All about the holy grail of Bomberman from two decades ago.
There were actually two versions of the game: Hi-Ten Bomberman made in 1993 and Hi-Ten Chara Bomb in 1994.
Hi-Ten refers to High Definition and ten players.
These were never commercial products, never released to the consumer market for purchase, never emulated, and almost certainly never to be played or seen again. Hudson was bought by Konami and there's no trace of Hudson left there either. Supposedly the last remaining Hi-Ten unit ended up in a dumpster.
Hi-Ten Bomberman was a special demonstration tournament Bomberman game developed by Hudson Soft in 1993 for Japan's defunct analog High Definition standard (MUSE or Hi-Vision) which was in early R&D by the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, NHK, for several decades before the 1990s.
Japanese consumer level HDTVs were demo'ed in the United States in the early 1980s, though they would not go on sale in Japan until either the late 80s or early 90s.
In 1981, the MUSE system was demonstrated for the first time in the United States, using the same 5:3 aspect ratio as the Japanese system.Upon visiting a demonstration of MUSE in Washington, US President Ronald Reaganwas most impressed and officially declared it "a matter of national interest" to introduce HDTV to the US. Several systems were proposed as the new standard for the US, including the Japanese MUSE system, but all were rejected by the FCC because of their higher bandwidth requirements. At this time, the number of television channels was growing rapidly and bandwidth was already a problem. A new standard had to be more efficient, needing less bandwidth for HDTV than the existing NTSC.
In '93 and '94 the two versions of Hi-Ten were played on very expensive plasma HDTVs.
Yeah, consumer analog HD broadcasts and plasma HDTV sets did indeed exist in Japan in the early 90s, but at tremendous cost. This was not the modern digital MPEG-2 based HDTV standard we have today with 720p, 1080i and 1080p, but something like 1035i.
Anyway Hudson took the five Hi-Ten units it produced (at a cost of about $2 million each in todays inflation-adjusted U.S. dollars at today's exchange rates) on tour to their Summer Caravan gaming events in Japan.
Hi-Ten Bomberman, and its enhanced version with playable Bonk, Hi-Ten Chara Bomb, each used different specialized hardware to drive the games and convert them to the analog HD standard.
The first version used a high-end PC/workstation from either NEC or IBM with circuit boards custom designed by Hudson for the graphics.
A pair of standard PC-Engine CoreGrafx (or CoreGrafx II) consoles with multitaps (supporting 5 controllers each) were used for player input only.
The PC-Engine CoreGrafx I/II were simply cheaper & cheaper revisions of the PC-Engine which was Japan's version of our TurboGrafx-16.
^Notice the monster high-end workstation computer, two CoreGrafx II consoles, and what is probably all kinds of other HD adapter / converter equipment to output the game to the analog HDTV display.
The second version (Chara Bomb) used Hudson's 32-Bit prototype development board, based on the special circuit boards in the first version.
This was called Project Tetsujin or Iron Man.
Hudson's 32-Bit Tetsujin / Iron Man board from 1992 (forerunner of NEC's ill-fated Japan-only PC-FX system)
The Iron Man / Tetsujin board was later modified & reworked, in less ambitious, scaled-back form, into the NEC PC-FX 32-Bit console that released in Japan in late 1994 around the time of the Japanese PlayStation and Sega Saturn launches.
From Giant Bomb:
The case of the PC-FX is shaped like a computer and was designed to be an upgradeable console. The hardware, designed in 1992, was codenamed "Iron Man" and was supposed to be implemented in a new console to replace the PC-Engine after it was developed. PC-Engine developers were upset that NEC was releasing a new console when the market was still expanding so NEC held out another two years while continuing to support the PC-Engine. In 1994, NEC receieved pressure from 3DO, Sega, and Sony with new consoles on the horizon for that year. With few options, the severely outdated Iron Man hardware was used to make the PC-FX, with the intentions of releasing a 3D expansion to compensate for the unit's underpowered graphics.
However the NEC PC-FX did not, and could not play the Hi-Ten Bomberman games because PC-FX could not run games in HD resolutons.
Also, NEC marketed the console for a special genre of games (FMV /anime) so Hi-Ten Bomberman was not a fit for PC-FX.
Several years later (1996) Hudson made Saturn Bomberman. It had a multiplayer mode with upto 10 players.
When there were 8 or more players playing, it displayed in a widescreen aspect ratio but obviously not in any actual HD pixel/line resolution of any kind.
The multiplayer mode sprites on Saturn were not nearly as fancy as they were in Hi-Ten either, or even as detailed as they were in the main campaign on Saturn.
However Hi-Ten was Hudson's inspiration for 10-player Saturn Bomberman.
This is footage from 1997 when Hi-Ten was still playable at NHK's facility in Japan:
(Hi-Ten Chara Bomb)
And so that you can compare the graphics of the Hi-Ten games to what the
10-player matches looked like in Saturn Bomberman:
sources I used for this post:
-EDGE magazine issue 17
-Next Generation magazine issue 3
-Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine, October 1992
-Article scan from unknown 1992 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly or special coverage insert
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This is the ULTIMATE Bomberman game - Never to be seen or played ever again
Last edited by parallax scroll; 12-27-2013 at 12:22.
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Also found this EDGE article on the Iron Man / Tetsujin prototype dev board, and the PC-FX console. They were uncertain exactly what was in the 'FX at the time.
Here's the Hudson article from EDGE #17
The following is from Gamasutra's interview with Hudson's legendary Takahashi-Meijin:
With the HD Bomberman [Hi-Ten Bomberman] that was playable in one of these Caravan events, it was really kind of groundbreaking, because there wasn't any real HD technology at that time, and also it was 10-player. Can you go a little bit into the origin of that?
TM: Back then in Japan, there was a national TV company called NHK. They were trying to push HDTV, so with that overall flow, Hudson was thinking, "Okay, if TV gets that good, the program itself needs to be that good as well."
Also, the screen ratio was going to be 16:9, so that's why 10-player was possible, because you have more characters lined up versus 4:3. They didn't have the graphic board to support that back then, so they had to manually put one together one.
And that became the Iron Man board, correct?
TM: Tetsujin, yeah. It was only used internally. How could you know all this? (laughter)
Just to clarify because some people have been confused, even though Hi-Ten Bomberman was created on the Tetsujin board, it was never intended for PC-FX, correct? Even though the PC-FX was based on the Tetsujin board.
TM: The PC-FX was based on the Tetsujin board but it wasn't quite the same. The graphics weren't in HD because we didn't use the HD graphics board. The FX was not in our vision when we first developed that game. We developed it simply for use in HD.
And finally, a PC-FX disassembled:
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The NEC PC-Engine was the console with the 8-bit CPU & 16-bit graphics originally released in late 1987 in Japan.
The U.S. version was made larger, renamed TurboGrafx-16, released in September 1989, right up against the Sega Genesis.
PCE / TG-16 had an 8-bit CPU and a couple of 16-bit graphic chips.
The Sega Genesis crushed NEC's TurboGrafx-16 in the U.S. market during late 1989, through all of 1990 and 1991. Unlike NEC,, SEGA had instantly recognizable & hot arcade properties, including Altered Beast packed in with the system. These arcade titles could now be brought home reasonably well, with very good graphics & sound, without the totally massive downgrades that had to be made on all the 8-Bit machines.
Sega's marketing ("We Bring The Arcade Experience Home" then 'Genesis Does' and, in NEC's case, Sega touting the fact that only its system had a true 16-Bit processor) major sports & pop star licences (Joe Montana, Michael Jackson) and ever-growing 3rd party support from Japan, the U.S. and Europe all combine to simply overwhelm NEC and TG-16 in America, who mostly relied heavily on localized PC-Engine games that had been geared towards the Japanese market.
It didn't help NEC that Sega had priced Genesis at $189.99, ten dollars lower than TG-16. The pack-in games, Altered Beast vs Keith Courage in Alpha Zones? No contest for Sega.
If it was not for Nintendo and their SNES, Sega would've went almost totally unopposed outside Japan, completely and utterly dominating the entire 16-Bit console market in all western countries. Sega and Nintendo ended up pretty much splitting the U.S. market. With Sega having the advantage in Europe and Nintendo having the advantage in Japan.
In Japan, the PC-Engine was much more successful than the Sega Megadrive. The Nintendo Super Famicom became #1, the PC-Engine 2nd and Megadrive was a distant 3rd. It was just the opposite of the situation in the U.S. with TurboGrafx-16 and Genesis.
In 1989 Hudson and NEC were wanting to release a true 16-bit console in Japan, the PC-Engine 2, to get a headstart on Nintendo before they could bring the Super Famicom to the market.
NEC wanted the PC Engine 2 to be released in Japan in 1990 and to try to kill Nintendo's 16-bit Super Famicom. However NEC & Hudson's plans were scaled back somewhat.
Instead, Hudson designed a modestly upgraded PC-Engine system with the same 8-bit CPU as the original PCE but with twice the number of VDC graphic chips allowing twice the sprites and 2 scrolling background layers in hardware like Sega Megadrive.
The new system had 4x the system RAM and twice the video RAM as the original PC Engine. The upgraded console was named PC-Engine SuperGrafx.
NEC released the SuperGrafx in Japan only, in November 1989 with one terrible game, Battle Ace. There was no more software until well into 1990.
There were only a total of 5 dedicated games that took full advantage of the extra hardware over its short lifespan from late 1989 until 1991. On the upside SuperGrafx was fully backward compatible with standard PC-Engine HuCard games.
SuperGrafx got a sequel to the Japanese version of Kieth Courage in Alpha Zones called Madou Ou Granzort in spring/summer 1990. The system also got an excellent port of DaiMakaiMura, better known as Ghouls 'N Ghosts, in mid 1990, with much more detail & color in the backgrounds in places, than the Megadrive / Genesis version.
The last two dedicated SuperGrafx games came in 1991, a side-scrolling shmup called Aldynes which was kinda like R-Type and a port of Capcom's 1941 Counter Attack, the sequel to the 1942 and 1943.
There was supposed to be a SuperGrafx version of Sega's Galaxy Force II and more importantly, Capcom's Strider. However SuperGrafx Strider development got delayed again & again. It never got anywhere near done and was ultimately canned, much to the dismay of gamers, even outside of Japan who followed news of SuperGrafx closely. Rumors of unfinished alpha / beta copies of SuperGrafx Strider persisted, and still do to this day.
Strider was later released on the PC-Engine Arcade Card CD (which lacked the extra graphic processing grunt SuperGrafx had) with lots of cinema screens and CD music, but the core game itself was not as ambitious as what the SuperGrafx version was supposed to be, and a lesser port than even the Sega MD/Genesis version.
Back in 1990, with the SuperGrafx failing to get significant Japanese software support and total apathy from the gaming public who loved their old PC-Engine, Hudson & NEC started to go about developing the true successor.
SuperGrafx bombed so badly. Only about 50,000 units were manufactured, was never released outside Japan so it became an import collector's dream to have one.
So instead of another 8-bit or even a real 16-bit system, Hudson & NEC were working on a totally new 32-bit system sometime in 1990.
In 1992 a prototype / development board was shown at various trade shows. This was called Project Tetsujin (Iron Man), or sometimes the HuC62 system. In addition to a 32-Bit CPU, there were plenty of additional co-processors for graphics, video, audio, etc.
Hudson showed some amazing demos and told developers it hoped NEC would manufacture a console based on the Iron Man / Tetsujin technology, but there was no way a consumer console version would be coming out anytime soon, even in Japan.
Apparently some basic 3D polygon hardware was to be added to Hudson's technology development board, but that never happened.
With pressure mounting from 3DO and next-gen polygon consoles from Sega, Nintendo and now Sony on the way, Hudson then went a different direction with Tetsujin / Iron Man, focusing on high quality video compression & full motion video playback at 30fps. The more ambitious 3D polygon chips that were supposedly being designed, were scrapped.
Hudson redesigned the Iron Man / Tetsujin technology for a consumer use in a console, once again to be manufactured by NEC.
The result was the NEC PC-FX:
PC-FX launched in Japan in late 1994, about the same time as the Japanese Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.
However the PC-FX tanked, even with the Japanese who had loved the original PCE and the CD-ROM addons & combo PCE CD systems.
The stripped down and much-outdated Iron Man / Tetsujin hardware in the NEC PC-FX was no match for Saturn or PlayStation in anything other than high quality FMV playback. Both Saturn and PlayStation went on to be very successful in Japan.
NEC was now finished as a console maker.
Instead, NEC manufactured console chips designed by other companies. The MIPS/Silicon Graphics designed CPU and Silicon Graphics designed Reality Co-Processor in Nintendo 64, the Videologic / Imagination Technologies designed custom PowerVR2 graphics chip in Sega Dreamcast, and the ArtX / ATi designed Flipper GPU in GameCube.
Those were all manufactured at NEC semiconductor fabrication plants.
Only about 100,000 NEC PC-FX systems were ever made and sold. Something like 60-70 PC-FX games were produced.
This is the best resource on the net about all of NEC's consoles:
p.s. Sorry for the long history lesson :P
Last edited by parallax scroll; 12-27-2013 at 23:59.
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