Tagged: games

Nintendo 3DS (2011 – )

The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld game console launched in 2011 as a successor to the Nintendo DS. Its main feature was the ability to display stereoscopic 3D effects on the upper screen without the need for special glasses. Nintendo’s previous attempt at a 3D handheld game console (the Nintendo Virtual Boy) was a commercial failure, and required a special headset to view monochrome 3D effects.

The Nintendo 3DS competes with Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld console.

Several versions of the 3DS have been introduced since its launch, including the 3DS XL with a much larger screen, an entry level 2DS (without the clamshell form factor or 3D facility), and the ‘new’ 3DS and 3DS XL with a faster processor and other upgrades.

It is backward compatible with the Nintendo DS and DSi, and Game Cards for these consoles will fit into the 3DS. Games for the 3DS are prevented from being inserted into the older DS/DSi by a small lug on the card. 3DS Game Cards can hold between 1 and 4 GB of game data (compared to the DS card which held between 8 and 512 MB).

As well as loading games from ROM cards, the 3DS can connect to the Nintendo eShop to download games. Games, audio and picture files can be stored on a Secure Digital or SDHC card (or microSD on the new 3DS/DS XL)

Despite disappointing early sales, the 3DS family become very successful and as of September 2016 had sold over 61 million units.

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Tapwave Zodiac (2004 – 2005)

The Tapwave Zodiac was a handheld game and entertainment console. It was launched in 2003 by Tapwave, reaching the UK in 2004, and ran a version of the Palm Operating System (which meant it also had PDA functionality).

Two models were available, the Tapwave 1 with 32MB, and the Tapwave 2 with 128MB. The Zodiac had two memory card slots, and could take either MultiMediaCards or Secure Digital cards. Games, music or photos could be loaded on either type, but SD cards were faster. The console had a built-in MP3 player, e-book reader, rumble pack and Bluetooth.

Despite good reviews and some noteworthy games titles, it suffered from strong competition from Nintendo’s DS system and Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP); this along with insufficient funding meant it was discontinued in 2005.

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SNK Neo Geo MVS (1990 – 2004)

The Neo Geo MVS (for ‘Multi Video System’) was a cartridge-based arcade game system released in 1990 by SNK.

The MVS was a coin-operated arcade console that could accept up to six cartridges in a single cabinet (1,2, and 4 slot versions were also available). Different games could be selected by players. and arcade operators could easily swap the cartridges inside the machine and change the exterior artwork. It was a successful product in the 1990s due to its low cost, compact size and the ability to offer different games in the same cabinet. When released, it was also the most powerful arcade system available.

A home version of the Neo Geo system, the AES (for ‘Advanced Entertainment System’) was made available for rental in 1990, and later for sale in 1991 when it was discovered people were willing to pay the high price.

Software is compatible with either system as they had the same specifications, but although the large cartridges look very similar they have different pin configurations and require an adaptor to use in the other system.

Neo Geo memory cards were available to allow players to save a game to return to at a later time, or continue play on either the MVS or AES systems.

Although hardware for the MVS and AES ceased production in 1997, game software was released until 2004 with the last official game being Samurai Shodown V Special. The Neo Geo MVS was replaced by the Hyper Neo Geo 64.

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Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer (1980 – 1991)

The TRS-80 Color Computer (often called the CoCo) was a home computer system introduced by the Tandy Corporation in 1980 and sold through their RadioShack stores. It is not to be confused with the monochrome TRS-80 that was aimed at the business and education market and had been introduced in 1977; the two systems are incompatible despite the similar names, and used different microprocessors.

The Color Computer did not have dedicated chips for sound and graphics like some other competing home computers such as the Atari 400 or Commodore VIC-20, so these were handled by the main processor (a Motorola 6809) which was more advanced than those used by competing systems, but consequently had more to do.

The Color Computer had a ROM cartridge slot for ‘Program Paks’. These were mostly games, but some other applications, and even a floppy disk controller could be used to control the 5.25-inch floppy disk drive that was made available as an option later. Initially, data could only be saved using a cassette recorder.

The Color Computer went through three generations before being finally discontinued in 1991, by which time it had gained a full-travel keyboard and 128 KB of RAM (which could be upgraded to 512 KB).

Many (though not all) Program Paks can be read by all three generations, but some require more RAM or joysticks to operate. The Dragon 32 and 64 shared many components with the Color Computer, and many Color Computer cartridges will also work in the Dragon.

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Commodore 16 / Plus/4 (1984 – late 1980s)

The Commodore 16 and the Plus/4 were two home computers introduced in 1984. The Commodore 16 was intended as a replacement for the VIC-20, and was named after its memory capacity of 16 KB. A more basic version of the Commodore 16, the Commodore 116, was sold in Europe, in addition to the Commodore 16.

The Commodore Plus/4 was intended as a higher-end model and came with 64 KB of RAM and four built-in office applications, though these were criticised as not being up to the task.

The Commodore 16 and Plus/4 were software compatible, and ROM cartridges would work on either machine provided the program worked within the Commodore 16’s 16 KB memory. As the Commodore 16 was the bigger seller of the pair, this meant that most software was written with the lower 16 KB limit in mind and didn’t take advantage of the greater memory of the Plus/4. Both machines could also record to Compact Cassette, and optional 5.25-inch disk drives were also available.

Neither model was successful, partly because they were not compatible with the Commodore 64 which had a large software library. After the Commodore 16 was discontinued in the US market in 1985, it was sold in Hungary, and also in Mexico. Similarly, the Plus/4 was discontinued in 1985, but was available from liquidators for some year afterwards.

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Coleco Adam High Speed Digital Data Pack (1983 – 1985)

The Coleco Adam was a home computer introduced by Coleco in 1983. It was available as a standalone computer, or could be bought as an expansion pack for the ColecoVision game console.

Like other home computers of the time, the Coleco Adam used a tape drive as one means to store programs and data, but this was not a standard Compact Cassette drive. The dual ‘Adam High Speed Digital Data Pack’ tape drives used a slightly modified type of Compact Cassette that ran at much higher speed than usual, had a different configuration of holes in the shell, and used thicker tape. These could store 256 KB, and ran at 20 inches per second (ips) when reading/writing and and 80 ips when rewinding. Blank Digital Data Packs  were supplied pre-formatted and could not be formatted by the user.

As well as the Digital Data Pack drives, the Adam had a ROM cartridge slot that accepted all ColecoVision cartridges as well as its own (it could play ColecoVision games even as a standalone computer). Later in production, a 5.25-inch disk drive was made available as an accessory.

The Coleco Adam had other unusual features such as a dedicated daisywheel printer (that also contained the power supply), built-in word-processing software, and the CP/M operating system as an option.

Unfortunately, delays in its introduction, and build quality issues led to it being discontinued in 1985. One particular problem was that tapes left in the drives or near the machine when it was turned on could suffer data loss.

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Pokémon mini (2002)

The Pokémon mini was a handheld game console, and the smallest game system to use cartridges weighing in at just 70g. It was introduced by Nintendo in 2001 (reaching Europe in 2002).

Only 10 cartridges (up to 512 KB in capacity, and a similar size to a Nintendo DS card) were released for the console, each themed around the Pokémon brand, with the last being released in Japan in December 2002 (Pokémon Breeder). It was sold in toy shops, and was seen as a children’s toy rather than a serious game system.

The Pokémon mini offered features such as force feedback, a shock detector and an infrared port for multiplayer gaming but had a small monochrome screen and monophonic sound. It was available in three colours, Wooper Blue, Smoochum Purple and Chikorita Green.

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Gizmondo card (2005 – 2006)

The Gizmondo was a seventh generation handheld video game console released by Tiger Telematics in 2005 in the UK, Sweden and the US.

It had advanced features not found on other handhelds at the time, such as a camera, Bluetooth and GPS. It ran on Windows CE 4.2.

It could be bought with ‘Smart Adds’ (which meant adverts were shown on the device at random intervals on the home screen) or for a higher price it could be supplied advert-free. In practice, the ‘Smart Adds’ system was never used and no adverts were ever shown.

Games were sold on Secure Digital cards, and standard SD cards could also used to load music and movies to play on the device. Just 14 games were released for the system during its short life, eight in the US and six in Europe.

It was expected to be successful, but there were early technical issues, and difficulties in financing manufacture. In the end less than 25,000 were ever sold and it is considered the worst selling handheld console of all time. In 2006, Tiger Telematics was forced into bankrupcy and the Gizmondo was discontinued.

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Nokia N-Gage card (2003 – 2006)

The Nokia N-Gage was a combined phone and handheld game console, launched in 2003.

To compete with Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, Nokia included a phone in the N-Gage. Unfortunately, this meant the buttons were not suited to gaming, and the phone’s speaker and microphone were built into the side of the device meaning users had to hold the device at right angles to their head, leading to the nickname of the ‘Taco phone’ (due to its shape). Some of its core features were impressive for its time, like Bluetooth connectivity and an on-board MP3 and video player.

Games for the N-Gage were distributed on MultiMediaCards, but to put the card into the device meant removing the back of the N-Gage along with the battery. A re-design in 2004 as the N-Gage QD moved the card slot to the outside of the device, but sales continued to be poor and only around 3 million were sold over its lifetime. Over 50 games were made available for the N-Gage range, but there were no ‘must-have’ titles (there were some big titles such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Call of Duty, and Pandemonium, but these were also available on other consoles).

Games continued to be released until 2006, but the device had already been withdrawn from Western markets in 2005 by which time the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS were on the market.

The N-Gage name lived on until 2010 as the name of a platform for online distribution of games to later Nokia smartphones.

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Blu-ray Disc Recordable Erasable (BD-RE) (2006 – )

Blu-ray Disc Recordable Erasable (BD-RE) is a high-capacity optical disc that can be erased and re-recorded multiple times, and is a type of Blu-ray Disc that can be read in all Blu-ray Disc drives. The similar BD-R discs can only be written to once.

BD-RE drives can be found in computers and personal video recorders (PVRs).

Disc capacities are 25 GB for single-layer discs, 50 GB for double-layer discs, 100 GB for triple-layer, and 128 GB for quadruple-layer.

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