>> Saturday, July 7, 2007
We only know CD-i being released in the western continents like Europe and the United States. The videogames business boosted in a whole other area: Japan! That's the place where companies like Sony and Nintendo got their names bigger than ever, and it's unfortunate Microsoft has a lot of problems introducing their Xbox format in Japan with success: apparently the asian people prefer asian videogames, and the western like Xbox is too unfamilar. You could ask yourself whatever happened with Philips and CD-i. This is also a format from the West and I've hardly found any names or material related to a japanese introduction of the CD-i system. However, we found a few links to some japanese CD-i productions which sound very promising: CD-i was released in Japan!
There is a great story from the guy behind Philips Artspace Studio who was responsible for all translations Philips made about CD-i software in Japan. So yes the CD-i was released in Japan although quite limited. Translations I'm aware of are all edutainment like paint-galleries, stamp-galleries, and early kids titles like Sandy's Circus. "I was the writer/director/producer on 'Harvest of the Sun,' 'Renaissance of Florence, The Renaissance Gallery, The French Impressionists, The World of Impressionism, Prélude (the first of hybrid Cd-i/CD Audio discs); The Art of the Czars (featuring the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the first time a major American orchestra recorded music for a multimedia carrier, exclusively), and Rembrandt: The Art and the Music of his Time (as writer/co-producer) (featuring Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra).
After I left Philips and started Pantheon, I also produced The Bertelsmann Lexikon CD-i (the first German-language multimedia encyclopedia with video clips) and the Standaard Encyclopedie (the first Dutch-language encyclopedia). After I was promoted to Managing Director of PIME in London, H. took over as head of my studio ArtSpace. They produced 'Flight: The Universal Dream' but I'm not sure if this was ever completed/released.
The focus of ArtSpace, when I started it, was to produce a platform to develop CD-i titles very quickly. 'Harvest of the Sun, the biography of Vincent van Gogh, was produced in 9 weeks, which was an absolute record at the time (most titles took over a year to produce). Subsequent titles took a little longer but never more than 3 months. AS MD of PIME, I also oversaw the language conversions of US based titles. As part of that effort, all the art titles were translated, produced and released in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese."
Japanese language CD-i versions! The picture above on the right is an original cover of "Renaissance of Florida", released by Philips Artspace in Japan.
The internet revealed some people who were working at Denshi Media, which I only know from an unknown CD-i title called "The Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle". I wonder if they ever got the Internet kit working in Japan also! "Mr Aoyagi was the president of Denshi Media Service, the multimedia subsidiary of Japan's second-largest printing company, Toppan Printing. DMS made multimedia software for many settop platforms in Japan including CD-I and 3DO. Denshi Media was originally a joint venture between Toppan and Philips (Magnavox), although Toppan had acquired 100% in the years since its founding. When Philips was developing Internet browsing with the CD-I player, prior to joining with WebTV, they asked Mr Aoyagi and DMS to create the service and browser software for Japan."
Last but not least, in 1994, Friso presented us a japan-only game going strong with the movie-title "Golgo 13", produced by Japan Interactive Media. For a CD-i game to be dated back to 1992 and remain unknown to the wider community for such a length of time marks this one out as a true collectable. The game Golgo 13 is best described as a comic book adventure depicted by still drawn images where you can follow multiple paths to out smart the assassin Golgo 13. Designed for NTSC systems this was a Japanese only title featuring a few bits of English for the in game menu screens but the vast majority of the game is in Japanese. Alongside the main story mode of the game there is also a database which is a quiz designed to test your knowledge of Golgo 13.
These are worth further investigation if only for the terrible Japanese to English translations which is all the trend even to this day in the east. The CD-i is not without it's own take on "all your base belong to us" it seems. It's not yet clear if this game was ever brought to a full retail product as the only version ever found was this sample.
The press also revealed the original introduction of CD-i in Japan on April 25, 1992. "TOKYO, JAPAN, 1992 APR 17 (NB) -- Philips Japan has announced that it will release a first CD-Interactive (CD-I) player in Japan on April 25. A variety of subjects are to be released: games, music, educational programs, databases, and dictionaries. Philips Japan has organized a CD-I software association, which is supported by about 200 members, including such big names as Matsushita Electric and Sony. The software is expected to debut this fall. Japan's first CD-I player will be manufactured at Philips' Belgium plant and will be shipped to Japan. It will be marketed by Marantz Japan, which is a subsidiary of Philips. The retail price will be 140,000 yen ($1,050). Japanese electronics makers are taking a wait-and-see attitude at present concerning production and sales of CD-I players. There is no word yet on Philips' worldwide distribution plans for the device."
The image on the top left of this article shows a part of the credits of "The Apprentice", stating Japanese translations by Akiko Yatsura. By now we know that name was a made-up name, so this just some typical SPC Vision humour!
So, if there's anything more about CD-i happening in the history of videogames in Japan or other parts in Asia, I would certainly like to know. Thanks to all of you for bringing this info to Interactive Dreams.