TourVision – like a Playchoice for PC Engine

You may be familiar with TourVision already from the few mentions here and elsewhere, but if you aren’t it’s a Spanish company who made a self-named cart based arcade system, where you can select one of four PC Engine games and buy time to play rather than credits.  That makes it similar to the Playchoice and Megaplay systems from Nintendo and Sega, but there’s one thing that sets the TourVision apart.

It’s of dubious legality.

I’ve heard people say that it was made under license from NEC, and while it’s certainly possible that’s true, what seems rather less likely is that they had a license to be selling all the games available for it.  Maybe they didn’t even need one though, we’ll get to that bit later.

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Here we can see an assembled system in all it’s glory.  When powered up initially the system will simply pick the first cart and leave it running in demo mode, optionally with muted audio if the 8th switch on dip A is active.  When you drop a coin in, the 8 digit display shows you an amount of time in seconds, the audio is unmuted and you can then use the joystick to select between games.  When you press start, the game actually resets and then automatically starts, skipping any option menus and so on.  The timer will start flashing and then begins counting down once the gameplay starts.  For games that actually used the select button, that’s mapped to JAMMA button 3 so no problem there.

Play, die, play again – you have until the timer runs down to do whatever you like, although there seems to be no way to actually select a different game which seems an oversight if you’ve just put 1000 seconds of time on and wanted to try something else.  When the timer runs out and after a grace period which appears to vary, it will pause the game and lock out controls, and start flashing.  You have 10 seconds or so to put more coins in, or it will reset the system back to attract mode.

As you can see the carts are available in 2 designs, vertically on a riser and horizontally flush with the PCB.  The connector is similar to an old PCI one.

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The riser types I believe are the older cart design, the reason being all the ones I’ve checked have 1991 dates on the cart labels while the flat fitting type are 1992.  Given that the motherboards are pre-drilled for support clips in locations suitable for both formats though, the flat ones were obviously the original intent.  The risers look like this:

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I believe the pins past the key are actually used by the system to detect whether or not a cart is inserted in the slot.  The rest are for the actual cart communication.  Update May ’16 – see latest article, these are actually a game ID.

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Inside the carts they’ve helpfully filled them with epoxy.  Thanks guys.  I picked two which felt lighter than the rest hoping to find some which hadn’t been filled, no such luck.  However one of them betrays how these were made (at least the early types) and it might be why I’m not aware of an epic legal battle.

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They really are just HuCards with a mini riser sealed in a box, you can make out the Daisenpu artwork along the bottom edge.  I believe the later type just have a much better/compact riser and I will be getting a spare X-rayed or dissolved to see what sort of design they used.  While it would be different now, back in 1991/2 would it have been illegal in Spain to buy legitimate products from another company and stick them in a case?  They’re not bootleg cards – each one represents a sale for the original publisher.

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And that’s the motherboard, actually two types exist and there’s an integrated version which is generally the same layout, but the sub board components have moved down a level.  With this older type, that sub board is … an actual PC Engine, stripped of components not required.

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Still think they had an actual license?  The above board has clearly had components removed – things like the modulator and joypad connector were there at one time.  The rest of the board is all original work from the TV company, this area of the board deals with the actual timer and cart switching plus sound amplification.

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The PC Engine is a stereo console, and sure enough that’s been carried forward to the JAMMA connector with the extra channel being on pin 11.  You can see where a battery would normally fit – this is a Ni-CD cell 3.6v 176mah, part number “3/GF170K” – if you buy one of these, remove it.  It’s leaking unless someone has already  replaced it.  The system doesn’t even need it, it’s just for storing remaining credits.  The large square button will reset the credits if you power the system up while holding it down.

The connectors are JP105, Jp106 and JP107.  JP105 is for lighting up which game is being played (the marquee had space for 4 game manuals to use as attract art) as well as a second time display for the selected game – you can see on the recreativas.org page photo:

Recreativas.org – Tour Vision video jeux

The other to lighting is a 12v feed and you don’t usually send 12v somewhere unless it’s being used to power relay controlled lamps.  JP107 is I think supposed to be for a reset button, but on mine grounding the pins like a button doesn’t work even though it looks like it should.  Touching the other side of the pulldown resistor with an oscilloscope probe causes the game to totally reset and erase all credits by triggering the NE555 timer.  If you look at the cabinet photo in the above link you can see an additional button at the top of the control panel, my assumption is that’s reset.  JP106 is for the display, it’s pretty simple – 5v, ground and 3 (probably) serial data lines sending the current counter value to this:

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Looking at the back of the credit display we can see it’s pretty simple and should be easy enough to reproduce.  For people lacking one I will try to make a schematic at some point soon when I’ve got my second one to fiddle around with.

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And back to the motherboard here are the cart slots, pretty typical arrangement for a cart selector, it simply changes where the address and data lines are going to, and resets the PC Engine.

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So overall, I actually quite like the system – it’s a native RGB PC Engine you can plug straight into your JAMMA cab without using a real console hooked up to a dodgy looking converter board.  On the other hand, it also banishes you from using option menus which is a shame, and you’ll need to use the dip switches to grant lots and lots of time or keep hitting the credit button while playing.

The good thing about the PC Engine aside from the fact that it was clearly a better system than other 8-bit alternatives both in design and performance, was the giant software library.  Either the law allowed them to do this or Tourvision just didn’t give a damn, because they brought an awful lot of titles over.  In fact I do wonder if they simply ordered the games and converted them on demand, every one of them has been imported from Japan.  I’ve been trying to obtain and dump as many as I can, even though the data is the exact same, just so we have the right files to operate against the TV system.  If you have a game not in the below list, please get in touch.

Riser type carts – Xevious, W-Ring (amazing game), 1943 Kai, Saiga No Nindou, Dragon Spirit and Veigues.

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Some more riser based games (actually I have a few which are duplicates of flat type carts too) – Override, Dead Moon, Armed-F, Final Blaster, Super Star Soldier and Side Arms which is strangely labelled upside down.

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Onto the flat (and tidier) carts – Dodge Ball, Bomberman, Super Long Nose Goblin (actually Hana Taka Daka), Pac-Land, Mr. Heli, PC Genjin 2, Power Eleven and Raiden.  You can see how they got lazier over time with the art.

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Jackie Chan, Beisbol 91 (actually Pro Yakyuu World Stadium ’91), Daisenpu, Psycho Chaser, Shinobi, Winning Shot, Gomola Speed and Final Lap Twin.  The labels peeling off is very common, in fact I had to stick back down numerous carts when taking these photos.

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Legend Of Hero Tonma, Formation Soccer, Columns, Power Drift, Aero Blasters, Jinmu Densho (Wolf Team tried to make a Space Harrier game with a sword..), Ballistix and Son Son II.

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On to the boxed ones – worth noting ALL the boxed games I’ve found are the flat type cart.  PC Genjin Punkic Cyborg, Toy Shop Boys, Super Foolist Man (hilarious rename of Beraboh Man), R-Type II, Final Match Tennis, Terra Cresta II, Tatsujin and Coryoon with an ugly home made full colour label on the cart.

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Skweek, After Burner, Operation Wolf, Devil Crash, Be Ball, Salamander, Gunhed (AWESOME!), and an empty box for Cross Wiber 🙁

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And the rest – Parasol Stars II which turned out to be Liquid Kids (disappointing), Ninja Ryukenden, Chuka Taisen re-artworked by the same vandal who ruined Coryoon, Puzzle Boy and KiKi KaiKai.

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A few more which arrived later than the original draft of this article – Cyber Core, Down Load, S.C.I, Doreamon, Out Run, Bull Fight, Volfied, Dragon Saber and Vigilante!

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Another batch, 16 more found.  Fighting Run, Adventure Island, Spin Pair, Soldier Blade, Mesopotamia (yes the label is upside down), Drop Rock Hora Hora, Tricky and Ordyne.

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The NewZealand Story, Super Volley Ball, Image Fight, Puzznic, Power Sports, Kato & Ken (one of my favourite PCE games), Alice In Wonderland and Sokoban World.

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Rastan Saga II, Ankoku Densetsu, Batman, Burning Angels, Gradius, Cadash, World Jockey, Dragon Egg and Toilet Kids.

I know other games are out there, and I’d be interested in finding better examples of games I already own as well as ones I’ve yet to find.  I don’t know if Bloody Wolf was ever sold by the company, but it’s another one I’d really like to find, same with Kato & Ken (update – FOUND!)

Of course it would be possible to make a card reader for the system, and in fact – that’s exactly what someone in France did:

Tourvision HuCard adapter

Shame he sacrificed a cart to make it, seems like it would be easy enough to make one from scratch, or at least using a clone of the riser board from the vertical style carts.  Cool project though and something I’m tempted to do myself.

So there you go, one of the more interesting arcade curiosities and probably the largest collection of carts.  In case you’re wondering, in the last couple of days I dumped and submitted the entire set for inclusion in MAME.

Update – more learned about this system which I’ve covered in a new post here:

http://blog.system11.org/?p=1943