D Button Crew
Date d'inscription: février 2003
Messages: 6 651
AERO FIGHTERS 3 ENGLISH AES – PART 1 of 3
March 4, 2012
Ok guys, I’m a windbag and I still haven’t covered everything that really needs to be covered. People have been waiting a long time and I have to try and wrap it up at some point. The most important stuff is in the “Analysis” section (Part IV) so skip there if you want to skip as much rambling as possible.
TonK confided in me about a month ago that he had been contacted by an individual who claimed to own multiple copies of English Aero Fighters 3 AES, a game which to my knowledge has never publicly surfaced, and was thought by most not to exist. Long story short, I eventually established contact with this individual myself, and I was provided with a copy of the game to analyze for purposes of offering my opinion as to its authenticity, for whatever that would be worth. This report is the result of that request. I no longer have a copy of the game.
Now, a few things need to be said right up front. As has been suggested earlier in this thread, the only thing I can offer the community about this game is my opinion. I cannot guarantee or warrant anything, only present my conclusions based upon the facts that I have. I fully anticipate and expect that for many that simply won’t be good enough. There will probably be even more questions as a result of my observations. Someday, perhaps a “smoking gun” will present itself. Until then, the community will just have to accept that, when the dust settles, there will be believers and non-believers with regard to the legitimacy of this title. I don’t intend to advocate for this game so much as I intend to advocate for my conclusions, if that makes sense. But, I’m not going to make it my mission to try and convince people. I feel like people have given TonK a real hard time and he takes it upon himself to back up his claims at the expense of his reputation. As far as I am concerned, his reputation is clean and untarnished regardless of the legacy of this game, as he has simply presented the facts about his involvement, some of which I will clarify later.
Let me also say that I’m not an expert in printing techniques and I have not had the ink or paper “carbon dated.” As for my qualifications with Neo Geo, I know a lot about Neo Geo, and its history and games, but I can certainly name people on this very site who have a much more extensive knowledge than I do. So, for those of you who have suggested that my opinion means nothing, to a certain degree I agree with you, because I wasn’t sitting in the factory when this game was made. However, I think there are nevertheless meaningful conclusions that can be drawn from the facts that we know.
The cartridge I analyzed for purposes of this report is not and was never owned by me. I do not have this game nor have someone else’s copy in my possession. So please, do not email me asking for a copy of this game, or for the contact information of the owner. All the information I can reveal is reflected in this report.
Before I delve into my analysis of the cartridge itself, it is important to go over a little bit about this game’s history to put everything in perspective. (Editor’s note – I typed this section some time before TonK’s initial post, so I apologize for the repetition).
English Aero Fighters 3 AES was listed as an official SNK release in my very first draft of the Master List. Some of you who have been around a really long time might remember that. I still have a printed draft dated 2-1-2000 which reflects it. Shawn eventually convinced me to take it off probably some 8 years ago or so after copy never surfaced, although a handful of Ultimate 11 and Kizuna US cartridges had found their way into collectors’ hands.
So, why did I believe then (and sort of always believed) that this game existed?
Reason 1: Adol once told me personally that he himself saw the game in a game store in France. This was long before anyone was really faking or “correcting” Neo Geo AES games, and this came from a major collector who I trust on such matters, and who would have nothing to gain from making such a statement. I realize some of you have a beef with this guy. When we had this conversation, things were much different in the Neo scene. It’s hard to explain, but at the time I had absolute confidence in what he was telling me, and for the life of me I couldn’t (and still can’t) fathom a motivation for him to make something like this up.
Reason 2: This game was reviewed in cartridge form by Gamepro magazine in 1995 alongside Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer. It was reviewed as “Aero Fighters 3” (not Sonic Wings 3) and had a meg count listed of 154 megs. I don’t know how they would have known the meg count unless they had the AES version, but anything is possible. If they reviewed the Japanese copy, I would have imagined they would have called it “Sonic Wings 3” in the review.
Reason 3: Aero Fighters 3 came out just after the Neo slipped out of the mainstream retail realm but just before the time that SNK started getting a lot more picky about certain titles coming out in Japan but not in the US. This was one month after Stakes Winner US (October 1995 – ultra rare) and one month prior to Samurai Shodown 3 (December 1995 – common). Aero Fighters 3 exists as a US MVS kit, a Japanese MVS kit, a Japanese home cart, a Japanese CD, and a US CD. Basically, it came out on EVERY format except US AES! This is rather unusual. There were 3 Japanese snaplock games prior to Aero Fighters 3 that had a Japanese release, but no US release: Master of Syougi, Kabuki Klash and Pulstar. Master of Syougi requires no explanation. Kabuki Klash did not have a US version CD, and was a third party very “Japanesey” title. However, Pulstar followed the AF3 template. Why they would not release Pulstar and then subsequently choose to release Stakes Winner in US AES form in October 1995 is one of the Neo’s great mysteries. Now, Pulstar was an original IP from Aicom who had no other Neo games. Video System had already released Aero Fighters 2 on English AES just a year before. Bottom line, in my opinion, if you look at the state of the Neo releases in 1995, it is difficult to understand why SNK would not have made an English version of this game.
Ok, this is going to upset some of you, but I have so much to say about this, and more to learn about this, that I am (gasp) skipping this section for the time being, just so I can get the rest of this post out the door.
Suffice to say, I agree that the provenance of the game is a critical element in evaluating its authenticity. I will have my information, thoughts and opinions about this posted at a later date.
I’m going to start off this section with the most important opinion I have with regard to this game in this entire post, and that concerns my opinion of the proper way to analyze a game like this.
Someone comes out of the woodwork and says he has a 16 year old Neo Geo game that nobody has seen before. If you set the provenance issue aside for a moment, and focus simply on the game itself, the logical place to start is to compare the game to other known official titles and look for discrepancies. This has been done by many of you in the thread already based just upon the photos that have been posted, and naturally this is where I started my analysis when I received the game.
Over the course of the past weeks my approach has changed, and here is why. As part of my analysis, I have analyzed in part the following official AES titles in detail: Real Bout Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown 3 (US and Jpn), Stakes Winner (US and Jpn), Neo Turf Masters (US), Ninja Master’s (US), Savage Reign (US), Fatal Fury 3 (US and Japan), KOF 95 (US) and many Neo Geo CDs. It has been an exhausting exercise.
After looking at so many 1995-1996 era official US AES releases (many of which are of course the most valuable, rare and collectible in the history of the system), I came to a realization. That time period of Neo Geo releases had the most volatility and the least amount of consistency from title to title in the ENTIRE history of the Neo Geo! And I am talking about EVERYTHING. Insert and manual layouts, print quality, Neo Geo spine logo, etc. Starting in about 1998 the games became very predictable and consistent, but there was almost NO consistency from 1995 through 1996. Let me give you all some quick examples:
1. The Neo Geo logo on the spine varied drastically from title to title. Many of the 1995 titles have what I call a “fat” Neo Geo logo. It is a little oversized and bloated looking especially compared to late-era releases. Some titles don’t have a “fat” Neo Geo logo (like FF3), but one that looks almost identical to the Neostore releases (like RBFF). Sometimes the Neo Geo logos are far more saturated than on other games.
2. The print quality, even to the naked eye, varies greatly from release to release. Stakes Winner US looks like a different printer was used than Samurai Shodown 3 US.
3. The manual layouts are different between Japan and US games. I was sure a key to this analysis would be to compare the discrepancies in the layouts of Sonic Wings 3 Jap to Aero Fighters 3 US (Nov 95) with the same thing in Stakes Winner (Oct 95) and Sams3 (Dec 95). Nope! There are differences between the manuals in SW3 and AF3, but they don’t COMPARE to the differences between Stakes Winner US and Jap! The manuals in those 2 games are totally different – not only are the page numbers and layout different, but the manuals themselves have entirely different pages in them! Conversely, Samurai 3 is almost identical between the 2 versions!
That is just a brief example. Where does that leave us?
There is NO ONE GAME that can be a yardstick for comparison purposes for just about any aspect of this game! That makes this type of analysis quite challenging indeed.
It is well known that SNK made many mistakes and errors in production of AES games throughout the years. These manifested themselves in many forms, from screwed up genre colors, to misplaced AES logos, to typographical errors. But, back in 1995 and 1996, it ALSO extended to mundane things like print quality, insert and manual layouts etc.
Therefore, in my opinion, the only thing you can do to analyze the game is to observe the various characteristics of the game, and ask 1) is this consistent with the changing characteristics in other games of the period, and 2) Would a counterfeiter be likely to design a given aspect of the title in this way? That is how I have approached this report because I think it is more reliable than simply finding a game or two to compare it to. It’s so easy to take one thing, compare it to another game, say that there is a difference and write this off as fake. To the contrary, because there were so many differences between the known legitimate titles, it should be EXPECTED that there will be anomalies and variances in a legitimate Aero Fighters 3!
...analysis section To Be Continued...
COMING IN PART 2... the specific characteristics of all parts of AERO FIGHTERS 3 US AES!