Archive for the 'Remakes & Reproductions' Category

R&D Automation Taking Pre-orders for v2 Apple II Compact Flash / IDE Interface Card

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

CFFAI’ve never been a huge fan of using emulators for any computer that I actually physically possess. The original hardware is almost always where it’s at — the unique look, the feel, and even the smell of a machine all add to the “authentic” user experience (kinda makes me sound like a wine snob, doesn’t it?). But original hardware breaks over time and sometimes becomes irreplaceable since it’s no longer in production. That’s where people like Rich Dreher step in with modern upgrades for vintage computers (for more on this phenomenon, check out my “New Tech for Old Computers & Game Systems” list).

Rich is now on the second revision of an impressive Apple II hardware add-on card he designed called the “CFFA” that enables any Apple II system to use a compact flash card, IBM MicroDrive, or IDE hard drive for storage. While definitely not the first Apple II IDE interface I’ve seen (or owned), this is a very slick piece of hardware. Here’s a brief rundown of its features, taken from the official site:

  • Standard Apple II form factor Card 3″ x 6″ (Usable in any slot, except slot 3 in IIe and later)
  • A Compact Flash/IDE Interface for Apple II family of computers (Type II Compact Flash socket — IBM MicroDrives work too)
  • Standard 40 pin IDE header connector
  • 3 terminal screw type power connection for IDE hard drives
  • Support for up to 128 MB (4 drives) or 256MB (8 drives) under ProDOS and GS/OS (without Dave’s GS/OS driver)
  • Support for up to 128MB, (four ProDOS 32MB drives) plus two 1GB drives under GS/OS (with Dave Lyons’ GS/OS driver)
  • On-board EEPROM for SmartPort firmware
  • User jumper to select 1 of 2 versions of the firmware
  • Allow booting ProDOS or GS/OS directly from the Interface card (for a floppy-less system)
  • Firmware available for 6502 machines (II, II+, IIe) and 65C02 machines (IIe enh, IIe platinum, IIgs ROM1 & ROM3)

Particularly attractive is, of course, the built-in CF socket. I recently read on Rich’s site that there’s even a new utility called “CiderPress” that will let you transfer files to / from the Apple II-formatted CF card when it’s plugged into a Windows machine!

Despite all its neat capabilities, what is actually most important about this card is that it’s actually for sale (currently US $105 plus shipping). Extremely unique short-run hardware doesn’t stay around for very long, so if you’re interested, don’t hesitate to jump on it while you still can. I’ve already got mine on order and am looking forward to running my Platinum IIe from a compact flash card soon.

VC&G Review: GameTap

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Do you want hundreds of different games of diverse genres that span video and computer gaming history available for unlimited play on your PC, 24 hours a day, without the hassle of having to set up eleven different game and computer systems? So do I. But in this case, you’re going to have to pay $10 a month to Ted Turner for the privilege. And there’s another catch — the “unlimited” games have the darnedest habit of magically disappearing at the blink of an eye once you stop paying your monthly gaming tariff. Hmm. Sounds pretty limited to me.

Thus is the state of the GameTap Broadband Entertainment Network, the world’s first large-scale legal attempt to make a rerun channel for video games. It’s an admirable goal that is pulled off relatively effectively with their candy-coated software wrapper that wrangles together 400 disparate games from the late 1970s to the present into one virtual gameplay arena. The interface is clear-cut and simple to understand, allowing you to easily browse through and select different games you want to play (one at a time, of course). Upon selecting a game, you’re presented with a game overview, some history, the choice of some game-specific bonus information, and instructions on how to play. Then, if you choose to continue, the game is downloaded to your PC and…you play. Download times range from a few minutes or less for the simple games to over 30 minutes for the modern PC Windows titles. Don’t expect to make copies of the games you’ve downloaded, of course, because every downloaded game is chopped into pieces on your hard drive and likely encrypted, rendered useless unless played through the GameTap client itself. But if you just wanted to do that, you would have already (likely illegally) downloaded the game already, right? You’re here for the experience and the convenience of having everything accessible and playable in one place.

[ Continue reading VC&G Review: GameTap » ]

The GP2X: Portable Emulation Powerhouse

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Procyon as his first contribution to VC&G, with additional writing by RedWolf.]

Portable electronic gaming has been around in one form or another since the mid-1970s. Nintendo, then relatively new to video games, revolutionized it in 1980 with their Game & Watch series, and again in 1989 with the release of the Game Boy. Since then, portable systems, like their console brethren, have gotten more powerful over time. Powerful enough, in fact, that they are now regularly capable of running software emulators of older game and computer systems. When a Korean company called Game Park developed the precursor of the GP2X, the GP32, they designed a system that would be completely open, allowing anyone to legally develop software for it, unlike the more common commercial products like the Game Boy Advance, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), or the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Soon after the GP32’s release, emulators for various systems — from the NES to the Arcade, and beyond — started popping up across the Internet. The GP32 became the hacker’s portable of choice, with a wide variety of different homebrew games and applications developed for the system. After the GP32’s success with hackers, Game Park thought it was time to improve upon the GP32 with a new unit. However, various factions within Game Park fought over the focus of the successor of the GP32 — should it be a multimedia machine, or a pure gaming console? The two groups couldn’t get along, so a group of employees left Game Park proper to form Game Park Holdings” (GPH), an entirely new company. Soon, GPH set out to design their vision of an ideal successor to the GP32, with incredibly expanded multimedia support, greater horsepower, and an open development system that poised the it to become the hackers’ new favorite for homebrew development. Finally, GPH’s answer arrived in November 2005 — as the GP2X.

The GP2X uses Secure Digital media (aka SD cards) to store multimedia files and executable programs (games, emulators, etc). Putting an emulator on your GP2X is as simple as downloading one from the Internet, connecting your GP2X to your computer via USB, and transferring the necessary files to a SD card inside the GP2x. Alternatively, you can use any PC-compatible SD writer to write to an SD card, then place the card inside your GP2x. The GP2X has an eight-direction digital joystick, eight face buttons, and two shoulder buttons, making it ideal for nearly any emulated system configuration. It is capable of direct composite video output to a TV through the aid of the GP2X TV-out cable, and it runs (for better or worse) on two regular AA batteries. It’s backed by a 200MHz ARM CPU, coupled with a 200MHz dedicated 2D graphics accelerator, but how does it perform?

Based solely on the version of MAME that developers have been able to port to the fledgling system, it performs admirably. Not only do many of the older (and therefore, less sophisticated games) run at full speed with sound, they can be oriented to play horizontally with borders on the sides, or vertically to take advantage of the entire screen size (with a native resolution of 320×240.) Later games such as Neo Geo games or Capcom’s CPS1 arcade series will play quite well with a small frame skip. And the picture on the screen is crisp and beautiful.

MAME is by no means the only emulator present for the system. At the time of this writing, several terrific emulators have been developed or ported to the GP2X that allow it to emulate the NES, Genesis, Game Boy, Turbo-Grafx 16, SNES, Atari systems, Commodore computers, and many more. The GP2X runs a version of Linux for an operating system, so users who are familiar with Linux will understand the way that many emulator authors prefer files and ROMs to be set up. Users less familiar with Linux are often aided by the “readme” file that usually accompanies each emulator. There is a learning curve, but it’s very slight, and very approachable. In addition to emulators, there are many fantastic homebrew games that programmers have released for the system. And the system comes complete with the ability to play back MP3s and movies.

The GP2X is not perfect or without flaws. Many users have complained about the choice of a convex, mushroom-shaped cap that adorns the joystick. A particularly popular user on many of the GP2X forums has gone to the trouble to design, manufacture, and sell a concave replacement that has been highly rated by customers. Additionally, the battery life for the system is disappointingly short. Two ordinary alkaline batteries can be depleted in less than 2 hours. Users have generally opted to use rechargeable camera batteries that maintain a constant voltage through the lifetime of the battery, and their reusable nature certainly cuts down on replacement battery costs. When using these types of batteries, cordless play time can increase to just shy of 4 hours. An AC adapter is also available for purchase separately.

The GP2X is only four months old and it has already seen a staggering amount of development. Few of the emulators are at the level than frequent PC emulator users would call “perfect,” but the early indications are so promising that, as the scene develops, the GP2X will probably be the portable emulation platform of choice for some time to come.

First Mario Adventure FAQ Posted on VC&G

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Mario AdventureYou may remember our popular feature on Mario Adventure a few weeks ago. Well, an intrepid fan named Greg Head has completed the first ever Mario Adventure FAQ and it’s now available for view on Vintage Computing and Gaming. The FAQ is mostly complete so far (except for some world walkthroughs) and Greg and I will be updating and improving it over time. You can send typo / editing / formatting errors to me, and content errors, improvements, or suggestions to Greg.

If you didn’t catch the link above, here’s where you can view the Mario Adventure FAQ.

Late Review: Hori Digital Pad for Gamecube

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Hori Digital PadI’m a huge fan of 2D games, and the only major system that still has mostly 2D games actively developed for it is the Game Boy Advance (although that won’t be the case for much longer, as the GBA fades into its sunset years). When Nintendo announced their Game Boy Player for the Gamecube a few years ago, I was incredibly excited. Here was a chance to play completely new 2D games on a TV instead of a tiny screen — it would be like the 2nd coming of the Super Nintendo (SNES). But playing those games on the Gamecube’s very modern controller is not nearly as appealing: the analog stick is imprecise and hardly ideal for non-analog-controlled games, and the Gamecube controller’s built-in D-pad is small and placed inconveniently and uncomfortably out of the way. (Just as a note, before I go any further: it’s possible to play GBA games on the Game Boy Player using the GBA itself as a controller, connected through the GBA-GC link cable — the original model GBA feels best for this task).

Luckily, there is a nice alternative to controlling your your GBA games on the GC. Enter the Hori Digital Pad, a sleek, simplified version of the GC controller with a form-factor that obviously borrows a lot from the beloved official SNES pack-in controller. It’s about the same size and shape as a SNES pad, but the Hori Pad has raised “finger-grips” (for lack of a better term) on its bottom (toward the left and right sides of the controller) that actually make the pad more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The most major and noticeable difference between the Hori Pad and the regular Gamecube controller is the complete and total lack of the GC’s two analog sticks. Also, the left and right shoulder buttons are not analog, but digital equivalents of the original (equivalent to pushing original GC shoulder buttons all the way down). Four of the face buttons share a nearly identical layout to the official GC controller: X, Y, B, and A. However, the Z button, normally placed on the right shoulder of the official GC controller (quite awkwardly, I might add), has been tacked on — almost as equally awkwardly — to the left of the main face button area. In the middle of the controller there are SNES-style “Start” and “Select” buttons. The “Select” button, not being present on the GC controller, is apparently mapped to the regular “Y” button (this controller mapping is default for the Game Boy Player, so it works out well).

I’m not quite sure I like the button placement on the Hori Pad. I find myself regularly wishing that its buttons were reconfigured to be equally sized, spaced, and round like on a SNES pad. The huge size difference between the B and A buttons on the pad makes for some weird playing on some games that obviously weren’t designed with this layout in mind (i.e. all GBA games). However, I understand that some people actually prefer this pad to play GC fighting games, so perhaps the similar button layout to the GC pad is less confusing. Then again, I think the weird GC button layout might be what makes fighting fans not like the GC very much in the first place. So all in all, I’d say it’s a negative feature of this pad to have duplicated the size, shape, and layout of the GC’s X, Y, B, and A buttons.

But with that out of the way, I really can’t think of anything else negative about this product. Upon holding it in your hands and actually using it, it becomes immediately obvious that this is a high-quality pad with high production values and excellent craftsmanship (as far as 3rd party controllers go, anyway). The buttons feel good to press and are responsive and accurate (it’s nice not having worn-out conductive rubber buttons for once). The shoulder buttons are a tad bit mushy, but I feel it’s not bad enough to really hold it against the product. The pad feels really good in my hands, has a sturdy construction, and its cord length is adequate (about six feet). All in all, I’d say this is a great product and I highly recommend it for anyone who spends more than a few hours playing Game Boy Advance games (or any retro games — many of which are now available in collections) on their Gamecube. The pad itself can be a little hard to obtain, as I don’t think it’s officially distributed in the US. You might have to get it through a game import place like National Console Support (Hori Digital Pad, $22 US) or Lik Sang. But for $22 (at NCS), I think it’s really worth it. Stock up now before they disappear forever and you kick yourself (I have a spare one in the wings for the future, if my first one ever wears out). And no, I’m not getting paid any money to say that. I really like the pad that much.

The Skinny: Hori Digital Pad (Gamecube)
Good Features: Accurate, responsive buttons with good tactile feel, great classic form factor, sturdy construction, nice cord length, relatively inexpensive. Great choice for playing retro games on your Gamecube.
Bad Features: Duplicates awkward face button layout of the official Gamecube controller (X,Y,A,B buttons). Shoulder buttons a tad mushy.
VC Rating:
(10 Being Best)
[ 9 out of 10 ] Shiny Marbles

EGM Advertisement: Sell Famiclones, Go to Prison

Friday, February 17th, 2006
EGM Piracy Ad

I found this interesting ad in the March 2006 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly today. It says that as part of Yonathan Cohen’s restitution for selling “the POWER PLAYER” Famicom clone, he had to publish this advertisement warning others about “the dangers and penalties associated with violating the copyrights laws.” According to the ad, the Power Player console contains “over 40 copyrighted games belonging to Nintendo of America.” Sweet! Ahem. I mean…Let that be a lesson to ya, Yonathan, and let this be a dire warning to any other scallywag who be sellin’ the POWER PLAYERS on the open market! Heed ye not the old pirate’s warning and Nintendo will relentlessly hunt you down until all of your pathetic, filthy kind are eradicated from the face of the earth. Of course, I’m being sarcastic. But Nintendo’s not. They will kill you.

An Interview with DahrkDaiz, Creator of Mario Adventure

Monday, February 13th, 2006

Mario AdventureJust yesterday I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview DahrkDaiz, creator of the impressive hack Mario Adventure. Mario Adventure is a completely new Mario game made from modifications to the Super Mario Bros. 3 game engine for the NES. The game was the subject of a recent piece on VC&G and has proven to be quite popular now that it has been given wider attention on our site.

Vintage Computing and Gaming: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. First off, where are you from?
DahrkDaiz: Knoxville, Tennessee

VC&G: What do you do for a living?
DD: I’m currently a student at ITT-Tech and working full time at a fast food restaurant.

VC&G: Do you aspire to be a professional game designer?
DD: I hope so one day but in reality I know game design is a tough field to crack, so I’ll continue to pursue the dream in my spare time while focusing on a realistic programming career, working for businesses to make a living.

VC&G: What’s your favorite video game? Favorite Mario game?
DD: A tie between Sonic 3 & Knuckles and SMB3. [Favorite Mario Game:] SMB3, no surprise there.

VC&G: What inspired you to make Mario Adventure?
DD: The total lack of a proper Mario sequel. I was disappointed with the Mario Advance series and I saw other people’s attempt at creating a new SMB3 experience and decided to take the matter into my own hands.

VC&G: Mario Adventure has been very popular on VC&G. It been downloaded over 11,000 times from our site in the last few days. Is there anything you’d like the players of Mario Adventure to know or keep in mind while playing?
DD: This hack was made with the hardcore SMB3 player in mind. I could practically beat the original with my eyes closed and figured it was time to up the difficulty. However, I tried to include ways to pass hard obstacles easily. Use your power-ups to their fullest abilities and you should do fine getting through the game.

Mario AdventureVC&G: What’s your favorite new feature of Mario Adventure? Also, what’s your favorite world in the game?
DD: Definitely the key collecting idea. I always liked having to back track through levels or world to get something out of the way to continue in a game. Point A to point B grows old quickly. [Favorite World:] Colossal Classics. The giant nostalgic look just has something about it that pleases me. Though I thought I could have a slightly better job with it.

VC&G: What development tools did you use to create Mario Adventure?
DD: FCEUd (emulator with an excellent debugger), YY-Chr (graphics editing), Mario 3 Improvement (archaic SMB3 level editor), Hex Workshop (hex editor).

VC&G: How long did it take you to complete Mario Adventuree?
DD: Approximately 16 months.

VC&G: Was reverse engineering the Super Mario Bros. 3 Game engine and implementing new rules, power-ups, etc. difficult? Tell us more about how you made changes to the Super Mario Bros. 3 game itself.
DD: At first it was very difficult. I slowly began to see a certain logic used behind the game. However, when reprogramming the code, I had to find unused space in the ROM, so that was pretty much hit and miss. Admittedly I did a poor job at coding it, hence all the bugs and glitches, but I did what I could with what knowledge I knew. A lot of time stepping through code and even writing code out on paper while at work during my break was required.

VC&G: Did you do all the level design in Mario Adventure yourself?
DD: Absolutely everything was done by me in this.

VC&G: Do you think Mario Adventure would work properly if somehow put on an actual hardware cartridge and played on a real NES/Famicom? Have you ever attempted this?
DD: Unfortunately, it will not. I reprogrammed the game to take advantage of a bug most emulators have, however, I did not realize at the time that it was a bug. The hack would work on a real NES, but not properly all time. The main bug being the status bar moving up over the screen at certain times.

VC&G: Have you ever heard from Nintendo about your Mario hacking exploits?
DD: Surprisingly, no.

Mario SeasonsVC&G: Have you done any previous game hacking projects? If so, tell us about them.
DD: Before Mario Adventure? No, but there were a few things I did while working on Mario Adventure and afterwards. Most of it is unknown unfinished test projects. I created a cool parallax (SNES style) background scroll in Mega Man 3 for Snake Man’s stage. I hacked Castlevania 3 to start and stay as Alucard. I completely hacked Ms. Pac-Man to have 32 unique levels, a mode to play levels at random and a pellet counter. This hack is known as Pac-Man 3 and will be available on my site once it relaunches.

VC&G: What can you tell us about your next hacking project? When will it be ready?
DD: I can tell you now the next big project is another SMB3 hack. Most people may sigh at this, but I took a different approach with this hack and differs from Mario Adventure. The scale is that, if not more than Mario Adventure. It makes Luigi and Mario be separate characters with each having special powers of their own for different gameplay, including Luigi’s floaty jump and slippery control and a new item box for Mario found in Mario Adventure. Each character has their own separate 8 worlds to play through, so this is literally two hacks in one. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

VC&G: Is there anything else that you’d like our readers to know?
DD: Mario Adventure is a real gem, but I’ve listened to a lot of good and bad feedback on it and this new project I’m working on addresses those issues. But I like to thank everyone who’s played this hack and given so much praise for it. It’s really inspired me to take game development as a serious career.

Mario Adventure: The Best NES Game Hack of All Time

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Mario AdventureIn a way, I think we all thirst for a new 2D side scrolling Mario adventure. It’s some sort of basic human need, along with eating, sleeping and reproduction. Why, just last week I was about to keel over for want of Mario when, at the last minute, I found the greatest NES game hack of all time, Mario Adventure. But this isn’t your usual game hack, mind you. You’ll find no giant buttocks glued onto Mario’s forehead, no nude Mushroom Retainers, no Super Tokin’ Brothers with Luigi replaced by a white Rastafarian with a cannabis leaf for a hat. Nope, this is a real game — a new game, crafted with care and aplomb using the Super Mario Bros. 3 game engine. Who executed this masterful feat? Look no further than intrepid homebrew coder “DahrkDaiz,” who completed the game over the course of sixteen months, sometimes coding on paper during his breaks while working at a fast food restaurant (check out our interview with Mario Adventure’s creator here). Now that’s what I call dedication. This man deserves serious recognition for the creation of this masterpiece.

[ Continue reading Mario Adventure: The Best NES Game Hack of All Time » ]

Absolutely Weird: IGN’s Generation NEX Review

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Generation SUXHeh. And I thought all this NEX stuff was over. It has come to my attention that IGN posted a review of the Generation NEX yesterday on their site. And what’s more, they gave it a 9.5 out of 10. Whoa. They must have been on nostalgia overdrive to hand out a score like that to a piece of absolutely mediocre hardware. Considering that the reviewer probably hadn’t played a NES game since 1992, I can almost forgive him for his enthusiasm (“WHOA!! You can still play NES games?! Dude!!”). What’s more, IGN was apparently provided a set of Messiah’s wireless controllers for free (which cost $59.99 and don’t come with the unit) and that probably significantly improved their overall impression of the NEX. They should have reviewed the wireless controllers separately. I know that whether one likes/dislikes the NEX is really a glass half-full or half-empty issue, but the NEX’s glass is definitely not full enough to warrant a 9.5. I don’t know if I should be suspicious of IGN’s review integrity, or if they just don’t know any better.

I stand firmly by my review. But of course, I also respect the opinions of others who actually like the NEX. At least most of those people have the sense to take a realistic look at it (like my buddy Jake at 8-Bit Joystick).

Update (12/23/2005): I’m not the only one who thinks IGN’s review is weird. Take a look at this thread on the AtariAge forums.

Late Review: Namco TV Games – Ms. Pac-Man Collection 5-in-1 Unit

Monday, December 12th, 2005

Ms. Pac-Man Collection TV GamesSo far I am an owner of four “TV Games” units. I have the venerable Atari TV Games unit that looks like a vintage Atari 2600 joystick, the highly underrated and very hackable Commodore 64 30-in-1 unit, the Namco 5-in-1 unit (with Pac-Man, Galaxian, etc), and of course, the subject of this mini-review, Jakks Pacific’s Namco TV Games – Ms. Pac-Man Collection unit. Sure, this thing has probably been reviewed to death by now, but I really wanted to share with you how cool I think this thing is. And being the picky vintage game enthusiast I am (as some might have noticed by my harsh NEX review), this is a miraculous thing.

Jakks Pacific got just about everything right with this unit. For starters, the console’s presentation is appropriate for the casual player that is likely to buy it: nostalgic and fun. The price is pretty good too. The retail price of the Ms. Pac-Man Collection is probably about $25, but I paid $15, so I am happy. But the true beauty of this puppy comes when you install four AA batteries, hook it up to the RCA phono jacks on your TV and switch it on. The built-in game selection menu is professional and nicely done. It’s easy to select from any of the five included games (Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position, Galaga, Xevious, and Mappy Land) with the built-in joystick and buttons. The unit also has a really neat feature that is a drastic improvement from Jakks’ earlier TV games: a pause button. And not only that, but when you press the pause button (labeled “Menu”), you are given a choice to either continue the current game or return to the main menu. Very professional, and very slick. Try taking a bathroom break from a game of Galaga in the arcade and you’ll see why this is a good feature (of course, pause buttons have been standard on home consoles for years… oh well). Also, this unit has two regular play buttons instead of only one button found on earlier units, which allows for improved functionality on some games (like using it to shift gears in Pole Position). Interestingly enough, the feature of this console that I find the downright niftiest also seemed the most gimmicky to me before I tried it. I’m speaking of the “twist control” built into the joystick. That’s right: for steering in Pole Position, you twist the joystick post itself left and right as if it were a tiny steering wheel. When you release it, it springs back to a center position. I was shocked when I tried it and learned how incredibly well it actually worked. It feels smooth and responsive, and allows for really nuanced and accurate control of your car in the game. It makes the experience of playing Pole Position at home actually fun for a change. Not to be forgotten is the regular 8-way joystick, which is also very responsive — although any time you throw diagonal controls into the mix, it makes Pac-Man games a little tricky. All the controls use microswitches for a more durable, clicky, and arcade-like feel than you’d expect in a $25 novelty game toy.

Ms. Pac-Man Collection TV Games“That’s great RedWolf, I’m glad you like the buttons. But what about the games?” I’m glad you asked, Reader Steve. The collection of games in this unit is excellent, save for perhaps the inclusion of Mappy Land, which I personally could live without. Obviously Jakks Pacific and Namco wanted to milk the market for all it’s worth, separating the high-profile games into two different units (Pac-Man and Galaxian in one, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga in another). If they replaced Mappy Land with Dig Dug, they would have made a much better collection (Xevious can stay — it adds refreshing gameplay variety, and Pac-Man and Ms. Pac Man are pretty similar anyway). The translations of the arcade games presented in this unit are near spot-on, with accurate sounds, graphics, and gameplay (as far as I can tell, anyway — I haven’t exactly lived and breathed Mappy Land like I have Super Mario Bros., for example). The unit gets a huge thumbs-up in this category — the games are extremely playable and actually fun.

By far, the biggest opportunity for improvement of the Ms. Pac-Man Collection TV Games unit is the case design. A more ergonomic controller scheme that’s more comfortable in your hands would put this unit one step closer to perfection. As it is, my hands start to get really sore after even a few minutes of gripping the bulky, sharp-angled case. But such sweet pain it is.

As a final note, it occurred to me at some point while playing Galaga that this tiny $25 console would make an excellent basis for a dedicated, home-made arcade machine. Who needs a $2000 MAME rig or a $3000 Ms. Pac Man / Galaga machine when you could hack some real arcade controls to this box, stick it in a cabinet with a 20″ TV and have a damn good recreation of the arcade for a lot less? After a little bit of poking on the net, I found that someone else had the same idea and acted on it. I might just have to do that myself some day. If I do, I’ll be sure to let VC&G readers know about it. 🙂

The Skinny: Namco TV Games – Ms. Pac-Man Collection (Jakks Pacific)
Good Features: Good game selection that’s fun, varied, and faithful to the arcade. Great interface. Pause feature. Microswitch controls. Twist-controller kicks ass. Easy to set up.
Bad Features: Harshly-angled, anti-ergonomic case design cramps your hands after a while. Game selection could be better, with more and/or better games included.
VC Rating:
(10 Being Best)
[ 8 out of 10 ] Extreme Super Rating Units