I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “firstname.lastname@example.org” so if anybody wants to contribute towards the purchase (and shipping to Sean / TeamEurope) of Plug and Play devices, then that address can be used. It will help enormously with sourcing additional units, plus any spares we might need for experiments (sometimes dumping is not straightforward as many of these don’t use regular ROMs, but ROM globs)
As these are donations, not payments for any specific guaranteed product or service, be sure to send them as gifts. Also don’t send email to that address, it won’t be checked. If you want to discuss sending a specific unit you already own instead, please tag on on Twitter.
The influence of the classic Guitar Hero games – from when all the songs were on the discs, yours to play whenever you wanted without having to worry about them becoming unavailable, cannot be underestimated. It is therefore unsurprising that there were Plug and Play clones of these, some with licensed music and song lists on the boxes, others with what you might call ‘original’ interpretations of better known songs and no licenses attached.
Guitar Fever, put out by ABL (and possibly developed by V-Tac) is an example of a device that did have fully licensed tracks. As with all the devices covered here these are ‘Midi’ (sequenced) versions of them, rather than actual audio recordings so you’re not getting any vocals, and sometimes even questionable instrumentation choices / arrangements, but they’re songs you’re going to recognize for the most part.
This one is still marked as NOT WORKING in MAME because the background scrolls more quickly than the notes, when in real hardware videos you can clearly see that they’re in sync. One such real video of this one is a 10 year old Ashen’s video, which is maybe the only reason this device is remembered at all. There were different styles of controller for this, but the code seems to be the same in all cases; we actually had 2, one sourced in the UK and one sourced in France, one used a regular flash ROM, the other had a glob, but the checksum sticker on both indicated both were the same (ABL, unlike many others often used stickers with the checksum of the ROM noted on them)
Senario put out Guitar Superstar as part of the ‘Active Arcade’ series. This is one of the units without licensing music, however all songs are clearly heavily based on known tracks, even the titles allude to what the original song is. “Granite Man” is based on “Iron Man” by “Black Sabbath, while “We Love Rockin'” is very obviously meant to be “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”. This one isn’t especially good, matching up the songs to what they’re meant to be is probably more fun than trying to play it where even in emulation the controls feel laggy. This one also came in several different styles of Guitar controller, and this time I think the different controllers might actually use a different ROM as the Guitar type is shown on the title screen and there are YouTube videos showing different title screens, and I see no switch read in the software to change it, that means we’ll probably have to pick up the others at some point for the sake of a graphic swap.
Guitar Star is another Senario product, although contains no Senario logo ingame, so presumably was only sold by Senario rather than Senario being involved in the development. I don’t know if it was released before or after Guitar Super Star, but one thing that is clear is that it is the superior product. The animation is more fluid, the controls, while not perfect, feel better (at least once you get used to the timings) and the music actually appears to be licensed, so original track names are intact. It has a more cartoony presentation which may not appeal as much to some, but personally I prefer this more vibrant look over the gritty images in Guitar Superstar.
Timings drift slightly over the longer songs in MAME on this one, leading the the music being out of sync with the notes, so for now it still has a NOT WORKING flag.
One thing that was surprising with Guitar Star is how it shares the basic frontend with another product, DreamGear’s Shredmaster Jr. although the actual in game presentation of both is significant different, Guitar Star going for a look that more closely apes Guitar Hero than Shredmaster Jr. which has a simpler 2D look to it closer to many of the dance games.
In European territories the same game was distributed by TaiKee as the ‘Rockstar Guitar’ and has a title screen of ‘Guitar Rock’ I actually had 2 copies of this guitar, both costing around £5 each. I picked the 2nd one up so that I had a spare, but it turned out to have a different set of songs, including “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” by the Manic Street Preachers. I made a video of that version here sadly the cheap Flash ROM contained within it died during the dumping process, so the unit will need replacing, that’s always a risk with these as they rarely used high quality components as they were cheap tat even at the time.
I covered the Family Sport units briefly in an earlier part when I mentioned the OPlayer. Usually Family Sport units are decent value and honest products, unlike many of the NES based multigames full of dupes of the same game they typically contain the number of games they say they contain without any duplicates.
I did however encounter one major exception to that so far, the My Wico Deluxe ’32-bit’ system. This is presented as a Family Sport 85-in-1, and as part of that 85-in-1 there are 3 sub-menus, one for “Mi Guitar” one for “Mi Fit” and another for “Mi Papacon” Within those menus are additional games, but all the games there are dupes of games already in other menus. As for Guitar, Fit and Papacon, they’re exactly the same game but with a different title screen. The My Wico Deluxe is marked as NOT WORKING in MAME but that’s because the motion control bit for the sports games isn’t hooked up properly, these run as you’d expect (although I do need to check the banking is correct for the songs after some recent changes, for some reason some of these SunPlus games aren’t setting port directions as expected)
Now I’m going to go with a theory here. At some point maybe Mi Guitar, Mi Fit and Mi Papacon were separate products, shipped with unique controllers so that while they were the same songs, and same presentation, they at least had something different about them. Here everything has been changed to use the basic directional buttons on the controller, and even at times they end up asking you to press opposing directions, which simply isn’t even possible. Other than these I don’t think there’s anything in the My Wico Deluxe that isn’t in the OPlayer, so no need for further coverage of this unit.
I already mentioned the “InterAct Complete Video Game – 89-in-1” but I guess it’s worth mentioning again here because one of the games within it “Guitar Revolution” seems related to these “Mi Guitar” type games, or at least has basically the same song selection. In all honesty the presentation on it is quite well done, and I’m again left wondering if this was an actual standalone product with a guitar controller in some markets.
Switching instruments to the Violin, the Japanese ‘Evio’ Plug and Play took cartridges, and in recent months 8 of them were dumped (7 boot, one requires additional SEEPROM hookup) The highest cartridge we have is numbered on the box as ’18’ (that’s the one that doesn’t boot) so there are probably at least 10 undumped cartridges for this system. The controls aren’t currently hooked up, but you can listen to the songs, albeit with the currently incomplete XaviX sound emulation, in the ‘Demo’ mode. This was a Tomy / Takara product, and apparently even allowed linking up of Violins for multiplayer action.
With that I’ll end this part too, I was tempted to throw in another Dance Mat while on the musical theme, but there’s enough in here anyway.
I think this shows that music games played a significant role in Plug and Play culture; there are several Guitars (some sourced, some not) that still need dumping, and while none of those came close to what they were trying to imitate their mere existence helps cement the cultural significance and influence of the more popular games in this genre. Emulating them is important as they’re part of a bigger story.