. I wandered over to my Famicom cart shelf and for some reason Exed Exes just looked like the right cart to bring. Must be the yellow - reminds me of pineapples.

Anyway, if any of you were wondering what a used Famicom cart would look like on Waikiki Beach, you now have your answer!

Also, just as a matter of blog-related news, I should be getting back into regular posting in a couple of weeks. The end of my insanely busy time is coming into view...