Three bad game systems…

September 1, 2008 at 4:38 pm (Gaming, Others, Uncategorized) (, , )

While reading Hughes Johnson’s frankly excellent articles on Gaming History, I thought about some systems which were technically out-matched by the time of release, and were absolutely terrible in all ways possible. So I guess it was pure coincidence that I noticed at least three missing from the “Closing Time” lists. Been in a helpful mood, I decided to write about three that i noticed stuck out from the rest. What were they? Tiger R-Zone, Commodore C64GS, and Bandai Playdia.

TIGER R-ZONE

I really do doubt this counts as a real games machine. Reason been that there is absolutely NO Hardware inside it – instead its simply buttons and power wired up to the cartridge slot. The R-Zone actually uses the same sort of technology as the cheapo LCD games Tiger make, only with the idea of shining a red light through the LCD screens in order to display the graphics on a plastic plate which folded out.

With hardly any gameplay and up to 5 frames of animation per game, the machine was pretty crap as a whole. What is tragic though is that Tiger released three editions of the machine. The XPG was a huge, clunky unit which offered the layout of a Lynx, only bigger and the appalling projected display, which made graphics blurry. Playing in sunlight was impossible. The Superscreen, which came last, actually allowed you to put cardboard backgrounds in the machine to display in “colour”. Reminiscent of the Odyssey’s TV Overlays, I guess.

Despite selling for a really cheap price, it was a colossal flop, only appealing to parents who thought it would be a good alternative to the expensive Game Gear and Game Boy that it ran alongside. Playing bastardized versions of Saturn games cut down to the point where they didn’t even represent them anymore was a big mistake, and a pain in the neck (or forehead, as far as the headgear went). The R-Zone no longer exists, but Tiger to this day continues to make crappy LCD games for the same market – parents too stupid or too cheap to buy their children proper handheld game systems. Okay, I understand tight finances due to the credit crunch, yes, but maybe its better off spending money on something that won’t be thrown away in less than a week.

** With the nasty things I said about the R-Zone, does that mean the famous Game-and-Watch series are one the same? No. Nintendo did two things different with the Game-and-Watch. Firstly, the games were a hell of a lot of fun to play. Secondly, they didn’t use a marketing ploy to sell them. They also cost a lot less than the R-Zone, which was an advantage to all. You got what you paid for, not an absolute ripoff. **

COMMODORE C64-GS

Technically this counts more of a variant of a system, but I included it because it was designed for games rather than computer software. The C64-GS is really a rebadged Commodore C64c with some of the circuitry removed to “Lower the price”. The keyboard has gone, and most of the expansion ports have been blocked off. Additionally, the ROM has been changed to remove the BASIC language and instead show a generic “Boot” display. The machine runs its own cartridges, but can also accept standard Commodore 64 cartridges.

Problems start with the controller. A cheaply made one-button joystick, it is even less durable than the Atari 5200 and breaks easily. Due to single button play games are either simplistic or have a horrible control system. Additionally, many of the games are Commodore 64 ports, which use joystick routines added as an afterthought (due to preferred keyboard control layouts). Indeed, Commodore made a massive screw up with the Batman game – to start a level you had to press a key. Due to the lack of a keyboard, this made the game unplayable. Of course, the coders could fix this, but they hammered together a sloppy port in three hours, and didn’t have time for play testing.

Pricing was what killed the machine though. The full-blown C64 unit (with keyboard and expansion ports) cost only a few pounds (GBP) more than the C64-GS. The machine crashed and burned, with Commodore recalling most of the units which were unsold. They ended up been deconstructed and used as spare parts for existing C64 models.

Did Commodore learn from thier mistake? Of course not! A few years later they attempted to jump into the Multimedia console market in a desperate attempt to save the company. They released the Amiga CD32, an upgraded Amiga 500 with a CD-ROM drive and 68020 processor. Just before launch though, they lost a court case and were banned from importing goods into the US. Commodore crashed into the ground before their possible saviour was released. Its just as well really – the CD32 had NO Software developed for it, but worked with the few Amiga CDs which existed at the time. Its odd that around the same time, Amstrad quit the computer business (moving onto Digital TV Recievers, which they still build today) and Atari went bankrupt after their Jaguar console also failed. The three of them won’t be missed, really.

** Along with Amstrad, Atari and Am…Commodore, Apple made a games system (the Pippin) as well. But in their case it was released in 1996 during the Spindler era, and was an absolute flop. Reason been that they couldn’t decide whenever to market it as a console or an internet appliance, there was hardly any software, and its FMV-style gameplay went against the Playstation, Saturn and (upcoming) Nintendo 64. It was notably Bandai’s second attempt at a system. Of course, they would improve the third time with the brilliant Wonderswan, but thats another story… **

BANDAI PLAYDIA

Okay, when Bandai designed this, they had all the right ideas in mind. Well, they would have if someone had told them what happened to all the other “Multimedia” titles in the past. Even when they knew it would be crushed by the Playstation and Saturn, they pushed on and released it.

The machine was targetted at children, supplying games based on popular TV Shows (Such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Sailor Moon). It ran on CDs, and had an innovation via usage of an Infra-Red control pad which slid into the machine for storage. The colourful, tough casing was ideal for kids. The system however was designed mostly for interactive movies (like the CD-i) and thus had none of the processing power other machines had at the time. The control pad also was pretty nasty to use, an afterthought really.

Due to the lack of software and bad premise, the machine was on the edge only a few months later. So Bandai changed the system’s software development policies – there was to be no censorship as seen on Nintendo, Sony and SEGA’s machines. So out came a flood of Hentai Games and Idol CDs. Due to its grip on this popular market (in japan, Hentai can be seen as a pasttime) Bandai actually made a profit on the Playdia. Unfortunately, this sort of software meant it was never released outside Japan. Shame.

Its worth mentioning the Playdia as Educational System developer V-Tech have in the past few years ran a console designed for kids called the “V.Smile”. Its been a relative success with games such as Dora the Explorer and Winnie the Pooh. It runs on cartridges however, and has a wired joystick controller. On playing, its in the same boat as the Playdia for been underpowered (no 3D Capabilities) and been limited to kids’ software. However, its success has meant its unlikely adult software will be released for it. Although maybe it will be in the end, been sex education and all…

** Edutainment is such a silly sort of video game. Mix… say… Donkey Kong with Maths… not a good combination (As the resulting game showed). The Carmen Sandiego series did well, but failed when they released a Gamecube update. What hitting robots with a stick has to do with learning I have no freaking idea. But saying that, if Edutainment caught up with real-world values, you’ll have both Grand Theft Auto and Idol CDs under “Social Studies”. Oh, and billions of crap CDs starring Jesus, of course. **

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