As you may know both myself and system11 are fans of Semicom’s games.
One SemiCom title that has always been shrouded in a bit of mystery is their shooter ‘Gaia – The Last Choice of Earth’
There has been a flyer for the game at ArcadeFlyers for a while depicting what looks like a rather ambitious vertical shooter, but nobody actually recalled ever having played it.
A couple of weeks ago system11 spotted a copy of the game for sale and snapped it up, weirdly the game being sold was not a vertical shooter running on a vertical screen as shown in the flyers (like for example the original Aero Fighters) but instead a vertical shooter running on a horizontal screen (like Aero Fighters 2/3)
At the time we wondered if maybe there was a dipswitch to control the orientation and duplicate sets of rotated graphics in the roms to accommodate this, however once the PCB arrived it became clear that this wasn’t the case, it really was a game designed to be used on a horizontal monitor and a horizontal monitor only.
He dumped the roms, and with a bit of hackery (using modified protection data from Dream World until we’ve extracted the real data) I got it booting. It required the odd fix in the driver too, but nothing major.
Now, there are a couple of things interesting here, first, the whole thing with it being a horizontal game. After playing with the dipswitches (and as always, the ones listed in service mode should NOT be trusted on a Semicom title) I discovered that one of the dipswitches controls a sort of ‘vertical lock’ on the scrolling.
When vertical games were ported to consoles with a horizontal monitor (TV screen) it was quite typical to pan the screen up and down as the player moved up and down so that the whole of the larger vertical screen area from the arcade originals could be seen by moving up and down. This is actually quite annoying as it can cause the bullets in shooters to ‘wobble’ up and down as you move because they appear to slow down / speed up or even move backwards if you scroll the screen faster than they’re moving.
The fact that Gaia offers such a mode suggests that it really was developed originally as a vertical game, as the flyer screenshots suggest. Luckily you can turn off this panning and just deal with the reduced screen area (although you can still shoot things off-screen as the game engine still seems to see things as active even when they’re in the area the game no longer shows you)
Does a vertical version actually exist? Who knows, we’re always being surprised by SemiCom finds so it’s a possibility they made 2 versions, one for horizontal cabs and the other for vertical, but right now we just don’t know.
I’ve recorded 2 videos the first, below shows the game with the vertical scrolling locked
the 2nd video shows it unlocked, notice the annoying faster/slower movement as you move the ship up and down.
The more attentive of you might have noticed something else in the above screenshots, a XESS – The New Revolution logo. For a long time we thought XESS – The New Revolution was the name of the Semicom 3-in-1 title containing New HyperMan, Cookie & Bibi and HyperMan because aside from the ‘New HyperMan’ title screen it lacks any screen indicating it’s a multi-game title. As the same XESS logo appears in Gaia that theory has rather been blown out the water, and it turns out, as you can see from the end credits that XESS is just one of the internal SemiCom team names. The special thanks section lists 2 of the others.
That suggests the Semicom internal teams were
1st Team – Exit
2nd Team – XESS
3rd Team – AceVer
as it happens we have Exit and AceVer logos, they can be found in More More and Diet Quiz Go Go
Simple? Not really.
Semicom’s baseball game MuHanSeungBu suggests that the 2nd team was also called DMD, and many other Semicom titles suggest the 3rd team was Tirano (by far the most common logo)
Maybe the teams just changed their names at some point? I’ve added them to the manufacturer field for the games in MAME for cases where they’re displayed onscreen at least.
As for Gaia, it seems like a pretty decent shooter, like most things Korean rough around the edges tho, there is for example no high score system at all, you have a score, but outside of your game it seems completely meaningless.
That’s all for now, I’ll actually mark the game as working once we get the proper protection data.