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Beggar Prince: The Start of Something Good?

As I write this, hundreds of happy Genesis owners are gleefully playing their copies of Beggar Prince, which finally shipped late last month. No doubt they’re finding that the final product and $46 price tag were worthy sacrifices, given the quality of Super Fighter Team’s first commercial release. Yes, there has been some controversy (needless, I might add) over the quality of the box art, and perhaps there are a few bugs here and there that were beyond the scope of the publishers to overcome, but one thing has been made unabashedly clear:

A full home release for the Genesis is both possible and viable.

The creation and apparent success of Beggar Prince represents an important victory for all those involved. Think about it, when was the last time someone actually put together a fully-packaged game for the Genesis, complete with battery back up? According to reports, the hardest part of actually producing the actual package was finding someone to manufacture the clamshell cases. Yes, that’s the extent of the care that has gone into this release. Even the clamshell cases are factory new. an impressive feat, given the few people it took to make it possible. Their message to the retro gaming community is one that needs to heeded. Listen to them, would-be programmers! It may take some time, and there may be several hoops to jump through, but this shows that a dedicated group can produce a game that people will buy.

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Why not Wait and Emulate?

That’s the question that many probably asked as soon Beggar Prince was announced. Why should I buy it? I’ll just wait until someone dumps the ROM. Unfortunately for those waiting to go the emulation route, it may not be as easy as you think. The English version of the game has been designed to not work on emulators such as Gens and Kega, and even if this is circumvented (it will take some time if it’s possible), you’re missing the big picture. Fan translations have been a common occurrence in the retro gaming community. Monster World IV and King Colossus Tougi Ou have both been fully translated for the Genesis, and SNES owners can currently play through a bunch of quality efforts, such as Ys IV: Mask of the Sun and Bahamut Lagoon. Nope, this is old news, and adding Beggar Prince to that list doesn’t really do much to make waves. However, one thing none of the aforementioned titles can boast is that they are actually playable on the original hardware and have full packaging. That is the clear difference Super Fighter Team’s project presents, and I have to ask myself why more people don’t jump all over this sort of thing.

Is it a matter of cost? Probably not. Many homebrew projects break even or are completed with minimal loss. No one goes into this sort of endeavor to lose money, but they aren’t expecting to make millions either. It’s a labor of love whose greatest reward is being able to hold the actual product in one’s hands, a clear and tangible realization of all the hard work that went into its creation. Atari fans have long been the recipients of this deep commitment, and new games are constantly being released for the 2600, 5200, and 7800 (four new titles were shown at this month’s Midwest Classic alone). The Intellivision and ColecoVision have both had their fair share of the bounty as well. So then, why not the Genesis?

There’s a big enough selection of games to choose from, that’s for sure. Taiwan alone has a bunch of action and RPG games that would benefit from a wider audience. Even better, many of them are properties of C&E Inc., the same company that owns and gave its full blessing to Beggar Prince. Super Fighter Team has already established a relationship with C&E, which should help to secure future releases. Other companies, such as ChuanPu Tech, also have several worthy selections. I know I’d kill for a translation of the Shining Force-esque Tiger Hunter Hero Novel.

The biggest obstacle that’s kept all this Mega Drive goodness from reaching our hot little hands until now has been apathy…simple, blatant disinterest. While programmers are jumping at the chance to hack away at Atari’s consoles and even the SNES, almost no one has expressed any motivation to localize Mega Drive games. This is appallingly apparent for translations, so imagine when it comes to as complex as putting together an actual cartridge, box, and manual.

But Would People Actually Care to Buy It?

I believe they would. The sheer amount of press Beggar Prince received prior to its release definitely suggests that there are fans out there that would continue to buy new titles. Several magazines, including Tips & Tricks and Hardcore Gamer, reported and even reviewed the game. Retro message boards such as our own and Digital Press have been sources of constant commentary and buzz, ensuring that anyone who’s been gaming and online during the past five months knew of Beggar Prince‘s impending release. Suddenly, there’s interest friends, and I think it’s important to strike while the iron’s hot.

Imagine if Beggar Prince manages to sell through its run of 600 copies (and by its own estimates, it will). That’s an excellent number by homebrew standards, and though the game isn’t technically a homebrew, the same circumstances apply: it was localized, packaged, and sold. By establishing itself as a company that’s capable of delivering on an anticipated release, the company has already taken the first step towards becoming a force in the retro gaming community. It would make perfect sense for it to continue to build on the good will Beggar Prince has created and snatch up some titles quick. Thankfully, company head Brandon Cobb has confirmed that he is indeed seeking out new properties for localization. This is a good thing, as other interested parties are undoubtedly watching and waiting to see if they should toss their hats into the ring. Hopefully, this will stimulate competition and we’ll end up with several projects in development simultaneously.

Though it may be harder to obtain the rights to many Japanese games that were never localized, what about those games that never made it to release? There has to been a huge amount of prototypes out there, and if the Sega CD can have several unfinished titles completed and made available to the public after having only been on the market less than three years, then the Genesis must have a ton of gems awaiting discovery. Even the 32X has been confirmed to have had several games in development that disappeared when it was discontinued in 1995. Someone needs to hunt down these prototypes quick!

Hope for the Future

We at Sega-16 applaud Super Fighter Team for its diligence and hard work. We’ll be reviewing the game as soon as our copy arrives (hurry Mr. Postman!), and we’ll also be dedicating a special edition of Reader Roundtable to it. This is big news for Genesis fans, and if it does as well as hoped, then we have every reason to believe that it could usher in a new era of interest in Genesis homebrew and translation efforts. The games are out there, now all we need is for someone to get busy.

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