Can anyone read Japanese?
June 17, 2017 8:59 PM   Subscribe

I found a mysterious video game cartridge with a handwritten Japanese label, and now I'm wondering what it says.

I'm doing a little travelling in Japan. Between incredible meals and cultural experiences I've been getting in a little thrift shopping. I was at a flea market in Osaka, rifling through some junky toys, when I came across this weird (presumably) Famicom cart:

Mystery Cart

I've never come across anything quite like this. The two orange stickers seem like they're probably blocking the windows on a pair of EPROMs. I'm thinking this is probably either pirated software or someone's fancy homebrew. Before I investigate any further, can anyone tell me what that label says?
posted by AAAA to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like "portopia"
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 9:15 PM on June 17

I looked up the word and here you go: "The Portopia Serial Murder Case‚Äč, is an adventure game designed by Yuji Horii and published by Enix. It was first released on the NEC PC-6001 in June 1983, and later ported to other personal computers. Chunsoft ported the game to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) on November 29, 1985, and to different mobile phone services starting in 2001."
posted by bizarrenacle at 9:16 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]

Well, that solves that.

Now I guess I need to figure out why this copy looks homemade.
posted by AAAA at 9:20 PM on June 17

Maybe the cartridge isn't homemade after all: maybe the original label wasn't glued down very well and after it was lost, someone stuck that handwritten one on the case?
posted by easily confused at 1:20 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]

Nah. If I'm right that there are EPROMs inside, this definitely isn't a commercial release, whatever it is.

EPROM is a type of memory chip that can be erased with UV light, through a little window in the top of the chip. Those orange stickers are covering holes in the plastic casing of the cartridge. My guess is that the holes are there to allow someone to erase the EPROMs underneath.

Mass-produced Famicom games used mask ROMs, which can't be erased with light and don't have the little windows.
posted by AAAA at 5:18 AM on June 18

The old 27C EPROMS that had quartz windows for UV erasing couldn't be programmed in-situ like you're suggesting. They would need to be pulled from the cart and placed in a programmer that could supply the correct higher voltage to certain pins. So if there are windows in under those stickers, it's probably not for this reason.

Also, developers doing rapid program-test-program cycles had ROM emulators that were specially built for development. You only burned to EPROM when you were ready for testing away from the developer console.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:29 AM on June 18

I'm far from an expert on hardware, but I was thinking maybe there originally would have been some kind of cart programming device, which would have programmed the EPROM using the pins on the edge of the cart. Then the cart could have been blanked and reused with the holes.
posted by AAAA at 6:26 AM on June 18

Anything is possible, but programming these old parts meant applying up to 21-24VDC to places that normally expect 5V. If the other parts of the cartridge PCB were designed to handle it (or bypass it with jumpers and plugs) then yeah, it could work. From my experience in those times, it was just easier to yank the chips and erase/burn them than to design a special board for the purpose. These 27C era parts were also designed to be programmed one-at-a-time, if the address and data lines are bussed together like they would be for a production cart then it wouldn't work.

tldr, once you pry it open you'll know what's going on.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:11 AM on June 18

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