Monday, May 30, 2016

My Reproduction Carts for the NES, SNES, Genesis, and Turbo Grafx-16 / PC-Engine

While I am a retro game player and collector, I don't like to think of myself as a "collector".  I collect games that I know I will like and play, or I don't buy them.  For that reason I don't buy sealed copies of games, because I would rather pay less for a loose cart and be able to play it.  People are different, and some people prefer sealed games and that's cool.  I do prefer playing on actual hardware, and consider emulation only if I am unable to find/afford a copy of a certain game.  The actual task of placing the cart into the machine, hold an original controller, and reading titles off of a shelf to decide what to play next is integral to my enjoyment of playing retro games. I do own a few Everdrives for various systems, and they are great, but personally, I like acquiring carts to play.  I realize there is some sort of inconsistency between being a "purist" gamer and one who buys Everdrives and repros, but oh well.

Here are some of the repro carts that I own for 8 and 16 bit systems, and the stories behind them.

For the NES:
Crisis Force

Crisis Force was a game that I had read about on Retro Sanctuary.  Since my favorite genre is shoot'em ups, this was a game that I had to try for myself.  It was only released in Japan for the Famicom, and prices were sky high.  I stumbled upon Etsy, the website that sells hand made items directly from the makers.  There are a host of reproduction cart merchants, and between them all you can find a reproduction of any high priced game for a less and in some cases, a lot less.  Obviously you have to be ok with settling for a repro instead of the real thing, but once you are, a new world opens up for those who are.  So I purchased a custom repro from RetrogamerRyan.  The game is as good as advertised, and I'm glad that I took a chance.

Summer Carnival '92: Recca

Not only is this game a Japanese exclusive, it is an exceedingly rare one.  It was a small release for Naxat's summer carnival series, which took place near the end of the Famicom's life and most gamers had moved on to more powerful hardware.    The thought of paying over $200 for a game does not even cross my mind, but a funny thing happened.  I knew that repro's of this game were made and available online, but I just never thought too seriously about it.  I was at the Midwest Gaming Classic in Milwaukee, and I was in one of the side rooms that a few vendors were setting up in, and I happened by this merchant who had a whole host of NES repros on display, with a top loader setup for testing.  I scanned through the boxes of available games, and immediately recognized the title.  I asked the merchant to pop this in and I gave it a try.  This was without question the fastest game I had ever seen the NES play, and was mesmerized at the programming skill necessary to pull off what I saw.  I asked the merchant if he had sold a lot of these, and he told me no one has ever asked about it.  The games were priced at $30, so I offered him $25 on the spot and he accepted.


For the SNES:
I don't have a Super Everdrive for the SNES, as that scene is a bit muddled with compatibiliy gaps due to the specialty chips for various enhancements.  Some of those chips are difficult to reproduce, and hence, the Super Everdrive is unable to play certain titles, such as Star Fox, Mario Kart, etc. While advancements are taking place, we are not at the point where I am ready to buy an Everdrive for the SNES.

The Adventures of Batman and Robin

Here's a game that ballooned in price over the past five years or so, and while it is pricey, its not as crazy expensive as some other snes heavy hitters.  I purchased this form RetroGamerandBackups on Etsy, and I have to say the level of quality is impressive for a reproduction.  The price was right for the product, and I got to add a game I've been wanting to my collection for about a third of the price.

Earthbound and Chrono Trigger


I have come to accept that owning original cartridges of these games is not going to happen.  They weren't the first games on my list that I would seek out, but they were cheap enough to give it a shot.  I bought them from thecustomcartridge on Etsy.  The repros play just as it should, but they feel a tad light; they lack the heft that SNES carts should have.  A minor gripe, but one that I noticed.  

Megaman and Bass

This game was another Japanese exclusive, and I'm a megaman fan, so this was a game I had to get and play.  Right around the time I decided to seek it out on eBay, I saw an English reproduction for about the same price.  I don't know the origin of the cart, but it is well made.

Metal Warriors

Another game that has gotten stupid expensive lately.  A great game sure, but not one that I want to pay over $200 for.  I ordered this from a South Korean merchant, for $20 plus shipping at http://newtype-game.com/.  The purchase procedure was a little strange: you would place items in a cart, but you would have to wait for an invoice via email to complete the payment transaction, through Paypal.  It worked fine, it just made me leery at first.  I ended up ordering several carts from this site, and I can vouch for it now.  The cart is a super famicom style cart, and its kinda light.  The sticker quality is just ok, but for $20, I can't really complain too much.  The game plays as it should.

Pocky and Rocky 2

Another stupid expensive game, this is a repro that was so cheap ($10 at the time) on eBay I was suspicious that it would even work.  The English description was lacking, and there was only one picture, but I figured it was low risk.  When it came, I was pleasantly surprised that it worked as it should.

Sparkster

I am a fan of Rocket Knight for the Genesis, so when I found out the sequel was released for the SNES, I early looked it up... and then put it on the backburner.  I forgot about it for a few years, and then its over $75 for a loose cart.  I found a repro cart for under $20, and that works for me.

Undercover Cops

I love beat'em ups, it's possibly my second favorite genre.  This game is another Super Famicom exclusive.  I watched a Retro Snow review on it and thought it looked worth seeking out. It's pretty damn expensive.  I bought my repro copy on eBay for under $20.  As with the other overseas repros that I bought, my first impression is that it looks pretty cheap.  The sticker is die-cut, but it seems to be a pretty poor cut job.  The shell is lighter than original carts, and while it plays as it should, I think about that every time I pick it up.  

Wild Guns

This one I was excited to find.  It's my favorite of all the SNES repros that I have, and the quality is top notch.  It seems a bit heavier than a standard cart, and I like that. I can't explain why, I just like that extra weight. The Sticker quality is excellent.  The only downside for me on buying this one is that I paid about $50 for it, but a month after I bought it the seller lowered their prices to $40.  Oh well.  I purchased it from GamesNDecals on Etsy.



For the Genesis:
For whatever reason, almost all repros that I have seen for the Genesis have pcb pin boards that are thicker than on original carts.  This doesn't affect their function, but I wonder if it is slowly moving the contact pins outward in my Genesis.

Panorama Cotton
I liked Space Harrier as a kid, and this game plays just like that.  The graphics are more cutesy than trippy, but still fun.  This was something I had to add in order to get all the shooters on the system.  I bought it from TheCartridgeArcade on Etsy.

Gley Lancer
This was the first repro that I bought, and it was a little pricier than typical repros today, but I'm still glad I bought it.  It was translated into English, and is one of my favorites on the system.  This was an eBay purchase.




Eliminate Down

This was a game I really wanted, and at the time this was one of the most expensive Mega Drive games (no American release).  There is some serious programming on this game, I think it pushes the Genesis as far as it can go.  Awesome game. I bought this off eBay as well.


The following Genesis repros are only $10 from http://newtype-game.com/

Sparkster
I was so happy to see this, and for ten bucks it was a steal.  The original copy is not something I want to shell out a hundred bucks for.  This is game is not the same as the SNES version, for whatever reason.  I wish there were more entries in the series.

Alien Soldier
This game could have made waves were it released in North America.  One of the many puzzling decisions by Sega.  A real copy is cost prohibitive, so repro it is.

Bare Knuckle 3
For those who don't know, the Streets of Rage series was titled "Bare Knuckle" in Japan.  While the first two entries were solid all around, the American version of SOR 3 was botched with unbalanced difficulty and censored graphics.  The Japanese version of the game, Bare Knuckle 3, is superior to the American version as it does not have these issues.  I used to consider this an unplayable game, but now it is almost as good as SOR 2.  Excellent buy, again for only $10.

Slap Fight
Another Japanese exclusive, I bought this when I set out to acquire all the Genesis/Mega Drive shooters.  Its ok, I can take it or leave it.




Contra the Hard Corps
This is the Japanese version of Contra Hard Corps.  While I already have this game, the reason why I bought this was that this version gives you three hits per life, making the game a lot less "Hard Core" and making it a reasonable challenge, instead of an impossible one.  Also, for $10, why not?

Golden Axe 3
I didn't know there was a third entry in the series until I watched a Game Sack episode on YouTube about games that were left in Japan.  I am a huge fan of the first game, and the sequel is ok.

Battle Mania 2
Trouble Shooter was a cool game, and its sequel was even better.  Too bad that the it didn't make its way over here.  Per usual, the Mega Drive version is cost prohibitive, so the repro is quite the bargain.


Splatterhouse 2 and 3
Like I mentioned before I love beat'em ups.  These games are kinda inbetween beat'em ups and hack'n slash games.  I thought they were fun, but not hundreds of dollars fun.  They're rare, expensive, and known mostly for being expensive.


For the PC-Engine (Turbo Grafx-16)
The only repros that I have seen for this system are made by a couple of guys on the Turbo Reproductions Facebook Group.  Shawn Yith and Jodi Whetham are the producers of these Hu-Cards, and they can reproduce any Hu-card game.  All games come with a custom case with artwork. These are a little thicker than the original Hu-cards, and have more weight to them as well.  They play just as they should, but due to the extra thickness, they are gripped tighter by the console than original cards.  I bought three repros from them: Magical Chase, Coryoon, and Tatsujin. All three are slick, and the production values are high.


So, there is a running theme here.  I love cart collecting, and almost exclusively use original hardware.  But as far as cost is concerned, enough is enough.  I know that this can be a polarizing topic, and I'm not trying to change anybody's mind.  This is what I chose, and everyone has their own opinions on the matter.  Either way, I hope you enjoyed reading this.