Super Multi

PGP 256

Posted by taizou at 2014-05-17 01:33:57 Clones, Famicom

Hey, it's been a while! Sorry about that. But I'm back! With one of the countless weird handhelds that are cluttering up my house at the moment... the PGP 256!

With super high game! And Bowser! I do quite like this package design, though. I like purple. And I've always had a soft spot for that font they used for the "256M Handheld Game System" text. Hey and the "256" is in Georgia and it's rainbow coloured, both of which featured heavily in, like, every website I made in the late 2000s. Whoever designed this package is totally after my own heart. Or maybe it was designed by me in 2008 on some alternate timeline and it somehow crossed over into this world in some freak convergence of universes (thus explaining why I've never seen another one for sale). Whoa.

The back... is sadly more generic. Screenshots of games that mostly aren't actually on here, more stolen artwork and some text which mostly actually is true and makes sense (aside from the game counts).

So! If you haven't guessed, this is one of many (many) clone handhelds doing the rounds at present, which each claim to have hundreds of thousands of games built in (all lies, of course) and come with one to three cartridges boasting equally ridiculous game counts.

The history of these is pretty messy; my original understanding is that they were derived from and compatible with the FC-3000 from Jungletac, a handheld capable of playing Famicom games on its own proprietary cartridge format, but (for reasons I'll get into later) this obviously isn't the case, at least not anymore.

One of the earliest such consoles was pretty much a knockoff of Jungletac's OneStation, albeit called the "Digital Dragon system" on the packaging and "MagicStation" on the console itself (although possibly some earlier revisions still said "OneStation"), and the built-in games menu resembled one from a OneStation cart. Later came the GB Station series which resembled the GBA SP, and then the PSP-imitating PVP (Play Vision Portable) Station which set the standard for dozens of P(something)P consoles to follow. To begin with they were all Famicom clones, but later Mega Drive clones were produced in the same format, and there are even a few GBA-based ones doing the rounds now.

This one is a Famicom clone and follows resolutely in the PVP's footsteps, going for the name "PGP" and taking its inspiration more from the PS Vita (although it isn't an exact copy, I'll give them that much) but the manufacturers have also opted to add a cute sticker featuring all manner of copyrighted characters (both it and the screen are covered by a plastic protector with a bad habit of falling off). Other variants are available if this one isn't your bag; you can see a few more on this alibaba page, including a snazzy Tekken vs Fist of the North Star edition.

The screen is actually one of the better ones I've seen on anything; inevitably it doesn't run at the native NES resolution so there's a bit of stretching going on, but it's nice and bright and actually puts the LCDs of considerably more expensive and legitimate hardware to shame. But, sadly, of course, this is a clone, so it can't all be good news, and the fatal flaw here is the sound. Honestly I'm not sure if I have a faulty unit, or if they're all this bad; it's just really scratchy and distorted and unpleasant, even through headphones.

Unlike many similar consoles, this doesn't come with an AV cable and has no TV-out support whatsoever, so you're limited to playing it on the console's screen; it uses a rechargeable battery compatible with Nokia's BL-5C (which has become something of a standard among Chinese console makers lately) and there's a dubious charger included, although fortunately it has a standard Mini USB port so you can charge it from something more reputable. There was also a pouch included in the box, which is, you know, nice.

There was a manual included as well, but it's both for the wrong console (something called a "PYP 3", although the text refers to a "16 bit NBS" as well) and in Indonesian, so it's not too much use to me... except for the sticker on the front, which reveals the company behind this to be "KSD", short for 凯仕达 (Kaishida), short for 深圳市凯仕达高峰科技有限公司 (Shenzhen Kaishida Summit Technology Co., Ltd.), and also provides the URL of their (musical, be warned) website. Kaishida seems to mostly specialise in dance mats, and they don't list anything like this at all anymore, so it's probably fair to say Kaishida had nothing to do with the system aside from maybe the package design.

Who actually did make it is something of a mystery; many of these systems can be found listed on the website of Shenzhen Nanjing Technology, of Famicom RPG infamy, from the common GB Station and PVP lines to more original stuff like the Game Prince and NJ series, plus the amusingly-named "NBS" which shook things up a bit by ripping off Nintendo's DS instead of the commonly cloned PSP family. However many of those consoles also appear on the website of Jncota among other companies, so it's really hard to say where they originated from in the first place; and in any case neither company's site lists anything like the PGP. The company whose Alibaba page I linked to previously, Guangzhou Toycenter Toy Firm (which uses the brands Digiking and Zhanglong), seems to be a distributor for all kinds of handhelds including those known to be from other manufacturers, so I doubt they're behind it; but they may have had something to do with its design. who knows!

Regardless of who made it, they were generous enough to bundle the console with three tiny cartridges:

Of course, they don't have anywhere near the stated game count (and neither does the console itself) but it's nice that they were included, right? Here's a hastily shot video of one of the menus (and yes the sound really is that bad, it's not a problem with the video):

The other menus have different graphics but identical music and animation. And there's a reason for that! A reason that will become apparent if you take a look inside the cartridges:

...but there's... nothing here?

that's right! These so-called "cartridges" are nothing more than a trigger for different, already-built-in sets of games! Are you shocked? I was shocked. No wonder they're called "Exclusive Card"s - if you tried to use them with another, ostensibly pin-compatible console (of which there are many), nothing would happen! Or rather, they might trigger other sets of built-in games on those consoles, but you aren't going to be playing the PGP's games on your PXP or PZP or P☆P, because they are forever trapped within the confines of the PGP. And I always wondered why no one was selling cartridges for such a seemingly prevalent bootleg gaming format; because the cartridges are all LIES, that's why.

I actually have seen cartridges sold separately labelled as "GB Station", so it's possible some earlier, similar systems really did have real cartridges containing honest-to-god ROM chips before they resorted to this kind of trickery; hell, maybe the newer ones still have this functionality, and real carts just use different pins to the fake ones. Probably not, though.

So, now we've established Santa isn't real... but we can at least take a look at the contents of his sack. And by that I mean the games on here. Of course. I'll list the unique games built-in and those "on" each "cartridge", but obviously I'm not listing the 100,000s of repeats each time, because that would just be silly.

  1. SUPER MARIO 3
  2. ANGRYBIRD
  3. PLANTS VS ZOMBIE
  4. CROSSFIRE
  5. SUPERMAN
  6. JACKIE CHAN
  7. WARRIOR
  8. 10 YARD FIGHT
  9. 90 TANK
  10. ANTARCTIC ADVEN
  11. ARABIAN
  12. BALLOON FIGHT
  13. BASE BALL
  14. BINARY LAND
  15. BIRD WEEK
  16. BOMBER MAN
  17. BOMB SWEEPER
  18. BRUSH ROLLER

So the "666666 in 1" games built in turns out to be a more modest 18; of interest here are Nice Code's ports of Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies, plus one other random game of theirs, "Warrior" (which I can't find a video of but it's basically a reskinned version of this one). Super Mario Bros 3 is the hacked version which lets you give yourself any item, which makes it considerably easier; we also have CrossFire, an obscure old Famicom game by Kyugo which has gained a sudden resurgence in bootleg popularity lately thanks to the identically-named online game, and homebrew game Bomb Sweeper which seems to have made its way into multicart makers' romsets probably thanks to its close stylistic resemblance to early Nintendo titles.

  1. CONTRA 1
  2. CONTRA 2
  3. FINAL MISSION
  4. BAYOU BILLY
  5. BATMAN
  6. ISOLATED WARRIOR
  7. BURGER TIME
  8. CHACK AND POP
  9. CHESS
  10. CIRCUS CHARLIE
  11. CLU CLU LAND
  12. COMBAT
  13. DEFENDER
  14. DEVIL WORLD
  15. DIG DUG 1
  16. DONKEY KONG 1
  17. DONKEY KONG 2

The "777777 in 1" (real count: 17) is more standard, although Bayou Billy isn't often seen on multicarts. "Chess" is really Gomoku Narabe and "Donkey Kong 2" is Donkey Kong Jr, if anyone was wondering.

  1. P.O.W
  2. DARKWING DUCK
  3. SUMMER CARNIVAL
  4. POWER BLADE
  5. POWER BLADE 2
  6. TURTLES 4
  7. GALAXIAN
  8. GOLF
  9. RAID ON BUNGELIN
  10. HYPER OLYMPIC
  11. HYPER SPORTS
  12. ICE CLIMBER
  13. JOUST
  14. KARATEKA
  15. LODE RUNNER
  16. LUNAR BALL
  17. MACROSS
  18. MAGIC JEWELRY

The "888888 in 1" really has 18 games and WHOA HEY IT'S RECCA just sitting there in the list as "Summer Carnival" like it's nothing. That game alone totally makes this thing worthwhile.

  1. DOUBLE DRAGON 2
  2. CHIP & DALE 1
  3. GUERILLAWAR
  4. TINY TOON
  5. GUN DEC
  6. ROBOCOP
  7. GUIFWAR
  8. TOP GUN
  9. KILLER TOMATOES
  10. DARKMAN
  11. ADVENTURE ISLAN
  12. DONKEY KONG 3
  13. DONKEY KONG JR
  14. EXCITE BIKE
  15. EXERION
  16. F1 RACE
  17. FORMATION Z
  18. FRONT LINE
  19. GALAGA

Finally, the "999999 in 1" (real count: 19). "Guifwar" is an Iraq war-themed hack of Silk Worm I've mentioned before here; everything else is pretty standard. (Donkey Kong Jr is DK Jr. Math, by the way.)

So, that's the PGP! A slightly unusual variant in a sea of generic PSP knockoffs, and probably not something I'd recommend buying - unless you really really want to play Recca on the cheap - but it's cute and interesting (you know, just like me) it's just let down by its piss-poor sound and inherent lack of expandability (again, just like... me?). Next up: something else!

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GB Boy Colour

Posted by taizou at 2014-02-13 01:01:10 Clones, Game Boy

Some consoles get cloned a lot. Others don't get cloned at all. A rare few occupy the strange middle ground where they were cloned maybe once or twice, but the clones never really caught on; one of those is the Game Boy Color. Strange, given how popular it was, and how much pirated software exists for it - the original Game Boy saw a few clones (though still not many) but the Game Boy Color had... two, that I know of. Both of these were from the same company, which is either called Gangfeng or Kongfeng Industries depending on how they feel like romanising it, and both saw a brief production run in China but were never really exported. Today I'll cover the first, and I'll come back to the second some other time.

It's... the GB Boy Colour! Nice to see the British spelling there, although they lose a few points for picking a name that would expand to "Game Boy Boy Colour". This is actually the successor to a previous Kongfeng console called the GB Boy, which was (as you may have guessed) a clone of the mono Game Boy, in the style of the later Pocket revision; that hardware was reused by a number of manufacturers but the GBBC seems to be a Kongfeng exclusive. So let's take a look at the console:

Aside from the name and the slightly redesigned buttons, it does look an awful lot like a Game Boy Color, and in fact it feels a lot like one too; the plastic is really high quality and it doesn't feel cheap at all. The link cable port is present and correct too, and there seems to be an infrared port although I'm not entirely sure if it works or not. And you'd probably never notice anyway since only about three games used it.

It takes 2 AA batteries just like the original, and the battery life seems decent enough, although sometimes it seems to drain one of them for no particular reason when the console is switched off, so maybe don't leave them in. It also takes the same AC adapter as the original - they really have gone all-out with the cloning here.

Switch it on and you see the GBBC's major improvement over the original... the screen is backlit! (Despite the box claiming frontlit, which must be a first - a clone manufacturer understating the capabilities of their clone?) The screen does have a slightly stretched aspect ratio (probably to be expected, I doubt anyone makes GBC-standard screens anymore) but it's generally lovely.

The boot screen here is much like the original, even with the familiar Game Boy boot sound; instead of "GAME BOY" it says "GB BOY", but they've also (perhaps inevitably) hidden the Nintendo logo (while still checking for it internally), which is a shame because it means you also don't see any of the fancy custom logos used by unlicensed game makers. If you run a mono Game Boy game it supports all the same colour palettes as the real thing; it does seem like they've cloned the boot ROM exactly.

Here it is next to a real GBC; the camera flash makes both screens look pretty much the same, which really really doesn't do the GBBC justice, so here's a flashless shot (blurry, but you get the idea):

Game compatibility is excellent; licensed games all seem to run perfectly, and all my weird unlicensed stuff works exactly the same as on the original, like Digimon 3 here:

It even runs an Action Replay with no problems. The one exception I've found is a single multicart that won't boot on the GBBC but does on a real GBC, but it's probably some odd mapper trickery on the cart to blame. Running the same game side by side with the real thing, the GBBC does seem to be very very slightly slower, but nothing noticeable in normal play.

Sadly, no clone is without its flaws, and the GBBC has one or two. The biggest, for me, is that the internal speaker only seems to be wired up to one of the stereo audio channels (either left or right, not sure which); this means for games that make use of stereo you'll lose out on anything that only comes through in the other channel. Some games are quite badly affected, others aren't affected at all. It works fine with headphones though. The screen covering is unfortunately very susceptible to scratches, as well; mine sits in a drawer most of the time with nothing on top of it but it has still somehow accumulated more scratches every time I take it out - you may want to invest in a screen protector (a generic mobile one cut down to size should do the trick) if you get one of these.

Despite all this, though, it's still a very impressive clone, and if you're willing to use headphones to sidestep the audio issue it's a great way to play GBC games on a much nicer screen.

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