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Remembering Japan System Supply and a few of their really weird games.


Hey hey, everyone! This is an update of a post I made nearly a decade ago. I first talked about Japan System Supply back in 2014, when I was young, unemployed, and desperately seeking a way to make my love of video games into something I could monetize so I didn't have to get a real job. That didn't work. But, I'm older, wiser, and I weigh a significant amount less than I did back then. What does that have to do with updating this old article? Well, I wrote it back before DTOID's blog format changed, so if you try and read it now, it's not going to show everything. I figured that an update to this article was in order! 

I'm a huge fan of random obscure companies like this. For every Nintendo, every Atlus, every Capcom, there are weird game developers that only put out a select few games, stuff that flew so under the radar that the only way you'd know they existed is if something they made really stuck in your head and you decided to do a little digging on the internet to see just who made the game you love so very, very much. That's what brought me to researching this comapny on a very simple level.

(Credit for the above image goes to this site)

Bound High was supposed to be beautiful. It was supposed to be one of the saving graces of Nintendo's Virtual Boy, a console that had the potential to make a generation blind. It's a shame, because Bound High, like a surprising amount of Virtual Boy games, is really, really well-done.

Seriously. The Virtual Boy's game library is massively underrated. The biggest issue with most VB games is the obvious issue: they're on Virtual Boy. Take away the eye-straining headset and the weird red and black color, and you've got a solid lineup of games that could have made for very fun Game Boy or even SNES titles. It's a crime that we haven't got a port of Virtual Boy Wario Land or Jack Bros for another console. Nintendo's not particularly proud of the Virtual Boy, so I  understand their reluctance to talk about it.

The Virtual Boy Library is certainly unique, and Chalvo-55 is yet another example of that uniqueness. You play as Chalvo, a robot that can turn into a ball, Turrican/Metroid style, in a first-person perspective. The point of Bound High is to bounce around tiled stages, knocking enemies into the oblivion below the relative safety of the tiles. Later stages put things like wind direction and pinball bumpers in your way. It's a really nice little game, and one that is not only a great display of the Virtual Boy's strengths, but also a great display of just how badly the VB can disorient you. Motion sickness is very real, kids: this game is super motion-heavy. You've basically playing something like a first-person raquetball or squash game from the perspective of the ball. There's a lot of bouncing and re-orienting yourself, and as such, it can be really easy to disorient yourself with the constant zooming in and zooming out. That said, the game is certainly an interesting idea. It's not for everyone, but I can't think of a ton of games that are similar in idea, especially around the time it was supposed to come out in the mid-1990s.

As interesting as Bound High's concept is, it seems that the game was not meant for this world, since the Virtual Boy kicked the bucket during the development of the title. A complete prototype of the game exists, though, and a bunch of enterprising individuals have gone and made reproduction Virtual Boy carts of the game. Those carts are long sold out by now, but ROM dumps exist of the completed game build. I'm not normally a proponent of piracy for various legal reasons, but there's literally no other legal way to play the game at this point. And with Japan System Supply no longer being a company anymore... Who actually owns the rights to this IP? Someone who is willing to do way more work than I am can probably get on that at some point.

A cancelled game on the Virtual Boy was not quite the end of Bound High, though, since the game's protagonist would show up in another game, this time for the still-monochrome but significantly less headache-inducing Game Boy...

Oh. Hey. Look at that! It's a game you might actually have played!

Chameleon Twist came out in 1997. As such, it is one of those very interesting games that only really could have come out in the heyday of generic 3D mascot platformers. In Chameleon Twist, you play as one of four differently-colored chameleons that have fallen through a magic portal into a world full of the same levels that are in every other 3D platformer. In order to make the game more interesting, the chameleons have also been turned into weird, badly-rendered humanoid creatures with long, prehensile tongues. You can run and jump, but your tongue stretches so far that you can use that to cross large gaps or pole-vault into secret areas. It's like a weird mix of Kirby, Yoshi, and Bionic Commando. Yes, really.

Your primary method of defense is to lick up enemies with your tongue and fire them back at larger enemies. In fact, that is basically how most of the boss fights are done. The game itself is mostly a bog-standard 3D platformer, with all of the common flaws that early 3D platform games have (camera desperately needs to be analog, and the environments weren't exactly breaking any new ground, even back then). The tongue mechanic is also one that is very tough to get the hang of since it is something that would work much better in a two-dimensional game. Having to judge depth and space based on when and where you use the tongue to snatch enemies or cross a gap is very much a trial-and-error affair.

Despite the flaws, Chameleon Twist is a unique game, and it gets a lot of credit for being so. It's a game that, despite the flaws, is very near and dear to me, since I used to rent this game a lot. In fact, my copy that I own today is an ex-rental. Chameleon Twist was popular enough to get a sequel, which was aptly-named Chameleon Twist 2. Aside from some updated character models, the game was more or less an expansion pack to the first game.

This series would make an excellent comeback on the 3DS as a game in the style of Kirby: Canvas Curse, but since JSS is no longer around and I'm assuming that Sunsoft owns the rights to Chameleon Twist, they hold the fate of this very interesting franchise.

So, what happened to Japan System Supply? Well, they went bankrupt. The company as we know it has been defunct since the turn of the milennium. I've seen a few websites mention that they started back up in 2009 or so, but they appear to be non-operational as of 2023. One thing is for sure, though: They clearly weren't afraid of taking chances.

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About Titannelone of us since 6:02 PM on 08.12.2013

Hey. I'm Titannel. I am currently a video editor for a local news station, but I'd like to edit for YouTube eventually. I also enjoy the video games. I particularly focus on retro video games, though I collect for pretty much everything, against my better judgment. Anyone who can decode my banner wins fifty bonus points. For what? Eh.

Oh, what's that? You want a shorter description? Here's one:

"Video editor. Amateur filmmaker. Creative Writer. Real human being. And a real hero."