I bought a Warzard VHS tape

Surfing through Japanese sales sites, one of the keywords I always search for is ウォーザード – Capcom’s Warzard, known in the United States as Red Earth. Despite my continual musings on social media and my video content on the series, it seems I’ve never actually written about the game for GemuBaka.

Warzard is something that caught my attention through a GamePro magazine preview, and it wouldn’t be until roughly 2010 before I was able to finally come across an arcade cabinet of the game. Thankfully, the game has been available through platforms such as MAME, and Capcom finally gave us an official re-release of the game with Capcom Fighting Collection in 2022.

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I firmly dug into the game starting about five years ago, playing the game’s single-player mode as much as possible and trying to learn the ins and outs of the game. Taking such a liking to the game and its characters, I made an effort to locate goods based on the game whenever I got a chance.

I’ve imported Mami Itou’s “Maleficarum” manga book that features short stories based on Red Earth and Darkstalkers (Udon did publish this in the U.S., and it might be the sole official item in the States that has any extended focus on the series) and the Warzard Capcom Secret File publication. Perhaps the only item left from the game’s original release that I need to pick up is the game’s “All About” strategy guide.

However, over the past six months or so, an item listing jumped out to me. The listing was for a VHS tape, and it was marked with a nice label that merely said “War-Zard – Presented by Capcom.”

Despite my curiosity, I initially scoffed because, it’s 2022, and I’m not certain what I would be able to do with a VHS tape. Fast forward to November and I ended up with a coupon for $15 off an item from the sales site, and the U.S. dollar was strengthening against the Japanese Yen. At the price I was able to secure the tape for, I no longer had an excuse to turn it down.

In about a week the tape showed up at my doorstep, and then I had what I presumed was an official Capcom-distributed VHS tape based on Warzard. Now I had to address the elephant in the room: How was I going to play this tape and see what was included on it?

I actually routinely used a VCR up until almost 2010. With record stores being prevalent in the Toledo area in the 2000s, the stores were a cheap, easy way to come across obscure anime VHS releases (TWO episodes of Ranma 1/2 on one tape!) and WWF pay-per-view events from the 1980s and 1990s.

Unfortunately, during one of my moves, my VHS tapes got damaged by heat while in storage, and I ended up having to dispose of nearly every tape I owned. With no tapes, I no longer saw the need for a VHS player.

While I started a preliminary search for how much a VCR would cost – this was … a little bit more than I expected – I was able to come across a stroke of luck. My parents still happened to have a VCR.

Interesting enough, this isn’t quite a matter of refusing to move on to a new technology. My father was someone who was an early adopter of Laserdisc, and my parents absolutely have a Blu-Ray player. This specific unit in question is a Magnavox VHS HQ (model RZV427MG9), which is a combination VHS/DVD player with functions built in to allow you to burn video from VHS tape to a DVD.

I was able to borrow this unit, but I should have made sure the VHS mechanics still worked. The VCR unit hadn’t been used for a number of years, and when I inserted the Warzard VHS cassette, the unit unceremoniously spit it back out … along with pulling a section of the video tape from the cassette, getting it caught on a spindle inside the unit.

Thankfully, I was able to reach into the unit and free the tape from the spindle despite the narrow space allotted by the cassette slot. Crisis averted.

I took the unit back over to my parents’ house, and my father suggested we clean the heads on the VCR. Because cleaning cassettes aren’t immediately available, this had to be done by disassembling the case and working with the “guts” of the player. The heads of a VCR actively read the tape of a cassette, so this was kind of like cleaning the laser on a disc-based unit.

Having the case removed also allowed us to watch the cassette be inserted into the unit and see how the tape was spindled out of the cassette. We tried with a different tape, and it similarly kicked the cassette out, but it let us see the issue of the machine not lifting the cassette door all the way.

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If you’ve never seen how a VCR actually works, small bars push open the door at the top of the cassette and spindles actually feed the tape out of the cassette and spin them through the VCR heads and then back to the other side of the cassette. It was fascinating to watch, but, more importantly, it let us tackle the issue of the tape not feeding correctly, and we were finally in business to see the contents of the Warzard video.

The tape opens up with the Capcom logo splash and jingle used for the time, and text pops up declaring the CPSIII arcade hardware is getting its first game. Leo’s stage theme kicks in and I am treated to a five-minute video that would appear to be how Capcom of Japan promoted Warzard’s upcoming release. Whether this would be viewed at trade shows or if the tape was sent to publications for coverage – or both – I’m not really certain, but this is definitely a bona fide preview of Warzard.

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In viewing the sales listing for the tape, I made out a part that commented on the sound on the tape, so I was expecting there to be issues with the audio. However, everything came through crisp, and the tape features a bunch of video captures straight from the arcade game.

The video is divided into a few sections, with one showing off a bunch of in-game fighting, another showing each of the game’s characters and displaying their name in English and the final segment essentially playing out the introduction movie that is featured in the attract mode.

The video featured a few flourishes such as zooming in and out for certain characters, and it was awesome to see how the game was promoted back in the 1990s. As someone who very much enjoys finding older video game content to archive, this one gave me goosebumps. I had a VHS tape that featured a game trailer for one of my favorite fighting games.

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It was a little bit of a process, but I was able to back up the video. I have a digital file of the video, which was thankfully possible due to the Magnavox player. Now, the way this player works, it automatically upscales the video image to 1080. This means I don’t yet have a backed-up video of the trailer in its original aspect ratio and resolution, but we’re talking about a VHS tape, so this was the best I could do within two days.

The video notes the game was still in development, but at this stage I am unable to discern anything that might have changed up to its release. The game was likely far into its development at this point and, if anything, it could have been footage from the location test version. The location test version stops the one-player mode before the two boss characters, and these characters aren’t highlighted in this video.

There is no behind the scenes footage, development details, cut content or anything juicy in this video. It’s just five minutes of Capcom showing off the game while a couple of the game’s tracks run in the background. And it’s still awesome to me.

Now, I can’t pinpoint the source of this video. Given technology in the 1990s, it seems the label has been professionally made, even though it is just plain text. If it solely existed to be shoved into a VCR at a trade show, it makes sense Capcom wouldn’t put a ton of effort into making a pretty tape label. That’s the best guess I can make as to why the tape was created, but the big mystery is how the tape was distributed and how it could have eventually made its way to collectors.

At the end of the day, even if this tape turned out to be a duplication recorded from an original tape, I still get to view a full-fledged piece of marketing media from Capcom from the 1990s. This turned out to be a mini adventure, but it’s a path I’m really glad I walked down.

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature, GemuBaka Random

Author:djtatsujin

Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka (http://gemubaka.com). For business only: gemubaka at gmail

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