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EJ Corporation
EJ Corporation logo.jpg
Logo from 2000-2003.
Origin Shibuya Prefecture, Tokyo, Japan, Hyakuninchou 2-18-15-406
Years Unlicensed: 1994-1995
Unlicensed (as Jap!): 1995-1997
Licensed: 1997-2003 (?)
Consoles MSX, Super Famicom, Windows
Engines used ADVP
Aliases Jap!
Related companies Seibu Kikaku (publisher)
Medic (publisher)

EJ Corporation (有限会社イージェー) was a Japanese company that developed seven unlicensed pornographic games for the Super Famicom between 1994 and 1997.

History

MSX Hardware

Advertisement by EJ Corporation for MSX peripherals in MSX-FAN magazine.[1]

EJ Corporation had its beginnings in the MSX hardware business. It was apparently founded sometime in the early 90's by a man named Kazuaki Hashimoto (橋本和明) with some of his friends that he knew from MSX-related doujin circles. The division of EJ Corporation responsible for MSX-related hardware was called "MFP", standing for "MSX Fukkatsu Project" (MSX復活プロジェクト), or "MSX Revival Project".[1][2] In 1995, they printed an advertisement in MSX-FAN magazine's final edition for an "MSX-IDE-Interface" that would have made it possible to use the MSX with an IDE hard drive, along with RAM expansion cartridge and a module for adding more hardware expansion slots to an MSX. However, according to an account on 2ch, after taking pre-orders for the MSX-related hardware, production difficulties prevented all of the units from being delivered to the customers who had sent in orders. This caused a wave of negative criticism in online MSX bulletin boards regarding EJ Corporation.[1][3]

Super Famicom Development

In 1994, EJ Corporation began to release unlicensed Super Famicom titles, published by an entity named Seibu Kikaku (西武企画).

At the time, it was typical for adult games in Japan to be released exclusively for the PC market. However, owing to the high cost of purchasing a computer system like the PC-98, it was difficult for some people who wanted to play adult games to own a complete PC system. The decision to release adult games for the Super Famicom was owing to its popularity and relative ease of use, as well as the potential to have the games advertised in magazines related to home console systems.[4] In a 1998 interview, a 22-year-old Kazuaki (using the pseudonym "Iino" (飯野), perhaps in reference to game designer Kenji Eno) explains how he came up with the idea: "With the average eroge, putting in all the effort to get to the important ecchi scenes was a slog. What I wanted was something more practical, with a minimal amount of tedium - basically, a game where you could just switch on the power and get off right away. Since there was no such game, I started to work out a plan to make it myself. But the more I thought about it, I realized that the only system that I could realize the concept of this game with was the Super Famicom." [5]

With his experience as a programmer, having previously released his own games at Comiket, Kazuaki was in the middle of contacting a variety of game companies for assistance in developing the title when he came across a Game Doctor, a Hong Kong-manufactured device for copying the contents of a Super Famicom cartridge to a floppy disk. Kazuaki realized he could also use the device for running his own code on the Super Famicom after it was copied to a floppy disk, then making the needed changes on a computer and repeating the process. If the program worked, he could burn it to a ROM for distribution. This was crucial, as the Game Doctor, retailing at around 20,000 yen, was significantly cheaper than the official Super Famicom development kits, which had an asking price of hundreds of thousands of yen for a complete set, as provided by the game companies.[5]

Development of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi

Though he now had a rudimentary development environment, Kazuaki was still missing the necessary knowledge of the Super Famicom's internals to make games for it. "If you don't have it, all you have to do is steal it," he explained. "By coincidence, one of the members of our staff happened to be an employee at a certain game company, so with a little bribing I enticed him to give up a full set of development materials. Using those, I created pretty much a full set of development tools... But in that set of materials, the documentation for the sound system was the one thing that was missing. That's why only the first version [of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi] had a pitiful lack of sound." This would explain why SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 1 was released without any sound or music.[5]

Kazuaki hired another programmer whom he was acquaintances with, since he was busy trying to raise funds for development, but the person he hired wasn't reliable and eventually stopped showing up after being confronted, so Kazuaki resorted to doing all the programming himself. He was also behind on paying his living expenses, at one point completely running out of money to buy food, and he ended up having to sustain himself on "flour mixed with water and some salt" in order to finish Vol. 2.[5]

Kazuaki had previously invited Geromi Eroba (えろばげろみ) to join EJ Corporation, who would produce CG and music for many of their titles, after knowing him from the MSX doujin software scene. Though Geromi promised Kazuaki he would help eventually, a few years passed and he found himself traditionally employed, which he remarked would make the added work at EJ Corporation difficult to manage, so he declined. Regardless, since he felt the need to follow through on his promise, he "forced himself to scribble up" about 70 pieces of CG for many of EJ Corporation's titles, starting with SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2.[6][7] In the 1998 interview, it is suggested that Geromi was the only person Kazuaki could afford to hire for the game's graphics.[5]

Photo of Kyouin Takafuji from an interview in Game Urara Vol. 1.[8]

To help fund the production of EJ Corporation's games, Kazuaki came across Kyouin Takafuji (高藤恭胤, referred to as oyaji in the interview), who was the head of the publishing entity Seibu Kikaku. Production of Vol. 2 lasted about half a year. Although Kazuaki believed that Vol. 2 still wasn't polished enough after that period of time, he alleges that Kyouin forced him to release the game anyway, as soon as possible.[5] However, with only a ROM and no physical cartridges to sell, he still hadn't figured out how the game would be distributed.

Distribution of Hitomi

Because Nintendo held the exclusive industrial design rights to manufacture Super Famicom cartridges, it was not possible for EJ Corporation to manufacture their own, and Nintendo would ostensibly not approve of releasing pornographic games on their systems. Kazuaki worked around this by purchasing a large quantity of unsold Super Famicom cartridges of Zico Soccer and other unpopular games from a wholesaler at 300 yen per cartridge.[9] This would amount to about 3-5 thousand cartridges purchased per month.[8] The original circuit boards of each cartridge were removed, desoldered, and resoldered with a custom ROM produced by a ROM copier, a new label was pasted over the original cartridge's, and the finished product was repackaged and sold. In a 1995 interview, Kyouin argued that the scheme was "[...] no different than changing the tires and paint job of a car and selling it to a used car dealer. None of our customers have complained, and from the store's point of view, Nintendo has no grounds to punish them just because they put [Hitomi] up for sale."[8] Almost all of the purchased cartridge stock was brand-new.[8][9] Only a small amount of used cartridges was repurposed for the production of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 1, because cleaning the used cartridges was too much work.[9] According to Kazuaki, perhaps half of the entire unsold stock of Zico Soccer in Japan would be repurposed by EJ Corporation to hold their pornographic games.[10] Later on, during the production of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 3, unsold copies of Super Metroid became commonly used as donor carts, because those cartridges had a battery backup feature on-board (the previous entries in the SM Choukyoushi Hitomi series used passwords exclusively).[11]

Full-page ad for SM Choukyoushi Hitomi titles in Game Urara Vol. 3.[12]

Because such unlicensed games couldn't be distributed in the same way that officially licensed Super Famicom titles could, the games were marketed as high-priced collector's items targeted at enthusiasts that were to be sold in specialty shops in Akihabara, or by mail-in order through advertisements in game magazines.[4][13] According to Kazuaki, many of the shops he approached to distribute Hitomi refused out of fear of retaliation by Nintendo or would only agree to sell the game via a third party, although others were happy to purchase large quantities of the game to sell directly. However, after several articles about Hitomi started to appear in gaming magazines such as Famicom Tsūshin, a flood of orders came in from many of the shops that had previously hesitated to sell the games, as well as from outlets like pachinko parlors and street vendors in Ikebukuro. "The response was overwhelming," he explained. "And I must have gotten thousands of letters in the mail."[5]

To avoid complaints about the illegal usage of trademarks, the title of the compatible game system on the box reads "SUPER FAMICO" instead of "SUPER FAMICOM," and the manufacturer's labels on the front and back of the cartridge were replaced by Seibu Kikaku's own.

The graphic and depraved depictions of sexual and violent acts that exceeded even the boundaries of BDSM referenced in the series' namesake (which itself was rarely depicted in Japanese adult media at the time), as well as a proper game balance and high degree of polish, were intended to be the selling points of the SM Choukyoushi Hitomi series.[4]

Arrest of Kazuaki

Advertisement for the Hitomi series above an advertisement by "SFC Research Society", a seller of illegally copied games, which was operated by the same staff as EJ Corporation's publisher, Seibu Kikaku.[12]

Around the latter half of 1995, Kazuaki was arrested on charges of illegal distribution of games. This came as a result of Kyouin also being arrested on similar charges at the same time. It turned out that Seibu Kikaku ran a separate business under the name "Super Famicom Research Society" (SFC研究会), which sold illegally copied games burned on CDs out of the very same office. "He even put out advertisements in the magazines, right in the open," Kazuaki recalled. "I knew it would only have been a matter of time before they caught him, but I didn't think they would go as far as arresting me, since I had nothing to do with it. I still believe the reason for that was due to pressure from Nintendo."[5]

According to Kazuaki, because their intention was to release their own games using Nintendo's PCBs, instead of copying the content of existing commercially released Super Famicom titles, he believed EJ Corporation could argue that continuing to sell their games was acceptable in the eyes of the law. However, the charges eventually morphed into "illegal copying of game cartridges," owing to the use of ROM copiers in manufacturing EJ Corporation's titles. Despite Kazuaki's arguments that EJ Corporation did not copy games, the courts viewed the burning of original ROMs and the copying of ROMs from existing games to ultimately stem from the same offense. Kazuaki also admits that some of the staff borrowed the same ROM copiers for duplicating officially licensed titles for personal use, and was told by police that, since he was the head of the company, accepting his arrest would mean sparing the arrests of the rest of the staff.[10][14] Kazuaki was released without prosecution near the end of 1995, on the condition that he would cease distribution of the Hitomi games, and Kyouin was eventually released after paying a fine.[5][10][14]

Kazuaki stated that the ordeal led to great animosity between him and Kyouin, on top of his previous allegations that Kyouin falsified the number of games that were sold and withheld a large portion of the profits. Following his release, he would cut ties with Seibu Kikaku. "I didn't end up making that much money, and I never want to remember that old man's face again, but I have absolutely no regrets about developing the games themselves. I wasn't causing any trouble to begin with, and Nintendo didn't suffer any damages. In fact, I played a not-insignificant part in promoting the Super Famicom itself, so I feel that I deserve a thank-you letter."[5]

Following Kazuaki's release, he developed the "Software Editing Machine" (SEM), which was a hardware mechanism to bypass the Super Famicom's CIC lockout chip by daisy-chaining a legitimate Super Famicom cartridge to the host cartridge (the same technique used by Super 3D Noah's Ark).[10][14][15] In contrast to the donor cart system, this was an entirely new cartridge type that was intended to work around Nintendo's exclusive design rights for Super Famicom cartridges. This system was used for the next two games developed by EJ Corporation (under the name Jap!) in 1996 and 1997, Riverse Kids and SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Bangai Hen 2: Maki no Love Love Panic. According to Kazuaki, they didn't sell particularly well.[10][14]

Later Developments

In 1998, EJ Corporation developed an eroge for Windows titled Natsuiro Destiny, published by Milky Farm (ミルキーファーム). Its production was heavily rushed, with development starting at the beginning of June 1998 and a release date of July 25, 1998, hardly two months later. In a text file included on the installation CD, the entire production staff (including Kazuaki) laments the terrible quality of the game and its botched development, with its own game designer going as far as calling it "the greatest kusoge of the century."[16]

On April 4, 2000, EJ Corporation released a freeware media player for Windows called "TinyPlay".[17][18]

On August 31, 2001, EJ Corporation announced they had joined the eroge brand SOUP as one of its three development companies, assisting in the production of several titles under that brand.[17][19]

On the company's official website, there is a list of numerous other software titles they've assisted with developing from 1999 to 2003. As there is no mention of their previous Super Famicom titles, this suggests that the company rebranded itself as a legitimate Windows and console development studio sometime after 1995.[20]

Staff

Seibu Kikaku/Medic

  • Kyouin Takafuji (高藤恭胤) - Publishing, Scenario[23]

Games Developed

Super Famicom

Name Name (Japanese) Console Released Description
SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 1 SM調教師 瞳 VOL.1 SFC 1994/09/26
SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2 SM調教師 瞳 VOL.2 SFC 1994
SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2 REMIX SM調教師 瞳 VOL.2 Remix SFC 1995
SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Bangai Hen SM調教師 瞳 番外編 SFC 1995
SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 3 SM調教師 瞳 VOL.3 SFC September 1995[12]
Riverse Kids りばーす☆きっず SFC December 1996[15] As Jap!, published by Atmark.
SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Bangai Hen 2: Maki no Love Love Panic SM調教師 瞳 番外編2 まきのラブラブパニック SFC 1997 As Jap!, published by Atmark.

Unreleased Games

These two games were advertised in the instruction manual of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2 REMIX[6], but were never released. Presumably, their release was cancelled following the arrest of Kazuaki in late 1995.

Name Name (Japanese) Console Release Description
Chou Dennou Jujutsu Yuugi CURSE 超電王呪術遊戯CURSE SFC October 1995
Bishoujo Majaan 美少女麻雀 SFC November 1995 Temporary title.

Post-SFC

Name Name (Japanese) Console Released Description
Natsuiro Destiny 夏色デスティニー Windows 1998/07/28 Published by Milky Farm.[24]
Angel Reason ~Tenshi no Iiwake~ エンジェリーズン ~天使のいいわけ~ Windows 2000/04/21 Co-developed with and published by Spica.[20][25]
Milky Season ミルキィ・シーズン Windows 2002/02/28 Co-developed with and published by KID.[20][26]
Ohenro-san お遍路さん GC 2003/04/24 Co-developed with Pinchange, published by Konami.[20]

Other

Name Name (Japanese) Console Released Description
Chosakuken Furii Bishoujo CG Sozai-shuu Vol. 1 著作権フリー 美少女CG素材集 Vol1 Windows 1998 CD containing a set of royalty-free images. Published by Seibu Kikaku, after cutting ties with EJ Corporation.[27]

Trivia

  • Owing to its origins in the MSX doujin scene, most if not all of the graphics and sound in EJ Corporation's games were authored using the MSX, which has a screen resolution of 256 x 212 pixels at 16 colors. This is evident in places like the title screen of Riverse Kids, which has a black border on the bottom and left sides to cover the rest of the Super Famicom's 256 x 224 resolution.
  • An MSX version of at least one of the titles in the SM Choukyoushi Hitomi series was intended to be released. A true MSX version never existed, since the version of the code on the MSX was only used to check the finished assets. However, a port from the Super Famicom version to the MSX was announced at one point. According to an interview with Geromi Eroba, he created a version for use with Windows from the original assets contained in an MSX-compatible floppy disk.[6]
  • Most of EJ Corporation's games used a game engine developed in-house called "ADVP".[15] It had a custom scripting language for displaying sprites and text, and could be used to compile games for Windows, MSX, PC-98, and the Super Famicom from the same codebase. This system was evidently used for debugging with the host computer, likely an MSX. The set of four ADVP compilers and various other development resources related to EJ Corporation, unreleased MSX versions of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2 and SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Bangai Hen 2: Maki no Love Love Panic, and the complete source code of Riverse Kids were published on a CD-ROM included with the book Underground Games Reader (裏ゲーム読本) in 1998.[28]
  • Many of EJ Corporation's games have several different ROM variants, such as the beta and trial versions of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2.
  • In 1994, an unlicensed Super Famicom title called Super Shobo Shobo CG Collection was released by a group called "teamr!z". It consists of a slideshow of crude, pixellated drawings, which were evidently created by some of the same people who worked on the SM Choukyoushi Hitomi series (the main theme from SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2 plays on an infinite loop inside Super Shobo Shobo CG Collection). As there are some images dated December 23 and 24, 1994 in the collection, this would put the release of the software to be around the date of release of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi Vol. 2.[1] The software was apparently sold as a floppy disk at a doujin event for 100 yen.[28]
  • In 2017, the doujin circle "Sora to Tsuki" published a book at that year's Winter Comiket, The Dawn of SM Choukyoushi Hitomi and Doujin Hardware (アキバと電子工作について語ってみた本「兎の瞳」SM調教師瞳と同人ハードの夜明け), containing an interview with the former head of EJ Corporation (presumably Kazuaki, but referred to as "Staff A" in the text), as well as many people involved with the MSX doujin hardware scene at the time. (Twitter)
  • In June 2020, the magazine Game Labo published an interview with Kazuaki about the SM Choukyoushi Hitomi series.[9]

Gallery

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 https://web.archive.org/web/20210410014347/https://ameblo.jp/akatenjpn/entry-10252767079.html
  2. https://nicotakuya.hatenablog.com/entry/2021/02/02/214204
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20010907190332/http://www.neo-kobe.com/msx/syuppan.html
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 >https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/SM%E8%AA%BF%E6%95%99%E5%B8%AB%E7%9E%B3
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 海賊版ビジネスの世界 (1998), pp. 66-70 (https://archive.org/details/the-world-of-pirate-goods-business/page/67/mode/2up)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 https://web.archive.org/web/20161012070520/http://ch.nicovideo.jp/hirasawa_yui/blomaga/ar1021295
  7. https://web.archive.org/web/20210718204948/http://geromi.web.fc2.com/profile/work.html
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 ゲームウララ Vol. 1 (1995), pp. 60 (https://archive.org/details/gameurara-vol1-1995-600DPI)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 ゲームラボ 2020春夏号 P.50 SM調教師瞳ぶっちゃけインタビュー
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 https://web.archive.org/web/20210713210126/https://ameblo.jp/akatenjpn/entry-12046883242.html
  11. https://maedahiroyuki.com/20180426-sm%E8%AA%BF%E6%95%99%E5%B8%AB%E3%80%8C%E7%9E%B3%E3%80%8D/
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 ゲームウララ Vol. 3 (1995) (https://archive.org/details/gameurara-vol3-1995-600DPI/Game%20Urara%20-%20Vol.%203)
  13. https://web.archive.org/web/20190210011750/https://maedahiroyuki.com/20180426-sm%E8%AA%BF%E6%95%99%E5%B8%AB%E3%80%8C%E7%9E%B3%E3%80%8D/
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 違法コピー職人たち~誰も語れなかったパソコンの黒歴史 (2007)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 https://web.archive.org/web/19980212063033/www.ooedo.or.jp/~ymda/rk/
  16. https://web.archive.org/web/20210713211857/http://hentai7777.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-73.html
  17. 17.0 17.1 https://web.archive.org/web/20040606013123/http://ej.to/
  18. https://web.archive.org/web/20040224232159/http://ej.to/tiny.html
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20011203093001/http://galgame.ac/soup/whats.html
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 https://web.archive.org/web/20050421043853/http://ej.to/corp.html
  21. https://web.archive.org/web/20210716025503/https://mixi.jp/view_bbs.pl?comm_id=95863&id=451109
  22. 海賊版ビジネスの世界 (1998), pp. 251 (https://archive.org/details/the-world-of-pirate-goods-business/page/251/mode/2up)
  23. https://web.archive.org/web/20040209225131/http://www.fides.dti.ne.jp/~spooky/tm/profile/index.html
  24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyKOddW6Mbc
  25. https://vndb.org/v13264
  26. https://vndb.org/v7510
  27. https://web.archive.org/web/20161012070520/http://ch.nicovideo.jp/hirasawa_yui/blomaga/ar1021295
  28. 28.0 28.1 [BOOK][CD-ROM]裏ゲーム読本test[1998] (YouTube)
  29. ゲームウララ Vol. 4 (1995) (https://archive.org/details/gameurara-vol4-1995-600DPI/Game%20Urara%20-%20Vol.%204)
  30. https://web.archive.org/web/20210716035646/https://mixi.jp/view_bbs.pl?comm_id=95863&id=4924430

External Links

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