The True Holy Grails
of Video Game Hardware
Everyone is very familiar with the term Holy Grail - we see it utilized in auctions and being bandied about in user forums like a birdie during a badminton match. At times we may not agree with the assessment as we deem the item 'not worthy' of this high compliment. In all honesty, this is truly a very subjective arena and really comes down to whatever your heart is fixated upon. That being said, this collector posed the very simple question to myself: How does a video game system truly merit the lofty title of being a Holy Grail?
When tackling this question, I conferred with my friend and fellow hardware collector 98PaceCar. We both agreed: it is all about rarity and availability (almost synonymous). That was the easy point of our discussion. We now we had to tackle the lineup of consoles that justify Holy Grail status. Let me tell you, this was no small feat.
When developing our list, we limited ourselves to considering the standard release of a console (no crazy development units, clones, protos or LE/SE editions). Even after this filtering, we still were left with 20 systems that warranted accolades - way too many for one article.
This initial entry of this two part series is entitled The Minors - those systems that just missed out being in the top ten Holy Grails of all time. Let's check out the consoles 11-20 on our list.
20. Nintendo 64DD (Disk Drive)
Though system peripherals were not to be initially included in this countdown, the Nintendo 64DD will be an exception. Released on December 1, 1999 as an add-on for the Nintendo 64, the 64DD was doomed from the start. Technology had passed up the capabilities that it offered (see the PS2 and Xbox) and development for this system ground to a halt. Only nine (9) titles were ever released for this Japanese exclusive. Even the promising RANDnet online gaming service could not save this sinking ship.
19. FM Towns Marty
The Fujitsu Company decided to make an attempt to penetrate the console games market by taking their popular FM TOWNS line of computers and adding in some special components to create a stand alone video game console. The result was the FM Towns Marty, the world's first 32-bit video game console. This is a system that is not hard to find, but the cost to purchase one is steep. Another rare bird is the FM Towns Car Marty - a portable gaming unit that you could plug into the cigarette lighter and enjoy gaming on the road.
18. Sony PSX DESR-5100
The Sony PSX is a high priced multimedia device designed to be the center of your home entertainment experience. The Sony PSX is driven by the "heart and soul" of the Playstation 2 console. This gives the Sony PSX all the features found in the Playstation 2 console (Progressive Scan DVD playback, Music CD playback, Playstation 2 and PlayStation games) combined with full DVR capabilities (and the XMB found in the PS3). The DESR-5100 model was the only edition released in the cool Satin Silver finish (hence this is the desirable model). This Japanese exclusive is not hard to find, but acquiring one is a very pricey proposition.
17. Aiwa Mega-CD
The Aiwa Mega-CD (pictured to the right), was one of these such machines. The system consists of two parts - the top CD player and the bottom docking station that provided the Sega Mega Drive/CD interface/capabilities (except sound). This rare bird was a Japanese exclusive and will lighten your pocketbook quite a bit (if you can find one).
16. Pioneer LaserActive with All PAC Units
Everyone is familiar with the Pioneer LaserActive, but to have one with all of the add-on PAC units is a true feat for any collector. The Sega Pac is rather common, but the NEC unit is the exact opposite. Add to the that the Karaoke and the Computer Interface PACs and you are looking at some serious cash. The rare 3D goggles are another expected expenditure. It was the second most expensive video game console ever released during its day - it retains that expensive distinction to this very day.
15. Gakken Compact Vision
Gakken was a popular manufacturer of arcade and handheld games throughout the 1980s. In 1983, Gakken decided to try their hand at the home console market with the Gakken Compact Vision. This is definitely one strange bird - the controller is built into the system itself and is definitely one of the oddest designs ever created. All games (only 6 were released) are single player affairs. This system never saw the light of day outside of the Japanese market.
14. Nichubitsu My Vision
Another console released only in Japan. Arcade game maker Nichibutsu wanted to take a chance on the console market. In 1983 they released the KH-1000 better known as "My Vision" (manufactured by Kanto Electronics). The My Vision carts were all based on board games. Its biggest focus was on the game Mahjong. The My Vision also provided an external port for Mahjong expansion cartridges. This is another system that never took off and owes its inclusion on this list due to its obscurity.
13. Sharp Famicom Titler AN-510
Having the distinction of being the only Nintendo Famicom system that delivered S-Video output, this console is truly a behemoth. In addition to being a full gaming machine, the Titler incorporating video editing capabilities (subtitles, credits, etc.) complete with a writing pad and styles. You could plug your video camera directly into the back of the system and edit to your heart's content. To this day, I still can not fathom why this was done. It any case, this oddity is definitely a prized possession in any collector's display.
12. Commodore 64GS
In 1990, Commodore set their attentions on the videogame console market. They followed the same concept as other computer companies (Fujitsu with the FM Towns Marty and before that the Amstrad GX400). Their new system was called the Commodore 64GS (GS = Game System) and was released only in Europe. The unit was basically just a repackaged Commodore 64 computer. It did not fair well as all since technology had already passed it by at the time of its release.
11. Tomy Pyuuta Jr.
The Tomy Pyuuta Jr. was the dedicated console release of the Tomy Pyuuta, a hybrid computer released in Japan in 1983. The original Pyuuta had a moderate amount of success, enough so to have models released in Europe (Grandstand Tutor) and in North America (Tomy Tutor). This is another Japanese exclusive and is a tough find due to its limited release as well as its unpopularity. Expect to import this if you are able to find one at all.
What Consoles Do You Think Will Make the Top 10??
Stay tuned for Part II in this series, The Majors!!