Tuesday 5 August 2008

German variations. Part 1 - Software.

Early German releases.

When the Master System was born Sega products were distributed in the UK by Mastertronic, In the US it was Tonka and Germany had Ariolasoft. Ariolasoft was a developer, publisher and distributor of video games. As well as the Master System they also released games for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amiga.

There are no exclusive German releases for the Master System (Although the card version of Great Soccer is extremely rare outside of Germany). The early Ariolasoft releases are interesting to collect as the packaging, manual and cartridge or card are all exclusive to Germany. See below for the German cartridge and card stickers.

Most German releases have identical looking front covers to other Euro and US releases, but a few actually have the translation 'Die Mega Cartridge' or 'Die Sega Card', This makes them easier to spot in an online auction. As well as German translated text, Ariolasoft even had it's own product code on the box spine, all known German specific spine numbers are shown in the picture and list below. Also noted is the instances in which 'Die' instead of 'The' is used on the cover.

????? Marksman Shooting/ Trap Shooting/ Safari Hunt ('Der Sega Light Phaser' pack in only?)
41001 Choplifter
41002 Fantasy Zone
41003 TransBot (card)
41004 My hero (card)
41005 F-16 Fighter (card)
41006 World Grand Prix
41007 Black Belt
41008 Action Fighter
41009 Pro Wrestling
41010 Super Tennis (card) - 'Die Sega Card'
41011 Astro Warrior/Pit-Pot
41012 The Ninja - 'Die Mega Cartridge'
41013 Alex Kidd in Miracle World - 'Die Mega Cartridge'
41018 Great Soccer (card)
41021 Spy vs. Spy (card) - 'Die Sega Card'
41022 Bank Panic (card) - 'Die Sega Card'

(click to enlarge)

As you can see some numbers are missing and a few games you would expect to see are not present. This doesn't mean they do not exist, just that none of our online collecting community have found any of them yet. Possible German releases include Wonder Boy, Secret Command, Enduro Racer and any other 1986 0r 87 releases. Ghost House and Teddy Boy are both surprisingly missing from the list but these two are exceptions as they were released in Germany packaged in US boxes with poor quality German manuals, shown below along with F16-Fighter which is another common one to find in a US box with poor German manual (despite an actual German version existing).

As well as the part numbers mentioned above a couple more games have been found in Germany with standard Euro (multi language) packaging but with an Ariolasoft sticker (see below) containing a German part number, 41023 - Quartet and 41027 - Great Volleyball, please contact me if you know of any others.

There are some other details to note about the early German packaged games; Unlike all the other German versions Spy Vs Spy and Bank Panic have German only translated titles on the manual cover (Spion Gegen Spion and Bank-Raub). Another minor difference maybe worth mentioning is that The Ninja has an incorrect font on the box spine, see below for comparison.

Correct top/ Incorrect bottom

Perhaps the strangest difference is with the cover of Pro Wrestling. The German version has a re-drawn picture - Or perhaps this was the original and everyone else got a re-drawn version? Was Ariolasoft sent the wrong image? or an early prototype cover which they copied? Was the usual version too life-like?! (Germans are very sensitive about violence in games). One can only speculate, see below and make your own mind up..

Left Euro and US/ Right German

Below is my complete collection of the known early German packaged releases. This set took me around 12 months to complete at a cost of between £5 and £12 per game including postage. There may be more out there, I would be very pleased to here about them.

please note that Hang On does not have a German specific box as it was a pack in with 'Das Sega Master System'. An early Ariolasoft booklet does actually depict an unusual box for Hang On, see below.

This actual fully boxed version was bought in 2006 in a bulk German ebay auction (which also contained the booklet above, a fully boxed German system and 12 other games for under £100) by a collector from Manchester, England. He later sold it on its own in 2007 to another collector in Australia for £300. This is perhaps one of the most sought after Master System collectibles. As can be seen from the pictures below it is not actually German.

The rear box text differs from all other known
versions and reads more like a pre-production
or sample version (click to enlarge)

The manual and card itself are also different.

Later German releases.

After the Ariolasoft years there were still some semi translated variations released in Germany. 1988 was the year of the RPG: Phantasy Star, Miracle Warriors, Lord of the Sword, Golvellius and Y's were all released. Each of these came with an extra translated manual in Germany but retained the all English packaging. Slightly later released RPG's such as Spellcaster (1989) and Golden Axe Warrior (1990) also received translated German manuals. See below for some of the ones I have collected.

I would say that the German RPG manuals are slightly harder/ more expensive to collect than other German Master System games, perhaps mainly due to RPG generally commanding a higher price than other genres. One thing to bare in mind if you try to collect these is that it is only the manual that is different.

Another notable RPG with a German variation is Ultima IV, quite different in that there is no (that I know of?) German instruction manual. Instead this time there were two additional books, The History of Britannia and The Book of Mystic Wisdom. English versions of these books are blue, French are pink and below are the German yellow ones.

These books are very difficult to find in any of the 3 languages, the main reason for this is that the books do not actually fit inside the case and were originally shrink wrapped to the back of the box (One of the books has the games bar code stuck on it). Not only this but it is also thought that not all copies of Ultima IV came with the books (perhaps just the first production run?).

Other European language variations to track down are not exclusive to Germany but I will add them onto this article anyway. Olympic Gold released in 1992 as a Barcelona '92 Olympics tie in was available as a 'limited edition' in some countries (I can confirm Spain, France, Britain and Germany). The limited edition versions had a different cover with a yellow circle on the front and the back of the cover advising (in the particular language) that it was limited and that it also contained a 'souvenir booklet'. The game description on the back cover is translated and the spine has a specific part number 27030 - xx (Germany being 27030 - 18). The full cover souvenir booklet is also in the specific language, see below. Please note that the manual is standard multi language for all Euro releases.

Winter Olympics (Lillehammer '94) was also released in translated European limited editions. As with Olympic Gold these came with souvenir booklets, specific covers and part numbers (Germany had 29015 - 18). Once again the manual is multi language. This game included the flag of the country in the top right which I think is a nice touch (and makes finding them easier on ebay if the photo isn't clear).

Lastly came World Cup USA 94. Once again with the limited edition releases the box is translated (German part number 29028 - 18) and the country flags were included in the top right. This time though it is the manual that has been translated and the souvenir 'wall chart' (in this case) that is generic (I do not yet have the German specific manual for this game). In my opinion this is harder to track down than the other two limited edition sports games.

To finish off this article here are perhaps the two easiest to find German variations, 'Das Dschungelbuch' (27069 - 18) and Der Konig Der Lowen (27081 - 18). With these two it is only the covers that are specific to the country and there are no additional extras other than the standard multi language manual. Any collector looking to branch out into variations should be able to find at least the German and French versions of The Jungle Book and The Lion King quite easily on ebay and for roughly the same price as the multi language versions (apart from higher postage if you are not local to the country).

Please feel free to contact me if you have or know of any other German specific versions of Master System games I have missed. Part 2 of this article will feature German Sega Master System hardware and accessories.


Anonymous said...

Great Article like always! :)
My copy of great soccer (cartridge) does have an ariolasticker with the part number 410025.
I look forwar to part 2!


James Costello said...

Hi, Thanks Alex. I'll get that updated shortly. Part 2 won't be my next artical but hopfully next month i'll do it, it will be much shorter.. as you know not too much has been discoverd yet.

Anonymous said...

What happened to part 2?

I've been really looking forward to it, being obsessed with variations too and especially hardware ones.

James Costello said...

Hey, sorry it took a wile to publish your comment. I have been extremely busy at work and at home this last few months. I didnt want to rush any articals so I have not published anything for a wile.

Anonymous said...

König der Löwen.