The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Monthly Archives: November 2011

A closer look at the Megatech games: Cobra Mission

The story of Megatech Software is a strange chapter in the history of computer games, even in the tight context of foreign ports of Japanese home computer games. Similar to Seika’s Railroad Empire, it was a hardware company’s experiment in computer games. Megatech Software was a division of Liberty International Components, a distributor of passive electronic components with numerous partnerships in Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Whether the division was seen as a serious business venture, or just as a way to have some tax-deductible fun, I cannot tell, though some circumstantial evidence points to the latter.

It lasted about five years and published four games. A lot has been written about these games, they are famous alone for being the first eroge ever to be released outside Japan, but rarely with a view on the Japanese originals. That’s what I’ll try to do here, one game at a time, in chronological order.

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PC88/PC98 Conversions

This is an attempt to list all the games originally developed for the NEC PCs and later translated and ported for release outside Japan. I don’t know if it’s complete, but I don’t think that a lot is missing. If you have any additions to make, please comment below.

There are two restrictions to this list: First, I’m leaving out the ports to Windows. It would easily make the list twice as long, but just add a lot of of “visual novels” with little or no gameplay.

Second, I’m leaving out the Koei games. Koei is a special case. In 1988, they established a Californian subsidiary and from then on published at least every other game in the USA, on multiple platforms. Koei’s games were released on multiple platforms in Japan as well, they are not especially linked to the NEC PCs. Nobunaga’s Ambition was originally, in 1983, published in BASIC.

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Ningyou Tsukai and Licca-chan

I just submitted an entry for Ningyō Tsukai to MobyGames, and doing so I noticed that in the dialog screen, one of the two contrahents has a name comprised of two katakana (リカ) I could easily google. It turned out that this is the name of a dress-up doll very popular in Japan, Licca Kayama (Licca-chan). Here’s a photo (from Wikipedia) of the original Licca-chan 1967, and a pic of Licca in Ningyō Tsukai:

I don’t think that’s a mere coincidence. Another interesting aspect is that JWPce’s dictionary gives me a number of meanings for these two katakana, the first one being science (理科). Remember that the science girl in Chrono Trigger had a very similar name—Lucca?

A first look at Ningyou Tsukai

Finally I dug up a copy of Ningyō Tsukai (人形遣い), and guess what: My suspicions are confirmed. Metal & Lace is indeed a very different game, and Ningyō Tsukai, just like its sequel, is indeed a straightforward fighting game with no power-ups and strategy elements. Here’s a first look at it, using the Neko Project II emulator.

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What you didn’t know about Megatech Software

Of the four games that Megatech Software released, at least the first two aren’t simply translations of the respective Japanese originals. They have been heavily altered. This changed when Megatech licensed Dragon Knight III, though a few things were added in Knights of Xentar as well, the mana system for Luna (AFAIK) and the 3D view, for example. But these are minor changes, and I doubt that elf as an established company would have allowed too many liberties to be taken with its IP. But the first two games, both by unknown or upstart companies, were so much that the translations should probably be seen as separate games.

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MSIE users download more than Firefox users

I just finished my Download Central stats for October and noticed that 44% of the downloads are made with Internet Explorer (29.7% with Firefox), but 37.5% of the pages are viewed in Firefox (31.3% in Internet Explorer). A study about the connection between the way people use the web and the type of browser they use would definitely be interesting.

Some notes on the name “Der Clou!”

Three weeks ago I uploaded the Amiga version of Der Clou! to Download Central, a burglary simulation with a certain popularity (though it’s an Austrian game, the English Wikipedia article is far longer than the German one). The DOS version will soon follow. Unfortunately, I can only upload the German versions, neo could not make the English versions freeware, since someone else held the copyright for the translation.

[Der Clou!]

How did the game get this strange name? “Der Clou” is the German name of the 1973 movie “The Sting” with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It had quite an impact on the German speaking world. Scott Joplin’s “Entertainer” which seems to have been featured in the movie (I never saw it) for example was known for years under not other name than “Der Clou”. It may well have been the first contact with ragtime for many German speakers.

But the important part is that it was for many the first heist movie they had ever seen. Even twenty years later, if a game was named “Der Clou!”, potential buyers would most likely correctly assume that this was a game where you play a crook of some sort and do some criminal things. So the name was very well chosen indeed.

Ginderella

I’m researching the history of Moorhuhnjagd, and came across this interesting tidbit: Not long before there was a promotion for Gordon’s Gin. A specially trained team went into select bars and let patrons create a perfect Gordon’s Tonic on a computer game named Ginderella. This was obviously the direct model for Moorhuhnjagd, for the planned event ran the same way. A promotion team went into select bars (only 50 in total) and let the patrons shoot grouse on laptops. Those who did well got a free Johnny Walker, those who did very well got a CD with the game. That the game was passed on and went viral was unintended, though probably inevitable.

Ginderella is mentioned in the September 1998 issue of a German gastronomy journal, and by Micha van der Meer in a 2010 interview. There seem to be no English language sources, the promotion probably took place in Germany.