Casio Loopy

Casio Loopy

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia CD32
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 19th Oct 1995 Nov 1995
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

The Loopy was an interesting concept, Casio decided that girls needed their own console and designed it with an in-built colour thermal printer.  Because it was a girls console all the games revolved around dressing up characters, with the ability to print the result to the printer.

Casio found out, within weeks, of the release that girls did in fact play consoles, they played the same ones the boys did and weren’t interested in a console that didn’t have the same games as mainstream ones.

The Loopy was discontinued almost immediately.  11 games in total were released in cartridge format.  You could also buy a mouse to use instead of the included game pad (which is quite nice btw).

An accessory called Magic Shop was available.  This was, in essence, a capture device that allowed you to use captured video to make stickers.

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Bandai Playdia

Bandai Playdia

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin CD32 Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 23rd Sep 1994 1996
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

The Playdia was Bandai’s attempt to enter the fifth generation of consoles in 1994.  It was primarily aimed at young children and, as such, it’s specs were woefully underpowered compared to the other entrants.

Unfortunately Bandai had miscalculated the popularity of the more powerful consoles with it’s target audience and the console didn’t sell well.

In the end Bandai were really the only developer to develop for the system (except for a couple of games developed by VAP), the other publishers concentrated on the more powerful and popular machines.

To suit the simplicity of the machine it came with a single infra-red controller.

 

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Bandai Pippin

Bandai Pippin

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX CD32 Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 28th Mar 1996 1997 42K (total)
North America 1st Sep 1996 1997
Europe 1997 1997

In 1996 the post-jobs world of Apple was searching around for ways to spread their PowerPC platform.  Seeing how consoles had integrated into so many living rooms they decided that this was the direction to go.  So, working with Bandai, they developed the Pippin Platform.  This platform was based on their existing Power Mac computers.

The Pippin was a hugely powerful machine and included numerous options that no other console had.  These included the ability to be used in PAL or NTSC out of the box and they had a built-in VGA port as well as the usual composite jacks.

Bandai released the Pippin in Japan as the ATMARK and in the US as ATWORLD.  These machines were largely identical except the US one was black from the start and the Japanese release was white.

In Europe Katz Media released a slightly improved machine with more memory.

The Pippin was incredibly expensive at release, unsurprising seeing as it had such a powerful spec.  But despite that it couldn’t compete well with the Playstation or Saturn.  Nobody wanted to buy a machine that was weaker and more expensive.  The Japanese version is easiest to get hold of, the US version is rare and the European version is nearly impossible to get.

The Pippin came with internet access built-in, via a phone jack.  The controller, called the Apple Jack, had a built-in trackball to help you navigate web pages.

The community has since released a version of Mac OS 7 that can be booted, pretty much making the Pippin into a working Macintosh.

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Atari Jaguar

Atari Jaguar

5th Generation Competitors
3DO CD32 Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 21st Nov 1994 1996  190K (total)
North America 23rd Nov 1993 1996
Europe 27th Jun 1994 1996

After the games crash Atari struggled to make ground in the new videogame world with the death of the 2600.  After several attempts they started to concentrate on computers instead.  Until two engineers from a company called Flare approached them with a hardware platform they’d been developing.

Atari were already working on a project called Panther at the time, but decided to ask the Flare team to develop their platform under the codename Jaguar.

Panther wasn’t progressing as well as Atari had hoped, so they cancelled the project and went full steam ahead with the Jaguar.  The machine was released, to fairly underwhelming reviews, in 1994 after a small test release the year before.

Atari billed the Jaguar as being the first 64-bit console.  Their whole advertising strategy, named Do the Math, pushed the idea that the current crop of 16 bit and 32 bit consoles were inferior due to the lower bitness.

But this had a number of flaws, firstly the general public didn’t really understand the argument about bits and secondly it was fairly easy to argue that the Jaguar wasn’t 64 bit at all.

The problem stemmed from the fact that the Jaguar has 3 main processors, a Motorola 68000, which is 16-bit externally, but 32-bit internally and two custom 32 bit RISC processors.

On that evidence you’d say the Jaguar was, at best, 32 bit.  However, the Jaguar transfers data over a 64 bit address line.  This does, technically, make it a 64 bit machine.

Regardless, none of this worked.  The Jaguar turned out to be difficult to develop for and Atari no longer had the might needed to compete against Sony and Sega.  Games weren’t impressive compared to their Playstation and Saturn versions and developers left the platform in droves.

We’re only just now finding out how powerful the Jaguar was.  Modern day developers, with a greater understanding and better toolchains, are able to push the platform with greater results.  It’s a shame that we’re just seeing that it could have competed in the 32 bit era.

To try and keep the console alive Atari promised a number of peripherals including a VR headset and CD Addon.

The CD Addon was the only one to see the light of day (although the VR headset was demonstrated).  The Addon didn’t have many games and had proven unreliable, but the games that were released are fairly impressive.

Now, the controller.  It is not considered one of the best ever.  It is ungainly, mostly due to the keypad that takes up most of the space.  This keypad allows games to have lots of control options and games come with an overlay (like the Intellivision).  It is helpful, but it makes for a really uncomfortable controller.

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Atari 2600

Atari 2600

2nd Generation Competitors
Mattel Intellivision Vectrex
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan Oct 1983 1992  30M (total)
North America 11th Sep 1977 1992
Europe 1978 1992

Whilst the Atari 2600 didn’t start the console industry (the Fairchild Channel F came out a year before) it certainly popularised the idea of a machine capable of playing different games with the use of a ROM cartridge.

Released in 1977 as the Atari VCS, it was later renamed to the 2600 mirroring it’s model number after it’s successor, the 5200, was released in 1982.  Sensible pricing and some strategic licensing saw the 2600 achieve huge success.

The Atari 2600 has been quoted as a reason for the games crash in the 80s due to Atari’s policy of allowing anyone to release games meaning that there were huge numbers of poor quality titles.

In reality, of course, the crash was caused by many factors, although Atari were certainly key.

There were several models of the 2600 released:

  • Heavy Sixer (original release)
  • Light Sixer
  • 4 Switch Black (Darth Vader)
  • 2600 Jr

The 2600 faced strong competition from several competitors, mainly the Mattel Intellivision

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Amstrad GX4000

Amstrad GX4000

3rd Generation Competitors
Atari 7800 Famicom / NES Sega Master System Commodore 64 Game System
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan NA  NA  NA
North America NA NA  NA
Europe Sep 1990 1991  15K

Amstrad produced a fairly popular range of 8 bit computers during the 80s, in third place for most of the era in the UK after the Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum.

But Alan Sugar was well known for being able to sniff out a promising new market and so, when Nintendo and Sega hit the shores he realised he could take his existing 8 bit system, remove the keyboard and leverage the existing range of games.  They gave it a futuristic, spaceship design and bundled it with a joypad that was pretty reminiscent of the NES pad.

On paper this was a good move, the Amstrad had an amazing library of games and could certainly compete with the NES and Master System.  It already had joystick support, so converting games across was a breeze and Amstrad’s existing supply and sales chain would work for the new machine.

But the GX4000 didn’t release until 1990, which meant that it was competing with the Mega Drive and then the Super Nintendo.  Whilst it had a fighting chance against the 8 bit era, it was entirely outgunned in the 16 bit world, they weren’t the only company to make this mistake though, Commodore followed with the C64GS.

There is a fairly large software library for the GX4000 and developers have ported other titles across in recent times.  There are a couple of issues to look out for.  The PSU is not great and can cause component damage to the GX4000 if it’s unplugged or plugged in whilst turned on (usually this just means you have to replace the voltage regulator).

It’s recommended you use a replacement PSU (9 – 12v 1a center positive) instead of the included one.

 

Specs

Processor Zilog Z80A 4 MHz (PAL)
RAM 64k
ROM 32k
Custom Chips ASIC with Support for sprites, soft scrolling, programmable interrupts, DMA Sound
Video 12-bit colour palette (4096 colors)
Up to 32 on-screen colours (16 Background, 15 Sprites, 1 Border)
Audio 3 × 8-bit stereo PCM channels)
DMA
Removable storage None

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Amiga CD32

Amiga CD32

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan NA NA NA
North America NA NA NA
Europe 17th Sep 1993 1994 100K

The history of Commodore is long and complicated.  But by the time the gaming industry recovered from the crash they were doing ok with the Amiga platform.  But this was due to change, Europe had been a stronghold for them but the NES and, to a lesser extent, Sega MasterSystem were about to hit and hit hard.

Commodore tried a couple of times to compete, first with a consolised version of their hit Commodore 64 8-bit computer and then with a living room friendly version of their Amiga platform, the CDTV.

Both were huge flops.  The C64 Game System just didn’t have the power and the CDTV was a confusing and expensive system.  Whilst it had some power it just wasn’t marketed well.

Their final attempt was again based on the Amiga, but this time it got pretty much everything correct.

The CD32 was the first 32 bit console and was based on the Amiga 1200, in fact with the addition of an extension board it was possible to add peripherals like a keyboard and mouse to make it a fully fledged computer.

The machine itself was powerful, priced fairly well and had the advantage of having a library of existing Amiga titles that could be easily ported across.  The controller is a fairly weird inverted look, but is surprisingly comfortable.  The buttons, however, feel slightly cheap, as does the D-Pad.

There are some truly great titles for the CD32 and programmers, even now, are porting across other Amiga titles across, including the awesome Supercars 2 by Gremlin.

Unfortunately, despite a strong start, the CD32 failed selling just 100,000 units.  This was due to a number of factors, first Commodore missed a patent payment to XOR.  This meant that they were unable to sell the CD32 in America.  Then their available stock was stuck in the Philippines, the factory refused to release it due to an outstanding bill.  Unable to pay the bill, the patent payment or to sell more units, Commodore filed for Bankruptcy.

A few companies purchased the Commodore name but they didn’t want to release new machines, just use the name to shift various items.  An ignominious end to a revolutionary company.

Specs

Processor Motorola 68EC020 @ 14.32 MHz (NTSC) 14.18 MHz (PAL)
RAM 2 MB
ROM Kickstart 3.1 ROM with CD32 extensions
1 KB non-volatile EEPROM memory for game saves
Custom Chips Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA)
Akiko CD controller and performs chunky planar graphics conversion
Video 24-bit colour palette (16.8 million colors)
Up to 256 on-screen colours in indexed mode

  • 320×200 to 1280×400i (NTSC)
  • 320×256 to 1280×512i (PAL)
Audio 4 × 8-bit stereo PCM channels)
28 kHz maximum DMA sampling rate
Removable storage Double-speed (300 KB/s) CD-ROM drive (proprietary Matsushita controller)

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