Smash Ping Pong (スマッシュピンポン) – The Secret Konami Disk System game

There’s one Konami game on Famicom Disk you probably didn’t know about – Smash Ping Pong (スマッシュピンポン).

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Originally released as ‘Konami’s Ping Pong’ in the arcades, Nintendo published the Famicom Disk System version as part of the Famicom Disk launch library. As such, the FDS version is not part of the Konami catalogue, though it is Konami branded on the disk and title screen, and it maintains the official Konami artwork from the arcade and MSX releases.

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It’s a pretty nifty and quite realistic take on Table Tennis. The simple graphics bely a quite sophisticated and challenging control scheme and physics system.

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Unlike most tennis-based games, you don’t hit the ball with A or B and move around with the d-pad. B throws the ball up for service, and A changes between forehand and backhand. Your disembodied hand moves around automatically to meet the ball. All hits are done with the d-pad left, right and up, and the timing controls the angle and power.

It reminds me a lot of Wii Sports Tennis, released 20 years later.

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It’s a very faithful translation of the arcade game, the biggest change being he swapping out of Konami’s Pentaru (from Antarctic Adventure and Parodius) for Donkey Kong in the crowd! Disk-kun (the FDS mascot) also appears in the title screen in his first ever digital appearance.

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The Goonies (グーニーズ) Famicom Disk – Retail Release Reproduction

There were two Konami games on Disk System which were not released at retail, and only available as re-writes via Disk System Writer Kiosks – The Goonies and Twinbee. After much searching I managed to get my hands on a single disk with both games on it.

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Disk Writer games came with a nice official printed disk label and fold-out paper manual.GooniesFDS_3

But it doesn’t match the rest of the otherwise beautifully consistent Konami Disk System catalogue.GooniesFDS_5

Since FDS inserts are just thin cards, I decided I could make up a reproduction retail release for Goonies, based on the cartridge box.GooniesFDS_6

I scanned the nicer quality image from the cart label, and got going in photoshop.GooniesFDS_7

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For the logo, black looked a little bland, so I took inspiration from Goonies 2 and Akumajou Dracula, and went with red, using the original black logo from the cart release as a drop-shadow. I used Akumajou Dracula and Exciting Basketball as templates for the basic formatting of the disk case label and outer-box label.

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I had it professionally printed on 200gsm satin printing paper, and here’s the result! Goonies on side A, Twinbee on side B, so Goonies gets main billing.GooniesFDS_11

Looks great in disk-case format and full case format!GooniesFDS_12GooniesFDS_13GooniesFDS_15GooniesFDS_14

Now Goonies/Twinbee can take its place with the rest of the Konami FDS set!GooniesFDS_16

And I can finally play Goonies with additional load times!Goonies1 Goonies2

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Goonies Family (Computer) photo.GooniesFDS_17

Nintendo industrial design in the early 80s

Nintendo had such a classy ‘brushed metal on high quality coloured plastic’ aesthetic in the early 80s, carried over from their original ‘Color TV game’ console series, through the Game & Watch series, and on to the Famicom.

This post is a celebration of that aesthetic.

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Miracle of Arumana (アルマナの奇跡 Arumana no Kiseki) – Famicom Disk System

Of all the Konami Famicom/FDS games that didn’t leave Japan, this one is my favourite.

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In the same way Castlevania was inspired by old monster movies and fantasy novels (including the Frazetta-esque art), and Contra was inspired by Aliens and Rambo,  Miracle of Arumana is pretty much Indiana Jones. It’s so close in fact it even seems possible development began on the basis of gaining the licence at some point. I mean, look at these screenshots:

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There’s even a mine cart level

 The plot is a slightly more cartoony version of Temple of Doom – the miraculous Arumana stone has been stolen from a remote (presumably Indian) village by some powerful supernatural force, and without its power the people are helpless against the evil. The land is ruined and the peaceful locals have been turned to stone.

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You play as a younger, more Japanese looking Indy, who has come across this injustice during his adventures and sets out on a quest to defeat the evil force and restore the Armana stone to its rightful place.

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It’s a jolly little platfomer with a fun (if not particularly accurate to the laws of physics) grappling hook mechanic. The hook feature is nowhere near as involved as the one in Bionic Commando, but definitely adds to the experience, allowing interesting navigation possibilities around the levels.

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What sets it apart are the graphics and music. It’s in the top tier of that era’s Famicom games graphically, with that fantastic slightly gritty Konami look (including the trademark ‘faceless’ characters). The music is in my opinion literally the best use of the Disk System’s extra sound channels. This is almost Akumajou Densetsu (Castlevania 3) level here, among the absolute best on the Famicom. It uses the louder extra wave channel for a ‘horn’ type sound, for an 8-bit version of a classic  adventure movie score.

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It’s also a vastly superior Indiana Jones game to any of the official 8-bit Indy games. In fact it’s the best Indy game on any consoles at all until the excellent Nintendo 64 version of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.

Here's the collector card that came with this copy
Here’s the collector card that came with this copy

An English translated version is out there with the title ‘Miracle of Almana’. While that is legitimate translation of アルマナの奇跡 without context, it’s clearly incorrect. The product code of the game is ‘ARM’ – including the R means it was meant to be translated ‘Arumana’ or simply ‘Armana’.

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This is my sealed copy.

This is an amazing game. If this had made it to the west, I’m sure it could have been a long running series, just like Castlevania and Metal Gear. But perhaps Konami were afraid of Lucasfilm’s lawyers.

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Full colour manual with that classic Konami manual art.
Full colour manual with that classic Konami manual art.

More screens:

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I first leaned about this game about 15 years ago on Tsr’s NES archive. The piece is still alive today, check it out!

Konami’s Famicom Disk Manual Back Covers

 There was a point in time where Konami were the world’s best developer of video game software.

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They also had the best box art and the best presentation. Today, I’ll focus on one element of this – the back of Konami’s Famicom/FDS manuals.

While their box art was the best in the business (I’ll save that for another day) an awesome little detail they started right off the bat on the Famicom was unified presentation. Their first gen of games came in Orange boxes, and had a unified design that mimicked Nintendo’s ‘pulse line of games.

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The manuals similarly were uniform, with a plain (old) Konami logo on the back.

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Upon rebranding the company with their awesome ‘two ribbons’ logo, a new motif began, and was maintained for the rest of their Famicom/FDS run. All boxes (or manual covers which doubled as box art in FDS games) would have the Konami logo top left, and the back cover would feature a single small image representative of the game.

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Pennant Chase Baseball back cover

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It’s most prominent on the Famicom Disk games, as they had full colour manuals.

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While Konami had similar branding discipline for at least a few years in the US with their awesome silver box line, their NES manuals simply had the game logo on the back. But interestingly, their silver box Game Boy games continued the trend.

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8/20 Konami Famicom Collector Cards

At some point starting in 1987, Konami decided to include a collector card with all their titles. Each card had an illustration related to the game. Some cards had screenshots or pieces of screenshots, others had artwork of scenes in the game.

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There were multiple cards for each game, so perhaps Konami thought kids would be encouraged to get the same games their friends had to trade cards? Apparently it didn’t work, so they stopped including cards a couple of years later,  and only the following 20 titles ended up with the cards:

  1. Ai Senshi Nicol
  2. Arumana no Kiseki
  3. Dracula II (Castlevania II)
  4. Contra
  5. Do Re Mikko
  6. Dragon Scroll
  7. Exciting Baseball
  8. Exciting Basketball (Double Dribble)
  9. Exciting Billards
  10. Exciting Boxing
  11. Exciting Soccer
  12. Falsion
  13. Getsu Fumaden
  14. Konami Wai Wai World
  15. Majo Densetsu II (Knightmare II)
  16. Meikyujin Dababa
  17. Metal Gear
  18. Salamander
  19. Tetsuwan Atomu (Mighty Atom aka Astro Boy)
  20. Top Gun

I have the bolded ones already, and I always like the idea of complete sets of something (when the goal is achievable) so I’m on a mini-collection quest to get one card of each game that had one.

Of the ones I have, I like Arumana no Kiseki and Astro Boy best.

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So now I have 12 to go. Some will be easy to get (there are plenty of cheap copies of Konami Baseball and Basketball), some will be harder (popular titles like Salamander and Metal Gear). Do Re Mikka will likely be hardest, it’s a very expensive music game that came with a piano keyboard controller.