I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “email@example.com” 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.
At this point I’ve seen a large number of these Plug and Play multigames full of unlicensed material, and most of them are easy to group based on the games contained within them. One however stands out from the crowd and that is MGT’s 20-in-1 unit.
The closest thing I can connect this unit to is the Senario My Sports Challenge units, as it does contain a number a few of the things found in those, however the rest of the content, while ripping off easily identifiable source material, consists of things I haven’t seen before and several of the games are brazen enough to use the original game titles for the games they’re ripping off in the menus. Maybe these are all from the same developer, and Senario filtered down things in their units to ones that weren’t as obviously ripoffs? I don’t know.
We’ll start with Sonic Fighter. This one does play very similar to Deep Storm found in several of the Zone 60 generation units, however the graphics here are very different; in Deep Storm they were ripped from Psikyo’s Space Bomber. It’s an ‘into the screen’ shooter with a pre-rendered 3d background and that pre-rendered background, while only on a short loop is extremely well done, shifting the viewing angle with the camera to give a genuine sense of depth. All the ROM budget was likely used up on that background tho, as the game only has 1 endless stage, with maybe 4 enemy types, including a larger boss enemy that will appear every once in a while. It’s playable, in short blasts, although you’ll want to turn the sound off or down, the music is an obnoxious 1 second loop.
Best I can tell Golf and Bowling are the same games found on the Senario unit. Bowling doesn’t seem to have the ‘how to play’ instruction screen after the menu, there might be other differences, but I have not noticed any other differences.
Horseshoes seems like an earlier / more primitive version of the game found in the Senario unit, with weaker presentation. Here’s a left/right comparison of the MGT 20 in 1 and the same game in the Senario unit.
Disc Challenge / Frisbee Challenge are the same thing with a different name. Again left/right comparisons. I think these ‘Sports’ games being present on both units establishes some kind of connection between the units at least, but from here-on things get back to being more interesting.
Ever wish your warehouse was flooded, but it was still essential that all your crates were in the correct place. Well there’s pirate themed Sokoban game in here, complete with lots of sploshy water sound effects. I guess I appreciate the theme being a little different here at least.
This unit also has a version of Puzzle Bobble. Unlike the horrors of the game carrying an official Taito license in the VG Caplet, or the awful VT1682 implementations on the Wow unit this one actually plays reasonably well. It’s smooth, controls are responsive, you feel like you have can aim. There’s a horrible annoying music loop like most things on here, and presentation is bare bones, but there’s the core of something not altogether awful here. Menu calls it Puzzle Bubble, but I’m not convinced that wasn’t just a typo rather than any intention of hiding what the game is.
Next, Space Mission. Pick an obscure arcade shooter, Nichibutsu’s Armed Formation, steal the first stage graphics, and make an endless single level shooter using those. You have Space Mission. This even has a nice wavy linescroll effect on the background suggesting the programmers had some idea how the hardware worked. Again this isn’t a bad demo project if you wanted to pitch doing a game on this hardware, although it lacks enough content to really be called a game at this point.
Storm Fighter again feels like an impressive little tech demo. This one takes sprites from R-Type II, but then gives us some nice multi-layer parallax scrolling, and has an ‘enemy rush’ feel with lot of large enemies swooping past then attacking, none really take too many shots for the little content that’s here is impressive, lots going on, feels well programmed, makes use of the transparency effect on a lazer. Again like all these things, terrible audio loop, but I’ve said this for most of these entries, there’s the core of something decent here, even if it was never fully fleshed out into a proper game.
Puzz Loop is as the name would suggest, Puzz Loop. Actually this one rips the graphics from the CPS2 game Puzz Loop 2. Maybe most interesting is how this one was called Puzz Loop, rather than Zuma. The content of this collection in general (having graphics stolen from Armed F, and R-Type II, as well as calling this Puzz Loop) almost indicates the developers had a much wider knowledge of arcades, and the actual games than others creating SunPlus software, who often seemed to have no knowledge outside of a bunch of NeoGeo sprite rips and no clue about how the games should play.
Again this feels more like a demo than an actual game, but it also feels better programmed than any of the other clones found on comparable SunPlus based systems.
Invaders once again suggests that whoever programmed this unit knew their arcade stuff. This version of Space Invaders puts the one found in the VG Caplet to shame too. It might not have the original graphics, but the gameplay feels correct (except maybe the UFO spawn being too infrequent) Enemies move as you’d expect, controls are responsive, and it’s even using proper samples of the sound, with all effects present. Both Radica and PDP put out licensed Invaders games that were vastly inferior to this offering.
Mars Rescue is Lunar Rescue. This one doesn’t play quite as well, and of note lacks the acceleration when you shoot while going back up the screen but it’s a decent take on the game and even has the ‘red screen’ effect when you die.
Colony 7 is based on Taito’s Colony 7 with a graphical overhaul. I’ve always considered this to be an obscure Taito game in the first place, it’s like a not very good Joystick controlled version of Missile Command with some Defender-like presentation. I was surprised to see it on the Radica Taito unit, and I’m even more surprised to see it here. Were these games originally being developed for Taito and rejected? It’s definitely odd to see newly programmed versions of Invaders, Lunar Rescue and Colony 7 in this kind of thing.
I’ve said quite a few of the things here have been decent early implementations of concepts. Jewel is not, it’s a stiff and awkward Columns clone. This one doesn’t even have a music loop, it plays in near silence with just a sound for block matching.
Connect Together is also very simple tile matching.
While Crash implements the basic mechanics of a Bejewelled style puzzler, again with minimal sound design suggesting this was maybe some kind of proof of concept demo?
Add ’em Up concludes the simple puzzle games
A trio of games follow with a weird Onion head mascot character, these are all reflex / coordination themed challenges rather than puzzle games. They’re a little more fleshed out, but still very simple games. Cache, which should almost certainly have been called Catch, sees you trying to catch the green objects that are falling, while avoiding the rocks. You have to be perfectly positioned to catch anything tho or they’ll just bounce off you.
Saw sees you using a circular saw to defend your position against a rush of aliens. This is easily the most violent thing on here, even if there’s no blood. There are no controls aside ‘saw left’ and ‘saw right’ Enemies move at different speeds, if one touches you from behind or when the saw isn’t active and it’s game over. This one is over in 2 seconds if you don’t take action after starting it.
Moving down from 2 buttons to just a single button, Jump Rock has you jumping over rocks. Again this is over in 2 seconds if you don’t jump.
I’m not convinced each and every one of these was worth individual coverage, but this collection hit the right note with me in terms of showing how there can be surprises even with these Plug and Play units. It would have been easy to assume the Puzzle Bobble on here was the same as the common Squirrel Bobble game, but with a new skin for example, but as it’s an entirely different implementation to any of the others it’s much more interesting. Same for the Puzz Loop clone, it isn’t just the Ball Blaster one from the other Zone SunPlus units, nor is it the Joe Ma 2 game from the PDC. There might be many different versions of Puzz Loop across these systems but here we have one that I hadn’t previously seen. As mentioned, you also get the impression that some of the developers here actually knew a bit more about making games than with other units as quite a few of these had real potential even if in the end most of them feel more like quick tech demos than games. Obviously I don’t know the real story behind them, but I am glad this was found, dumped and emulated.
Double Dance Mania
Some news from today in this update! Senario’s Double Dance Mania – Techno Light Edition was just dumped, it was released as part of the Active Arcade line of products and turned out to be a VT based system. I was expecting SunPlus as the box shots looked quite colourful compared to other music games.
For a full-blown 2 player Dance Mat one of the most surprising aspects of this product is that it only contains 3 rather short songs, and not recognized ones either. Each song has 3 difficulty levels, and can be played either solo or with another player, but for pure ‘dance’ content that’s your lot.
There are also 6 games on the unit to make use of the dance mat, all of these offer 1 or 2 player options.
The first 5 of these seem to be original creations for this product, and as such actually fit quite well with the theme of this part.
Starting at the top, you have a game where you’re avoiding asteroids, not shooting them, just avoiding them. HipHopscotch is next, this one being close to being an actual music game, seems to rely on unemulated parts of the sound hardware a little more than the others tho, playing a sample each time you press a button. Snowstorm is a ‘vs’ breakout style game, reminds me a bit of Hotshot on the 8-bit microcomputers, but not as interesting. Duck & Dodge is inverse whack-a-mole, a bit different I guess. Hurdle Challenge is basically like the Olympic games from the other sports units, but somehow even worse, the Hurdles seem to have a mind of their own as the display slides about.
Nothing great here, but nice to see original code, and playing against somebody else I guess could provide a little entertainment.
The 6th game is Radium Star, and is by far the best game on the unit. The problem is, it’s a bootleg. For some reason Nintendo’s Pinball ended up in many of these dance products as a bonus game and this one turns out to be no exception to that rule, except here it’s been given a new title and a reskin.
I’m starting to wonder if these manufacturers were supplied with this Pinball game (in both this form and with the original graphics) and somehow genuinely didn’t know it’s nothing more than a hack of an official Nintendo NES title. While the graphics have had an overhaul the music remains the same as the original here. I wonder if Nintendo ever did sue over this, as unlike many of the other near faceless manufacturers, Senario would have been easy to get in contact with.
Zone 7-in-1 Sports
I’m going to switch back to the horrors of VT1682 based material for a while and look at the Zone 7-in-1 Sports unit. I think these predate the larger Zone compilations such as the Zone 40 and Zone 60 and might be the only VT1682 devices to carry the Zone branding. There’s a US version and a UK version which have slightly different titles, the US one is dumped, I have a UK one ripped apart ready for that to be processed one day. Many, if not all, the games in here are in the larger Interact compilations, but as I only briefly mentioned those in earlier parts I’ll give some more coverage of the actual games here (and likely revisit those ones again later to cover any unique things in them)
Amongst the games in this unit are Bowling and Baseball. Those appear to be identical to the VT1682 versions covered when looking at the Excite Sports 48-in-1 unit so I’m not going to cover them again.
We have a Golf game. It’s called Master Golf. It seems to steal / trace some assets from Neo Turf Masters. This isn’t the same as the other Golf game tho, I think this is an earlier incarnation before it was replaced with the one that straight up stole everything from Neo Turf Masters as this one didn’t make it to the SunPlus systems to my knowledge. Gameplay here is much simpler, there’s not even any aiming of note, it’s just a case of selecting the correct club and power level.
There’s a boxing game, I guess you’d actually call it kickboxing as feet are involved. Again it’s very basic compared to other games that would carry the Boxing title, although I do quite like the less realistic style these graphics have.
There’s Tennis, and Table Tennis, they play as you’d expect, they’re not quite the same as the ones in units we’ve already given detailed coverage of, but they’re still single button games.
Then there’s Extreme Power Soccer, this one is a little more interesting, offering several game modes, including a ‘keep the ball in the air’ technique practice mode. It’s still just pressing a button at the correct time, but it adds some variety. I’ll come back to this in a minute.
That’s the Zone 7-in-1 anyway, if you want to see Baseball and Bowling see the part where I cover the Excite Sports. Now let’s very briefly look at a close relative of this.
MiWi 2 7-in-1
This MiWi 2 shipped with a 7-in-1 Sports cartridge and a 16-in 1 Arcade cartridge. I mentioned it briefly when talking about Drum Master, which was part of the 16-in-1 cartridge, but the 7-in-1 Sports cartridge fits here.
The unit includes different Tennis and Table Tennis / Ping Pong games when compared to the Zone 7-in-1. The Tennis game is the one found in the Excite Sports unit, as is the Ping Pong game, but here the Ping Pong game renders the opponent sprite priority correctly. Again I don’t know if this is just an emulation glitch in the other unit caused by it doing things in a way that disagrees with our emulation (maybe different VT1682 revisions had different timings?) or if it’s a game glitch in the other set. Also this version calls the Boxing game TV Karate.
I mentioned before that the MiWi 2 16-in-1 cartridge was clearly based on earlier code revisions of some of the games than other units, as there was less censorship in some games, and with the 7-in-1 Sports cartridge there are also signs that these are earlier games / code revisions. I mentioned the Extreme Power Soccer game. With the MiWi2 7-in-1 version the background banners are for YMK Software, with a ymktvgame URL (I haven’t tried it) and there’s a simple counter in the top right. There’s no lose condition, you can drop the ball and start again.
If we go back to the Zone 7-in-1 version you can see there’s a target number to reach, and also if you drop the ball you’ll be told to Try Harder, with the game booting you out. You can also see the text in the banners has been crudely replaced. These two things strongly suggest this is a later modified version of the game.
I think that covers everything I wanted to cover for this part; sports ended up cropping up again simply because there are so many of these units with sports in, but I feel the coverage of the MGT unit has at least broken that up a bit. Again we’ve got examples of how even for these simple games there are different code revisions out there with various tweaks applied and we can also see how some games were swapped out entirely for what must have been considered better implementations of the same sport.