Many years ago I wrote a walkthrough for Tombs and Treasure on the NES. I'm aware of at least one person who read it, making it one of the most popular things on this site. Tombs and Treasure is a port of Asteka II for the Famicom. For no particular reason I decided to see what was different in these two versions.
I'm not going into text/translation differences. We all know that Japanese does not translate directly to English. I'm not interested in second-guessing localization decisions that were made. More importantly, I have close to zero expertise in the subject.
Yes, I'm also aware that Asteka II on the Famicom is a port of the original PC-8801 version. Maybe I'll compare that version too in the unlikely event I get into PC-8801 emulation.
Let's kick things off with the legal screens:
Obviously the font is different but the amount of information is the real delta. The original game is much simpler - it's a Falcom game that was ported by Tokyo Shoseki. In the US version it looks more like Infocom was behind the project. A naive reading has this being an Infocom game that's loosely based on a Falcom game and programmed by a 3rd party.
Now the intro story:
The placement of the text is different, nothing too major.
The title screens are the same except for the titles themselves:
At this point I was about to abandon this idea for an article. Then I saw the font differences and changed my mind.
I'll concede the US font is nicer looking but its sci-fi aesthetic doesn't fit the game.
The difference is also noticeable in the fight scenes:
The name entry screens are pretty close:
The alignment of the captions is different and the Japanese names are four characters instead of more than that.
Once the game starts there's a big difference:
In the US version the party starts south of the Nunnery. In the Famicom version they start north of the Nunnery. The Famicom version is a little better here because it's easier to enter the Nunnery from the north. The entrance to the Nunnery is along the southeast wall but if you approach from the southwest corner you hit a wall and need to backtrack. Here's why I think they made this change though... in the US version it looks like you are leaving a building vs being dropped directly into the forest. Also you now start one space away from the Nunnery instead of two. Except because of the janky collision you're probably navigating around three or four screens to get to the entrance.
Let's stick with janky collision for a minute... While working on this I had two instances of FCEUX running with the same controller connected to both. Most of the time the games synced-up perfectly. OK, once you get past the initial starting locations I mean. When you exit a pyramid the sprites in both versions start in the same place. At that point you can walk around and everything stays synchronized. At least until you hit certain walls in one version. Sometimes the party will just get stuck against a wall. This seems to happen more often in the US release but that could be a coincidence. The only safe way to keep both games synced was to stay in open spaces.
Once you can get passwords there is another difference:
In the Famicom version, the option to "confirm" a password is selected by default. In the US version, the option to exit the password screen is selected by default. Even though it looks odd to have the second option selected first it is an improvement because you never want the misfortune of visiting the "confirm" screen. Try it out once if you enjoy suffering.
So now that I've complained about two things in this game let me reassure everyone I am still a fan of it. I enjoyed the setting and general premise. I found the puzzles to be challenging but not obtuse like a Sierra game. I could definitely go for a few more games in this style.
Once you wash the Sun Necklace you can see what time of day it is. It seems like the timing is different between these two versions.
To test this out I waited separately in both versions until the Sun Necklace turned black (night). Then I kept hitting wait to see if the clocks ever got out of sync. After ~2 full day cycles the clocks fell out of sync. It's possible I'm doing something wrong of course, I did not inspect the memory to see what value was being incremented. Clearly I could do that since I've written multiple ROM and save state hacking programs. As much as I enjoy Tombs and Treasure, I'm not interested in reverse engineering it.
The endings both finish with the English message "SEE YOU AGAIN IN ANOTHER GAME...". Ys fans will of course note that "See you again" is the title of the ending music in the first game (released a few months after the original Asteka II). After a little while the Famicom version then shows another message:
That's too short to be a password. I put it through a translator and got "it's warm and rare" which I assume is a bad translation. Maybe there was a contest in Japan back in the day like we had with Treasure Master in the US? Maybe it's the developer's steak preference? Whatever.
Last up is the debug menu. In the Famicom version the game crashes when you rollover the scene counter while in the US it works but produces nightmares.
Alright, so this was kind of fun to look at. Maybe I'll try it for another game one day, probably not but who knows.