On December 12, 1984 the Kouryaku company was formed by Rokuro Konishi and Hibiki Okamoto in Kanagawa, Japan. Konishi and Okamoto met as students at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology, where they both studied Computer Science. After graduating, they decided to team up and form a technology company to manufacture arcade games. Within a year, they had brought in Naoki Fujioka as an artist. In 1985 they released their first and only arcade machine, Kyouryuu no Mahou (Magic Dinosaur) which was moderately successful. Shortly after this, the company recieved an infusion of funds when Konishi’s grandfather died and left him with a massive fortune. Seeing the success of Nintendo’s Famicom in Japan, the company decided to work on making their own home video game console.
After 4 years of development, Kouryaku released their console, called Kouryaku KGX-8000 Computer Game System on December 12, 1990. At release the console had three games available, Kyouryuu no Mahou (a port of their earlier arcade title), Baikingu Hiiro, and Hoshi no Tabi Heishi.
The console ended up a complete failure, as Kouryaku made the mistake of not allowing ANY third party development of games for the console. Kouryaku hired programmers and artists to make their games, creating four separate development teams. The teams were called Midori-Kanahebi, Aka-Pawa, Aoi-Saru, and Kiroi-Shima. When Kouryaku went bankrupt in 1995 and the system was officially discontinued, there had been 1,056 games released for the Famicom in Japan, while fewer than 20 games had been released on the KGX-8000.
Kouryaku spent all of their capital without ever turning a profit. After the fall of the company, Konishi, Okamoto and Fujioka were financially destitute and became homeless. Konishi died of a heroin overdose in 1999, Okamoto committed suicide in 2003, while Fujioka died a few years later in 2007 of cirrhosis of the liver.
When it folded, the Kouryaku company’s assets (including source code to the games, patent rights on KGX-8000 hardware, and all intellectual property) were sold for a pittance to the Waru-Jitsugyou Holding Company, a land developer.
In 2021, Minus Dungeon Games, a U.S.-based indie game studio, acquired the Kouryaku assets for an undisclosed sum. Minus Dungeon Games began working to translate to English and release the games from the lost console as the Kouryaku Collection.
It is unknown if any of the original KGX-8000 hardware survived.
GAMES KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN RELEASED FOR THE KOURYAKU KGX-8000 COMPUTER GAME SYSTEM:
Kyouryuu no Mahou (Magic Dinosaur) by Midori-Kanahebi Team, 1990
Released as Rynosaur Land in the Kouryaku Collection
Baikingu Hiiro (Viking Hero) by Aka-Pawa Team, 1990
Released as Helgi: Legend of the Viking in the Kouryaku Collection
Uirusu no Hitobito no Wakusei (Planet of Virus People) by Aoi-Saru Team, 1990
Released as Viroid Planet in the Kouryaku Collection
Tanoshi Paati no Tamejikan (Fun Party Time) by Midori-Kanahebi Team, 1991
The source code of this game was lost, and thus was not a part of the Kouryaku Collection.
Jaakuna Monsuta no Taito (Rise of Evil Monsters) by Kiroi-Shima Team, 1991
Released as Zildynax in the Kouryaku Collection
Ejiputo no Haka (Egyptian Tomb) by Aoi-Saru Team, 1991
Released as Temple of Seth in the Kouryaku Collection
Jigoku no Naka no Sukerutonman (Skeletonman in Hell) by Kiroi-Shima Team, 1992
Released as Skeletonman in Hell in the Kouryaku Collection
Tankyuchu no Neko (Quest of Cat) by Aka-Pawa Team, 1992
Released as Spiffy Cat Adventure in the Kouryaku Collection
Kyeketsu no Ryoshutawa (Vampire Lord Tower) by Aoi-Saru Team, 1992
Released as Castle Nosferatu in the Kouryaku Collection
Tori de Tatakau (Fight on the Street) by Kiroi-Shima Team, 1993
Released as Punk City Brawlers in the Kouryaku Collection
Ronin Densetsu (Ronin Legend) by Midori-Kanahebi Team, 1993
Released as Ronin Legend in the Kouryaku Collection
Doragon no Fantaji Seka (Dragon Fantasy World) by Aka-Powa Team, 1994
Released as Heroes of Dragolac in the Kouryaku Collection
HARDWARE SPECIFICATIONS OF THE KOURYAKU KGX-8000 COMPUTER GAME SYSTEM:
The KGX-8000 had a screen resolution of 320 x 180. It was the first game system to have a 16:9 aspect ratio. Rokuro Konishi was a fan of cinema, and believed that having an aspect ratio like that seen in films would have a more artistic effect. When played on a television in the 1980s, the KGX-8000 displayed black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.
The system had two 55-color palettes, a “bright palette” and a “dark palette.” Each game was limited to only one of the two palettes. The graphics capabilities were more advanced than the Famicom, and closer to what the Super Famicom was able to do. It was capable of parallaxing layers and 360 rotation of sprites and tiles. More specific details about the exact graphical display capabilities and methods of the KGX-8000 are unknown. Kouryaku never released their official hardware specifications, and Minus Dungeon Games has kept much of this information secret for reasons that can only be described as selfish and unethical.
More is known about the KGX-8000 sound chip, as an interview with Hibiki Okamoto was unearthed in an obscure japanese punk rock zine called Hinkon to Museifu (Poverty and Anarchy.) Hibiki Okamoto had been the guitarist for the seminal J-Punk band Fakku Kuso in the late 70s and early 80s. In the interview, Okamoto talks about his time in the band, and how his background in punk rock music influenced his design for the KGX-8000 sound chip.
The sound chip had 4 sound channels for music, and 3 sound channels for sound effects.
The first channel was a drum machine synthesizer. The second, third and fourth channels were all wavetable-synthesized sound channels, capable of producing triangle waves, saw waves, square waves, and custom waveforms. These channels also had some advanced (for the time) digital effects, including reverb, distortion, equalizer, delay, harmony and chorus.
The fifth and sixth channels were used exclusively for sound effects, and used a different wavetable synthesizer circuit on the sound chip than the second, third and fourth channels. The seventh channel was used for low-fidelity sample playback.
Each individual channel was monophonic, but multiple channels were able to play sounds at the same time. Chord effects were possible using the digital harmony effect. Okamoto composed almost all of the music in the games Kouryaku produced. He often used the harmony effect to create “power chord” sounds, influenced by his background in punk rock music.
The Kouryaku game controller had a d-pad, three action buttons, and a start button. Up to three controllers could be attached to the system, but very few games supported multiplayer function aside from the now lost Tanoshi Paati no Tamejikan.
In 1992, Kouryaku began working on a handheld game device, called internally the KGX-MegaPoketto (KGX-MegaPocket.) It was never released due to financial and supply-chain reasons, but several games were developed for it by the Kiroi-Shima and Aoi-Saru development teams.
(This pseudo-history is subject to revision.)