HCK vs the Sharp X68000

5 06 2013

Back in the late 90s when I really started to expand my horizons in import gaming, there were two unobtainable machines: the Fujitsu FM Towns and the Sharp X68000.  Both were computers.  They were desirable because they played versions of games that were only whispered about in the darkest corners of gamer gatherings.  Arcade perfect ports of Splatterhouse; more prefect versions of Gradius and Salamander that were available at the time.  They were unobtainable because they were computers, and no import store carried Japanese computers.  Heck, back then it was almost impossible to get a JIS keyboard for a Windows machine, much less get a whole system in the States;  but my friend Matt actually managed it.  He imported, at great cost, two FM Towns II computers (a model F and and MX); but only one monitor.  I actually bought the MX off him but never used it, because… you guessed it!  I didn’t have a monitor.  Ah, gamer locgic.  The desire to simply own.

Still, I had yet to play anything running on an actual X68000.  Fast forward to 2011, and I finally come into my own with the FM Towns, and finding I enjoyed the system so much that I have since gone through six FM Towns II computers, and two FM Towns Marty systems (a consolized version of the computer that you hook up to your TV).  But still, the X68000 was out of reach for me.  Prices for the machine can easily run upwards of $500 in Japan.  Plus, you have to figure in the cost of the monitor, and maybe a keyboard, control pad, joysticks… well, you get the picture.   This week, though, I had a little visitor:

 

Hello :-)

Hello 🙂

 

Yep, an X68000.  Actually and X68000 XVI to be more precise.  Oh, no, it’s not mine; I picked it up for a customer back in the States.  This X68 is just passing through.  But I was able to put it through it’s paces, and can give you all a little look at the machine.

 

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Back in the 90’s, companies were free to make promises that they couldn’t keep.

 

It really is a beautiful, impressive beast.  One of the reasons I always wanted to get my hands on one of these was because it’s what Capcom famously programmed their arcade games of the day on, thus Capcom arcade ports on the X68 are arcade perfect.  Plus, it was the go-to machine for Konami as well, with titles so popular, they still garner admiration from fans for their playability and music.  So it was with great anticipation that I plowed through around 20 games, waiting to be impressed.  And the funny thing is, overall I wasn’t.  Let me tell you what I found:

 

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The X68 is a very well thought out and fantastically designed machine.  It’s elegant in a way that few computers are now.  It even has a retractable steel handle on top for… carrying?  Anyway, it’s there and it’s cool.

 

The switch on the left is for changing the processor's clock speed.  Nifty!

The switch on the left is for changing the processor’s clock speed. Nifty!

 

Unless you have an HDD (listen up kids, computers didn’t always have hard disks), you have to have a disk in the machine in order to get it to do anything (the Towns is similar).  X68s take 5.25” floppies.  This, for me, is one big downside to owning an X68000, as some games can take up to 15 floppies; plus because of the fragile nature of the disks, they’re easily prone to demagnetization and data corruption, especially since they’re nearing 13 years of age!  The computer has two drives, labeled 0 and 1, the 0 being what we in the States called the A Drive at the time (or Drive 1).  You have to have a disk in here to run the game.  If a game has multiple disks, the B Disk must be in drive 1 (also called B Drive or Drive 2 in the west) in order for the program to fully load.  Interestingly enough, how the computer works it is it loads the 0 drive data fully into its memory, and then ejects the disk.  That’s crazy stuff.  One game even loaded the full contents of both drives into memory.  That’s some serious RAM for the day going on there! (boy, I sound like a computer geek right about now^^;)

 

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Interestingly enough, some games require only a control pad to be plugged in to play, and some require a control pad and keyboard.  See, the X68000 controller doesn’t have a START or SELECT button, so the spacebar on the keyboard would serve that function.  You can’t play Parodius on the X68 without a keyboard, but you can play Salamander.  Weird.  Just shows how the programming progressed over time, probably via user feedback.

 

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Games feature customized disk sleeves and, in some cases, branded disks.

 

 

The first game I’d like to show you is Star Wars.  I’m an old school Star Wars fan, having been there for the original trilogy and having suffered through the Atari 2600 versions of Star Wars games.  Because of the era in which it was released, I expected this to be similar to the NES Star Wars, maybe a platform adventure game.  Boy was I wrong.

 

I was completely unimpressed by the beginning of the game.  What a wonky opening crawl.  And once the opening shots of the film appeared represented by vector graphics I was almost rolling on the floor in fits of laughter.  But as the intro drug on (and it does drag on) the audio really impressed me.  Voice.  Lots of voice.  Then I actually played the game… what a treat for an old gamer like me!  Star Wars for the X68000 is a faithful expansion of the old Star Wars arcade game I played as a kid!  It really took me back to putzing around the old Bally’s Arcade in Town West Mall in Wichita, Kansas.  The levels do drag on a bit, with mission two requiring that you shoot more than 80 enemy whatevers to progress to the near impossible twitch shooting trench run.  Plus, the control with the stock joypad is really stiff.  Overall, though, I really enjoyed the game; but mostly for the audio.

 

 

Next comes one of my all time favorites, Puyo Puyo.  Having played this, I can now say I’ve experienced every version of the first game in the series.  I was quite tickled by that loading screen, where Carbuncle, the game’s mascot, psychedelically morphs into a puyo over and over and over…  The game itself remains unchanged from other ports, Puyo is Puyo.  What did strike me was how close this version of Puyo Puyo is to the PC Engine version, Puyo Puyo CD.  A great version of the game, but the FM Towns version is still king.

 

 

The final game we’ll take a look at is a Capcom classic, Final Fight.  Previously, I played the Super Nintendo version of the game, and the Sega CD’s Final Fight CD.  Plus I played it in the arcade.  Now I can say without a doubt that Capcom games on the X68 are where it’s at.  What beautiful graphics, and a great soundtrack!  Now, it’s only from memory, but I can’t tell a difference between this and the arcade version.  There were noticeable changes from the US version I caught, including Cody’s captured girlfriend being shown in the intro being battered and stripped down to her bra.  Plus, the character Poison is showing off a lot of under boob.  I’m such as a kid I would have remembered under boob.  I was that age.  But the control is superb, and the gameplay challenging and fun.  If I ever own an X68000, I will be getting this game.

 

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A little know law states that any system released in the 90s in Japan had to be accompanied by a Masion Ikkoku game. Look it up!

 

I think the main reason why the Sharp X68000 failed to blow me away is that I was already so familiar with so many of its showcase games.  And unfortunately, many of the games have been ported to other systems in better incarnations.  I would say your money is better spent playing the Sega Saturn or Sony Playstation versions of Parodius, Gradius, and Salamander than playing them on the Sharp.  Yes, the midi soundtracks are excellent, but graphically, the games are less than arcade perfect and sometimes suffer from flicker, something not seen in the 32-bit arcade perfect ports.   What I’ll remember most from my experience is the music, which is also an unfortunate thing because midi soundtracks for X68 games seem to be released and re-released ad infinitum, and I can get into those for a whole lot less than the cost of the system.  Still, I just barely scratched the surface of what the Sharp X68000 has to offer.  If the situation arose where the planets alined and I had the space and money for a machine offered at a bargain price, I’d happily get one.  Until then, though, I now know I can wait.





Another Take on Catherine Buyer’s Guide

21 08 2012

With Studio Happy Chicken Pink’s Another Take on Catherine being about a month out, I thought I’d share a little about the different versions of the film that will be available.

 

Another Take on Catherine – JAPANESE DVD  (September 23)   PREORDER

This cut of Another Take on Catherine clocks in 3 minutes shorter than the American version.  That’s because at the last minute, the Japanese censors made us make some cuts to the film to get it released in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Other than having different dialog, it’s virtually identical to the American release (except for the missing 3 minutes).

 

 

Another Take on Catherine – USA STANDARD DVD (September 25)   PREORDER

This is exactly what it sounds like, the standard edition release.  Features the American version of Catherine, plus the bonus film Moe X CoCo featuring Moe Takahashi and CoCo!

 

 

Another Take on Catherine – USA BLU-RAY (September 25)   PREORDER

Featuring a beautiful 1080p picture, and deep pulse-pounding sound, this is the version of Another Take on Catherine to get.  The Blu-ray version of Catherine comes with both the English and Japanese (uncut) versions of the film, as well as the bonus film Moe X CoCo, and an additional super-secret bonus video!

 

 

 

 





Doorknob Girls

24 05 2012

I’m shopping for a new laptop that I can use for business… you know, run some word, and excel… browse the internet… that kind of thing.  All for under ¥50,000.  That’s the tough part- see, I’ve got standards.  Good luck to me on that.

Anyway, while I was rummaging through various Japanese used computer websites, I stumbled on this:

 

 

Yeah.  Right now you’re probably thinking the same thing I was thinking when I first saw this: I hope she at least washed it first.  Do you know how many hands touch a doorknob every day?  And how many germs are on those hands???

Turns out that today a book called Doorknob Girls debuted.  The book is filled with pictures of girls orally satisfying various kinds of doorknobs.  There’s sexy ladies licking doorknobs:

 

 

Young women that are surrounded by candy and who have been heavily photoshopped licking doorknobs:

 

 

Wet girls in glasses licking doorknobs:

 

 

And just when you thought they might have run out of ideas, they throw wet girl in glasses while in an inflatable pool, surrounded by rubber ducks, liking doorknobs at you:

 

 

Honestly, I didn’t even know that this doorknob fetish thing even existed.  Nobody in the book is naked, there’s no insertion of a doorknob into any bodily orifice, just girls licking doorknobs, plain and simple (or not so simple when you throw in the ducks and the pool).  Who knows, if this catches on then in the next few years we could see people protesting, demanding equal rights for doorknob marriage.

So if doorknobs are your thing, you can check out the gallery below:

 

 

And if you want even more saliva covered doorknob fun, head on over to the official Doorknob Girl website.  At least now I have a subject for my next film.  Just kidding.  Maybe.





Lollipop Chainsaw Manga Revealed

24 05 2012

In Japan, the buzz machine for upcoming cheerleader zombie slaughtering  simulation Lollipop Chainsaw has reached maximum overdrive.  Not only will the game be released in 2 editions (in sanitized and adults only flavors), it’s also been announced that the ¥10,290 ($130) premium editions will also come with a tissue box cover (for when you get a little too excited from playing the game) a B2 sized poster, and an A3 sized tapestry.  I’ll be honest, even though I work in media I’ve never been able to get my head around sizes like A5, B4, and the like.   I’m constantly buying the wrong sized envelopes because of this.

In a effort to whip fans into a buying ferver, a comic (known as manga in Japan… say it with me: mah-n-ga) has been commissioned to shed light on the characters back story, including how Juliet’s boyfriend Nick looses his head, while throwing in a little fan service on the side.  Debuting in the June 7th issue of über gaming rag Famitsu, I present it here for your viewing pleasure.  Oddly enough, while Famitsu is read left to right, the manga is presented in a right to left format which really sort of messes you up.  There’s no reason to make people stop and change the direction of the magazine they’re reading right in the middle of it.

What do you think?  Does it make you more ferverish than before?





Catherine Interview with GameFan

24 05 2012

For those of you who are interested, GameFan Magazine has graciously done a sit down with me where we chatted about Studio Happy Chicken’s latest release Another Take on Catherine.  To take a look at what they (and I) had to say, click the picture of CoCo as Catherine below.

 

CLICK ME





No Panty Princess

20 05 2012

While I was at a game store picking up some inexpensive retro the other day, I snagged a promo flier for the Nintendo 3DS game Code of Princess.  Interesting thing about CoP… it had a bit of hype behind it, then got middling reviews, and now you don’t see it anywhere.  In fact, not that I think about it, you didn’t see it many places immediately after release, either.  Strange.

Anyway, I picked up this pamphlet flier thingy; but I didn’t look at it until I got home.  Here’s the front:

 

 

Then it folds out once to reveal this:

 

 

And then fold out a third time to reveal this:

 

 

The first thing I noticed about this lovely little mini-poster is that the zombie chick in it is wearing pink panties.  It made me wonder if that was in the game, and if it was how the developer got away with releasing CoP with only a B rating (that’s barely a Teen rating in Japan).  The second thing I noticed was that the afore mentioned princess from the title wasn’t wearing any panties at all.

 

 

That’s right, she’s ノーパン as they say in Japan.

Now, my heart tells me to chock this up to a printing error; but my brain is in minor disagreement.  “What if it’s not a printing or coloring error?”   Well, to be honest, if it’s not an error then my interest in the game rises from “mildly interested” to “must buy”.

Isn’t that sad?





Catherine Completed

18 05 2012

It’s a wrap… finished… completed… and soon to be in the hands of connoisseurs everywhere.