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Since I ran out of time to edit my post while finalizing it, I'll just say that it seems to be the best of the 3 mini consoles that I own (Mega Drive, Famicom, and PC Engine), but I need some more time with it to finalize my thoughts. I do have to go to work in 1 hour, so I won't be able to do much in that time, unfortunately. I hope the turbo controller arrives within my lifetime.

 

Edit: Just got an email from Amazon saying the turbo controller's release date is now 4/30.

Edited by Steven Pendleton
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https://www.konami.com/games/corporate/ja/news/topics/20200319/

 

PC Engine mini secret hidden games: the previously publicly unreleased Soldier Blade Special Caravan Stage special version thingy and also newly created "near Arcade" versions of Gradius and Fantasy Zone! The sound and graphics of both Gradius and Fantasy Zone can be toggled to be closer to the arcade versions. I did play the normal versions of both of these games for a few minutes each while I was testing (I didn't know about the secrets, of course!), and I'm looking forward to trying these! I wonder how long it will be before the ROMs for those two are extracted and we can play them on our real PC Engines. If I'm reading this correctly, I think these might be exclusive to the PC Engine mini and are not available on the CoreGrafx mini and TG-16 mini, but hopefully I'm wrong.

 

And yes, both games (and especially Super Darius) suck without the turbo controller, but Gradius isn't so bad once you get the laser and it's better to turn off the turbo once you get the laser anyway.

 

Also, I don't know if anyone has mentioned it, but Alien Crush was announced as the US version, but they decided to include the Japanese version instead. It's still located in the US TurboGrafx-16 section, though, and I've never played either version so I'm not sure what the difference is (aside from the obvious HuCARD region lock).

 

It also seems that instead of sending 2 music CDs, people who bought it on Prime Day get the 4 track CD (which is actually really nice, especially the new Reiwa-era version of the Rondo of Blood menu music. I always thought it was kind of annoying before, but I really enjoy this new arrangement by Yamane!), and the Cyber Monday people and also the Prime Day people will get a download code for 2 additional tracks. I haven't gotten my code yet, and neither has anyone else, apparently.

Edited by Steven Pendleton
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1 minute ago, roots.genoa said:

Thanks a lot, Steven! I may "borrow" one of your pictures for my article today (the comparison shot). ;)

Sure, go for it. Take them all if you want! My photography is terrible, though!

 

I'll be posting a much more detailed review of it after I have some time to play it. Based solely on my initial impressions of it, I think I could honestly recommend it to people who want a cheap way to get into PC Engine and seems to be a great option overall for a modern display if you don't mind the aspect ratio thing.

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Forgive the huge wall of text, but here is my review after a few hours with the mini.

 

So I played it for a few hours straight just now. I finished Rondo of Blood and I am happy to say that it is the original PC Engine version, not the censored PSP/PS4 version, so you do get the naked werewolf guy and the vertical scrolling at the ship's mast works as intended. The game plays just as well as it does on my real PC Engine, and the game's audio is a bit too quiet, just like on my real PC Engine. The cutscene audio timing seems maybe a bit off in the one where you rescue Maria, but I think it is that way on the original hardware. My CD ROM2 doesn't work very well, so I usually use the SSDS3, but if I really wanted to I could pull out the CD ROM2, IFU, and my real copy of Dracula X to check. I will say that on the original game running on a real PC Engine + CD ROM2, there is a bit of a load time before Shaft enters the room after you kill his 4 monsters, and that load time was basically not here at all on the mini.

 

Speaking of loading, when you start a CD game, it does show the BIOS screen, but you can't access the save data by pressing Select and the mini also presses Run for you after a second or two, so you can't sit there at the BIOS screen anyway.

 

HuCARD audio seems to be a perfect recreation of the actual PC Engine's sound. Anyone who has played a PC Engine HuCARD game knows that the PC Engine's sound chip has a really weird and unique quality to it that is very warm and round with lots of treble and that sound is faithfully recreated here. Dragon Spirit was my test game since I actually own the real HuCARD for that, and it sounds exactly like it does on 100% real hardware on my CRT.

 

Everyone is probably wondering about the 2 new arcade conversions, and I tried both of them. I have never played the arcade version of Fantasy Zone, so I can't say how accurate that is, but the colors and audio are definitely different from the original PC Engine version, but still sound like PC Engine HuCARD music and sounds. I do have the Konami arcade collection on the Switch, so I have played the arcade version of Gradius. This new arcade conversion is VERY close to the arcade version, especially the audio. It still scrolls vertically, just like the original PC Engine version and unlike the arcade version, but the audio is extremely close to the arcade version. I don't have a scientific method to compare, so I can't say it's a perfect conversion, but I want to say that if it isn't, it's really REALLY close. I also haven't played the arcade version in a few months, though! Gradius near Arcade does not start with the Konami screen like the original HuCARD version, and if you reset the game, this warm-up screen with I think a 90 second countdown timer shows up. You can skip this by pressing Run. Fantasy Zone near Arcade does not have this.

 

Next is compatibility. I tried some different controllers aside from the actual PC Engine mini controller just to see what happens: Mega Drive Mini, Retro-Bit Genesis/Saturn, and my USB mouse (Logitech G502. Actually Logicool G502 since that's the name they use here in Japan, but same company and same thing). MD Mini controller does not work at all. Retro-Bit start button works in the menu to run games, but then it stopped working in-game. The home button actually called up the in-game menu, to my surprise, but nothing else worked, even after I changed it from red mode to blue mode. I think people who own this controller will know what I'm talking about when I say red and blue mode. As for the USB mouse, you're probably wondering why the hell I would try that, and that reason is because of the one game that made me choose the Japanese version over the EU CoreGrafx version to go with my real CoreGrafx: Tokimeki Memorial. I enjoyed Love Plus, and now that my Japanese has improved considerably, I wanted to try Tokimeki Memorial as well. Tokimeki Memorial supports mouse input on a real PC Engine, but not here. The lights on my mouse didn't even come on. Maybe it wasn't getting enough power or something. Unknown as to why.

 

Speaking of power, I'm using the power cable and plug that came with my Analogue Mega Sg, but just for fun, I tried powering it using one of the USB ports on my Switch. It did not work. I also tried powering the Famicom mini like this last year when I bought it and that does not work either, so no surprises. The Switch does provide enough power to run Analogue's systems, though, which is interesting, and this is how I have my Super Nt set up since it's in a convenient place on my desk to allow for that. I have not tried powering the MD Mini with the Switch, but I imagine it will not work.

 

So at least one person in this thread knows that I was extremely critical of the Mega Drive Mini, but I think I could honestly recommend the PC Engine mini. The biggest problem here is the weird game selections like The Kung Fu. Not exactly the best game on the system. Then there are the games that have both US and Japanese versions, like Ys. Another strange choice, for sure, as is the PC Engine version of Ninja Ryuukenden. I always heard that the scrolling in this version is terrible, and it's truly horrible beyond comparison. It also doesn't seem as responsive as the Famicom version. One of my friends questioned the omission of Linda3, but given its rather controversial nature, I think I know why they skipped it. MD Mini has severe sound delay in some games, audio issues in others, and the input delay ranges from not there to nearly crippling. The PC Engine mini so far does not have any of these problems, despite being made by the same company (M2).

 

For those of you outside Japan, who I am basically writing this for since you guys all have to wait indefinitely for the system, Amazon Japan currently has the PC Engine mini in stock and available, and they also have the TG-16 mini and CGX mini listed with April 12 as the ship date. Is it worth it to trade Tokimeki Memorial, Tengai Makyou II, uncensored Japanese Splatterhouse, a non-turbo controller in the box, and possibly the new arcade conversions and Soldier Blade Special Caravan Stage for PC Engine Salamander, censored US Splatterhouse, and a turbo controller? Up to you. Keep in mind that I only got my PC Engine 6~8 months ago and my SSDS3 in late December, so I do not have a lot of experience with either the real system or the mini yet, but it seems definitely good enough so far to recommend. Someone with proper measuring equipment will probably say it's trash when they finally get around to reviewing the international versions, but maybe not!

Edited by Steven Pendleton
I can't believe I typed this whole thing and misspelled ONE WORD!
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On 3/19/2020 at 10:02 AM, Steven Pendleton said:

Everyone is probably wondering about the 2 new arcade conversions, and I tried both of them. I have never played the arcade version of Fantasy Zone, so I can't say how accurate that is, but the colors and audio are definitely different from the original PC Engine version, but still sound like PC Engine HuCARD music and sounds. I do have the Konami arcade collection on the Switch, so I have played the arcade version of Gradius. This new arcade conversion is VERY close to the arcade version, especially the audio. It still scrolls vertically, just like the original PC Engine version and unlike the arcade version, but the audio is extremely close to the arcade version. I don't have a scientific method to compare, so I can't say it's a perfect conversion, but I want to say that if it isn't, it's really REALLY close. I also haven't played the arcade version in a few months, though! Gradius near Arcade does not start with the Konami screen like the original HuCARD version, and if you reset the game, this warm-up screen with I think a 90 second countdown timer shows up. You can skip this by pressing Run. Fantasy Zone near Arcade does not have this.

Can you please tell us if these updated versions add any parallax or if Gradius has less slowdown?

 

The old PC Engine Fantasy Zone doesn't have any, other than the foreground pedestals on one stage.

 

The only parallax that PCE Gradius has is some of the stars in the background scrolling independently, but not as many as the arcade.

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5 hours ago, Black_Tiger said:

Can you please tell us if these updated versions add any parallax or if Gradius has less slowdown?

 

The old PC Engine Fantasy Zone doesn't have any, other than the foreground pedestals on one stage.

 

The only parallax that PCE Gradius has is some of the stars in the background scrolling independently, but not as many as the arcade.

From what I have seen they are both just recolors with different sound effects and music.

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12 minutes ago, Steven Pendleton said:

From what I have seen they are both just recolors with different sound effects and music.

Awesome. That bodes well for them being legit rom hacks and possible to someday play on real hardware. :)

 

They did actually change a fair amount of pixelart in Fantasy Zone and at least the cinematic in Gradius:

 

https://www.konami.com/games/corporate/ja/news/topics/20200319/

Edited by Black_Tiger

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1 hour ago, Black_Tiger said:

Awesome. That bodes well for them being legit rom hacks and possible to someday play on real hardware. :)

 

They did actually change a fair amount of pixelart in Fantasy Zone and at least the cinematic in Gradius:

 

https://www.konami.com/games/corporate/ja/news/topics/20200319/

Yeah, I forgot about that screen and I have basically no experience with Fantasy Zone at all, so I'm not the best guy to ask about that particular series in general, but I do plan on getting Mega Drive Super Fantasy Zone eventually. It's getting expensive.

 

The near Arcade (Japan still has no idea how capitalization works) ports probably work on real hardware. I forgot to mention it before, but both near Arcade games still show the regular HuCARD for the original game going into the system instead of some special new design. It was unknown if Genesis/MD Mini Darius would work on real hardware, but it does, although I have seen a few people elsewhere say they have had it crash. I haven't had any problems with it on Mega Drive, Nomad, or Mega Sg, though.

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1 hour ago, Steven Pendleton said:

Yeah, I forgot about that screen and I have basically no experience with Fantasy Zone at all, so I'm not the best guy to ask about that particular series in general, but I do plan on getting Mega Drive Super Fantasy Zone eventually. It's getting expensive.

 

The near Arcade (Japan still has no idea how capitalization works) ports probably work on real hardware. I forgot to mention it before, but both near Arcade games still show the regular HuCARD for the original game going into the system instead of some special new design. It was unknown if Genesis/MD Mini Darius would work on real hardware, but it does, although I have seen a few people elsewhere say they have had it crash. I haven't had any problems with it on Mega Drive, Nomad, or Mega Sg, though.

Darius MD different is different, as a homebrewer had completed that Darius port before the Mega Drive mini was even announced. M2 just bought it and the license from Taito and tried to take credit for developing the game for awhile.

 

The same homebrewer made a lot of progress porting Gradius II to Mega Drive. Hopefully it gets completed for a second set of games in a new MD mini.

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2 hours ago, Black_Tiger said:

Darius MD different is different, as a homebrewer had completed that Darius port before the Mega Drive mini was even announced. M2 just bought it and the license from Taito and tried to take credit for developing the game for awhile.

 

The same homebrewer made a lot of progress porting Gradius II to Mega Drive. Hopefully it gets completed for a second set of games in a new MD mini.

I was under the impression that they talked to Hidecade and got him to give them his thing, took all the credit, made some changes, broke some stuff, and then called him in to actually fix it, which was when they actually admitted that it was Hidecade's thing, not theirs. It's been a while since I played it or read the article about it and I've never played arcade Darius so I wouldn't know the difference between them anyway (aside from the obvious aspect ratio change). I have played Super Darius a few times, though, and I think each is basically as good as the other aside from the slightly annoying vertical scrolling in the PC Engine version. I know Chris Covell was working on a SuperGrafx port of R-Type that gets rid of the scrolling in that game, so it should be possible to make SuperGrafx ports of everything else to kill the scrolling. Okay, partially disregard! I just read the article on RetroRGB and apparently the not scrolling thing also works on the regular PC Engine! I might have to go try this on mine now!

 

But yes, I don't see or hear any reason that the new near Arcade versions won't run on a real PC Engine. Someone asked the official PC Engine mini Twitter account if there will be a Salamander near Arcade, but no reply. That's the one I'd be most interested in myself, actually, even though I made the decision to skip Salamander for Tokimeki Memorial since I have the arcade version on Switch. PC Engine Salamander is an excellent port and it's getting expensive! It's currently about 5000 yen for it.

 

We still don't know if the 3 hidden games will be on the TG-16 mini or CGX mini. I don't see any reason why they wouldn't/shouldn't be, but seeing as Konami didn't put as much thought into the game selection as they should have (or given us turbo controllers in the box), it wouldn't surprise me if they were not there.

 

Speaking of controllers, it seems there are several people on Amazon whose controllers do not work. Interesting.

Edited by Steven Pendleton
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1 hour ago, turboxray said:

Wait.. there's no turbo switches on the PCE mini gamepad???

No turbo on the one that comes with it. You have to buy the turbo controller separately.

Edited by Steven Pendleton

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Curious, has anyone ever put Shape Shifter on a pirate console / flash cart?  Don't care about my other TGFX titles.

 

If so, I would like to obtain one.

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4 minutes ago, CPUWIZ said:

Curious, has anyone ever put Shape Shifter on a pirate console / flash cart?  Don't care about my other TGFX titles.

 

If so, I would like to obtain one.

http://www.pcengine.co.uk/HTML_Games/Shapeshifter.htm

 

This one? I can put it on my SSDS3 if that counts as a flash cart. UperGrafx is another alternative.

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Ah, cool, was just curious.  I spent 18 months programming that game and maxed out the CD standard (RED Book anyway).

 

Cool, someone preserved it properly.

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11 minutes ago, CPUWIZ said:

Ah, cool, was just curious.  I spent 18 months programming that game and maxed out the CD standard (RED Book anyway).

 

Cool, someone preserved it properly.

Well, I have not tried it yet. Assuming the disc image and audio files are the way they should be on the original disc, there would be no problem running it on either of those since they are both ODEs for the CD ROM2. Assuming you have the original disc, you can just put it in your computer, use a thing called TurboRip, and it will give you exactly what you need for the SSDS3. Image files on the internet... well, there is always a chance they were not made properly.

 

UperGrafx is a bit different, but I don't have one and I'm not entirely sure how it works. I have heard it's kind of annoying since I think it uses its own proprietary file type.

 

Okay, maybe it doesn't use a proprietary file type. I'm really not knowledgeable about the UperGrafx at all, but I think there are a few people around here who do actually have one.

Edited by Steven Pendleton

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I have no need for it, I have sealed and opened copies of the U.S. and Japan releases.  Just curious.

 

I should look at the source, when I am bored, see if I put cheats in that game.

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Just now, CPUWIZ said:

I have no need for it, I have sealed and opened copies of the U.S. and Japan releases.  Just curious.

 

I should look at the source, when I am bored, see if I put cheats in that game.

If you do, that would be great. Forgotten cheats from old games are always great to come by! I think they recently revealed that if you reset Musha Aleste 100 times, some cool stuff happens.

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58 minutes ago, CPUWIZ said:

Ah, cool, was just curious.  I spent 18 months programming that game and maxed out the CD standard (RED Book anyway).

 

Cool, someone preserved it properly.

You did that game!?  That's awesome, it's a TG16 hidden gem for sure.

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4 hours ago, turboxray said:

Wait.. there's no turbo switches on the PCE mini gamepad???

On the Japanese version only, because the original, white PC Engine was released in 1987 with controllers without turbo switches as well. Like the 3-button Mega Drive Mini controllers in western countries, it's a (questionable) matter of nostalgia.

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Wait.. there's no turbo switches on the PCE mini gamepad???


They are on the stand-alone controllers they sell.

They chose to replicate the earliest white PCE console release which never had turbo switches. Later white PCE consoles were bundled with turbo controllers but I think that was around the launch of the TurboGrafx-16 (was a couple years old at that point).

http://www.pcengine.co.uk/HTML_Games/Shapeshifter.htm
 
This one? I can put it on my SSDS3 if that counts as a flash cart. UperGrafx is another alternative.


...or a CD-R. ;) I think I'll stick to my UperGrafslx though. :D

Well, I have not tried it yet. Assuming the disc image and audio files are the way they should be on the original disc, there would be no problem running it on either of those since they are both ODEs for the CD ROM2. Assuming you have the original disc, you can just put it in your computer, use a thing called TurboRip, and it will give you exactly what you need for the SSDS3. Image files on the internet... well, there is always a chance they were not made properly.
 
UperGrafx is a bit different, but I don't have one and I'm not entirely sure how it works. I have heard it's kind of annoying since I think it uses its own proprietary file type.
 
Okay, maybe it doesn't use a proprietary file type. I'm really not knowledgeable about the UperGrafx at all, but I think there are a few people around here who do actually have one.


It uses CloneCD format but PCE/TGCD images are usually distributed in other formats. I did find one HUGE torrent with everything in CCD format... far more titles than the ReDump set.

Also, it only recognizes images in that format if you tweak the filenames and headers to look like the ones generated by a free program called CD Manipulator... or rip them yourself with CD Manipulator. It's easy but tedious if you have to do a bunch of them. I've already done this for every title if anyone wants my pile of CCD/CDM files.

The final thing people don't like about it is that it doesn't support drag and drop even when you have the right image format. You have to use a utility to copy everything to the SD card.

I'm OK with all that since it's a first-time setup thing that most would find the tedious parts already done for them if the thing actually gets any traction... much like the curated set people are trading around for their SSDS3.

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5 hours ago, CPUWIZ said:

Ah, cool, was just curious.  I spent 18 months programming that game and maxed out the CD standard (RED Book anyway).

 

Cool, someone preserved it properly.

Yes, every TG-16 and PC Engine CD game has been ripped and shared now. I have a complete set of CD games on my Super SD System 3 ODE.

 

Thanks so much for putting so much work into Shape Shifter. Too many PCE devs didn't make the effort to put things like dynamic tile parallax into games or using higher resolutions. I appreciated that (all of?) ICOM's Turbo CD were 100% voice acted, with no text based dialogue.

 

I've been championing Shape Shifter ever since I got online in the late 90's.

 

shapeshiftermap.jpg

 

 

 

 

https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/turbocd/563793-shapeshifter-makai-eiyuuden/faqs/36655

 

 

 

There is a cheat code to view the ending.

 

I don't know if this was thought of during development or came up during play testing, but I was able to get to the final area of the game using only the Shadow Cat form.

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Wow I had no idea CPUWIZ made PCE games, that's awesome.  Shapeshifter was something on my short list of games to pick up but I still have yet to get around to it.  The quality of it looking at video game den and the pce bible site seems to show it has some unique choices in design and fun value for it compared to quite a few others of same realm of genre design.

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Does anyone know what resolution this game runs at? It actually looks like it uses the same resolution as R-Type, but I'm not sure.

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