Project E.G.G. (that’s Engrossing Game Gallery, if you were wondering) have been quietly going about their business since 2001 – that business involving providing properly licensed and legitimate digital download service for old Japanese games. Their selection now stands at over 750 titles across about 18 formats, the majority of them being for Japanese computers such as the X68000, PC-88 and PC-98 although they do also have support for the Neo Geo, Super Famicom, PC-Engine and a few other more “normal” formats. You’d imagine such a niche service would have to stick to niche games but relatively big name companies such as Falcom and SNK are on board as well as familiar old favourites like Compile, Micro Cabin and Nippon Telenet.
The service comes with its own launcher that allows you not only to play downloaded games but also to look through scans of the original manuals where available. Certain titles also support EGG Music Direct – a chiptune player included in the launcher with properly tagged tracks that even allows you to select the sort of sound hardware you want to emulate (assuming the game supported multiple types in the first place).
Games can be listed by format, genre, or original publisher with some games offering multiple versions - keen to try out the MSX2 version of Fray or three different ports of Romancia? Not a problem! The only “catch” is that when you buy a game you buy that individual version rather than every possible variant available – so you buy “Romancia for the MSX” (as one example), not “Romancia – which version would you like to play today?”.
Each game is pre-packed with its own emulator so no setting up is required, you don’t even have to worry about hunting through a folder for the correct disc images! Options tend to be sparse and they differ depending on the format you’re emulating but the most important stuff – screen size/control config, etc are always available and easily accessed. Quick save isn’t a universal option but luckily a pause button is.
As well as the extensive digital collection they also occasionally produce limited edition physical sets based on a particular series – past releases include Madou Monogatari, Relics, Dragon Slayer and Valis. These releases often come in premium packaging and include a variety of goodies such as figures, soundtracks and various digital bonuses such as .pdf manuals or illustrations.
So why don’t more people use them? Why aren’t gamers flocking to this foreigner-accepting, Paypal-compatible website? There are two main issues really, the first is that a lot of these games are very text heavy and considering the country of origin this means Japanese text; this naturally makes a lot of the games available almost unplayable if you can’t read the language. The second is a small paywall – the site requires a recurring monthly fee of 525 Yen (£3.43GBP/$5.24USD) to download anything, including free games. Having said that there are over 100 free emulated games and about 20 free Windows 95/98 games available once you’re over this hurdle so it’s more than worth doing. The majority of the free titles are by Compile and Bothtec, and include fantastic older titles like Zanac, Golvellius, Relics and The Scheme. The Windows titles are of at least the same quality and include Compile games like Wander Wonder, Mystic Arts and After Devil Force, although unlike all the emulated games on the site these are offered strictly under a “If you can get it working you can have it” basis. You can cancel your monthly fee at any time - the English FAQ states that you get to keep and play any downloaded/activated games, although I haven’t tested this for myself yet*. Still, with plenty of these games being worth more than 525 Yen on their own I’d argue it’s a risk worth taking!
*Edit: I have now tested this out myself and yes, you *do* keep the ability to play any games you've previously downloaded (free and paid-for) if you cancel your subscription.
For once we have a download store that’s really got something unique to offer – and it doesn’t shut non-Japanese users out either by address, IP or accepted payment methods. You can find their English language introductory page here, the full list of free emulated games here (must be subscribed and logged in to download) and the collection of free Compile Windows games here (same requirements as above).