Archive for the SNES Category

Retro-Bit Super Retro Advance Adapter Review

Posted in Gameboy Advance, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on November 25, 2013 by satoshimatrix

Super Retro Advance.Last year, Retro-Bit – a third party manufacturer of clone consoles, controllers, and accessories –  released two extremely interesting devices – the RetroPort Adapter, which connects to a SNES and allows original NES games to be played, and the RetroGen Adapter, which connects to an SNES and allows Sega Genesis/MegaDrive games to be played. Now Retro-Bit continues their voodoo magic with the Super Retro Advance Adapter, which promises to bring a certain beloved handheld to the SNES.

Since it was initially announced, fans speculated about how the GBA would change the future of portable gaming forever by bringing SNES-like game experiences to a handheld while also producing new franchises and perhaps even doing some things that wouldn’t be possible on Nintendo’s legendary 16-bit platform. Throughout it’s life, all of this was proven time and again as the GameBoy Advance became for all intents and purposes, the second coming of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

It is therefore with irony that Retro-Bit now has a product to bring GBA game experiences back to the SNES.

How good is this device? Read on.

Overview

IMG_5064The Super Retro Advance Adapter is a standalone GBA clone that plugs into the SNES as if it were an SNES game itself. Using only the power provided from the SNES cartridge slot, the Retro-Bit Super Retro Advance Adapter has a self contained GBAOAC (GBA On A Chip) and interfaces with the SNES for standard button input.

Just like the RetroPort and RetroGen, audio and video are not provided through the SNES, but instead an RCA to stereo 3.5mm headphone jack located in the side of the device. This is because unlike the Super GameBoy, RetroBit’s line of adapters do not run Super Nintendo software as a framework for the other platforms. In essence, while the console treats the Super GameBoy as a SNES game, the Retro-Bit Adapter line are not utilizing the SNES PPU at all, therefore there is no video feed to route internally.

It has been suggested that Retro-Bit could have solved this by writing a simple interface program, but that is easier said than done. SNES games were written in low level 65C816 assembly, a language so prone to errors it was abandoned in the mid ’90s and isn’t taught in programming classes anymore. There also aren’t any C or C++ compilers for the highly custom 5A22 cpu Nintendo chose for the SNES.

As is, the included cable is required when using an actual Super Nintendo or Super Famicom. However, this is only true of the original Nintendo hardware and older, non Retro-Bit clone consoles. Newer Retro-Bit clones such as the Retro Duo Portable and the upcoming Super Retro Trio will pass the video feed directly to it’s own video output jacks without the need of the additional cable.
It should also be noted that the Super Retro Advance Adapter, like other Retro-Bit products, is designed to universally fit with all SNES consoles worldwide, featuring the slim design of Super Famicom game shells while providing the slits for the North American SNES. This essentially means it is completely region free.

Video output

IMG_5051

Like the RetroGen, the video encoder inside the Super Retro Advance Adapter provides extremely clean, clear and vivid NTSC composite video that looks great on any CRT television. Despite the fact that the device only provides composite video output as opposed to something higher quality such as S-Video or even RGB, the video clarity surpasses what many classic consoles are capable of producing, including the SNES itself. Games are bright, vibrant and clear. Early titles well known for being especially dark such as Castlevania Circle of the Moon are completely playable, and regardless of the composite signal, there is minimal color bleeding – allowing easy reading of text and visibility of even the smallest sprites.

IMG_5058The original GameBoy Advance used an LCD with an aspect ratio of 3:2. When displayed on a 4:3 CRT television, the Super Retro Advance Adapter ever so slightly adjusts the image to display fullscreen. When using a 16:9 television, the slightly more widescreen nature of 3:2 is represented by nearly filling the entire widescreen display, but leaves a thin black border around the edges without any distortion. The device does not allow the user to adjust the aspect ratio, but I find it does a surprisingly decent job on its own. In fact, I prefer the full 4:3 display to the GameCube GameBoy Player’s windowed display.

Audio

IMG_5047The cable provided includes clean, interference-free stereo sound, and the Super Retro Advance Adapter reproduces the GBA’s sound format almost perfectly. Unlike some GBA clones, all of the musical ranges the GBA is capable of producing are reproduced exactly within the same octaves, allowing gamers to enjoy their favorite GBA tunes when using the Super Retro Advance.

However, occasional Z-80 based sounds using the original GameBoy’s sound hardware do not sound correct on the Super Retro Advance. Through rigorous testing, I so far have found this to only affect a small number of GBA titles in minor ways. For example, in the Pokemon games, the sound effect when you run into a solid object is far more subdued than on a real GBA. This is however such a minor issue that it may actually go unnoticed for those who aren’t specifically listening for it.

Controls

The controls mapped to the SNES controller are 1:1 with their GBA counterparts. In other words, the buttons displayed on the SNES controller exactly reflect the mapping of the GBA controls. For example, pressing the SNES controller A button will activate the GBA’s A button. For clarification, here is a chart of the mapping:

GBA adapterSome may be put off that the B and A buttons on the GBA are not instead mapped to the Y and B buttons on the SNES controller, but I understand why Retro-Bit chose to do this. There are many GBA games that include in-game button prompts such as “Press A repeatedly”. If the Y and B configuration was used, the GBA A button would be mapped to the SNES B button, creating some potentially confusing situations.

Compatibility

IMG_5042

Like many emulators, the Super Retro Advance Adapter works by circumventing the boot bios, providing almost instant access to your favorite GBA titles and a legal loophole in what could otherwise be an illegal device to sell.

I am pleased to report that to the best of my testing abilities, compatibility appears to be extremely strong and very well may be perfect across all GBA titles. I have tested dozens of GBA titles and each work flawlessly.

The only compatibility issues I’ve encountered are with the Play-Yan Micro mp3/video player and running certain games via my M3 Simply SD Flashcart. The Play-Yan will refuse to boot up whatsoever. The M3 Simply will work for the majority of games I’ve tried. So far, the only problematic games using the M3 Simply are pseudo 3D titles such as Iridion II, Asterix & Obelix XXL, and Stuntman. Each of these will glitch out at certain points rendering them unplayable after a certain point. However, when I tested these games using the original cartridges, all worked without any problems.

As neither the Play-Yan or M3 Perfect are true GBA games in of themselves, incompatibility is unsurprising and should not count towards any tally of actual GBA games that do not work, which I have not found any through my testing so far.

Unfortunately, the Super Retro Advance Adapter completely lacks original GameBoy and GameBoy Color support. No GameBoy games will work on the device whatsoever, as the device lacks the original GameBoy hardware, just like the GameBoy Micro. GameBoy and GameBoy Color games will physically fit into the cartridge slot, but there’s no point in even trying as they will do absolutely nothing.

However, I was able to get several GameBoy and GameBoy Color games working and PocketNES through my flashcart, although with sound and graphical issues.

IMG_5059Overall

Good

-Reasonably priced
-Extremely easy to step up
-Great video output that fills a 4:3 display
-The SNES controller fits GBA games like a glove

Bad

-Completely lacks GB and GBC support
-Certain GB sound effects are incorrect
-Composite video output only, which is a shame considering the GBA could be made to produce S-Video or even RGB.

Conclusion

Following on the footsteps of the excellent RetroGen adapter, the Super Retro Advance adapter from Retro-Bit doesn’t disappoint. It provides great software support with clean and clear video. Is it better than the GameBoy Player for GameCube? No. However, considering the costs of the GameBoy Player plus GameCube, and that the GameCube controller is hardly an ideal controller for GBA games, the Super Retro Advance is a great alternative for playing your GBA games on a tv, and makes for a great gift this holiday season.

If you’re interested in purchasing the Super Retro Advance, it can be found along with many other Retro-Bit products at thinkgeek.com, vintagestock.com, lukiegames.com and other retrogaming stores all across North America and worldwide.

For retailers or resellers who may be interested in carrying the product, contact http://www.innexinc.com or service@innexinc.com

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RetroBit RetroGen Review

Posted in Hardware, Retro Gaming, Reviews, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, SNES with tags , , , on June 9, 2012 by satoshimatrix

As videogame consoles from the late 80’s and early 90’s continue to age, there seems to be a never-ending cascade of clone hardware that reproduces the original experiences and replaces old, large, clunky and sometimes temperamental hardware.

One of the leading clone manufacturers in recent years has been RetroBit, who have been steadily gaining a foothold and showing up competitors like Yobo and Hyperkin when it comes to quality and reliability – concepts not commonly associated with Asian born clone hardware.

Previously I brought you guys a detailed look at the RetroBit RetroPort, an interesting self contained NOAC designed in a cartridge that can be fitted into an SNES and thus allow hundreds of additional titles to be played on that great console.

It seems RetroBit didn’t want to stop there, and recently also released another cartridge adapter that can be fitted into the SNES, a device they call the RetroGen – which allows Sega MegaDrive or Genesis games to played on a Nintendo SNES, Super Famicom or Super Famiclone.

If you grew up when these systems were fierce rivals, then prepare to have your mind blown by the very concept of this review. Continue reading

RetroBit RetroPort Review

Posted in Hardware, NES, Peripherals, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on June 5, 2012 by satoshimatrix

We’ve been seeing a lot of NES clones on the market these days. Given the age of the NES hardware, many people have been turning to new clone hardware solutions to play their old favorites. There is certainly no shortage of choice – there are literally hundreds, if not thousands – of these devices that all play 8-bit Nintendo cartridges.

But what if you have an SNES or SNES clone and don’t have desire to buy a standalone clone unit to play NES games? It might seem strange but now, RetroBit has you covered with their standalone RetroPort for Super Famicom, Super NES or Super Famiclone systems that will allow you to do something never thought possible – play your NES games right on your SNES!

Continue reading

Retro Duo Video Review

Posted in Hardware, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on April 12, 2011 by satoshimatrix

In case you guys missed it, here’s my review/stress test lf the Retro Duo, a Famiclone/SNES that plays NES and SNES games and uses SNES 7pin controllers for both systems. Enjoy!


And here’s a bonus video, a stress test of even more games!

F-Zero エフゼロ Review (SNES)

Posted in Retro Gaming, Retrospectives, Reviews, SNES on February 5, 2011 by satoshimatrix

The start of a true racing game legacy

F-Zero was many things to Nintendo when it was released. It marked the first high caliber racing game Nintendo developed themselves, starred the mature character in Captain Falcon, a bounty hunter for hire, and showcased the amazing graphical capabilities of Nintendo’s 16-bit platform.

Although the original F-Zero pales in comparison to today’s racers in terms of complexity and versatility, it carries a certain charm that cannot be denied.

F-Zero captivated players and brought them to the 26th century where humans and aliens alike complete for the ultimate title – being named the F-Zero champion. It would take mastery of control, course layout and a little luck to even hope to reach this goal, and F-Zero did this all while being a mere launch title.

So what makes this game is epically awesome? Doesn’t it have its share of flaws? What can you teach me about the history of this series? All this and more shall now be covered over the course of this review.

Premise

As a racing game, the premise of F-Zero is to cross the finish line in first place. Simple really, but under the higher difficulty settings and tougher courses, this is a lot easier said than done. Multiple difficulty levels give players of all skill a chance at victory. This is a single player focused Racer. No multiplayer.

Story

It is the 26th century. Man has ventured off into space to discover he is not alone. Far from it, many alien civilizations are quite like man himself: Interested in fame, fortune and  women. So naturally enough, high stakes thrill sports are commonplace. But nowhere are the stakes higher than the F-Zero Grand Prix, a championship racing series over dozens of planets where custom built high speed hover cars race at speeds illegal everywhere else.

Graphics

Utilizing the mode 7 sprite scaling capabilities of the Super Nintendo, F-Zero is a pseudo-3D racing game in a time when most games struggled with even the simplest of 3D graphical flares. The game is played in a third person view behind the car view which was universally used for racing games at the time, and is still used in racers today.

Using the system’s abilities to render sprites at different sizes while warping and rotating others, F-Zero’s engine simply looked stunning for its time. Even today’s most graphic savvy gamer can easily detect the appeal of the graphics used in F-Zero.

The game’s courses are each varied and distinctive. Despite everything being completely flat, Mute City makes you feel as if you’re racing above a bustling city. Big Blue gives the impression the race track is the only place above water for miles around, and so on.

Even though the Super Nintendo would go on to really show us some pretty graphics, launch title F-Zero continues to hold its own as one of the best looking game on the system.

Audio

What would a racer be without awesome music to accompany the action? Luckily, it seems Nintendo asked themselves this question and delivered the goods in spades. Composed by Yumiko Kametani and Naoto Ishida, the original F-Zero boasts the most memorable soundtrack in any F-Zero game to date. It’s fast, frantic style fits the game very well and it’s the sort of music you just can’t hear enough of.  A true treat for the ears.

Here’s a sample of just one of the many awesome tracks in F-Zero

Gameplay

Four cars, fifteen tracks and more twists and turns than you’ll know what to do with. The gameplay in F-Zero is solid, for the most part. Each track in the game has five laps, two laps longer than most racing games. Once you complete a lap, you get an “S” to store. An “S” gives you a temporary speed boost that can mean the difference between first and second place. You can carry up to 3 “S”‘s at once, giving the player the ability to boost up to 3 times on a single lap.

Like an action game, F-Zero uses a health meter, called here the “Power Gage”. Whenever you collide with an object weather it be another racer, the course guardrails or a mine, you loose energy. Loose all your energy and your car will explode. Luckily though, on every track is a pit stop that you can drive through to regain some lost energy.

Although there are four distinctive hover cars in the game, only the Fire Stingray is worth using. The Blue Falcon, Golden Fox and Wild Goose all suffer from low grip and poor handling, and in a game where precision movement is vital they are immediately tossed out of the realm of possibilities. If not for the Fire Stingray, F-Zero would be unplayable.

Thankfully though, the Fire Stingray is here to save the day. Weighing in at nearly 2 tons, it has the best handling in the game, and at 478km/h the Fire Stingray is also the fastest craft in the game. Its sturdy body can also take the most amount of damage of any of the cars. Due to its heavy weight though, it has the weakest acceleration.

While the gameplay elements would definitely be expanded upon in later F-Zero titles, the original game still manages to hold its own.

Control

F-Zero has flawless controls. The d pad moves your craft left and right. Once you hit a jump, hold down to tilt your craft so you make a smooth landing. The B button provides the accelerator. Y breaks. A boosts. Hold in L or R when going around a turn to make a tight turn. X is unmapped. Start pauses and Select moves the cursor around menu choices.

Fun Factor

Since before recorded history, people have always found thrill in competitive races. The sudden rush feeling of traveling at extreme speeds while under pressure to remain in control is alive and well in F-Zero. Travel the straights of Death Wind while the gale forces push your craft around, or defy nature as you race above the surface of a star in Fire Field. It’s all awesome.

Frustration

F-Zero requires mastery at higher difficulties, but beyond that there isn’t a whole lot that’s frustrating about the game. The practice mode lets you get used to the twists and turns of the gameís stages and can easily be the difference between victory and defeat. The AI isn’t cheap and nothing happens unexpectedly.

System availability & Price:

F-Zero was first released with the launch of the Super Famicom in 1990 and the Super Nintendo in 1991. Since then, the game has also appeared on the Wii Virtual Console in all regions around the world. Beyond the VC, there have never been any ports to any other systems.

Prices are tame for the original F-Zero. If by some chance you don’t own it already, here’s the rundown of prices. On average, you should expect to pay between just $1-15 for the Super Nintendo version, just $3-20 for the Super Famicom version, and 800 points for the Wii Virtual Console version. If you have an HDTV, I would personally recommend the Wii VC version only because of the ability to play this short game in high definition. F-Zero’s Japanese Super Famicom release is identical to that of the North American one, so import away.

History

Development of F-Zero started in 1988 during the peak of the Famicom and NES’s popularity. During early development, a full roster of 20 racers and their cars were designed, but due to technical limitations of the then experimental Super Famicom hardware, all but four were dropped from the final release. As a result, the remaining 16 cars were designed around a single model and were all merely different colors of the same craft. This explains the seemingly misplaced filler cars that populate the race track.

F-Zero’s legacy is one of praise and glory. It has been called the fastest and smoothest pseudo-3D racing game of its time, and offered a level of realism unmatched for some time after.

Sometime around 1995, Nintendo started working on an F-Zero sequel for the Super Nintendo to take advantage of their then in depth knowledge of the hardware and larger cartridge sizes available.

However, like many Super NES games under development at the time, F-Zero 2 was canceled in its early stages due to the soon to be released Nintendo 64. Nintendo felt that their talents could be better put to use working on a title for that system, which ultimately didn’t arrive until 1998.

In Japan, one of the most unique and simi-popular add-ons for the Super Famicom was the Satellaview. The Satellaview was a satellite modem that attached at the bottom of the console, allowing Japanese gamers to download game titles and various other things directly from an orbital dish at certain times of the day.

The unfinished F-Zero 2 was released as a Broadcast Satellaview game, or BS for short. The full title of the game became BS F-Zero 2 Grand Prix.

BS F-Zero 2 Grand Prix reuses the same graphics engine, play mechanics, and music from the first F-Zero, making it more akin to a rom hack of the original game than a stand-alone title.

Although there are four new cars, they are all identical to the ones from the first game except in appearance.

There is only one league in the game called the Ace League, which in has five new courses.  These tracks are all extremely difficult and even crossing the finish line is a feat in some of them.

Overall

Good

  • Amazing Graphics
  • Top-Notch Music
  • Spot-on Control
  • Competitive AI
  • Challenging Courses
  • Four Distinctive Hover cars

Bad

  • The limitation of only four racers is disappointing when you consider that most of its sequels have 30 or more
  • The duplicate filler cars that populate the race track often get in your way
  • No multiplayer at all
  • You can’t run time trails on all 15 courses

Conclusion

With all things considered, F-Zero is an amazing game that has stood the test of time remarkably well. If you don’t already own it, well what’s wrong with you? Go get it! Its super cheap and totally awesome.

Oh, and if you were wondering how I managed to write this review so quickly it’s because I had previously written it. Over two years ago. Here’s my original video review!

Data

Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Famicom, Wii Virtual Console

Genre: Racing

Release Date: August 23, 1991

Developer: Nintendo E.A.D

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. 3, F-Zero X, F-Zero Maximum Velocity, etc

Game Length: 3 hours

ESRB: Nonexistent at the time, but re-released as “E”

Buy, rent or skip: Buy

RetroPorts from Retrozone Review

Posted in Gamecube, Hardware, NES, Peripherals, SNES on December 22, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Add NES/SNES ports to your Gamecube/Wii!

I love controller adapters that allow you to use dedicated controllers from old systems on completely different systems. I own at least a dozen such adapters, and some work better than others. I’ve been asked about Retrozone’s NES and SNES RetroPorts and feel its due time to give them each a proper, in depth review.
Retrozone has been selling what they called “Retroports” for several years now. Each RetroPort is advertised as allowing you to use either an NES or SNES controller on your Wii and play Virtual Console games “the way they were originally designed.” How well do they work? Any shortcomings? Let’s find out.

Overview

Despite claims that these adapters are for the Nintendo Wii, they really are just Gamecube adapters that map the NES/SNES controls to those of Gamecube buttons. As such, these adapters are 100% Gamecube compatible and also function on the Nintendo Wii via the Gamecube ports atop the system.

Build Quality

Both RetroPorts come in a beautiful package that shows off the product really well – not bad for a single sourced products like this.

Once out of the package, you’ll quickly grow to appreciate that these adapters are among the best out there in terms of built quality. No visible screws pleasing colors and durable plastics. SNES controllers slide easily into the port, but I found it somewhat difficult to correctly insert NES pads into its Retroport. In order to do it correctly you need to do it slowly and make sure it goes in flush; its a very tight connection. You may even wish to simply insert a controller and leave it plugged in permanently.

Button Mappings

the mappings for the SNES to Gamecube are as such:

SNES to GC

+pad — +pad
Start — Start
A —- A
B —- B
Y —- Y
X —- X
L —- L
R —- R
Select — Z

and NES to GC

+pad — +pad
Start — Start
Select —- Z
B —- B
A —- A

Performance

Both RetroPorts actually do their jobs exceedingly well – there is absolutely no lag when playing games using either adapter with original controllers. Every controller I’ve tried also works with it, front he NES-004 boxy pad to the NES Dogbone and the Advantage joystick, even third party controllers work! Same deal with the SNES – the RetroPorts allow all controllers for your old Nintendo systems to be used.

There are even some Gamecube and Wii games that greatly benefit from solid digital controllers. For instance, most people find Megaman Anniversary Collection for Gamecube to be utterly unplayable due to Atomic Planet “reversing” the controls – B now jumps while A shoots. When using a SNES RetroPort, you can slightly fix this problem. Anniversary Collection also maps Y to be turbo fire and X to be auto-slide. Since the button placement of the SNES controller puts Y where the Gamecube’s B button is, you now have natural reach to auto fire and standard jumping, making at least Megaman 1-6 playable.

Other examples where the SNES pad helps are in fighting games such as Soul Calibur II. Not only does the SNES pad fit the game beautifully, it also allows you to remap controls to be whatever you like. You can even use the NES controller to play Soul Calibur II for lulz.

As I see, here’s a short list of games that strongly benefit from these adapters:

NES RetroPort:

  • Any Wii Virtual Console NES game that doesn’t require select. Examples include Super Mario Bros. 3, Punch-Out!!, Megaman 2, Wario’s Woods, etc.
  • Any Wii Virtual Console game for Commodore 64, Sega Master System, or TurboGrafix-16, and a few early Genesis games such as any of the Sonic games.
  • Gamecube’s Gameboy Player playing any Gameboy or Gameboy Color game that doesn’t require select. Examples include Super Mario Land, Tetris, Megaman IV, Pokemon, Shantae, etc.
  • Sonic Mega Collection (Gamecube)
  • Sonic Gems Collection (Gamecube)
  • Nintendo Puzzle Collection (Gamecube)

SNES RetroPort:

  • Any Wii Virtual Console SNES game that deosn’t require select. Examples include F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country 2, F-Zero, Axelay, Zombies ate my Neighbors, etc.
  • Any Wii Virtual Console Genesis and Neo-Geo games, as well as all arcade games that support Gamecube input
  • The Legend of Zelda Collection (Gamecube)
  • Soul Calibur II (Gamecube)
  • Capcom Vs SNK 2 EO (Gamecube)
  • Megaman Network Transmission (Gamecube)
  • Megaman X Collection (Gamecube)
  • Megaman Anniversary Collection (Gamecube)
  • Alien Hominod (Gamecube)
  • Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil  (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil 2 (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil 3 (Gamecube)
  • Meramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)
  • Castle of Shikigami 3 (Wii)
  • Cave Story (Wiiware)

Availability & Price

Each of the Retroports are exclusively available via Retrozone for $19 each. Remember, their site is retrousb.com, not retrozone.com. They have a great payment system are are trusthworthy. Shipping might be a bit high if you’ve not in North America, but these adapters are well worth the extra cost of shipping.
Overall

Good

  • Well built and durable
  • Excellent button mapping for the SNES controller
  • Both controller adapters are lag-free and completely responsive
  • A good number of supporting games makes these adapters a good investment

Bad

  • These are Gamecube adapters, not Wii; this is misleading on Retrozone’s part
  • They are sold separately from each other
  • NES RetroPort maps Select to Z rather than Select, meaning Select cannot be accessed with this controller
  • $19 plus shipping is somewhat pricey as these are barebones adapters

Conclusion

All in all, Retrozone’s RetroPorts do their jobs exceedingly well and greatly add to the playability of a number of games. I would even argue using a Genuine SNES controller is a better choice over the Wii Classic controller! The lack of using either controller’s Select button to play Virtual Console games does sort of suck, but the pros greatly outweigh the cons and seeing as these are Gamecube adapters, not Wii adapters, there’s nothing Retrozone could have done about this.

One final note is how the RetroPorts compare to the 4-in-1 controller adapter you might find on ebay that also allows you to use Genesis and N64 controllers on your Gamecube/Wii. I don’t personally own one of these, but I’ve noticed all the problems the RetroPorts avoid: the 4-in-one is laggly, built cheaply, and it doesn’t even get the button mappings correct. Avoid and pick up the RetroPorts. You’ll be glad you did.

Famicom Detective Club Part 2: The Girl in Back Review (Super Famicom)

Posted in Fan translation, Hidden gems, Imports, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on December 7, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Murder mystery, Nintendo style

Although I do review mainstream games like Fallout New Vegas and Pokemon, I like to think the goal of this site is to inform about wonderful hidden gems that most of us just haven’t played. In that light, this review is dedicated to the translation efforts of multi-talented ROM hacker Tomato and the rest of the staff at DemiForce for their pronominal translation of this forgotten Nintendo masterpiece. Wither you’ve heard vague details or know nothing of it, Famicom Detective Club Part 2 should be a game every serious Nintendo lover checks out. Why? Read on.

Story

Although the second game in the Famicom Detective Club series, The Girl in Back is actually a prequel to the first game and as such is a better place to start off with.

A 15 year old orphan (player named) in search of his parents meets a private detective named Shunsuke Utsugi and develops a bond, becoming his apprentice. Only a few months later, Utsugi puts the protagonist in charge a crime scene investigation.

Yuko Kojima, a 15 year old highschool girl attending Ushimitsu High, has been discovered dead floating in the local river. According to Yoko’s best friend and classmate Ayumi Tachibana, the two had formed a “detective club” and were investigating mysteries across town. Prior to her death, Yoko had been investigating an eerie ghost story turned urban legend in her highschool called “The tale of the girl in back”

Determined to find Yoko’s killer, the protagonist vows to solve the case and partners with Ayumi and sets out on his task. Little does he realize the truths that lay hidden and the true scope of the mystery…

Graphics

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a menu driven adventure game from several decades ago. As such, there’s not as much eye candy as you might hope, but nevertheless the Super Famicom remake of the game looks fantastic. For the most part, the game focuses on talking heads from the shoulders up againstg backdrops of their surroundings which can be investigated for greater information. If you’ve played any of the Phoenix Wright or countless other Adventure games you’ll know exactly what to expect.

At a few key moments in the plot however, the view will expand to show much more detailed, beautiful portraits. The use of transitions makes the game almost into an interactive anime at some points! These scenes are very cinematic, almost like cutscenes you can savor by choosing to advance at your own pace.

Audio

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was composed by Kenji Yamamoto, whose other works include Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, almost every Metroid game including Super Metroid, Fusion, Zero Mission, Prime 1, 2 and 3, Mario Kart Super Circuit and most recently, Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Much of the music in Famicom Detective Club Part 2 compliments and enhances the gameplay. There are songs for every situation from somber music that plays when Ayumi expresses the grief over her best friend’s death, calm and cool music that plays as the protagonist cruses around locations in search of clues, dramatic music that plays with there’s a critical situation and more.

A few of the tracks damn near give me goosebumps, such as this one.

The original game made excellent use of the Famicom Disk System’s expansion audio, but the Super Famicom soundtrack is even more remarkable.

Gameplay

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a point and click adventure game that focuses in large part on menus. The game is mostly told in first-person from the young protagonist’ perspective.

For most situations you can look around, speak to various people around you, present items to them, think about the situation and save. You do this by selecting the option you wish and pressing A. Think of the game as an evolution of a text only adventure game, but you can actually easily understand what’s going on.

As you play you’ll need to sometimes present items to characters, although doing so isn’t always such a good idea. Showing off Yoko’s photograph to Ayumi for instance usually results in the poor girl tearing up.

There are some situations where after you are told something, you’ll need to think about it. Thinking is the game’s way of allowing the player inside the protagonist’s mind.

The game is divided up into chapters like a novel, presenting the game in a manner best suited for play sessions that can last from anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. When you choose to save and quit the game, the next time you return to it you will have the ability to review all that has happened recently. This is is an excellent feature that is sorely missing from many modern RPG and adventure games.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful translation DemiForce and Tomato did. All conversations sound natural and with a script of I’d estimate of at least 20,000 words, there are only a handful of spelling or grammar errors. Like Mother 3 fan translation, it’s so well written you will find it hard to believe this is a fan translation!

Controls

Given it’s Famicom Disk System roots, the game doesn’t use most of the buttons on the Super Famicom controller. All you will pretty much ever use is the D-pad and the A button.

D-pad: Choose options in menus
A: Advance text, confirm
B: Cancel
Y: No function
X: No function
L: Close Scrapbook
R: Open scrapbook
Select: No function
Start: Pause

Frustration

There are some points in the game that demand arcachic trail and error gameplay in order to advance. For instance, there are literally several points in conversations which force you to ask everything you can possibly ask about, present everything you can possible present, then think about the situation, and then try every option again in search of a new response.

Newer games such as Phoenix Wright address this by having the word “new” appear next to a conversation path you have already had to give the player some way of knowing what to do next. Not here! This isn’t a constant problem, but you will find yourself scratching your head more often than you rightfully should.

Availability & Price

The original Famicom Disk games can be found relatively easy, but remember they were originally sold separately, and you’ll probably have to buy them separately, increasing your cost.  The Super Famicom version reviewed here was only available for the Nintendo Power Data Cartridge service in Japan, and Data Cartridges containing this title seem to be exceedingly rare, even in Japan. If I had to hazard a guess on price, based on other SFC Data Carts, expect to pay $70 or more for an original copy. The GBA port of the FDS disks can be found the easiest at around $30. In each of these cases though, you’ll be getting the Japanese versions.

I am currently inquiring into the possibility of a reproduction cartridge, but as of this writing, I’m not sure if that’s even possible. I don’t like to promote piracy, but the translated version does play perfectly on the Super Powerpak…

Audience

Fans of the Phoenix Wright series will eat this game up. The whole game feels like one giant Phoenix Wright case, complete with plot twists and more exciting dialogue than you can throw a novel at.

This game itself involves death, despair, the supernatural, has people smoking, drinking and soliciting sex and more; definitely not the typical child-friendly Nintendo game. In fact, Famicom Detective Club part 2 is the only Nintendo first party game that carries a parental warning and CERO rating of 15+!

History

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was originally released for the Famcom Disk System in 1989. the original version spanned two disks, and used each side to the maxim capacity. Detective Club Part 2 is a direct sequel to the previous year’s Famicom Detective Club which starred the same characters. In 1998, the game was re-released on the Nintendo Power data cartridge service.

The Super Famicom Data Cartridge Service, ran between 1996 and 1999 in Japan, allowed consumers to purchase special blank cartridges from vendors at a reduced rate and then either go to certain retailers or mail the cartridge to Nintendo through a service called “Nintendo Power” (had absolutely nothing to do with the American magazine).

The service offered a dozen or so titles, some of which had shown up as broadcast Stelleview games and were the only way of getting cartridge versions of these games. Some of these games included Super Picross, Super Wrecking Crew, Super Famicom Wars, and as mentioned, a remake of Famicom Detective Club Part II.

The Super Famicom remake of Detective Club Part 2 offered vastly improved graphics and sound and slight tweaks to the gameplay and story, as well as add in the dating sim element with Ayumi. Review’s advice: although randomly grabbing Ayumi’s chest is fun, its not the best way to win her affections.

For the third wave of titles marking the 20th anniversary of the Famicom in Japan, the FDS version of Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was released on the GBA. This version is the most readily available version and is probably also the cheapest.

Overall

Good

-Extremely well written

-Beautiful portraits and art style. As the protagonist states early on, Ayumi is cute

-The entire translation feels natural, keeps the Japanese names intact and through hours and hours of scrolling text, there are only a couple of spelling or grammar errors. That’s better than my track record to be sure!

Bad

-Trial-and-error gameplay; sometimes  you literally have to scan through EVERY option you have to advance the game.

-No SNES mouse support. Why the hell not?

-Occasionally confusing

-Finding a way to play it can be difficult

Conclusion

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is an amazing experience and is much darker than you would expect a Nintendo game to be. It’s a shame that the series never really continued, but if you are looking for an engaging adventure game to sink your teeth into, look no further. There are some noticeable flaws regarding the trial and error gameplay of some situations, but this is indicative of the genre itself.

Data

Platform: Famicom Disk System, Super Famicom, Gameboy Advance

Genre: Text-based Adventure

Original Release Dates: May 23, 1989 and June 30 1989 (FDS), April 1 1998 (SFC), August 10, 2004 (GBA)

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: There’s not much out there from Nintendo in terms of games like this. Not in English, at least.

Similar games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Game Length: ~10 hours

CERO: B

Buy, rent or skip: Buy if you can, emulate if you must, but damnit, just play it!