Beyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_GuyBeyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_Guy

Posted on Aug 1st 2008 at 07:49:35 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, System Overview, Bandai, Playdia

During the early mid 1990s, the video game market exploded due to the new technology available to developers, specifically the jump in processor speed and the release of the CD-ROM format. No longer were game programmers limited by the small canvas standard cartridges provided - the CD-ROM was their dream come true. With this new media format at their disposal, manufacturers began to truly expand the definition of a video game console. Computer hybrids (Commodore 64 GS, FM Towns Marty, Amiga CD32, etc.) and all-inclusive multimedia devices (Philips CD-i, Panasonic 3DO, Pioneer LaserActive, etc.) were designed to target a new, and older, audience. Taking a slightly different approach, popular game developer Bandai decided to enter the foray with their release of the Playdia. Instead of following the current trends, Bandai marketed the Playdia to children and families. Would this Japanese-only release hit the mark? Far from it as you will see.

The Playdia is a rather unsophisticated looking unit. The rectangular chassis is comprised of medium weight plastics, sporting an indigo-blue top section with a leprechaun-green base. The design is simple and to the point. A simple power and reset switch reside on the left top of the console, with a large banana-yellow 'open' button on the right to open the door of top loading CD drive. There is a rectangular recess directly in front of the unit to park the wireless IR controller (the first system ever to have a wireless controller standard). The weight of this unit is a bid odd, with most of the weight residing in the back. A standard composite output and DC 9V power supply jack adorn the rear of the unit. Though simplistic in appearance, I do have to say it does stand out in a collection due to the unique colors utilized in its construction. But that is the only reason it stands out.

With a younger audience in its sights, the library of games for the Playdia is comprised of mostly edutainment titles. All games for this system are interactive FMV movies - there is no real game play with this system with the exception of selecting an action for your character to perform from a lit of presented options. The FMV titles are really not that bad. The anime sequences are presented well with very little frame rate drop off, but this is easy to accomplish since there is no real-time input from the user during these sequences. Surprising around 40 titles were released for this system. But not all of these were for the kids.

The Playdia was not succeeding at all and Bandai began feeling the fiscal repercussions of a failed system. The Sony Playstation entered the market just  months after its debut and sealed this system's fate. Looking to recoup their losses, Bandai released interactive anime adult titles to stem the negative financial losses incurred in the first two years of this console's life. Odd that a system initially tailored to the family would resort to these measures, but it worked. Bandai was able to get out with minimal losses after all was said and done in 1996. Plus, Bandai had significant resources devoted to a bigger project - the Bandai Pippin. But that is for another article.

The Bandai Playdia was a short lived and unsuccessful system. Even with devoting their efforts to a rather untapped market (children / families), the Playdia could not survive the release of the Sony Playstation. This is definitely not a recommended purchase for the gamer - only for a console collector. Though unique, the unit is not that pricey.  $100 USD should net you a CIB system. The Playdia is nice to look at in your collection, not so much when you fire it up and experience it.

The link to the full review of this system (including ratings, pictures and video):

Posted on Jul 12th 2008 at 04:38:33 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Emerson, Arcadia, Bandai, Intellivision

In 1982, Emerson Radio Corporation decided to enter the video game hardware arena with their release of the Arcadia 2001. Better known for their development of affordable electronic products, this move was not entirely a big surprise. Emerson was always looking for market niches to penetrate to utilize their existing electronics manufacturing team. As with their previous releases of low-end, price friendly electrical component ventures, the Arcadia 2001 would eventually suffer the same fate.

The Arcadia 2001 is not necessarily a bad looking machine. The sturdy, brown plastic housing has a nice accent of wood grain trimming (which was very popular at that time). The console sports a very clean user interface, located in the front and center of the unit. Soft, rounded, gold colored buttons provide easy access to the main systems functions (Reset, Select, Option, Start). The square shaped Power button that flanks these buttons to the right does not really quite fit into the scheme - almost as if this was an afterthought of the chassis design team. The two, non-detachable keypads (Intellivision-type clone) rest in cradles to the left and right, though do not truly fit visually into the design of the console (maybe another afterthought). The Arcadia 2001 does sport one of the longest video RF cables I have seen - 12' long. The plug for the 12 Volt external power supply and a channel 3/4 switch adorn the back side of this system. There are two (2) screw 'holes' on the back as well. I have no idea what these are used for.

Underneath the hood, the Arcadia 2001 was powered by Signetics 2650 CPU running at 3.58 MHz which produced games in 8 colors and at a screen resolution of 208 x 108. The best way to describe games for the Arcadia 2001 is to think of an Atari 2600 release and inject it with a heavy does of steroids. The Arcadia 2001 was a more powerful machine that the console it was intended to dethrone, but Emerson lacked a critical component for success in the console wars - third party support.
Cartridges came in two different sizes and are black in color (USA) with well rendered artwork adorning the front of the cart (almost like a mini water color painting) and game instructions on the back. The title is displayed along the 'spine' of the cartridge in easy to read 'rainbow' lettering. The silver colored boxes are similar in size to the Atari 2600, but much more sturdy and are handsomely numbered. Many games come packaged with a controller overlay identical to the same concept used by Intellivision.  A number of popular games were developed for the Arcadia 2001, including Pacman, Galaxian and DefenderAtari successfully sued Emerson, and other companies, claiming they had exclusive rights to these game franchises. These games never saw the light of day and resulted in a waste of a great deal of capital. This left Emerson scrambling for suitor(s) to develop game software. With the Atari 5200 and the Coleco Colecovision about to be released, both being superior systems, development for the Arcadia 2001 was non existent. A total of 35 games (most arcade clones) were released for this system. Surprising, this console was manufactured and released in many different countries outside of the USA. All are basically the same, but differ in one significant way - cartridge size. Games are not necessarily compatible with all systems.

Development for the Arcadia 2001 ceased about one year after it's debut. Unable to compete with technologically superior consoles that were released at virtually the same time (Atari 5200 and Coleco ColecoVision) coupled with the lack of third party software support sealed this system's fate.
Prices seem to fluctuate greatly on this system and appear to be dependant on the respective model. Though this console was a relative failure and a mere blip on the radar, it is not that rare and can be easily obtained.

The link to the full review of this system (including ratings, pictures and video):

Thanks all.

Terry (a.k.a. Marriott_Guy)
The Video Game Console Library

Posted on Apr 26th 2008 at 06:36:22 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, System Overview, Worlds of Wonder, Action Max, Nintendo, Atari, VHS, VCR

The year was 1987 and the video gaming world was ruled by the Nintendo Famicom, followed by a somewhat strong competitor in the Sega Master SystemAtari was still a big player at the time, though their recent releases of their 5200 and 7800 systems could not effectively compete with these newer breeds.  A company called Worlds of Wonder decided to enter into the fray with the release of the Action Max.  Though they had already established considerable ties to the gaming community during the mid 1980s, this system was already dead on arrival when it hit the store shelves.

Worlds of Wonder was founded by a group of former Atari programmers.  Being the original distributor of the Nintendo NES in the United States, they had strong ties to both technological and manufacturing resources.  The actions and reasoning behind the development of the Action Max is unknown.  Coming off the video game crash of 1984, many hardware manufacturers went bankrupt and new developers shied away from this video game console field (NEC being the main exception).  Obviously, this did not deter their efforts in creating a new system built upon possibly the most media formats ever devised – the VHS video cassette tapes. 

It is important to first describe how this system works, rather than to describe its physical and technical features as is the norm.  The Action Max is one of the few video game consoles that are not able to display graphics on its own – a VCR is required for game play (not included).  The system works by attaching directly to a VCR.  The VCR in turn transmits the video signal to your television.  Sound is delivered through the Action Max system itself – there is no option for external output.  The included Light Sensor must be plugged into the console, then 'connected' to the television screen via a suction cup.  As mentioned before, games are VCR tapes.  Pop in the game into your VCR, power up the Action Max and plug in the controller (light gun) and be prepared to fire away.  All games (a total of 5 were released) are the same, whether it is shooting a ghost or a submarine, these are simple point and shoot affairs.  What's worse, there is no change/reaction to anything being displayed to you when you score a 'hit' – a small noise is emitted from the console and the score counter increases.  There is no way to win or lose at these games – just high score bragging rights among your friends (better right them down since the Action Max doesn’t keep track of them at all for you).  Also, remember that this is a dumb VCR tape – replay value is -0-.  The tape itself cannot change, and playing a new game repeats the same positions and appearances of all foes.  Memorize where they will appear, maximize your score.

Now that the basic concept of the working of the Action Max has been described, let’s look at the console itself.  The system itself is rather nondescript.  The dark grey exterior casing is shaped and has the size of an aluminum container used for the family sized portion of a Stouffer’s pre-made meatloaf dinner.  Come to think about it, the weight is about the same as well (about 2 lbs.).  A white elongated "S" shaped plastic wedge breaks up the dull, solid colored top facing.  Residing here is a combination of three toggle switches and two dials that control the difficulty level and the number of players (supported two player mode).  The player's score was displayed here as well in classic, old-school red LED numbering. 

The front of the unit has jacks for a headphone and the controller, along with a toggle switch to mute the volume.  The back of the unit is more of the same – a jack for the power (external, not included but the unit can run off of C batteries), two mini-RCA jacks for the light sensors.  The controller is a more of the same - a simple dark grey light gun that feels rather fragile and does not have any girth to it, though it does fit OK in one’s hand.  'Shooting' the 'gun' emits a rather satisfying mechanical clicking noise – nothing like cap guns of the era, but still, with this console, it is all about the small pleasures.

Worlds of Wonder entered into bankruptcy in 1988, less than a year after the release of the Action Max.  The company is more noted for the development and production of various children’s product, including the Teddy Ruxpin interactive bear.  Many of the associates of Worlds of Wonder went on to join Nintendo in various capacities.

The Action Max was a short-lived system, and rightly so.  Compared to it's contemporaries, the static game play and poorly acted video VCR games did not stand a chance.  Think of the worst Sega CD FMV game released and multiple your disdain for it by 1000% - that would not accurately define an experience with the Action Max, but it would come close. 

This system is only recommended for collectors – there is no value here at all for among gamers of any level.  The unit is light, but the box is HUGE for this system – the packing alone is around 10" in depth.  I am not sure why the packaging was so extensive for this system – perhaps the marketing gurus at Worlds of Wonder thought that 'bigger was better' when seen on a store shelve.  It is certainly not needed for what it was designed to protect.  Though not seen a great deal for sale, these systems are pretty cheap to acquire through eBay.  Expect to pay no more than $50 USD for a complete system.  Games are not too rare either – they will run you around $10 USD a piece. 

The link to the full review of this system (including ratings, pictures and video):

Thanks all.

Terry (a.k.a. Marriott_Guy)
The Video Game Console Library

Posted on Mar 13th 2008 at 08:12:53 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, System Overview, Pioneer, LaserActive, Laserdisc, Sega, NEC

As stated in previous reviews, the drive for many hardware manufacturers was all about producing an all-inclusive multimedia device. In 1993, Pioneer entered the foray with the release of the LaserActive. Competing directly with Panasonic (3DO) and the Philips (CD-i), Pioneer upped the ante in this genre by basing their system on Laserdisc technology (the precursor to the DVD format). At the time, the LaserActive was the closest system to deliver a product that did meet most of the multimedia demands of the consumer - movies, games, karaoke, music, edutainment - all presented in the best audiovideo quality available. The system has another feather in it's cap - it was one of the very few truly multi-platform units released (ala Dina Two-In-One). There were really only three requirements to purchase one of the beauties in 1993 - a forklift, a large amount of disposable income and an IQ under 70. We'll take a look at each of these items in the same order.

Describing the physical characteristics of Pioneer LaserActive can be summed up in one word - a behemoth. This system is definitely one of the largest video game console ever released (second only to the RDI Halcyon). Weighing in at a hefty 25 lbs and measuring 6"¯ H x 17"¯ W x 15"¯ D, this beast truly stands out in any display. A durable hard plastic front casing elegantly displays the various system controls. The chassis itself is made of sturdy steel with multiple air vents to allow plenty of ventilation (definitely required when firing up this system). The somewhat conservative, though modern, facing features large soft-button controls, two (2) media trays (one for Laserdiscs, the other for standard CDs) and a large, cavernous rectangular hole to the bottom left - the modular housing.

The LaserActive could not play games as a stand alone system - it requires expansion modules called PAC units. The following is a list of the modules that were released (US release  Japan release) and their respective description:

Sega PAC (PAC-S10  PAC-S1)
   - Allows play of any Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Mega LDs (specifically
     designed Sega games released on the Laserdisc format) games and
discs. Formally known as the Mega-LD pack.

   - Allows play of and NEC Turbo Duo CD-ROM2Super CDHuCards,
     Mega LD-ROM2 discs (specifically designed NEC games released on the
     Laserdisc format) games, along with supporting CD+G discs.

Karaoke PAC (PAC-K10  PAC-K1)
    - Supports play of Laserkaraoke titles

Computer Interface PAC (PAC-PC1)
    - Allowed remote control of the LaserActive via a PC or Mac computer

Those were the main modules released. A pack for 3D Goggles and an adaptor were also sold for this system, but I do not have these and know very little about them.

The modules slide into the system on the left hand, bottom side of the main LaserActive system. The power must be turned off when switching out expansion PACs. There is a manual eject button that resides on the front of the unit that facilitates this function. Inserting modules into the system is rather delicate - or so it feels. They do snap into place firmly, but the weight alone of the PAC units tends to make one a bit cautious while doing so. The two game PACs came with the appropriate, Pioneer logo-stamped game controller (SegaNEC).

With the respective module (SegaNEC), games were presented identically to their parent system. The specifically designed Laserdisc games for each system were graphically and audibly superior but lack the control delivered on similar games on the original systems. Also, releases on the Laserdisc format (LD-ROMs) are high maintenance. The discs are huge (12"¯ in diameter) and about 7 times as thick as a standard CD - this equates to a higher drop/scratch rate when simply inserting a disc into the system for play. There were around 20 LD-ROM game releases for the Sega PAC module; 9 for the NEC PAC.

Earlier I mentioned that one had to have a great deal of disposable income as a requirement to be able to purchase the LaserActive back in 1993. The going price at the time - $970 USD (roughly $2,000 in today's dollars)! Now, bear with me, this price would only net you a system that could play movies/music - forget about playing games. The Sega or NEC PAC expansion pack will cost another $600 - each! Feel like singing along to your favorite tune and controlling your LaserActive from your PC - tack on another $700 ($350 each). All told, to be able to enjoy your existing Sega and NEC library, along with playing American Idol by yourself and controlling your new purchase via PC (who wants to do this anyway) would have cost you roughly $2,900 in 1993 ($4,500 in today's dollars). If you wanted any of the slick LD-ROM games - you had to fork over another $120 per game! Obviously, this alienated 99% of the buying public. Why buy one of these when you could collectively buy the components you really wanted for a lot less? That question can only be answered by those with the IQ under 70 or had so much throwaway money that it didn't really matter. The Pioneer LaserActive is the second highest priced video game console of all time (once again, right behind the RDI Halcyon).

The Pioneer LaserActive is a cool system to own, but only for the true collector. The console initially failed on a number of levels - pricing, target audience and lack of promotion. Overall shipping prices are high due to the weight and dimensions of this system. The US version is more rare compared to the model released in Japan (both are identical in terms of technology). A CIB unit will cost you around $225 for the Japanese model (plus an additional $160 S/H if coming from Japan), and $300 or so for a US model.

Posted on Mar 6th 2008 at 07:34:49 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Memorex, VIS, Tandy, Microsoft

In the early 1990's, the rage in video game hardware development was all about being an all-in-one device.  The following lists the prominent companies that took a swing at providing the buying public with the 'one' product that would satisfy allmost of their multimedia needs:

o 1991 - Philips CD-i (games/music/edutainment/movies)
o 1991 - Commodore CDTV (games/music/edutainment/movies)
o 1993 - Panasonic 3DO (games/music/edutainment)
o 1993 - Pioneer LaserActive (games/music/edutainment/movies)

As you can see, the above lists some pretty big hitters in the electronics industry.  In 1992, Memorex, owned at the time by Tandy Corporation (owner of RadioShack stores), released yet another 'wonder' machine into the fray with the release of the VIS (Visual Information System).  This obscure system left a very small imprint on the sands of video console history due to a few reasons.

The VIS was essentially a stripped down Windows PC in a VCR style casing.  A 16-bit Intel 80286 processor running at 12.5 MHz powered the system that produced games in 16.7M colors at a resolution of 640 x 480.  A customized version of Windows 3.1 is the backbone of the system and audiovideo performance.  At the time, this was quite antiquated in terms of overall technical horsepower.  The chassis itself does not even merit further dialog, as the picture of this system obviously displays.  Wireless controllers were a nice touch and did differentiate it from its competitors, but the button alignment and offerings mirrors the chassis - nothing to write home about.  The media choice was sound as all VIS titles were released on CD-ROM (Audio CD was also supported).  So what about those titles?

Almost ALL VIS titles can be categorized into the edutainment genre - with about 50% of those targeted directly to children in the age range 8-15.  Compton's Encyclopedia was included with the initial purchase of the VIS, but no true games were.  There were a great deal of rumors out there of PC ports for this system that never went into production (King's Quest V, Space Quest IV, et al).  The only true game that I can attest to being in existence, apart from the educational point-and-click safaris, is a release from Access Software called Links: The Challenge of Golf.  Some of you may remember this popular 386 PC classic (which the Links franchise and company was later bought out by Microsoft).  The graphics for the VIS are slightly less than their 386 counterpart, though navigation is a bit easier.  All told around 70 titles or so were released for this system.

Two versions of the VIS were released.  The Tandy version retailed for $699 and was only sold in RadioShack retail outlets (actually hit store shelves in December 1992).  The Memorex model was released in 1993 as an exclusive catalogue-direct sale from the parent company, but retailed for $399 (no changes at all to the hardware or included software).  The re-branding of the VIS to the more popular Memorex label and lowering the price did nothing to save this console from its demise.  To be honest, this system could have retailed for $39.95 and would still have been a bad value for the consumer - this console is truly that bad.  Tandy's foray into the video game console market was extremely short-lived and ended up being an extremely costly venture for them.  They do not even acknowledge the existence of the VIS in their company's historical timeline.

The Memorex VIS is only recommended for the true console collector - not at all for the gamer of any level.  The system is rather hard to come by.  Approximately 11,000 units were actually sold (total for both models).  Expect to pay about $150 USD for a bare console, $225 USD or so for a CIB unit.  This estimate is entirely dependant upon the source you are buying from.  Since the VIS is sometimes mistaken for being a standard CD player, you might be able to grab it for $20 from someone who doesn't know what they truly have.  If you are a collector - get one from a trusted peer.

Posted on Feb 23rd 2008 at 08:13:05 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, NUON, Toshiba, Samsung, DVD

In late 1994, Richard Miller, the former VP of Technology at Atari from 1989 through 1994, created a company called VM Labs.  Having gained extensive experience in hardware development (his team created the Atari Jaguar), Mr. Miller focused his company's energies on creating a new technology to renovate the passive experience delivered by DVD players and digital satellite receivers.  In 2000 their efforts resulted in the release of the NUON, a powerful 128-bit processor that was to be embedded within these types of digital video products.  This technology produced excellent results in processing complex 3D graphics and digital video that enabled the delivery of interactive content, enhanced DVD playback (smooth scanning and zoom features) and, the point of writing this review, video games. 

NUON technology was released in a handful of DVD players (the first being the Toshiba SD-2300, pictured in this review).  All DVD NUON equipped players resemble their standard counterparts - there is nothing notable to describe with the exception of a small NUON logo displayed on the front of the unit.  The remote was used to drive gameplay, but a few third party controllers were released.  The general purpose was not unlike previous attempts at being an all-in-one multimedia playing machine (Memorex VIS, Philips CD-i, Pioneer LaserActive, et al). VM Labs also followed suit by planning to license the technology to various manufacturers (like the 3DO Company did in 1993).  The reason that NUON technology was only released in select DVD players and not as a stand alone video game console was based on pure statistics.  At the time, only 30% of the general public had embraced video game technology in their homes while the DVD player market was booming and was projected to have 100% penetration within 5-10 years.  This was sound business planning, except for one key fact that they failed to give proper attention to - the release of a video game console that also played DVDs - the Sony Playstation 2.

Enthusiasts within the respective DVD and video game market are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it is safe to say that there are many more video game devotees that also are DVD fans than vice versa (especially in 2000).  The decision to market a DVD player that could play games was incorrect - the DVD aficionado did not necessarily play video games nor cared about them.  Sure, the smooth scrolling zoom and scan features that a NUON DVD player offered were cool, but would the public pay the extra $100 or so for these features?  The answer to this question is rather obvious, but first let's take a look at the NUON in more detail.

The NUON chip (which was previously known as Merlin and then Project X) was truly a powerful piece of hardware at the time.  The technology is based on the Aries 3 chip.  The following is an excellent description of the capabilities and functions:

"The heart of NUON was the Aries 3 chip. The Aries 3 was based on a unique 128-bit, four-way-parallel very long instruction word processor architecture. In addition to the video and audio decoding and trick-play functions, the chip performs all system-management and CPU functions. More specifically, Aries 3 featured MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 program stream and video decode; MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 Layers 1 and 2 audio decode; 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio decode; extended DVD trick modes; 32-voice wave table synthesizer; MP3 decode; an integrated Content Scrambling System descrambling module; video scaling, and 3-D video gaming. A hardware block placed on-chip to assist MPEG video decoding was designed to free up the bulk of the VLIW device's programmable processing power: 3,024 MIPS at peak and 864 MIPS typical."¯ - referenced from the Dark Watcher's site.

This processing power described above produced games graphically equivalent to early Playstation 2 games.  A total of eight games were released for the system, the most notable being Iron Soldier 3 and Tempest 3000 (developed by Jeff Minter, renowned classic home computer and Atari programmer).  Though the developers varied on these releases, the majority waited to see if NUON could grab a significant hold of the DVD player market share prior to investing into this technology.  In the end, it did not and third party support (both from the hardware and software fields) quickly dissipated, adding to one of the final nails in the coffin.

The NUON essential failed due to incorrectly identifying the needs of the ever increasing DVD player buying market.  DVD enthusiasts were just that - not necessarily video game driven buyers.  VLM Labs went bankrupt in 2001 and sold off the NUON technology to Genesis Microchip, which in turn retired further development of the NUON in July, 2002. 

NUON-enabled systems can be acquired easily from eBay and other like sources.  A loose system is cheap - right around $20-$40 or so (USD).  There is not necessarily a highly desirable unit, though the Toshiba SD-2300 and Samsung Extiva N-2000 are the first systems released.  For a hardware CIB unit, expect to pay $75-$100 (USD).  Some of the games for the system are hard to come by and will run you a few bucks - most notably the Next Tetris (only included in the Toshiba system) and Tempest 3000 (the best game).  These will run you around $70 or so - the more common games around $20-$30.  This is a recommended purchase for the hardware collector (video game or DVD), but not necessarily for the general gamer.

Posted on Feb 16th 2008 at 11:44:21 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, XaviX, XaviXPORT, SSD Company Limited, Nintendo, Wii

Prior to releasing their revolutionary controller with the debut of Wii, Nintendo had previously experimented with this in 1995 with the release of Laserbirdie, a golf game simulator for the Super Famicom.  Though Nintendo does own the bragging rights to be the first to actually implement motion-sensing technology into a game, the Wii can not lay the same claim in regards to a console.  That honor belongs to SSD Company Limited with their release in 2004 of the XaviX Interactive System (XaviXPORT).

The XaviXPORT was the first home video game console that fully utilized and required the use of full, wireless motion-sensing controllers.  No games are included with the system - game packs, all sport/fitness related, are sold separately that include the game and a specialized controller shaped like the athletic equipment used in the respective game (i.e. golf club or tennis racquet).  Besides being the first console devoted entirely to this new technology, the XaviXPORT has a number of other unique features - some good, others not so much.

The XaviXPORT makes the Sony Playstation 2 slimline model look like a behemoth.  This system has to be one of the smallest consoles ever made measuring 1.0"¯ H x 7.0"¯ W x 5.5"¯ D and weighs less than 1 pound.  The front of the simple satin-silver casing features two (2) push buttons to the left (power and reset) with the infrared receiver on the right.  A stylish, clean XaviX logo is featured front and center.  The top of the system is more of the same - straight, easy to use features (four (4) up/down buttons flanked by an enlarged Rest and Enter button).  The cool-olive colored game cartridge slot also resides here.  Standard AV connection jacks, power and an AV Out port adorn the back of the system.  This is as simple as it gets.  The XaviXPORT hardware mirrors the simplicity of the main console design.

The XaviXPORT system, contrary to the innovations delivered in their game interface devices, harkened back to a method used in the 1970's of delivering gaming applications and processor in one medium - through the cartridge itself.  I am not sure of the exact specs of the internal components of the XaviXPORT (though I have read is of an 8-bit variety), though it is safe to say that some basic processors are included to process sound and video output along with the software bridge required to communicate with the cartridges.  The premise here, as it was back with Pong-On-A-Chip technology (PC-50x family), was to include the processing power onto the game cartridge to avoid having to keep upgrading the central system every time a leap in technology occurred.  In theory, this is an excellent approach to keeping the games up to date and providing the gamer the best experience.  Now to the important question - what about the games?

Interactive sport and fitness games are the only genre for this system.  A total of eight ( 8 ) applications have been released for the XaviXPORT from golf to baseball to fishing to boxing.  I would have to say the graphics are somewhat similar to the 3DO - obviously not that great considering the year of its release.  The games are fun though - physically demanding you to get off of your couch and participate.  Correct positioning of the system is paramount for the optimal enjoyment because the game peripherals range does not seem to be that great (maybe 15-20 feet or so).  If you are looking for a good workout, you will not be disappointed.

Overall, the XaviXPORT is truly a first among video game consoles.  SSD Company Limited fully embraced wireless, motion-sensing technology and ran with it.  Having to compete in the marketplace with the Sony Playstation 2 and Microsoft Xbox did not help their cause, nor did the lack of their brand name recognition.  I rather view this system like Worlds of Wonder release of the Action Max - intriguing technology at the time, but too much competition to overcome.

The XaviXPORT is still being sold in some select stores (both online and retail).  A brand new system costs $80 USD, with games running approximately $50 USD (some higher).  This is a recommended purchase for the gamer that likes to get a physical workout and fun game experience but is not necessarily addicted to cutting edge technology.  This is also a recommended purchase for the console collector due to the place in history that the XaviXPORT will have and the small library of readily available for purchase games.

Posted on Jan 17th 2008 at 12:05:25 AM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Commodore, Amiga, CD32, CDTV, 64GS

Commodore, the noted home computer manufacturer of the 1980's, had endured failed attempts entering the video game console market with their releases of the Commodore 64 GS and the Commodore Amiga CDTV systems. Their final attempt at capitalizing in the very profitable hardware arena was the Commodore Amiga CD32, debuting in the UK on September 14, 1993. The CD32 was marketing as being the first 32-bit CD-ROM based system (though the FM Towns Marty, released in Japan in 1991 actually owns this true distinction) and enjoyed moderate success in the UK, gaining more than 50% of the CD-ROM game market share in Britain (1993). However, this success was short-lived and did little to save the console, and Commodore, from eventual demise.

As in their previous efforts, Commodore relied on their roots and talents in the home computing market in the development of the CD32. Basically an Amiga 1200 computer wrapped in a dark granite-gray casing, the console is rather nondescript in appearance. A large top-loading 2x CD-ROM drive is featured as the centerpiece of the design, with a rather ordinary white label of "32bit" embossed on it. An enlarged "Reset" button, volume slide switch and headphone jack complete the top of this unit. Strangely, and not convenient at all, the controller ports (2) are located on the left hand side of the unit (along with an auxiliary port for a keyboard). The back of the system features standard AV, S-Video and RF outputs along with the expansion port interface. Surprising, the power switch is also located in the aft section of the CD32. The controllers have to be one of the worst designs I have encountered. Though quite wide, the thin U-shaped controller has four colored coded buttons which are crowded onto the right side of the controller and a simple directional pad flanks the left. Two shoulder trigger buttons complete the controller interface. Overall, the design is rather lackluster and not at all user friendly from any point of view.

Inside the chassis resides a modified 32bit MC 68EC020 processor running at 14.3 MHz that is complimented by 2 MB of RAM and a variety of co-processors - 8374 Alice (memory controller), 4203 Lisa (video control chip), 8364 Paula (sound & I/O), 391563-01 Akiko (I/O controller). This multi-processor system rendered games in 16.7 million colors and up to a resolution of 1280 x 400 (1280 x 512 PAL) and in full stereo (4 channels). The CD-ROM drive supports the Audio CD, Karaoke CD, CD+G and CDTV software formats. With the purchase of an optional FMV cartridge, Video CD, Photo CD and CD-i media could be played. Overall, the internals were quite adequate but the games produced for it leave a great deal to be desired.

Having an extensive Amiga library already at its disposal, the system launched with many ports of existing games. Unfortunately, many third party developers saw this as an opportunity to cash in. Many ports were simply supped up originals with added color depth, CD quality tracks and FMV cut scenes interspersed. Though the number of games released for the CD32 is extensive (150+), there are few notable titles that were released exclusively for this system. Overall game quality is a little better than the SNES and Sega Genesis, but less than that produced by the 3DO. Though this system was the first 32-bit console released outside of Japan, Commodore did not invest heavily in advertising the CD32 outside of the UK. This was partly due to the marketing strategy (or lack there of) in recent years by Commodore as well as a severe cash flow problem within the company. Though highly successful in the home computing market (the C64 is still the best selling home computer of all-time and is pictured below), the failed attempts of their previous console entries (C64 GS, CDTV) and the emergence of affordable PC-based home computers decapitated their liquid assets. The CD32 was released in Canada in limited quantities after it debuted in the UK, but was never sold publicly in the USA. This was due to a limited hardware supply because Commodore was unable to meet their credit obligations with the Philippine government, whose factories were used to manufacture the console. Commodore filed for bankruptcy on April 24, 1994, less than a year after the release of the CD32

The CD32 was not a bad machine, but ended up failing due to poor significant third party software support and a lack of financial viability of Commodore to both fund the manufacturing of the hardware as well as to properly market it outside the UK. The CD32 initially was sold for $399 USD, well below its primary competitor the 3DO ($699). An overall poor design, a dependence upon outdated technology (primarily software) and a lack of any substantial games for this system spelled it's eventual doom. 

A CD32 system is readily available and can be purchased for approximately $80 USD ($50 USD for shipping from Japan or Europe). These systems are primarily unsold units that were seized by the Philippine government from Commodore to try and recoup their debt requirement, or a standard PAL system. Acquiring a CIB North American unit will run you a bit more Ć¢ā‚¬" upwards of $100 USD or so. Not recommended for the average gamer, unless you can score one with packed in games - moderately recommended for the console collector (NA version).

NOTE: Thanks to 98PaceCar (Darren) for my oversight of the FM Towns Marty that was actually the very first true 32-bit system - not the CD32 as was previously listed.  Much appreciated Darren!!

Posted on Dec 19th 2007 at 10:28:54 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Epoch, Cassette Vision, Pong

Epoch, better know for their game software and toy products, was actually very involved with hardware development in Japan dating back to their first console release in June 1981 - the Epoch Cassette Vision.  This very obscure system was actually a hybrid pong/cartridge-based unit - the first of its kind in Japan.  Though financial windfalls were never achieved, the moderate success that the Cassette Vision did enjoy was due to one reason - correct price positioning.

In 1979, Bandai was the first to release the first programmable game cartridge in Japan with their release of the Super Vision 8000.  This new technology (to the Japan market) would cost you $560 USD ($1,300 in 2007 dollars).  Epoch, having been a first hand witness to this console's eventual failure, wisely decided to produce a system at an affordable price point for the general buying public.  The Cassette Vision was released for $235 USD ($275 USD in 2007 dollars), which was much more palatable to the still relatively virgin Japanese gaming market.  The big question - was this a good value?

As stated in my previous overviews, pong based consoles enjoyed a prolonged following in Japan well into the early 1980s while the video game player in the USA had been exposed to the new programmable game cartridge systems much earlier (1976).  Epoch attempted to capitalize in both of these arenas - the Cassette Vision supported both pong and programmable game cartridge technology.  To be able to adequately describe how this was possible requires a little more information on how the pong game industry evolved.

During the mid to late 1970s, technology was evolving at a very fast pace, primarily on the hardware side.  Pong games grew more complex and greater variations were able to be produced.  What had occurred in the past was that a new pong console was developed and then released under a new version/name every time a jump in technology was introduced.  Obviously, this was a costly venture for the various console manufacturers.  At the same time, the size of the new components that were used to drive the machines, and included pong games, decreased. Together, these advances in hardware lead to the development of 'pong on a chip' game cartridges.  Essentially, the manufacture could produce a base pong system with a standard set of hardware installed and a new pong game cartridge would contain not only the game itself but also a processing chip.  This chip was used to in essence 'upgrade' the base system's hardware to enable game play with the new software.  Distributing technology in the form of a game cartridge was much more cost effective, not too mention efficient, for the manufacturer while at the same time saved the consumer plenty as well by not having to upgrade their pong system all the time.  Almost all developers and manufacturers in the mid 1970s and early 1980s migrated to this method of upgrade deployment - not just Epoch

It seems that Epoch decided that this may be the most efficient way to support both pong and programmable game cartridges.  The Cassette Vision was driven by a 4-bit 6502-A processor that produced both game types (pongprogrammable) at a resolution of 256x192 in 16 colors.  This base hardware package was very outdated at the time of release in 1981.  The console does produce sounds through a connected display device (television) rather than internally, but I am not sure of the details of the output.  The end result was that pong games looked great, but the hardware could only produce below average graphics for the programmable game cartridges.

The console itself is rather odd looking, but has a classy feel about it.  The rectangular grey main casing is constructive of heavy plastics and sports a black inverted T faceplate highlighting the various button and toggle switches and controls.  The controllers are built into the console.  Two paddle-type knobs flank the respective top left and right sides of the console which control horizontal and vertical movement.  Lever-1 and Lever-2, toggle-looking controls, are utilized for horizontal movement in some games and are located on the lower right and left.  Four action buttons line the bottom front of the console (labeled PUSH-1 through PUSH-4).  Other basic push-buttons (power, etc.) are featured in the center of the console.  Though this system is not small, measuring in at 13.25" W x 10.50" L 3.25" H (33.66 cm W x 26.67 cm L x 8.26 cm H), it is surprising light (3 lbs / 1.58 kg). 

There were a total of 10 games released for this system, the most notable being Kikori No Yosaku, a game that involved the player to chop down trees.  The other games were Astro Command, Monster Mansion, Grand Champion, Monster Block, Galaxian, Big Sports 12, Elevator Panic, Baseball and Battle Vader.  Most are arcade clones of existing games.  Graphics are very basic and could be compared to the first games offered for the Bally Home Computer Library (blocky and pretty bad to be honest).

The Cassette Vision enjoyed mild success in Japan, enough to have a second version of the system released in 1983 called the Cassette Vision Jr.  This system was technically the same as the original, though much smaller in size and with detachable controllers.  Though not compatible with the first two editions, this line did produce in 1984 a fairly successful system in both Japan and Europe called the Super Cassette Vision.

Purchasing an original Cassette Vision can be a costly proposition - not recommended for the standard gamer.  Since this, as well as the Cassette Vision Jr. were only released in Japan, shipping costs need to be considered.  Expect to pay $275-$350 USD for an original CIB system, plus $65 USD for shipping from Japan to the USA.  The Cassette Vision Jr. is more widely available, but will still cost about $200 and $55 USD shipping.  Games will range between $65 to $100 USD.

Posted on Dec 16th 2007 at 05:45:09 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Q, Nintendo, GameCube, Panasonic, Matsushita

During the development of their GameCube gaming system, Nintendo partnered with Matsushita-owned Panasonic to manufacture the disc drive for their console.  As part of this agreement, a license was issued to Panasonic to be able to utilize the base GameCube software technology for their own system, if they chose to do so.  Needless to say, Panasonic decided to exercise this contract clause and released one of the most visually attractive hardware units of all time - the Panasonic Q.  Debuting just three months after its parent in December, 2001, this system ultimately proved that the old adage "looks aren't everything" was true - especially if not priced correctly. 

Released exclusively in Japan, the Panasonic Q was developed to address the fact that the GameCube's main competitors, the Sony Playstation 2 and shortly after the Microsoft Xbox, supported DVD movie playback out of the box while Nintendo did not incorporate this feature into its machine.  Hoping to capitalize on this supposed oversight, the Panasonic Q was born.  This was Nintendo's second attempt at licensing game hardware technology to a third party manufacturer, the first being the Sharp Twin Famicom.  The initial venture did not prove to be successful for neither Nintendo nor Sharp.  History would once again repeat itself with this new partnership with Matsushita.

As stated earlier, the Panasonic Q is one of the most striking consoles ever released.  Sporting a mirrored front facing with a scratch-protective coating, the overall design is extremely advanced and crisp.  Soft-touch buttons line the respective left and right sides and give quick access to sound, game and other options.  The subtle but tasteful use of the Panasonic label is centered at the top of the main interface, with a smooth front loading DVDGC hybrid player residing just below.  Four controller ports, accented with neon ice-blue lighting around their circumference, are featured across the front of the unit with two standard GameCube memory card slots lying in unison just below.  All button, port labeling and compatibility logos (DVD, CD, DTS, GameCube, and Dolby), are detailed in pure white and are surprising easy to read against the reflective background.  Standard DVD buttons and controls are located on the top of the unit, along with the most stunning feature of the Panasonic Q - the backlit LCD display.  This message center has a futuristic look and provides relevant data (mostly on DVD play).  The 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' sequence that is displayed when powering onoff the system is also a nice touch that further exemplifies the extra care that was put into it's design.

Technically, the gaming hardware in the Panasonic Q is identical to the Nintendo GameCube.  There are literally no variations - please see the overview of the Nintendo GameCube for these details.  That being said, owners of the Panasonic Q will enjoy the following audio enhancements over their GameCube brethren: Dialog Enhancer, Cinema, Surround and Bass Plus.  All of these audio modes modify or boost a respective frequency to produce subtle if not unremarkable effects during game and DVD play.  These options do not have level adjustment or customizable settings that can be modified.  This is unfortunate but really not that important considering that most televisions at the time incorporated these features anyway.

Matsushita's marketing plan was to develop a DVD player with gaming capabilities, rather than just producing a video game console.  The Panasonic Q hit the mark in this area with a DVD player that exceeded the industry standards of the time.  While lacking the bells and whistles of some of the higher-end players available, DVD playback is extremely detailed, displayed in bold and vibrant colors.  The included DVD remote is easy to use (though all text is in Japanese) and contains the basic playback controls.  At the time, the DVD player performance of the Sony Playstation 2 and Microsoft Xbox paled in comparison.  There is another bonus feature in this area - region free game and movie support.  The first model only supported NTSC Region 2 disks and Japanese-released GameCube software.  After a very short period of time, a second model was made available that fully supported NTSC Regions 1 through 6 as well as USA game disks.  Unfortunately, there was no official PAL released unit and VCD playback is also not supported. 

While the advantages of owning the Panasonic Q over the Nintendo GameCube are significant, the decision to purchase one was not an easy task in 2001.  The first release debuted at $439 USD (equivalent to $545 USD in 2007) and the multi-region version could be yours for $499 ($635 USD in 2007).  This price point severely limited the potential buying market, especially since the GameCube and a separate DVD player could be purchased for less. 

With excellent DVD playback, multi-region media support, audio enhancements and its stylish look, the Panasonic Q is a definite upgrade to its Nintendo GameCube parent.  Since the system was released in limited quantities, be prepared to spend a good amount to acquire one.  A CIB (complete in box) unit will cost you around $200 to $300 dependant upon condition.  Compare this to being to get a comparable GameCube system for around $20.  If you are just looking for a video game console, the advantages of the Panasonic Q really can not be justified.  For the collector, this system will definitely stand out on your gaming shelves.

Posted on Nov 30th 2007 at 02:43:05 AM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Apple, Pippin, Bandai, ATMARK, WebTV, Sony Playstation

During the early 1990s, many developers flooded the video game console market with attempts at being home multimedia centers - all-in-one units capable of performing supplementary functions in addition to their primary gaming platform purpose. The consumer was treated, but at most times disappointed, with releases like the Philips CD-i, Memorex VIS, Pioneer LaserActive and the Panasonic 3DO.  In 1995, Apple Computer Inc. joined the foray by finishing the development of a system based on a scaled down version of their System 7 OS. Named the Pippin, Apple followed the 3DO Company's lead by licensing this technology to an outside manufacturer - Bandai. The Bandai Pippin ATMARK was released in Japan in 1995 and was marketed as the first modern hybrid console merging the power of a computer with the ease of a gaming station - as well as integrated network capabilities (hence the connotation in the name). Too bad that by the time of it's release, the technological world had passed them by.

The Bandai Pippin was released to the public in three different models:

  o 1995 - Bandai Pippin ATMARK - Japan (white model)
  o 1995 - Bandai Pippin ATMARK - Japan (black model)
  o 1996 - Bandai Pippin @WORLD - USA release (black model)

Technologically, there are basically no differences between the three systems that I am aware of (I don't have the Japanese Black model version). All come equipped with the same features and user interface (buttons/ports/etc.). Since all three are the same machine, the console(s) will be referred to as the Bandai Pippin in the following paragraphs.

An attractive piece of hardware, the Bandai Pippin weighs in at a hefty 8 lbs and is sturdily built. The user-friendly control panel is featured on the top of this slightly curved console. One keyboard and two ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) controller ports are easily accessible on the front of the system. Being a gaming system that was trying to encompass characteristics of a MAC computer, network connectivity was supported right out of the box with the included 14.4k external modem. Further supporting this all-in-one theme, two serial ports (modem/printer), a PCI compatible expansion slot and a keyboard/writing tablet were standard on all units. The surprising fast 4x CD-ROM drive performed far better than the its competitors (the Sony Playstation, released the same year, only had a 2x Max drive).

The hard plastic chassis encompasses a mini-MAC under its hood. The PowerPC 603 RISC microprocessor ran at 66MHz and was supported by 6 MB of RAM memory (shared between the system and video output) and 128 KB of internal NVRAM. Both 8 bit and 16 bit video is supported and graphics are displayed 16.7M colors. Audio is delivered in full 16-bit stereo (44 kHz sampled output). At the time, the Bandai Pippin was technically a very powerful machine compared to the main competition at the time - 3DO, Philips CD-i and the Sony Playstation. The important question - How was all of this muscle and power put to use in game development? The answer - not very well.

The Bandai Pippin ran games using an abbreviated MAC System 7 OS (operating system), which was actually included on every compatible CD. Small updates to the core system files (stored in the NVRAM) were delivered and included on respective new title releases. Like the Sony Playstation, there is a boot sequence that performs an authentication process to validate CDs. Small, but efficient banana-styled wired game controllers feature an analog D-pad, 4 color-coded action buttons and a centrally located mouse-like roller. The Bandai Pippin combined Japan/USA library consists of approximately 22 titles - mostly games with a sprinkling of edutainment offerings. A couple of forgettable games were packaged with the hardware, along with a web browser application to allow internet website viewing on your television. This was a first for a video game console - WebTV type access and the possibility of online gaming. Having very few titles available at the time of its release coupled with the failed delivery of supporting existing MAC software was just one of many nails in the coffin for this console.

The Bandai Pippin, though technologically superior at the time, failed miserably on many levels. The first error was the positioning of this console within the market - a multimedia, mini-MAC, internet ready, gaming machine. Though the ambitious nature of their goals should be commended, the Apple R&D team on a whole should not. The general population was not yet ready to embrace this type of all-in-one unit. The internet, at that time, was not considered a 'utility' as it is today. As detailed earlier, lack of firstthird party software support and compatibility was also an issue. Then there was the initial price tag - $599 USD (roughly $830 USD in 2007 dollars). This put the Bandai Pippin out of reach of the majority of the buying public. With the price of computers dropping due to rapid advances in technology, this all-in-one unit was quickly an out-dated piece of hardware when it was released. Going against the Sony Playstation (amongst others) did not help either. Only around 5,000 units were sold in the USA, though the system did fare just a bit better in Japan. In fact, more peripheral devices were manufactured (and since sold off for parts) than actual consoles produced.

Overall, the Bandai Pippin was a more powerful and technically capable machine in 1995 compared to the eventual juggernaut Sony Playstation - if it had competed as a pure gaming console. Poor market strategy and positioning, coupled with an attempt to drive an internetcomputer hybrid console to a still technologically adolescent market was the primary downfall. The foundation and inspiration of online gaming and the networkinternet realities we now see from the current generation of consoles (Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii) can be attributed in part to the Bandai Pippin.

This console is recommended for console collectors only. Though produced in limited quantities, the Bandai Pippin is available through auction sites and private sellers. The original Japanese version (white) is not hard to locate but will still cost you about $200 USD CIB (complete in box) plus around $85 USD shipping from Japan. The same rates, surprising, apply for the Japanese Black versions of the ATMARK (some say that these are the unsold units from the USA that have been modified with Japanese labels). The US version, the Bandai @WORLD, will run you quite a few dollars and is the rarest. Expect to spend $300+ USD for a CIB unit, anywhere from $200+ USD for a bare system.

Posted on Nov 14th 2007 at 10:34:52 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Bandai, TV Jack, Super Vision 8000, Mattel, Intellivision

Notable game developer Bandai was very involved in hardware development and manufacturing beginning in 1977 with its popular line of TV-Jack pong based consoles (six total releases within two years). Building on their mild success in this arena, the Bandai Super Vision 8000 debuted in 1979 and was the very first programmable game cartridge system released in Japan. This timeline (1979) and notoriety (initial entry and the developer, Bandai) may be a surprise to some simply due to the fact that Japan has been a leader in video game technology for some time, with big hitters Nintendo and Sega in the fold.

While the video game player in the USA had been exposed to the new programmable game cartridge systems (Fairchild Channel F, Atari VCS, APF MP-1000, Bally Professional Arcade, Odyssey 2) beginning in 1976, pong based consoles enjoyed a prolonged following within the Japanese market. This initially retarded the growth, development and embracement of new technology. The release of the Super Vision 8000 was a small, but significant, step taken by Bandai in changing the atmosphere within the hardware gaming market in Japan.

Constructed of hard, thick plastics, the light grey chassis of the Super Vision 8000 is accented well with classic black molding resulting in a clean, crisp look. Cradles for the two included controllers flank the respective sides. This console will never be mistakenly described as being small. The Super Vision 800 is a healthy sized piece of hardware, relatively rectangular in design with a gradual incline of roughly 15 degrees from the bottom to the top. The seven (7) confirmed games were rendered in 16-bit color across three sound channels, graphically in between the output of the Atari VCS and the Mattel Intellivision. Powered by an 8-bit NEC D780C running at 3.58 MHZ that was complimented by a AY-3-8910 coprocessor, this advanced piece of hardware was quite revolutionary, as well as expensive, at that time in Japan. With an initial offering of around 60,000 yen ($560 USD, $1,300 USD comparable in 1979), the Super Vision 8000 was priced out of the reach of most Japanese gamers.

This console is often mistaken for being a clone of the Mattel Intellivision, primarily due to controller design. However, the exact opposite actually applies. The Super Vision 8000 was released prior to the Intellivision, and the internal hardware specifics are completely different and not compatible at all. The story behind the controller similarity is varied, with half of those with actual knowledge of both systems siding with the thinking that Mattel was the original developer, the other stating it was Bandai. There seems to be more historical data to side with the former in this debate.

Though the hardware technology at the time (1979) in Japan was not as advanced as that in the USA, there is evidence that the Super Vision 8000 was developed independently, and prior to, the Intellivision. Further, there are claims that Bandai was going to sue Mattel for patent right violation(s) when the initial Intellivision was displayed at a gaming demonstration forum. There seems to be some validity to this story since Bandai gained the rights in 1980 to be the sole manufacturer of the Intellivision console in Japan. With the Super Vision 8000 not selling well at the time (due to the high price and a changing Japanese market), Bandai focused their efforts on production of Intellivision units. This eventually lead to the cessation of production and development for of the Super Vision 8000 within one year of its release.

Bandai, though mostly known now as a great game developer, was a big player in the video game hardware industry in Japan and paved the way for juggernauts like Nintendo and Sega. The Super Vision 8000 is an extremely rare system and is considered to be a holy grail amongst console collectors. Games for this system will run you around $80-$100 USD due to their rarity. The system itself was not sold in great quantities. Finding one at all (working or non) is quite a chore. To land yourself a working, CIB unit, expect to lay out $700+, plus S/H. This is definitely a system that should be targeted by only the most serious of console collectors.

Posted on Nov 11th 2007 at 06:13:05 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, 3DO, Panasonic, M2, Goldstar, Sanyo

The 3DO REAL Interactive Multiplayer (3DO) system is one of those consoles that is either loved or hated by those in the gaming community. Released by Panasonic in September of 1993, this new gaming machine was one of the first entries within the 32-bit gaming era. The developer, The 3DO Company, was created by Trip Hawkins, co-founder of Electronic Arts. Their aim was to create the first 32-bit system that truly delivered a 3D gaming experience. On many levels they achieved this objective and were successful in pioneering some technological advances in both hardware and software for the time. 3DO had an eager audience yearning to upgrade their outdated 16-bit systems (notably the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and NEC Turbo Grafx systems).

The 3DO Company did not actually construct any of the 3DO systems, but instead chose to develop the technology and license it to third party manufacturers (Panasonic, Goldstar, Sanyo and AT&T). With very affordable licensing fees and a heavy marketing campaign, the 3DO seemed destined to become the system of choice. Unfortunately, this opportunity was squandered by the steep $699 USD ($1228 USD in todays dollars) offering price which alienated much of the video gaming community. Most game munufacturers expect initial financial losses on console sales with the thought that they will make it up in royalty fees and software sales. Since the manufacturers would never see any of these profits (since The 3DO Company owned these rights, Pansonic, Goldstar and Sanyo had to gain a profit on each system that was sold. Hence the high price point.).

Aesthetically, the 3DO system (any version) is nothing to write home about. Each is rather nondescript and belies the potent technology under its hood. There were five (5) releases of the home system:

  • 1993 Panasonic FZ-1 REAL 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (1st release with a sturdy plastic housing, front loading CD, high price tag
  • 1994 Panasonic FZ-10 REAL 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Redesigned housing with a more reliable top loading system at a lower cost)
  • 1994 Goldstar 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Black/dark grey machine featuring a more reliable front loading CD tray
  • 1994 Goldstar 3DO Alive II (South Korea only. Wikipedia reference. No details available. I dont have this one.)
  • 1994 Sanyo TRY 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan only. Solid system release in Japan that is highly collectable in the US and abroad.)
  • 1994 AT&T 3DO (Never released to the public that can be confirmed. The most visually appealing of the lot, if it had been released.)
The 3DO was powered by a 32-bit 12.5 MHz RISC CPU (ARM60) with a math co-processor and separate video co-processors which rendered games in true 24 bit color and was able to display FMV (Full Motion Video). This hardware was a great leap forward in 1993 and was revolutionary for the time. The 3DO featured an internal drive that was utilized for saving games and caching game data during play. Sound is delivered in crisp 16-bit full stereo and with Dolby Surround Sound technology (one of the first to incorporate this into a console). The interface of the console featured power and CD eject buttons with only one controller port. The controllers, while very comfortable and intuitive, required the 2nd controller to be plugged into the "master" controller to enable two (2) gaming ("daisy-chained"). Obviously, this set up was not a good call by 3DO.

With the exception of the controller configuration, the 3DO hardware technology was all good news. One thing was forgotten in the process (and that we have seen repeated in subsequent "next gen" systems even to today). Game play.

The 3DO library of games is not the worst of all time (that honor belongs to the Philips CD-i in my opinion), but it is not out of the bottom ten. Relying too heavily on the new technology that was afforded them, games for the 3DO often relied upon FMV to attempt to deliver the gaming experience. What was forgotten was the actual game play and development. FMV production was costly at that time and, though impressive in 1993, did not offer much to the gamer other than eye candy. The frame rate of the FMV (and FMV-based games) was a bit choppy at times. That being said, lets proceed to the actual games.

There were a number of great games released for the 3DO. Notable hits include Road Rash (best version on any platform), The Need For Speed, PGA Tour Golf 1996, Madden Football, Out Of This World, the ShockWave series and the highly collectable Luciennes Quest. The 3DO also released the game Night Trap, a FMV game featuring Dana Plato (know from the 1980s hit TV series Different Strokes and subsequent adult movie fame), which was the catalyst in the creation of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) which we now see today. Unfortunately, for every great game that was released there were 9 others than were truly brutal.

Games came originally packaged in long, tall boxes made of sturdy cardboard with a hard, black plastic lining to protect them. Later releases were distributed in cheap cardboard boxes that collapsed easily, or in standard CD style cases. Many collectors hate the long original boxes since they do not stand up well and are difficult to display (due to size and poor construction on many). Personally, I love the old-style boxes. The art work is generally very good and there is just something about them for me (like, but not as great as the Neo Geo carts) that I like. It may be just that they are different from every other game packaging.

Overall, the 3DO was a somewhat innovative console in 1993 but lacked the attention to gaming that caused this systems demise (along with its absurd initial price). The Sony Playstation, released in December of 1994, ultimately put the stake in this systems heart. 3DO attempted to make a comeback in 1997 with its second generation (3DO 2 / Panasonic M2), but that is for another article.

This console is a recommended purchase for any gamer. A working, original FZ-1 model is sought after by many due to its place in gaming history and will run you around $40 USD (CIB $90). The FZ-10 is the most reliable. Expect to pay $30 ($70 CIB). The Goldstar version is a little more rare, with a going rate of around $40 ($90 CIB). The Sanyo TRY is the most expensive. Expect to pay $200 for a CIB system plus $65 shipping if coming from Japan to the US.

Posted on Nov 8th 2007 at 11:44:16 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Nintendo, iQue

One of the lesser known consoles released by Nintendo, the iQue debuted in China on November 17, 2003. The published intention of this system was to allow gamers easy and affordable access to past Nintendo game releases for both the Super Nintendo/Famicom and N64. In reality, the truth behind its incarnation seems to lie somewhere in between their attempt to govern the illegal distribution of game ROMs while profiting from the reissuing of past games. Though plans to release the iQue worldwide were in the works at the time, this console was only sold in China. Targeting the Chinese audience was not done by accident - digital copyright laws differ significantly from those employed in the US.

Strongly resembling a plug-n-play device, the iQue is indeed a stand alone console on all levels. The iQue does not offer anything new to the gaming world technologically. Inside this system resides a R-4300 64Bit CPU that is based on the same chip used in the Nintendo 64. Graphically, games are able to be displayed using 2 million colors at a maximum rate of 100,000 polygons per second. This sturdy, stylistic unit plugs directly into the television AV ports. Though only one controller interface is provided, an expansion pack is offered, sold separately, allowing multiplayer gaming.

Now to the games. There are no new ones. The iQue solely uses ports of existing games from the Super Nintendo/Famicom and N64. Games are played from and stored on 64 MB flash cards that are inserted into the bottom of the unit. The system itself comes with time-limited demos of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, and Star Fox 64. Additional titles are purchased through official iQue distributors (downloaded onto the flash cards). Games are exactly as they were at the time of their original release, though graphics have been updated slightly. Game downloads sold for $5-$10 USD. A nice thing about the system was that the Flash cards are rewritable but retains your download history for purchased games (so you can reinstall them at no charge if you run out of room and need to delete a title). There are 14 known game ports for this system.

Overall, this console is nothing more than a compact, glorified SNES/N64 port machine aimed at thwarting piracy (ROMs) and attempting to cash in as well. These systems are somewhat rare, but not entirely. Do not spend a great deal in investing in these systems. A CIB unit should run you around $100 USD, with about $45 S/H from China. This console should go up in price in time due to its limited release in China. If making the purchase, due so for collection purposes only, not for a new gaming experience.

Posted on Sep 29th 2007 at 08:12:04 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Casio PV1000

Casio of Japan, a successful electronics manufacturer, released their first video game console, the Casio PV-1000 in October of 1983 for 14,8000 yen ($129 USD). Debuting against the likes of the Sega SG-1000 and the Nintendo Famicom, this extremely rare and obscure system rapidly was an afterthought and not to be seen on video game store shelves shortly after its release.

The PV-1000 itself is not unattractive and the housing feels very well constructed utilizing thick, durable plastics. Dark-teal in color and rectangular in shape, the soft, curved molding culminates with the game cartridge tier. The front inputs are simple but elegant - two joystick ports are centered in the front of the unit face. The back features the same no-nonsense approach with the power connection and RF connectors anchoring the far left and right. The power toggle switch is located on the right side and there is a port on the left side of the system that resembles a PC connector of some sort (use unknown to me). Overall, the PV-1000 design is sleek, unobtrusive and modern compared to its counterparts.

Powered by a Z80A micro-processor at 3.5Mhz and 2Kb of RAM, this engine was able to display games at a resolution of 256 x 192 pixels in 8 colors. Games were released on cartridges approximately the size of Nintendo Famicom carts. A total of 15 games were released for this system, mostly ports of earlier Casio releases for MSX compatible computers including Pooyan, Amidar, Tutankhamon and Dig-Dug.  Overall video quality is comparable to the Colecovision. Game control is driven through a solid joystick featuring one (1) fire button at the top of the it along with a 'start', 'select' and a large auxillary button at it's base (packed in with the system). Casio also produced the PV-2000 in December 1983, which was a computer version of the PV-1000.   Both the PV-1000 and PV-2000 joysticks are compatible though the game cartridges are not.

Overall, the Casio PV-1000 was a below average system when it debuted and met its demise quickly. This is an extremely rare item and only recommended for the ultra-serious console collector. This console was released solely in Japan for a short period of time. I do not have a recommendation for price since I have only seen one of these systems once for sale - the one pictured in this review. Be prepared to invest heavily if you do wish to pursue - games are just as scarce and pricey.

This is Marriott_Guy's Blog.
View Profile | RSS
Welcome RFG Friends!!

You have stumbled upon my little piece of the RFG universe where you will find my published articles and various other writings / rantings. Having first hand experience through the evolution of the video gaming field (fancy way of me just telling you that I am old), the topics vary greatly.

Kick back and (hopefully) enjoy!!


Part of my collection.
Blog Navigation
Browse Bloggers | My Blog
Hot Entries
Hot Community Entries
Site content Copyright © unless otherwise noted. Oh, and keep it on channel three.