Literally one billion different plug & play consoles are released every day, and at first glance the Samuri doesn't look like anything special. It's quite a nicely designed controller, all shiny black plastic with a big tomoe in the middle (which lights up!) and a big fat A button surrounded by smaller buttons in a sort of gamecube-slash-pawprint fashion. Overall it's sort of reminiscent of the original massive Xbox pad, but better looking than that particular monstrosity.
The box promises 60 games, filled with challenge and excite, that will "make you more intelligent from the playing". So far, so average, right? Probably just a famiclone full of Nice Code games or dodgy hacks, right? well NOT SO FAST. Stick in the requisite 4 AA batteries and connect the AV cables and you'll see ...
power by Hummer & Zechess! Zechess I'll get to later, but if Hummer means nothing to you, permit me to introduce you to the one and only Hummer Team (in Chinese, 悍馬小組). They were the Taiwanese developers behind some of the NES/Famicom's most famous so-called pirate original games, like Street Fighter II, Somari, Kart Fighter, Super Mario World, Aladdin and many many more. Hummer Team was previously thought to have split up around 1998, with one or two former members developing the odd simple game not using the Hummer name - like Panda Adventure (for the enigmatic ABABsoft) or the stuff on this 2005 15 in 1 cart - but here we have something from (I think) 2006 that actually says Hummer on it. And, if there was any doubt it's the same Hummer, that there horse is, well, Hummer, their would-be mascot from the 2005 Somari hack on the aforementioned 15 in 1, and the music playing over this screen is very much in their distinctive sound engine. Maybe they're even still around today! Maybe.
Zechess (台北鑫立棋有限公司), on the other hand, I know next to nothing about - they seem to have been a short-lived Taiwanese distributor of various hardware components, founded in 2005, that somehow hooked up with Hummer Team to make game consoles. One thing I do know is that they were responsible for one other console, the ZDog, which is just about the cutest game console ever made - I'll have one of those soon so hopefully I'll cover it here. But I'm also trying to get in touch with the dude who used to run the company, so maybe I'll be able to get some more info soon. watch this space! maybe. Or more likely the front page.
Anyway! I've been dwelling on that first screen for long enough. what happens if you press A?~
you're introduced to the Star Angel of course. You may note the screenshots look a bit more colourful than your average Famiclone, and that's because it isn't - it's the VT03 OneBus system by V.R. Technology, which adds 4bpp graphics support among other enhancements to the standard Famicom hardware, while maintaining backward compatibility (although there's no cart slot on this one, so it's kind of academic).
Most of the games are fairly short, consisting of three or four "rounds", but they're all reasonably fun and they have decent graphics - the standard is higher than the usual plug & play Famiclone games by Nice Code or Waixing and the like. Personally I think it's a shame they don't let you play longer after you've finished once, it kind of puts a limit on games that you could play indefinitely for high score or what have you, but there we are.
This console has one kind of unique feature, alluded to by the title screen and the box, which somewhat cryptically states "Graduated from caterpillar into butterfly by everytime you win as a sign". You start off with a caterpillar on the game title screens (and in the Star Bank, which is the final "game" but really is just a means to check your progress) and every time you complete a game, you get another star in the Star Bank and your caterpilla takes a step on the road to butterfly-girl-dom, a few of which you can see to the right. (every game's title screen looks - game name aside - exactly like that, if you were wondering). There's no save function in the console, though, so every time you switch it on the unfortunate caterpillar is back where she started. Like starting every day as a newborn and having to go through puberty around lunchtime. which sounds like something that would have been a film, but I haven't damn well seen it. if it even exists.
Oh and nothing special happens if you get all 60 stars, aside from getting to see the final stage of butterflyness, which is already represented in that animation to the right. there's no explicit acknowledgement of your achievement (and it bloody well is an achievement), not even a misspelt message of congraturation on a black screen or anything. cheers hummer.
1. Kangaroo Fighter
SO here we go! the first game, and... it's a fighting game! Where you play as a kangaroo! Hummer certainly has experience in this area, starting with SF2 on the NES and a whole string of games based on that same engine. But this actually doesn't seem to use it - there don't seem to be any special moves to speak of, or any jumping or blocking or combos or anything fanc like that. you just have four moves activated by pressing A, B, Up or Down, namely a punch, jump kick, some kind of handstand kick and... a projectile attack where one of your seemingly limitless supply of young jumps out of your pouch, making the sound Yoshi makes in Hummer's port of Super Mario World, and attacks the opponent. Yep. You fight an ostrich, a gorilla, a bear, and finally, most deadly of all, yourself
. Well okay a grey kangaroo. each has their own stage, and there's one in the manual that doesn't seem to be in the game at all. all the while a track from Jing Ke Xin Zhuan
(track 10 in the NSF) is playing in the background.
Like a non-violent lightgun game, only with no lightgun.. people pop up from their various hiding places in buildings and trucks and whatnot, and you chuck tomatoes at them. I had no idea this was an actual thing, but it totally is
. Unlike some of the later games there are no crosshairs, you just press the direction you want it to go and press A to lob a tomato. Gets surprisingly hard in its last stage.
3. Speed Hummer
Well this certainly looks familiar. And indeed it is! It's Green Hill Zone 1 from Somari, one of Hummer Team's earliest games, and probably their most famous. Only it's got Hummer in it instead of Mario instead of Sonic. The level graphics are all different, the enemies mostly aren't, and the music is very slightly changed at the beginning. Other than that it's, yeah, Somari. Or that level, anyway. An earlier, full version of this hack, based on the "Sonic & Knuckles 5" version of Somari, was released as The Hummer (in Chinese, 超速悍馬, "Speeding Hummer") on 15 in 1
cart, but this version retained the same level graphics as Somari, just palette swapped. I think this was also the first appearance of Hummer himself. and now look at him! starring in like half the games on a console no one ever bought. woo.
4. Big Crab
You are indeed a big crab. And all your crab babies are happily doing their best space invaders impression in front of you. But! a dastardly snake is trying to eat them. and you must do what crabs do best and snip that prick in half. Repeatedly. I dunno if it grows back like a worm or if there's a whole bunch of them out there trying to munch on your tasty kids, but they keep coming back. Incidentally the internet tells me that snakes do, in fact, eat crabs (I wasn't sure).
5. Hummer Star
Oh hey its another reskinned level from Somari. Star Light 3 this time. I wonder if a Samuri is like a cross between a Samurai and a Somari?
6. Jelly Motor Boat
oh no! Hummer's living room is flooded and endless Hummers are falling from the balcony and/or stairs :O! Fortunately Pink Jelly is on hand in a definitely not-motorised raft thing to bounce Hummer to safety in true Game & Watch style.
7. Sky Zoo
panda's here! and... he's snapped! he's shooting down all the others with his panda missiles. and they explode into little red splatters. Which is pretty violent in a cutesy kind of way. Anyway this is a pretty simple scrolling shooter, the other guys just either fly straight down at you or dodge all over the place shooting back. Their movement patterns kinda remind me of Space Shuttle Exploration
, a Hummer game that's appeared on a bunch of famiclones. Decent graphics though - sort of reminiscent of a Twinbee game, if a bit sparse.
8. Cute Heads
Cute heads indeed. they're arranged in a grid shape and.. oh its Bejeweled isnt it. With heads. of Hummer, Pink Jelly, Panda, Z-Dog, Chicken, and recoloured versions of the lot. Duck was on strike. But he was probably better off, since the heads explode when you match 3 or more. You can also press B to sacrifice some time and either have the computer perform a move for you, or explode all of whichever type of head is under the cursor. It's called Diamond Head in-game, and there are indeed diamonds involved, representing lives - when you get down to your last one it plays a tune from Final Zone in Somari.
Clearly inspired by Donkey Kong Country (as ported to the NES by Hummer Team), this one - Hummer emerges from a hole in a tree and has to reach a treehouse by firing himself from DKC-style moving barrels. He could just climb up the branch to it, but fuck that. That's not what Donkey Kong would do. As in DKC it's all in the timing, the barrels move basically exactly the same as they do in that game.
10. Big Hammer
Well there's a guy in a "H" t-shirt standing on a column of blocks. H for Hummer Team? or just H for... Hey I'm standing on a column of blocks for no reason. You just have to press A to stop the moving hammer and knock out one of the blocks, without either hitting one on the edge or hitting the dude. Which is easy. Probably one of the shorter games on here. In round 2 he's replaced by a girl, then in round 3 is mr. H again. I should probably point out that if you are going for the full 60, you should complete this game first; I'm not sure exactly what triggers it, but after you've completed a few other games it seems to crash when the hammer hits the blocks.
11. San Fermin
Yet another game based on a real-life Spanish event
- someone at Hummer Team clearly has a thing for Spanish culture. so what we have here is a running of the bulls-type-thing with the girl from Big Hammer running with said bulls. you just have to dodge them and try not to take a horn to the arse. painful.
12. Greedy Frog
That frog looks familiar. I don't know if it's from something. Anyway, he's perched on three turtles, which are by no means happy with the situation and count down one by one until they wander off and he falls into the void below. But the frog is, as the name suggests, greedy, and won't be happy until he's munched on a sufficient number of flies, which you can assist him with using the magical power of the D-pad and A button. So get to it frog-boy.
13. Duck Runaway
Duck protested for weeks outside Hummer's offices after this was made. It's a bit like Duck Hunt with a cursor instead of a lightgun - ducks fly around the screen, two at a time, and you have to shoot them down. Sometimes they lay eggs and you have to shoot those too - if they smash on the ground you lose 50 points. but if they smash in the air, as a result of you shooting them, that's just awesome, i guess? A veryyyy similar game appeared on the 15 in 1
, which would make this the only game on here (aside from HummerSomari) with its roots in an older Hummer Team title. even if it's only slightly older.
14. Fruit War
Well the sexual tension between Hummer and Pink Jelly has finally come to a head and they're... oh they're just throwing fruit at each other. Hold down A to determine how hard you throw it, and that's that. I made a game like this at uni. only mine was shit.
Every plug and play console ever made has to have a memory game. It's like the law or something. International law. Lawn mowing games and games about fish eating smaller fish are only compulsory in mainland China, though, so Hummer Team are exempt from that rule. So yeah, this is a memory game. just flip over the tiles and whatnot, and match up all the hummer-dudes. The game is mostly Pink Jelly themed though, so Pink Jelly always wins.
16. Puppy Saver
tiny z-dogs are blundering off the edge of a table, and only you can save them! pick those bastards up by the scruff of the neck and drop them in the seemingly bottomless basket.
Seals! Yes seals. Four of them. With Hummer in the middle throwing a ball at them. You just have to press the D-pad direction of the corresponding seal to catch the ball on its nose and throw it back at him.
18. Hummer Hero
the hero of Spring Yard Zone 3. that's Hummer. These Somari levels are prone to crashing occasionally which is somewhat annoying.
19. Country Road
ah, another staple of the plug & play console, the vertically scrolling dodge-the-obstacles driving game. all the other cars have basically no regard for driving on any particular side of the road and all the while moose are crossing your path. But its all worth it in the end when you get to West Virginia. Three times.
20. Hummer Tunnel
what's up hummer's tunnel? why Spring Yard Zone 2 of course. These Somari levels are the only games that don't use the VT03's extended graphics mode, by the way.
21. Volley Ball
This is indeed a volleyball game. And there are plenty of characters they could use in a volleyball game, right? Say, Hummer vs Pink Jelly? No? Panda vs Duck? the two people from Big Hammer? Hell no! Naturally, you play as Hummer and your opponent is... palette-swapped pink Hummer. Pink Jelly couldn't make it in person but still managed to advertise. Anyway, this is a pretty fun game. So there. Pink Jelly is missing out.
22. Lion vs Zebra
spoiler: the lion wins. rawr! there's also zebra bleeding. clearly all those Mortal Kombat ports have given Hummer Team a bit of an appetite for blood.
Well this console may not have a fish-eat-fish game but it does have one with fish swimming around the screen. you are placed, though, not in the role of a hungry fellow fish, but a floating harpoon with a grudge against all fishkind. and you just have to stab them up.
24. Catch Kitty
Some fiendish robotic Pink Jelly imitators are flying around in front of Hummer's treehouse! and it's your disembodied hand's job to slap those mechanical bitches out of the air, before they go and sully Pink Jelly's good name by committing a bunch of crimes or something. But watch out for the damn mosquito.
25. Hummer Snow
it's Marble Zone 2. Yep. But in the snow, kind of.
and we're back under the sea for an unashamed variation on Big Crab. this time you're a lobster and the threat to your young is an octopus, and you have to snip off one of his tentacles. painful. It does grow back awfully quickly though.
27. Hummer Final
The name might imply Final Zone, and actually the screenshot in the manual is from Final Zone, but it's not Final Zone. It's Labyrinth Zone 3. and it's a gigantic pain in the arse.
28. Moose and Water
There's a moose, right, and some water. You might have guessed what the moose has to do with the water. That's right, piss in it
drink it. But don't get eaten by the crocodile. spoiler: if you walk all the way over to the right of the screen, the crocodile won't touch you. You'd think that was an unintended bug but it seems impossible to complete round 3 without exploiting it, so there you go.
This runs along the same lines as Tomatina control-wise but you're shooting fireballs(?) at sarcophagi flying up from the pyramids. They still explode like tomatoes though. And for some reason the manual says there are puppies you aren't supposed to shoot (which are also visible in the screenshot) but they don't exist in-game.
30. Hummer Marble
as the name perhaps suggests its Marble Zone 1. very purply. and with green water.
31. Butter Fly
Despite this console as a whole being entirely pro-butterfly, this game has you swatting them out of the air for the approval of a geisha. and there's a bee flying around which is not happy about your turncoat ways and will probably sting you.
32. Hummer Hill
hummer's back in Green Hill Zone 2! but will he ever see Green Hill Zone 3? no he will not. because it's not on here.
Another tomatina-ish game. but the neighbourhood is infested with demons! and you're shooting your business out of one of the Drumfire barrels.
34. Gorilla Hunt
Endangered species, you say? Oh well the thing about that is LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU COME ON KIDS MASSACRE SOME GORILLAS. It's another cursor-based game like Duck Runaway, with the gorilla sprites recycled from the fighting game running across the screen. The manual warns against shooting your faithful dog but I've never seen the bastard.
35. Bear Fighter
You may have been wondering if it's possible to play as the other characters in Kangaroo Fighter. The answer: hell yes, but they call it a separate game. Naturally. This one has you as the bear, whose attacks are a claw swipe, a jumping kick (again), a bite and a sort of ineffectual-looking sticking out of the belly which actually does a reasonable amount of damage. but not as much as the kick, so you might as well use nothing else. pfft.
36. Hummer Yard
It'sssss Spring Yard 1. oh yes it is.
37. Ostrich Fighter
and it's the ostrich's turn to get even. the tools at its disposal: a wing swipe (which does the most damage), a weedy looking kick, a peck and, yes! an egg propelled at speed from its back passage.
38. Living Room
we're back in Hummer's living room! fortunately it's not flooded anymore and he's just perched himself on top of a stack of household objects up for another variation on Big Hammer
39. Hummer Bomb
Well. but is there a bomb in this? YES it's Star Light Zone 2.
40. Beach Ball
Just Volley Ball transplanted to a beach setting. Beach volleyball, if you will. And they thought I wouldn't notice. I'm on to these people.
41. Bear Hunt
Same as Gorilla Hunt with bears instead. I'm sure you can anticipate what at least two of the upcoming games will be here.
42. Hummer Swim
Hummer does indeed Swim, in Labyrinth Zone 1 from Somari. Well, he sort of swims. Or just runs around underwater with terrible controls. I never bloody liked the water levels in Sonic games. When people try to tell you that the old Sonic games were just one long awesome and the newer ones are just full of bullshit, point them to the damn water levels.
For a system called the "Samuri" you'd expect there to be more samurai-themed games on it. Or at least for the one samurai-themed game there is to be called "Samuri". But it isn't. As the titular samurai, you have to slice watermelons and apples with your sword, and duck shuriken being thrown at you by offscreen ninjas. Slice enough fruit and you're applauded by a passing geisha, making a reappearance from Butter Fly in a context that makes a bit more sense.
44. Angel Choir
A sort of rhythm game, here - apparently all the dudes have died and gone to heaven, and they're being conducted by a fairy in some sort of choir (with each character singing a different note and assigned to either a D-pad direction or one of the buttons). It seems pretty hard though, I don't know if it's just video-capture-card lag or what (my old CRT TV doesnt like it because its NTSC and my new HD one doesnt like any cheap game consoles whatsoever, so I've been playing it through my computer) but when I play you'll only be granted with an extremely tuneless rendition of London Bridge and a swift game over. Maybe you're supposed to memorise the notes or something. You can pretty much cheat by pressing all the buttons at once though. Ahem. Round 2 is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and round 3 is Jingle Bells - you don't get to play any classic Hummer Team music unfortunately. Well I say classic, I mean ripped off from other games, yknow.
45. Cross Street
Z-Dog needs to cross the road. much like a famous frog once did, many years ago. But Z-Dog has no desire to look backwards, towards the buildings recycled from Dragon Running
, or even side to side. For Z-Dog, it's all about moving forwards. Even if that does mean moving out of the path of one car straight into the path of another. None of those heartless bastards will stop for a cute puppy - given that fact and that everyone drives the exact same car, I suspect they're either robots or brainwashed subjects of a fascist dictatorship, and the brave Z-Dog is humanity's last hope. Viva la revolution!
46. Hummer Night
this is hummerrrr. hummer night. in Star Light Zone 1. yay.
47. Kangaroo Hunt
yep, now it's the kangaroo's turn to get shot at. in the exact same game as the last two "hunt"s. Trying to think of a joke about there being one where you shoot Mikes but it's totally terrible.
48. Air Combat
Another shooter, this time without any crazed pandas, opting to place you in a more traditional spaceship type thing. This is one of the few non-Somari games not to have rounds - it's kind of split into stages, not explicitly but every so often you get a bit of fast scrolling and new enemies appear. There's a bit more to it than most of the other games; it has a decent variety of enemies, a few powerups and you can do a 1942-style loop-the-loop which reveals your ship to be paper-thin. And there's slowdown. The manual also shows a completely different background, because that's the manual's whole damn thing.
49. Ice Skating
well Big Hammer girl is back from San Fermin, but having become addicted to the whole rush you get from dodging large animals has decided to travel to Antarctica and try her luck with penguins and seals. Which are totally harder to dodge than bulls. There's a reason there's no running of the penguins, I guess. But at least the fairy from Angel Choir is waiting for her at the end.
50. Deer Hunt
Ooh, role reversal here. It's Moose & Water, but you're now the crocodile and you have to attack the drinking moose. The manual has it down as being a carp vs. bears, for some reason. Maybe they decided that a carp eating actual bears
was pushing it a bit. Or they just couldn't be arsed drawing new graphics.
51. Juggling Stunts
cunning! the character here is a blue mouse for some reason. maybe all the usual guys considered themselves above such petty business as juggling. Juggling basketballs, at that - you just have to press any button to catch them and throw them again. But in practice you can basically just mash a button and clear it easily. From round 3 onwards he's joined by an associate who's controlled with the D-pad, but the same applies there too.
52. Ostrich Hunt
yep, rounding out the "let's shoot the fighting game characters" series, the ostriches get their turn. and yet again the dog promised in the manual fails to appear.
53. Hummer Hole
what's in hummer's hole? oh I already did that one. ah well. it's Marble Zone 3 from Somari!
54. Gorilla Fighter
basically everything the gorilla does seems to deal more damage than anyone else's attacks. Even the banana skins it throws. It is a gorilla
, I suppose.
55. China Wall
not just any old China Wall, this one is fucking great
. This is another kinda variation on Tomatina only with Chinese dudes popping up and flying about the place.
56. Hummer Fall
Oh hey its Star Light Zone 3 from Somari again. When Labyrinth 2 & Green Hill 3 are completely unrepresented. wtf hummer.
57. Diplopod War
once again it's on
under the sea. and this time it's scrolling. you're a green crab that can shoot its little green babies out to do its bidding against a big lobster and its army of ... smaller lobsters.
58. Ice Bricks
Another variation on Big Hammer, only with penguins. Penguins make everything better. Maybe.
59. Crazy Cats
H-shirt guy and the girl from Big Hammer are back, the latter looking decicedly more demonic than usual. The manual names mr. H as "Yige" but the woman is just "the lady". They take it in turns picking a number of Pink Jellys off the shelves in the middle into their respective baskets, the aim being not to get stuck with the last Pink Jelly who is a 100% shit and will claw your face off. In the manual, for some reason, this game is called "Mad Dogs" and has Z-Dogs in it. But the army of Pink Jellys ousted them and took over their game.
60. Star Bank
the final thing! It's not really a game, just a way to check how many stars you have and see how far on the way to butterflyitude your caterpillar is.