RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

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 Jan 4th 2008 at 10:20:27 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under The RFG Pulse, RCA, Pioneer, Nintendo, Bally, Amstrad, Gakken, Manavox, Atari

As I was writing my next System Overview article, I found myself asking the question "What in the world were they thinking?" when looking at some of the console designs in my Room of Doom. Some are very unique and others are just plain elephant-man ugly. With that image in mind, who will take the home coveted Joseph Merrick Award for worst-looking video game console? The contenders:

Magnavox Odyssey 2

Just what I need - 15 million
keys to play a game.

Amstrad GX 4000

Space-age design or just a cheap rip-off
of the Land Speeder from Star Wars?

Cast Your Vote!!

  Magnavox Odyssey 2
  Amstrad GX4000
  Atari 5200
  Gakken TV Boy
  Nintendo GameCube
  RCA Studio 2
  Bally Professional Arcade
  Pioneer LaserActive


Free polls from Pollhost.com

Atari 5200

Hmm... make it bigger and
they will love it - NOT.

Gakken Compact Vision

What in the heck am I supposed
to do with those funky handles?

Nintendo GameCube

Simple design or
designed by simpletons?

RCA Studio 2

Brutal, just plain brutal.

Bally Professional Arcade

Bally should have stuck
to designing arcade machines.

Pioneer LaserActive

"Customer needs assistance in aisle 3.
Fork lift will be required."

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