Developer Alfa System Publisher IGS, NEC Format HuCard Release (JP) March 9, 1990 Release (US) May 1990 Difficulty Moderate to Hard Looping No Continue System Resurrect in place, unlimited continues
Despite the generic title, Alfa System’s Cyber Core is like an insect themed Dragon Spirit. Each of the four weapons has a different insect associated with it and each of the three power levels also has a unique sprite of varying size. The game makes extensive use of a ground specific attack, but its low power and fire rate makes battles against ground-based bosses somewhat tedious. The final two stages start moving towards standard sci-fi while also adding in elements like fast and hard to avoid homing enemies in the final stage making them both overly difficult and bland. The game also received an X86000 port with largely similar graphics but tweaks to some of the levels. In its original form, Cyber Core is still worth playing but perhaps not beating.
I almost didn't did do all the hitboxes for this one since I didn't actually expect them to all be so different. These are also more on the approximate side of things as there is some weird stuff going on with the hit detection. There might be some issues with the coding as it's possible for a bullet to go through its dissipation animation as if it hit you but without doing any damage.
Developer Unclear, possibly Bits Laboratory Publisher NEC Avenue Format CD-ROM² Release (JP) March 16, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty High Looping No Continue System Resurrect in place with major upgrades kept, no continues
The original Darius is one of the most maximalist games of its era with twenty-six branched stages, a multitiered upgrade system, huge marine inspired bosses and a seamless 3:12 widescreen play field using three displays. Each stage was to feature a unique boss, but fifteen of them were cut from the final release. Super Darius brings back this original plan and is in a way the only complete version. However, the reduction to a single screen drastically increases the difficulty. The complete lack of any kind of continue function and fixed three life count mark this as a game for the experienced. Also included is a hidden boss rush mode with lowered health bosses and automatically applied upgrades which makes it the fairest way to see the new content.
If you want another sign at how overpriced the Darius Cozmic Collection Console is, it only includes the later stripped down HuCard version, Darius Plus. Also, no one seems to really know who actually developed this port. Some employees of Bits did work on it, but many of the other people credited aren't linked to anything other than this game and the associated HuCards.
Last Edit: Jun 27, 2022 11:51:12 GMT -5 by dsparil
Developer Manjyudo Publisher Pack-In-Video Format HuCard Release (JP) March 23, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty Low Looping No Continue System Checkpoints with upgrades lost, unlimited continues via code
Armed F as it is officially titled in recent arcade emulations is a sort of spin-off from the Terra Cresta series and replaces its distinctive ship part formation system with one based on two option ships which can be brought forward or backward if in possession of an F power up. The downside to this system is that when not in possession of an F, the formation button is used to rotate the options which can no longer be freely utilized without also expending an F. The main appeal of the arcade original lies in its graphics and sound which are highly comprised although there are a few new background elements. The difficulty is also lower than the arcade game’s easiest setting. This does have some value as a game for beginners, but anyone else can give this an easy skip.
The code to continue is to mash Select on the brief game over screen. The original arcade game is not amazing either, but it does have some slight spectacle qualities. I do find it interesting that one of the most striking background elements is actually unique to this port!
The hitbox for this game is actually a little weird because it extends into the transparent area in the nose section, but it isn't a full box either. The bottom half is rectangular and doesn't quite cover the entire sprite. The shape would be more annoying if the overall game wasn't so easy.
Last Edit: Mar 10, 2022 11:34:05 GMT -5 by dsparil
Developer Sting Publisher Naxat Soft Format HuCard Release (JP) April 6, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty Low to Moderate Looping Yes Continue System Checkpoints with permanent upgrades kept, 5 continues
In what feels like foreshadowing to developer Sting’s later focus on RPGs, Psycho Chaser’s main gimmick is in its point-based weapon system. Rather than use weapon pickups, all four of the games weapons are always available. Between levels, up to three points may be spent on raising weapon power levels to a maximum of four. Psycho Chaser is also unusual in using a running character although this is mainly a cosmetic distinction as obstacles are rare and terrain is not a gameplay element. While it does have some notable aspects, Psycho Chaser is sadly a fairly standard shooter overall and feels insubstantial. Despite being a reasonable first effort, Sting only made a few shooters and none returned to the mechanics seen here.
As far as I can tell, Sting's last shooter was the freeware Baroque Shooting from way back in 2000. It'd be interesting to see what they'd do with the genre these days.
Developer ZAP Publisher Namco Format HuCard Release (JP) April 27, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty Low to High Looping No Continue System Resurrect in place, unlimited continues from start of level with code
ZAP’s Barunba brings together a few features seen in other games. The most prominent being a sixteen way weapon rotatable both clockwise and counterclockwise. Four weapons are permanently available with pick ups increasing an invisible power meter that drains with time. Aside from these elements, Barunba is a standard game. Like others on the platform, it is cartoony but doesn’t quite become a cute’em’up. The game also features a health system, but it is functionally a five life limit due to its implementation. The last level is also a nasty difficulty spike. Although it is not an intrinsically notable game, co-designer Takeshi Kajii would later become the impetus for Demon's Souls and the game’s producer while at Sony.
Takeshi Kajii sadly passed in 2013. He doesn't have a whole lot of credits on Moby Games but seems to have spent some time at AKI before going to Sony.
Developer Alfa System Publisher NEC Avenue Format HuCard Release (JP) June 22, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty Low Looping No Continue System From start of section with upgrades lost, unlimited continues
Developed by Alfa System, Down Load was an attempt by NEC Avenue to create a new multimedia franchise. Like many efforts of this type, the components are a melange of popular elements bringing together the iconic red motorcycle from Akira, cyberpunk tinged levels and a traditional space-based shooter. The game has a fairly large amount of text and some detailed cutscene art, but this aspect is also held back by sticking to a 4Mb HuCard rather than being the first game to use 6Mb which would appear a few months later. This also has the side effect of making the game fairly short even by the standards of the genre, and the low difficulty coupled with a lack of even hidden settings gives the game limited replayability.
Since this seems to be my persistent true interest , the title really should be broken up into two words. The gap between the N and L on the cover art and title screen is only a little bit wider than the A and D for instance, but the title's namesake is very clearly two words in-game. The Japanese title is taken from the case spine, and I don't think it shows up anywhere else.
I'll leave the first 6Mb game a secret since it's coming up soon, but there weren't that many and only one other game will show up in this series of posts. 4Mb was the single most popular size followed closely by 2Mb and then 3Mb at a reasonable third place. There's even a very small handful of 1Mb and 8Mb games at the other ends of the spectrum. Street Fighter II': Champion Edition is the stand out as the largest game at a gargantuan 20Mb!
Down Load sounds interesting, I'll have to give it a shot. Besides the Akira bike, the enemies on the 2nd image remind me of enemy robots from SDF Macross.
It's kind of amazing that they managed to keep the HuCard design so slim in design, compared to Mega Drive and SNES cartridges. It seemed like a big announcement in those days when they would tout 8-megabits!!! or 16-megabits for when the first Street Fighter 2 got home ports. It seemed like some Mega Drive cartridges had to expand to bigger cases; but HuCards still managed to stay slim, with only a slight bulk, despite 20 megs of power in Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition?!
HuCards generally only use the very bottom top (the part with the contacts is always going to be the bottom to me) of the card from what I've read and seen from a disassembly. The actual ROM area has a polymer coating, but I think of a HuCard as basically a ROM chip that's normally a cartridge component in a different package or close to it; in that way, the US term TurboChip isn't that far off from the reality. That has the benefit of size, but it's tricky to include battery backed saves. Apparently the port of Populous includes that but uses a non-standard HuCard. Sega was the first to use this type of format with the My Card for the SG-1000, but they never fully got behind it because of the storage limitations from the small size.
I think NEC really wanted SFII on a HuCard because it's such a huge jump from 8 to 20 otherwise. I mean does anything else even support the 6 button controller? There's plenty of usable area for larger sizes but cost was probably the biggest factor. SFII was a ridiculously expensive game at ¥9800. I think the early availability of the CD-ROM² ended up holding back cartridge sizes since games that would have pushed for larger storage just came out on a CD instead. About a third of the entire Japanese library is on a 4Mb HuCard, another third on 2Mb, a fifth on 3Mb with the other sizes (1Mb, 6Mb, 8Mb) roughly equally dividing the scraps.
I think the different sized Genesis carts are only because the companies that used reverse engineered carts e.g. EA didn't stick to the standard size and some of them were taller. There's a fair amount of empty space inside a standard cart. The inside of Phantasy Star IV is just two ROM chips, a battery and the other small extra bits it needs.
This is the only good image of the HuCard internals that I could find:
It's from this site. I had to rehost the image because the site is old and not on https which the forum didn't like, or the original site just doesn't allow direct linking. This board in particular is Final Smash Tennis (2Mb). This actually came from a cartridge for the TourVision arcade system which basically a PCE version of a Nintendo PlayChoice-10 i.e. the player got a certain amount of time per credit. The TourVision wasn't made by NEC, and it isn't clear exactly how legal it was although the inside of the cartridge did have an official looking HuCard label. The guts are the same anyway.
This is an Intel 8087 math co-processor, but it's hard to find images that show the whole chip because most people that decap chips only post the central portion. Coincidentally, Genesis ROMs use the same shaped chip.
A gigantic portion of the actual size is just for the pins. A HuCard just miniaturizes the pins and has them on one edge. Wikipedia says the black coating is for heat dispersion because of the small form factor. This is what I meant by a HuCard being more like a cartridge component. The two chips are just in there raw with what would normally be pins going onto a PCB are exposed and used directly by the console.
A Switch cartridge is superficially similar to a HuCard. Actual cartridge on the lower half, plastic holder to give it some more bulk. Internally, it's a regular PCB like you'd see in any cartridge. Just a whole lot of miniaturization in the subsequent decades.
DS and 3DS are similar, but the PCB takes up the entire internal space not just the bottom half.
I managed to find a good picture of SFII' that wasn't something blurry off eBay.
Populous uses the same thicker at the bottom HuCard and uses it to house the battery. It's a bit of a mystery what SFII' is using that space for since it doesn't seem to back up anything like the control settings or high scores. It's also not that expensive used, ~$25 loose or ~$60 complete.
Also, I forgot that the 2Mb and below games have a smaller black area so I'm assuming that corresponds to the actual board size. The fact that I haven't handled an actual HuCard in twenty-ish years (if ever) was showing there.
Developer Compile Publisher Namco Format HuCard Release (JP) June 29, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty Moderate to High Looping No Continue System Checkpoints with upgrades lost, unlimited continues from start of any reached level
Compile’s second take on an updated Xevious is much more successful than the first for the MSX2 computer standard under the same name. The original version is overly difficult with some poorly explained mechanics and player unfriendly design. This version shares little but the name and strikes a better balance between approachability and challenge. While technically containing only four stages, the first three all take place during different time periods and feature an overt story along with different player ships. Power-ups are handled better and features Compile’s trademark rotating shield which is important and actually usable in this game. Also included is a faithful rendition of the arcade game which is still fun decades later.
I was starting to think that the MSX2 game made me hate Xevious, but a little of the original clear that up. It's still one of my favorite games and actually fairly speedy compared to this game in either variation.
Last Edit: Mar 22, 2022 18:11:19 GMT -5 by dsparil
This is the only good image of the HuCard internals that I could find:
Thank you for digging this up and sharing! Brilliant design. I searched for a few more photos of HuCards, and I see what you mean about the black area getting larger when the game needs to house more memory. I'm guessing for Street Fighter 2, the game was such a killer must -have for the time, they were willing to make it an expensive 9800 yen release. It would have to be a cartridge, for a brisk gameplay pace. If they made it for CD-ROM, there'd probably be too much lag between fights due to loading time.
Developer Kaneko Publisher Hudson Soft Format HuCard Release (JP) July 6, 1990 Release (US) March 1991 Difficulty Low Looping No Continue System Resurrect in place and from start of level with upgrades lost, unlimited continues
The original Star Soldier has several distinctive elements such as sometimes moving underneath the enemy platforms, time limited boss battles, and a preponderance of eyes and ghoulish faces. This sequel drops many of those elements for what is essentially a Gunhed clone including its two tiered life system and generally low difficulty. Unlike Gunhed however, the hidden difficulty levels go further than tweaking fire rates and are closer to a restructuring of each level. Despite the slide towards the generic, there are still some fun level and boss concepts. Since Super Star Solider was the main game for Hudson’s 1990 Caravan Festival series beginning a few weeks after release, it also includes 2 and 5 minute score attack modes in order to practice for it.
The difficulty select and sound test code is Left, II, Up, II, Right, II, Down, II, Left, I, Up, I, Right, I, Down, I, I+II eight times, I+Select eight times at the title screen. It needs to be done before the demo starts. There's also a small regional difference in the US release cutting the brief intro which rehashes the events of the first game.
Developer Irem Publisher Irem Format HuCard Release (JP) July 27, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty Moderate to High Looping No Continue System Checkpoints with upgrades lost, unlimited continues from last checkpoint
Irem’s Image Fight holds several luminaries as fans including Kujo Kazuma, designer of R-Type Delta and Final. However, this port is an imperfect way to experience the game. The original uses a vertical tate orientation causing the top of the screen to get cut off and boss battles to occur on a smaller play field making many more difficult as a result. The control mapping is also cumbersome since the arcade game uses three buttons; fire, launch option, speed change; and this version oddly dedicates the I button to change speed relegating the option launch to I+II. This makes it impossible to launch them without also changing speed. Considering that the arcade game is part of the Arcade Archives series, it is both vastly preferable and easily accessible.
I can sort of understand the control scheme because fire+speed also launches options in the arcade game. I suppose there's some high level strategies involving speed change since it's also a short range back attack, but there should have been some kind of control configuration.
Developer Bits Laboratory Publisher NEC Avenue Format Dual PCE/SG HuCard Release (JP) September 21, 1990 Release (US) Unreleased Difficulty Moderate to High Looping No Continue System Resurrect in place with upgrades lost, unlimited continues from start of level with code
Darius Plus is simply a modified version of Super Darius made to fit on a HuCard. The total number of bosses drops down to sixteen, but they draw from the overall pool in Super Darius. The music is faithful to the original, and one of the better soundtracks on the system. The graphics are generally the same, but there are some changes. Darius Alpha is an oddity in comparison. Released only as part of a raffle for owners of Super and Plus, it is a Plus-based boss rush similar to the one in Super making it superfluous to owners of both. The power up rate is tweaked for the reduced boss count, but it is just a shorter version otherwise. Darius Plus and Darius Alpha are also the only non-exclusive SuperGrafx games and feature better performance on the system.
The “code” to continue is to press Select on the main menu, but it's strangely undocumented without any mention in the manual. The difficulty selection (I + Select) is mentioned however so that's moved up to an official feature.