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prehistoric isle flyer

Prehistoric Isle in 1930 is along with Time Pilot one of my favorite and earliest game memories. The game is from 1989 and features a biplane from the 1930’s being sent to investigate an island in the Bermuda triangle where shipping has been vanishing. Being a kid at the arcade this game always grabbed my attention with its colorful graphics and interesting theme. It kind of reminded me of one of my favorite movies growing up which was about a world war I German U-boat that gets stranded on a dinosaur and cave man infested island. The game play is fairly standard for a horizontal shooter but features the interesting mechanic of “pods” that act as power ups. You have your standard shot but when you get a pod power up the pod makes your standard shot more powerful. Also you have the ability to rotate the pod around your biplane changing its power depending on its position. For instance if in front of you it powers up your standard shot, angled diagonally in front of you it arcs bombs, directly above or below and it fires a sort of energy blanket and if placed directly to the rear of your plane it lays mines. Other then the theme it was always the variety of dinosaurs and monsters that grabbed my attention from giant bugs and cavemen to skeleton pterodactyls. There were also nice details for the time such as the cavemen grabbing onto your wings and weighing you down or flying under waterfalls and feeling the pressure of the water forcing your plane down.


before each level your shown a little map of the island and where you will be on said island. The game isn’t overly long and can be completed in something like 30 to 40 minutes or less but the levels are interesting and varied from jungles to underwater to the open skies.


The first level takes place in the jungle where you face various dino’s as well as cavemen that emerge from huts and leap up to latch onto your plane and drag it down. This stage like many feature a mid level boss as well as a level boss.


The first two bosses you encounter are a Brachiosaurus that lunges out at you with its long neck and an Allosaurus. before each boss encounter your greeted with a large “CAUTION!” on screen as well as the bosses species and length and weight stats. Its ultimately pointless but its a nice little touch for introducing the boss.


The second level mixes it up a bit sending you high up above the island where you battle various flying enemies such as pterodactyls and cavemen latched onto giant bats.


This level features no mid level boss but does have a huge pterodactyl as the level boss. Besides his standard fireballs that he fires at you he also creates mini tornadoes with his wings that grab your plane and fling it around the screen possibly right into a fireball or the giant flying terror.


The next stage takes you back down to the island. This stage is a little bland and seems to take place in rocky canyons over small lakes and in caves.


The bosses of this level are a little strange. The first one is even introduced as “unknown dinosaur” and looks like a some kind of flying green whale covered in giant pustules. The main boss is a giant insect that splits into smaller and smaller versions of itself as you weaken it.


The next level is my favorite of the game and sees your biplane transform into a submarine and go underwater off the islands coast fighting various undersea prehistoric monstrosities.


The mid level boss is a giant prehistoric turtle that fires baby giant turtles at you.


This level features some neat details such as the wreckage of all the ships that have gone missing in recent years. In one section of the stage as you begin to descend deeper into the depths a wrecked ship from above floats down and two heads and necks of the Brachiosaurus boss you faced earlier bust out of the wrecked ship and attempt to grab you. The effect used to create the dinosaurs neck is admittedly sort of cool for the time and its nice to see it used again.


The boss of this stage is a giant nautilus type monster that uses the same effect that the necks used for its to grasping tentacles. If you to happen to get grasped by one of the tentacles you are dragged to the mouth where you are chewed apart and pieces of wreckage are spewed out.


The final stage takes place in what appears to be a volcano but overall is not very interesting.


Your mid level boss is an angry Stegosaurus that jumps around and knocks stalactites on you. The “veggie” eating dino’s out for your blood and kind of the whole vibe I get from this game does kind of make me think of the island from King Kong, well at least the original version.


The final boss is actually kind of silly. Its a Tyrannosaurus but all you get to fight is his head as he comically bobs back and forth across the screen. I understand the fight is supposed to give you an impression of his massive scale and the bobbing is to awkwardly simulate his walking but it all just kind of comes off as comical. He breaths fire and gives off a Godzilla roar as well.


Defeating this final boss grants you an ending cinema and a job well done…and a horrible death. yep, that’s right, after defeating the fearsome and awkward Tyrannosaurus you dock with your mother aircraft which is then promptly attacked by a flock of pterodactyls and destroyed, your dead, the end…oh sorry. SPOILER!

I really enjoy this game. For the time it was released the sprites are nice and the levels and enemies are varied. I really enjoyed the theme and it made me feel like I was playing an interactive version of some of my favorite movies as a kid such as The Land That Time Forgot/The People That Time Forgot or exploring the dinosaur island from King Kong. As far as I know this game was never ported to other systems outside of the arcade. I think there was some kind of digital download version for the PSP but that’s really no different from just running the game on an arcade emulator. There was in fact a sequel created in 2000 by the title Prehistoric Isle 2 but in my opinion the game is horrible. The premise is okay and involves you flying either a Soviet Hind or American Apache helicopter against invading dinosaurs and rescuing civilians but the game turned out bland and lacking any charm the original had. Most of the enemies aren’t even recognizable dinosaurs but just generic monsters, most of the levels are pretty boring. The game is done in a sort of 3d style that has not aged well and that I find generally unpleasant.

Much like in my Ultimate guide to buying, restoring and modding the NES article were going to take a look at The Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Unlike that article though the scope of this one is going to be much smaller. There are a few reasons for this. first is that the cleaning procedures are largely the same as they were with the NES so we need not go over that ground again, just refer to the previous link. Second is the Modifications that can be done to the SNES are slightly more complex then those for the NES. the pins on the chips are much much smaller then the chip pins in the NES thus I prefer to pay a modest fee to have someone more qualified perform these things. In this article we will go over two very simple modifications though those being the tab removal to allow Japanese Super Nintendo games to be played as well as a simple LED light change.


Like the NES I used in a previous article I picked this SNES up at a Goodwill for $14.99. I didn’t find a power adapter with it but it did come with a controller. The condition is typical for a used SNES with some marker marks, some yellowing of the plastic and what appeared to be a few paint drops.


After a go over with the magic erasure.


The small blobs of white paint I gently scratched away with an Xacto knife and as for the top section of the SNES I removed it and thoroughly washed it with soap and water followed by the Retrobright treatment that I went over in my NES article.

If you want to play European games on more accurately any games from PAL territories (Europe, Australia, New Zealand and others) your going to need to do a few modifications I’m not going to go over here but a very simple modification does allow the playing of Japanese Super Nintendo or Super Famicom games. Since both the USA and Japan use the same NTSC video standard the lockout in place to prevent you from playing JP territory games is a simple physical lockout in the form of a few tabs in the cartridge slot.

snesg4Here we have the four tabs that will need to be removed.


Simple cutters and pliers that can be found at any hardware store, Walmart or dads garage are all that’s needed. Just cut away and twist off the sections of the SNES that have the tabs. I recommend doing this with the top part removed.


Very simple. With these tabs removed you should have no issues playing any Japanese games you wish.

Next we need to do the LED change. The red LED looks fine but I prefer blue, unfortunately I did not have any blue LED’s on me so I’ve used a green one here. The SNES does not use standard screws like the NES so your going to need a 4.55mm gambit screwdriver for this. I got mine cheap off eBay. There are six screws you will need to remove from the bottom of the console.


Here’s what your going to initially see. The white power strip connecting the PCB on the controller and the motherboard should easily disconnect with a few gentle tugs. You should now be able to remove the PCB with the LED light on it but if you want to take a look at the motherboard and perhaps clean it of dust or dead (hopefully dead) bugs the eject assembly should also easily come out. The metal RF shield will need to be unscrewed and removed. It used regular Phillips head screws. You will also need to unscrew the power switch on the left.


Here’s the PCB that as the LED as well as controller ports attached. your going to need to remove the green PCB board from the controller ports so first thing you want to do is desolder all 14 of the controller solder points. Once that is done you can squeeze the plastic tabs and it should easily come apart into two parts.

I recommend one of these for this job.



Its a solder remover and it works great for unobstructed pins. While squeezing the bulb you just place the tip on the pins and it melts the solder on it. Then let go of the bulb and it sucks the melted solder away.



At this point take notice of the LED and how it is oriented. Desolder the two points on the rear of the PCB and remove the old LED and replace it with any LED of 5mm and 3.7 volt .


Here’s my green LED after being soldered onto the board. Now simply solder the PCB back to the controller ports. make sure you reattach the power strip correctly between the ports section with your LED and the SNES motherboard and power it up. Make sure to reconnect and test to see if the new LED comes on as well as if your controllers are working before completely reassembling. Sometimes if your not getting the LED to come on or the controller is unresponsive you may need to resolder and make sure you have a good connections on the solder points and that the solder is not touching adjacent points.

These simple mods should cost you nearly nothing and take an hour at most to preform. Again if you want to play some great games from PAL territories that never made it to the US I would recommend paying an experienced modder but if you have a pile of SNES systems around or feel your good with a soldering iron there are plenty of great guides available via a Google search with further advanced modding instructions. Enjoy.


Yhea, I did forget to clean that eject button…….

If you would like to read about what I think is the best revision of the SNES console continue reading here.

I’ve never been a huge fan of emulation, or using another system (most commonly a PC) to emulate or “think” its something else such as a SNES or Genesis or even a different type of PC. I know it has its uses but I’ve always found the real hardware to run smoother with less issues. a lot of games use certain nuances or quirks in its native system that are either very hard or sometimes virtually impossible to emulate, games sometimes run at incorrect speeds, sounds wrong or even looks wrong and that’s not taking into account the pure feel of playing on actual hardware. To be honest though physical media tends to wear out and die. This is where flash carts and copiers come in. Basically a flash cart or copier takes a ROM or the data that is on your SNES or NES cart and by some means, either a flash storage device or a floppy makes it playable on actual hardware. a ROM is the actual game you play, the chips it is written on inside a cartridge or on a CD/DVD is the physical means we use to store and access that game data. At times flash carts have created some controversy over copyright and piracy issues and it would be naive to say that this does not happen but there is also a HUGE amount of legitimate use that can be had from these devices. being able to access your entire legitimately owned games via a single cart and a PC without having to get out and cause wear and tear on your originals is a huge advantage let alone not having to store every game you own within hands reach. another great advantage is the ability to play games that were never officially translated and released to the USA. Several individuals and groups over the years have created excellent English fan translated ROMS of games that never got to be released stateside and if you import the actual game a flash cart lets you play those unseen classics on actual hardware in English. I should also take the time to point out that even these flash cart/copier devices are not perfect. some games use special chips built into the actual game carts that are not physically present in the flash carts or encoded in the ROM data. An example of this would be the famous Super FX chip in some SNES games that allowed polygons and 3D on the SNES. The NES is also infamous for its use of a variety of special chips inside carts and “mappers”.


Above is a Chinese manufactured Game Doctor 7, a rather well known SNES copier from the early 90’s. this was my first experience with a copier which I had purchased around 2005 and i hated it. What you did was find your particular game ROM on the internet and then copy that ROM to a 1.44MB floppy disk. Usually the game was far larger than 1.44MB in size and required several floppies. The interface was a little awkward but manageable. From what I’ve gathered these devices were very popular but I just felt it was way to cumbersome and archaic not to mention it looked kinda unflattering humping my SNES all day. I should add the unit also took up a wall socket with a big AC adaptor box and I never did figure out how to save a games save file to disk, only the built in RAM which ment if I ever lost power to the system or accidentally unplugged it my save was gone.


I knew there had to be a better method out there. From a little research I had found an answer, the flash cart. How the flash cart differs from the earlier copiers is it does away with the hardware and unreliable floppies and using flash storage like the type found in your flash drive condenses the process down to a flashable cartridge (requiring no external power, simply insert in your system) and a small interface device and software program for your PC. Another bonus was that these devices were relatively cheap and were created for many old school systems such as the Genesis, SNES, TG-16, Master System and so on. there were still some problems though. I once read as a comment on a forum I can not recall that the people who make flash devices love antiquated hardware and would “make us use 5 1/4 floppies if they could”. Amusing but not to far from the truth, the earlier flash carts were still somewhat archaic and require some rather unintuitive methods. A non computer savoy individual may indeed end up having a hard time setting up these early flash carts. Also they tend to only be able to hold 1-4 games in memory at a time with only 1 able to use the save function. A reliable webpage based in Hong Kong that still sells these devices is Tototek. I’ve bough several affordable flash devices off them over the years and I can personally vouch for their reliable products and good customer service.

First off make sure you have a running PC that has one of these

A parallel Printer port. I don’t think they are standard anymore but PC’s were still commonly sporting them in the mid 2000’s so put that old Pentium 4 or AMD 3500+ to use. Also be SURE to go into the computers BIOS and set the printer port to EPP mode or it won’t work. You can usually access the BIOS on startup before Windows or whatever your running boots, press the del key or F8 key after powering on. Also I’m fairly sure the cable used must be bi-directional else the cable won’t transfer the information correctly.

So, you have your flash cart itself (I put mine inside an old extra cart of Super Mario World) and your small green board you connect to the PC. the board connects via a USB cable (for power) and a parallel printer cable. your also going to need a program such as Super Flasher that can be downloaded free from the above Tototek website, keep in mind the flashing software is different for different flash carts. The Genesis flash cart uses different software also available from the site.

It’s all rather self explanatory at this point. Insert the cart to the board, turn on the board via the power switch and use the software to load your ROM file. The Tototek carts are nice because you don’t have to do any goofy things with your game saves. it saves in game via a battery on the flash cart but keep in mind you can only save with one game at a time if you load multiple games onto the cart. Wait a few minutes for your game to load to the cart, pop it in your SNES (or whatever system you have a flash cart for) and

look at you, your playing an English translated Japan only strategy RPG on your actual SNES, yay!


As convenient as these style flash devices are over the older copiers technology moves on and flash carts of the present (2012) have evolved beyond the need for either clunky interfaces or limited space. enter the modern flash cart.

This is a modern example of a flash cart. This specific one is for the NES system but they are also made for a variety of cart based systems. This cart as well as its SNES version can be purchased here at Retrozone. The modern flash cart consists of the cart itself and usually either a Compact Flash card or in some devices an SD flash card. Everything you need is in 2 devices. For the NES you just buy a compact flash card, mine is 512MB in size. Insert it into the CF slot on your PC which most have them now and if not you can get USB adaptors for only a few dollars on eBay. drag and drop your ROM files into the folders you easily set up on the flash card and that’s it.Insert the card with your ROMS into the cart, insert cart into system and there you go, access to hundreds of games if you so choose. I need to point out again though that not all games work as I stated earlier many games on the NES use special hardware in the form of chips on the games. Good news is updates are always being worked on and as time passes more games are becoming playable via software updates to the carts available freely via the website. The one real downside I find, at least with the Retrozone version, is that the method of saving in game is somewhat clunky. You create a separate .sav file for whatever particular game you wish to save in. In order to save in game you have to get up and hold the RESET button down 5 seconds and let go and hopefully you get a little screen asking if you would like to save. its awkward but manageable. Another drawback is price, these style carts tend to go for well over $100 where the older Tototek style carts can be had for under $80. And that’s it for flash carts. A very useful way to have all your collection on hand and still use the acual hardware.


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