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Bootlegs and guff

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, May 28, 2023.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    (Splitting out of the general topic because I know less than 0 people actually care)

    RECAP

    The Walt Disney Company introduced me to piracy.

    As a youngling I had a bunch of their films on VHS, and while I can barely remember the stories, I sure remember this:

    (such a weird thing in hindsight - you've clearly bought the official VHS, why do we need to waste time telling us not to buy the things we've not bought)

    Where do these terrible pirate VHS copies come from? Why do they exist? And... do they actually exist, because I've never seen one. There'd be so much faffing around with picture formats I can't see how it would be viable in the UK, but whatever, I do like a pretty hologram, and to get the best picture quality, you're clearly best off with 4:3 pan and scan VHS copies from the early 90s. Which is good because after this production run, that film's going back in the vault and you'll never see it again.


    The same applies to video games (or at least certain kinds of video games, not including emulation). After the Famicom, the Sega Mega Drive is probably has the biggest "pirate" market - it's a console clearly not too difficult to reproduce, and its games are simple and numerous. Sega also took the Mega Drive worldwide - while clearly not every country had official distribution channels, there were enough for the technology to slip over borders and end up in the hands of developing nations. We think about 40 million Mega Drive consoles were officially sold, but add on unofficial Mega Drive-compatible devices and you could be doubling that figure.

    Most people don't care, and a lot of the time, I'd include myself in that group. But Sega Retro needs to care, because when it comes to game piracy, it's not about undercutting sales from Disney, it's about letting entire countries play video games they otherwise wouldn't have access to. Sega's history isn't just what Sega itself claims - even today the knock-off Mega Drive market is huge, and almost certanly influenced the lives of millions of people, if not the gaming industry as a whole.

    (also Sega originally made its business copying slot machines from Mills, then pretending it was an official distributor, so it all comes full circle)

    But anyway, how big is the market?
    [​IMG]
    Pretty freaking big.

    How did we get here?

    That's a little less clear cut. The Mega Drive launched in Japan in 1988, but Sega's staggered approach to releases mean systems were being unofficially exported around the world across 1989 and 1990. If you wanted a console, you had to import one from Japan, but if we could undercut Japanese firms, there's a business here. If you could reverse engineer the system and its games, then sell clones at a fraction of the price, you're going to do well - it's been proven (or was in the process of being proven) by the Famicom, the same should work here. And it did. And it's still working today.

    The basic set up is this - hardware is copied and manufactured in south-east Asia (originally the likes of Hong Kong and Taiwan, now more likely the Shenzhen region of mainland China) . Companies in South America, central Asia and the middle east import the knock-off PCBs in bulk, mould some plastic cartridges, print some labels and get the stock in the hands of shopkeepers. The law may be flimsy, and official Sega distributors may not be able to challenge you, so congratulations, you're a pirate. Although I think "bootlegging" is a better term because piracy implies illegality - if Sega isn't selling you products, you can't buy them.

    But aren't you violating copyright? Yeah maybe... but if you remove the copyright information, as so many bootlegs do, nobody knows any differently, unless they have brains. Perhaps you can even one-up Sega by adding new "features", or bundling multiple games into one cartridge - the so called "multi-cart" - it's going to be really difficult to police this stuff, and so it wasn't, and here we are. It's not just a niché - it's entertainment for millions.


    Sega Retro has been covering this topic for years, but I've made a recent push to make it better:

    Category:Bootlegs
    Mega Drive unlicensed multi-carts

    At the time of writing we recognise the existence of 2,510 bootlegs and 1,030 multi-carts, making us the biggest database in the world. There are tens of thousands more.

    Coming soon: stories and questions and things.
     
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  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    In the other topic I asked how many multi-carts had been dumped. Here's the full answer:

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Three almost certainly from the same company.

    [​IMG]
    "Golden Mega 20 in 1", also known as "20 in 1 Golden Mega Game"

    [​IMG]
    KC-1801, one of at least 55 "KC" multi-carts out there.

    Unless there are options that genuinely don't work, not a single one of these has been dumped correctly as far as I can tell. And fair enough, it's weird hardware that emulators might struggle with, but remember when I said there are thousands of carts? Yeah, we have six.

    Because there's also this one:

    [​IMG]

    This scares me... because I can't find this cart. And I've found hundreds of carts.

    Here's the part where I say "lots of people went to the Arsenal today to see them beat Wolves 5-0".


    Interestingly 5/6 dumps have duplicate games, chopping up the likes of Rambo III in a silly attempt to look as if they have more content. This is common practise on the Famicom - there's tons of "3248902384032 in 1" cartridges floating around, but on the Mega Drive, most carts usually max out at 8-10 (being a mixture of 512kB and 256kB games). Splitting games up was presumably harder to do on this system, as was fancy bank-switching to break the 4MB limit - it's only in more recent years that you genuinely see dozens of games packed into a single cartridge.
     
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  3. Chimes

    Chimes

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    Attempting to document bootlegs for the Mega Drive is a frightening prospect, and I'm surprised you're taking on it. SonicRetro was a bit fine with the Sonic 4 game and Jurassic Boy 2, but bootlegs are effectively the lightbulb of the gaming history. Trying to track their history just by their units and ROMs will turn you into that code guy from Bandersnatch lol

    I guess my only gripe with it is where the fuck to even start...? Obviously with Sega you have things like the arabic SMS computer, the dvd player with a game gear bolted on it, and the british "Pegasus" console, and other famous examples like the famicom having pc clones that Jackie Chan personally sponsored and the Dendy being more or less official to the Russians due to it setting a gaming standard,

    and how basically the Chinese, Hungarians, and Russians had their independent gaming scenes birthed from hacked together parts and rom burners (for some unfathomable reason a Famicom-based arcade game (think Mega Tech) with Mario on it that serves to be a casino game was somehow published in a cartridge, but don't tell the TCRF discord that, wink wink)

    but when you get to everything else including the Genesis and the giant droves and mounds of famous and not famous material for it (what is bootleg and what is aftermarket and why is there a naked lady as a protagonist in this game) that's where it gets tricky because they've existed for practically 30 years with it being so common that nobody's wrote about them (much like bread not being talked about or mentioned in everyday life). CyberShell console, anyone?

    I seem to recall that there was also a very large free hol(i if I could even describe that) for Christian gamers during the age and 16 bit era and America so there's a lot of these religious games and media for the Genesis... Bible Buffet and Spiritual Warfare come to mind. They were sold in bible bookstores and local mom and pop shops and a good chunk of the American gen x/IMockery/Abobo Big Adventure generation grew up with these esoteric games. Those christian games were hacked up left and right for the nes but im not sure about the genesis end of things.

    There's also Accolade and EA selling sega games without a genesis license, but im pretty sure those were not really bootlegs.

    I wish you the best of luck pulling these weeds out because this is a type of history that basically only gets written about in half baked BootlegGames articles and some eastern european recollections on youtube comments (think "obscure anime dubs that only aired in one station that people in that region are trying to find"... but for gaming). I think there were stories about the Scorpion, that british Genesis clone out there? It's been too long since I've dived into bootlegs.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2023
  4. Chimes

    Chimes

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    Double post but I recall certain romhacks like Sonic Megamix being sold as physical games in Russia. There's also bootleg everdrives and I believe unknownarchives eric showed his off in a now deleted video, with his modded pimped out genesis model 1.

    Brazil has a monster amount of bootlegs because of expensive importing, its basically the gaming net for the country. A good chunk of the br scans in segaretro are incomplete because the OG "vintage" tec toy prints are so hard to come by.

    Tec Toy may or may not be bootleg? I'm not sure if its americentricism ut some youtubers claim Brazil's tec toy was unofficial, but they seem pretty legit and outside of localisations like the Mônica games they also have sold custom games for Brazil's Mega Drive back in the 90s and 2000s. There were even mentions of how the og Duke3D Gen was developed by folks who took notes from phantasy star. After that it kinda gets seedy like the dvd with a game gear/sms bolted onto it, but they're by all means the distributor of Sega stuff over there, so...

    If sega retro manages to document those too and not just stuff like sonic adventure dx's hebrew discs then i highly recommend the editors who're getting into this to get caffeinated because there's just soooo much.

    Also there were prototypes of Sonic 2 distributed on cartridge. I think it was the simon wai prototype. It might be how it got into the web in the first place

    Someone sent me this database consisting of clone consoles. Since some of them include built in games and with weird features (i.e. that weird n64 famiclone that has a multicart AND built in games that jontron reviewed) this might be of importance.

    https://uc.pory.app/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2023
  5. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Bootleg Games Wiki made a mistake, and then we absorbed that mistake, so let's correct it.

    [​IMG]

    This is a horrible video game.

    Were this a public domain release, then fine, we all start from somewhere, but some clowns packaged it up into a commercial product. It's an attempted tie-in with the "meh" 2011 film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but has basically nothing in common, other some vague ideas of pirates and water.


    (the music doesn't cut out in Kega Fusion like it does here)

    It's a "getting shot at by giant acorns" simulator. Sometimes it plays Blue Monday by New Order, and if you wait long enough the first stage completes itself. It's not a hack of anything (although there are other Pirates of the Caribbean-themed hacks for the Mega Drive) - it's a Russian-exclusive title, and as all the text is in Russian, its name should be Piraty Karibskogo Morya: Na Strannykh Beregakh (Пираты Карибского Моря: На Странных Берегах). Also "Caribbean" has one R and two Bs.

    Even if you were a masochist who was desperate to own physical copies of terrible software, you're better off buying them in compilations:

    [​IMG]

    One of these must be decent... right? Uh... well Avatar is a hack of Jim Power: The Arcade Game, so at least that one has a Chris Huelsbeck soundtrack. Sorry, "song", because it's a hack of a prototype that only has one tune in it.
     
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  7. rata

    rata

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    My cousin has a bootleg NES with a Playstation body shell, you just insert a cartdige instead of a CD.
     
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  8. Shoemanbundy

    Shoemanbundy

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    A topic I can contribute to!

    Bootlegs (or more specifically unlicensed games) are pretty much the only thing I still purchase once in awhile in the gaming sphere. In fact, besides bootlegs and protos I'm mostly just disconnected from gaming these days. I have a huge CIB Megadrive collection of bootlegs I need to photograph sometime, I've tried acquiring the original first prints of a lot of the stuff Taiwan was putting out in the 90s~early 2000's and its probably going to take me my whole life to ever complete it, but it's fun on the rare occasion I find anything to add to it.

    Today there's really not that many discoveries to be found in terms of unseen games as most of this stuff has been dumped by now, but I can think of a few things to add here just for fun that at present are still relatively unknown/undumped or just curiosities for their place in history. I think these will fit under the purpose of this topic?


    X-MEN VS. STREET FIGHTER

    I cant seem to find the original Youtube upload, but this other video briefly shows how someone in Russia found a port of X-Men Vs. Street Fighter for the Megadrive in Russia. I recall he only had a bare PCB, but I have seen a boxed version and a cart variant before.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I can easily tell none of these are the original first print of the game, which I've yet to ever see anywhere, but carts for this show up in Ukraine among other places. Hopefully it gets dumped someday.


    ALADDIN 2001

    This has a page on Sega Retro with no real info about what it is. I'm still lost what it is, was it really made back in 2001? Or is that just trying to sound fancy? Well, I have pics of the box and it seems evident its some sort of extensive hack of Aladdin II, the infamous backport of the SNES game to Megadrive. I'm mostly determining this just based on how the sprite looks, I could be wrong. Unfortunately the cartridge that was included in this auction was in fact the original print of Aladdin II and not Aladdin 2001, and also non-functioning at that. I really hope to find this one someday, although I've yet to see any hacks or what have you come out of Russia that are worth it tbh.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Anyone by chance able to identify where some of the graphics are ripped from? No way they're original.


    Sonic the Hedgehog 3... SUPER!

    I recently bought this one and am still waiting a month now for it to arrive from Turkey. It's very likely just a simple bootleg of Sonic 3, but thanks to how piraters love to label things as Super 1998 and all that nonsense, I couldnt help picking this up. If you look closely you'll notice what they simply did is take Sonic and Knuckles and literally copy paste them upwards more compared to the original box. I can't imagine why they felt the need to bother doing that since it's still just ripping off the same box, and the back seems unmodified.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    The cartridge is where it gets somewhat interesting to me because it has a serial number beginning with ES. Lots of "bootleg originals" such as Super Sonic 6 1998, Super Hercules 1998, etc. had an ES serial number. Those unlicensed originals using an ES serial number usually started with ES48 or ES128. It would seem the same publishers behind those "original" titles also were redistributing retail games under the ES16 serial numbering, which I had never seen until this cartridge.

    On another side tangent, the styling of the serial stands out because it reminds me of how a lot of Famicom bootlegs using the NT serial numbers would look.
    [​IMG]

    It's generally understood these are all distributed by the publisher Carson, or 卡聖 (Chinese: Ka Sheng). This publisher even put out unlicensed originals such as Barver Battle Saga on MD. They clearly got around a lot. I went searching some more and found more games that have either an ES or even an NT logo, such as below.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I've confirmed this is just plain old SF2. You definitely find this publishers stuff more commonly for Famicom than you do Megadrive, but when it shows up, it certainly has a novel look to it if you've been numbed by seeing the same bootleg stuff for years now.

    Speaking of SF...

    SUPER STREET FIGHTER ZERO 2000

    This is a hack of SF2 that adds more characters as far as I know. I've yet to play it but got it recently.

    [​IMG]

    It has a 64M graphic that is similar to Super Sonic 1998's "48M" graphic.

    [​IMG]

    It was a surprise to find it since I thought all of these titles had been found by now. The cart doesn't have an ES serial tho but instead JT, which seems to be short of "Jie Tou", or 街头, meaning "Street". I'll get a pic sometime.


    As a final bonus, check out this EWJ2 bootleg.

    [​IMG]

    I really have been meaning to photograph my whole collection sometime so I'll get a pic in here someday soon!
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2023
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  9. LockOnRommy11

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    This is all highly fascinating and is going to lead me down a rabbit hole.

    That text on Earthworm Jim 2’s bootleg is just… bizarre.

    I wish whoever starts investigating this and adding to the wiki the very best of luck! :oldbie:
     
  10. Asagoth

    Asagoth

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    wiki stuff... and a beer... or two... or more...
    I saw many of those "Famiclones" with a Playstation body shell on sale here in Portugal at the time :) ...
     
  11. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I've been trying (and currently failing) to work out serial numbers - there are clearly "sets" out there and lots of 4s, 8s and 16s presumably to denote how many megabits of memory the cartridge has.

    [​IMG]
    (a personal favourite)

    There are a bunch of "SEGA-Axxx" carts for single games...

    [​IMG]
    ... and "SEGA-Bxxx" for multi-carts.

    [​IMG]
    There's a fair few "DK" numbers, which I would guess would be slightly later, i.e. early 2000s maybe.


    Others show up, but not enough to make sets (yet).
     
  12. Shoemanbundy

    Shoemanbundy

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    Serials are definitely tricky. For the unlicensed originals in particular, you can find a lot of them like that Street Fighter Zero 2000 I mentioned where they just use the game title. Like Super Donkey Kong 1999 for example can have a serial like "DJ002", only that DJ isn't part of a series, it's only indicating the first two syllables of the game title in Chinese, DJ in this case being 大金 (Da Jin) from the Chinese name for Donkey Kong. Street Fighter Zero 2000 has a serial of JT002 as I said, so it makes you wonder what games are considered part of the same serial line.

    Then you have bootlegs that have numerous serials. That Super Sonic 3 I showed even has one:

    [​IMG]

    As an aside, I started the Pirate Game Museum Wiki years back thinking to myself I'm gonna get every single bootleg that exists out there documented. Eventually I lost the email I used for the site and had no way of signing back on, unfortunately. But someday there needs to be a more professional attempt at such a thing, since no one so far is really caring.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2023
  13. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    I'm highly intrigued by those top two screenshots on the back of that Aladdin 2001 box.
     
  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    They're starting to space out a little now, so a slightly more accurate top 20 list of games with most multi-cart appearances. I thought I'd done a pretty extensive job of finding multi-carts x years ago, but in this latest push, I'm finding dozens a day, and I just don't have the patience to enter all the data (especially for the big 23094823 in 1 carts).

    But there are games that turn up all the freaking time, regardless of region of the world, distributor or date, and it's an unusual pool. I do wonder if you can extrapolate this data and work out roughly which games were the first to be pirated - they're all 256kB or 512kB games, with the latest from 1993.

    =18) Taz-Mania (19)
    =18) Columns (19)
    =18) Batman (19)
    17) Tecmo World Cup '92 (21)
    =14) TaleSpin (22)
    =14) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (22)
    =14) Tetris (22)
    13) Quackshot Starring Donald Duck (23)
    12) Battletoads (24)
    =10) RoboCop 3 (25)
    =10) Ariel the Little Mermaid (25)
    9) Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin (26)
    8) Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (27)
    7) The Flintstones (Taito) (30)
    6) Sunset Riders (42)
    5) Rambo III (Mega Drive) (43)
    4) Chase H.Q. II (45)
    3) Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure (51)
    2) Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive) (53)
    1) Streets of Rage (68)


    Coming into this, I would have expected the top 20 to be broadly similar to what Sega themselves tend to re-release. The likes of Space Harrier II, Super Thunder Blade and Altered Beast (i.e. older games means they're more likely to reach Taiwan first), alongside fan favourites like Ecco the Dolphin or Sonic 2 (i.e. really popular games that sold by the bucketload). But that's not what you get here - it's an eclectic mix skewed towards marketable characters, with some odd things sprinkled in-between.

    For example, I have no idea why Tecmo World Cup '92 became the de facto football game. Sega barely even acknowledge there was a 1989 release of Tetris, and we're led to believe it was barely on sale (hence stupid ebay prices), yet it shows up all the time in multi-carts (mostly because of its small size). Why are Sunset Riders and Chase H.Q. II noticeably more popular than others on this list? Where's all the scrolling shooters and arcade ports? The internet loves to talk about those - you don't think it... doesn't represent contemporary opinions... do you?

    While it's weird that Tiny Toon Adventures is just as likely to show up in early 90s multi-carts as it is in those manufactured 20 years later, sticking with 512kB ROMs limits your options somewhat. Although you've still got about 250 games to choose from - it could have been more varied if they wanted.
     
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  15. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]
     
  16. Chimes

    Chimes

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    whoever gets the parts the fastest in Toe & Earl JAM T.E. TOURNAMENT EDITION wins a free saturn with death crimson
     
  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Not totally sure how to solve this one yet:

    A dump exists of "Goden" Mega 250 in 1
    [​IMG]
    It's not emulated properly, so most of the options just cause the thing to crash.

    Makes you wonder if some of the names on this list were lifted from SNES multi-carts.

    Anyway the problem here is this isn't from a traditional "cartridge":

    [​IMG]
    https://gamers-castle.com/en/qPoNXV

    It's a built-in list for a clone console, the imaginatively titled "Super Mega". This is far from the only clone console to do this, but we haven't got a clean way to handle it.

    Except

    There are consoles out there with a second cartridge slot. A space underneath for attaching a cartridge PCB, which is booted if the "main" cartridge slot is empty. If the above ROM came from a removable thing, it would still count as a multi-cart, but I'm not sure we know what it is.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2023
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  18. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I've been knee deep in multi-carts for a few days now. Are there any patterns?

    ...kind of.

    There's a fair number of carts which honestly seem to be completely unique and don't fit into any sort of series or set or group or whatever, but not as many as you might imagine. There are instead two prevailing "styles" that keep coming up, which suggests there may only be a couple of companies pulling all the strings (at least in terms of programming).

    The first is the "King Series":
    [​IMG]

    These multi-carts have product codes that always begin with KC or KE.

    [​IMG]
    This appears to be the standard, "vanilla" design from the mid-to-late 2000s, though I think some of these carts date back to the late 90s, and you can probably still buy new ones on AliExpress. When shipped off to certain distributors, they may have received new labels (and in some cases new product codes), but the contents (with the original product codes) are the same. I suspect most of these ZW carts are re-badged KC carts for Iran (or the middle east in general) - it's obviously difficult to tell, but if you wanted a 4-in-1 multi-cart, chances are it'll be a King Series one.

    Also annoying because this design puts the code on the top, and if it's a Japanese-style cartridge (there seems to have been a choice), you can't see it in most photos.


    The other style is the "complex" type, and despite there being hundreds of variants... not a single one is dumped.
    [​IMG]
    "COMPLEX XX IN 1", product code in the bottom right. This design covers virtually everything else - most of the Russian (and Ukrainian) carts (of which there are tons) and relatively new things that you absolutely can get on AliExpress without much hassle.

    It feels like this company had a bunch of multi-cart ROMs in storage, but would also create new ones for certain customers. This is why, despite being distributed by just two or three companies, Russian product codes are all over the place.


    There are a few others that pop up from time to time, but it's nowhere near as varied as on the Famicom, where there were tons and tons of designs.
     
  19. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    There aren't many Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat-esque versus fighting games on the Famicom, so to capitalise on the 90s craze, pirates had to create their own games from scratch. And they usually sucked.

    On the Mega Drive, games already exist, and because it is generally more of a faff to create and/or hack games for the system, you can name the "fighting game + a bazillion extra characters" releases on one hand.

    [​IMG]
    "Mortal Kombat 6" (28 People) is the most common, and it's... entertaining. Why 6? Because there's a Mortal Kombat 5, based on the Sub-Zero centric Mortal Kombat Mythologies on PS1 and N64 (aka a bad port of a poor game - stay away).


    [​IMG]
    This is a lot more entertaining, mostly because it's just vanilla Mortal Kombat with added palette swaps. And given that these early games did that anyway, it doesn't feel super out of place. The regular cast also have new palettes, so you can pretend it's Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting or something, idk.

    [​IMG]

    Wow they ported all these characters over from MK2 and MK3. So who of Earth's mightiest warriors will NetheRealm include in the upcoming Mortal Kombat 1? From top left to bottom right:

    Liu Kang
    Johnny Cage
    Sonya
    Scorpion (in fabulous pink)
    Rayden (in yellow)
    Kano
    Sub-Zero (in orange)

    Tanya (pink Sonya)
    Black Glass (blue Cage)
    Rayman (blue Rayden)
    Ninjay (turquoise Scorpion)
    Liuzhe (...tanned Liu Kang?)
    Ninjab (grey Sub-Zero - I guess you can pretend it's Smoke)
    Liujia (Liu Kang again)
    Rayweaver (Rayden with the correct palette)
    Mike Cage (Johnny Cage's little-known brother)
    Meninja (you sure are - Scorpion with correct palette)
    Kado (Kano but slightly darker)
    Kangoe (yellow Kano)
    Nokia (red Sonya. Also a phone company)
    Ninjakiller (red Scorpion)
    Ninben (Sub-Zero with correct palette)
    Terminator (green Kano)
    Farmer (green Rayden)
    Ninken (green Sub-Zero)
    Gaobo (Liu Kang yet again)
    Tom Cage (Johnny Cage's uh... red brother)
    Sophia (blue Sonya)

    [​IMG]

    and no, no Reptile, Goro or Shang Tsung. Because that would make too much sense.


    Amusingly this might be a better way to play the original game, because the blood code is activated by default, and you can vary up the colour schemes. Everything else appears to be exactly the same.
     
  20. Bobblen

    Bobblen

    Member
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    Funny thing is, you get rid of the stupid names and extra characters and just assign the palette swaps to different buttons and you've got a perfectly decent homebrew hack. It seems bizarre to go to the trouble just for a knockoff bootleg.