Tag Archives: system

Wonder Wizard Television Sports Games Console (1976)

Like everyone else, we’re still under pandemic alert here, but the majority of places have reopened, and that means thrift stores. Oh I’ve been making up for lost time with a vengeance alright – albeit with a face mask on and an antisocial social distancing attitude at the ready. (It’d be nice to think that everybody realizes we’re all in this together, but considering I’ve encountered more than one person who just doesn’t seem to “get” it, well, it kinda astounds me. I mean, is it really that important to you to stand only a foot away and incessantly babble about inconsequential nonsense to a perfect stranger? We’re not friends, I don’t know you, lea’ me alone. Though truthfully, I’d feel the same way even if there wasn’t a rampant virus afoot. Oh, do I sound cranky? GOOD.)

Anyway, I’ve brought home a buncha good stuff since being back in action; lotsa new additions to my music library, some great old mugs/glassware for that particular collection, a multitude of miscellaneous items that pique my interest; plenty o’ stuff I’m happy with. BUT, as far as things that I can really get fired up enough to write about here, frankly, not as much as I’d like. Seriously; I came close with a big ol’ bag of early-to-mid-80s erasers that held several cool objet d’art within, but after some preliminary writing, I decided there probably still wasn’t enough to hold the attention of all four of my regular readers. (Though, fun fact, most of that introductory paragraph was ripped from that otherwise-cancelled article.)

I don’t know if the drought has passed, but if nothing else, I was recently given a brief respite as far as blog-worthy material goes, and it’s our subject today. (“Gee, no kidding!”)

Behold! It’s the incredible Wonder Wizard “Television Sports Games” console, released by General Home Products in (according to this site) June of 1976 – a whopping 44 years ago this month! What constitutes “Television Sports Games,” you ask? It’s, uh, Pong. Or rather, “tennis” because non-name brands. But really, it’s Pong. Well, that and some other games that go by the names of other sports but are really just slightly-modified Pongs.

Yup, this Wonder Wizard (model number 7702) is one of many, many “Pong clones” that made up the first generation of home video games. No joke; there were a ton of these that eventually saturated the market before developers figured out swappable game cartridges just might lead to a longer lifespan of console sales. (“Yeah, sure, uh huh!”)

(Because I know someone will jump all over me if I don’t specifically point this out, the well-known famous Pong wasn’t really the first Pong, either; there was a ping pong game for the first-ever-console, the Magnavox Odyssey, that Pong was “inspired” by. Nevertheless, it was Pong that really gave a jump start to the video game industry. Also, I’ve now grown tired of typing the word “Pong.”)

I hope you’ll agree that the 1970s aesthetics of the Wonder Wizard are just fantastic. As you can see, woodgrain was the order of the day, and as such, the console evokes its era in a way that practically reaches out and paints a leisure suit on you.

Hopefully this side-view pic above gives you an idea of general size of the system. Unlike many of these clones that could be on the small/cheap/etc. side, there’s some real bulk to the Wonder Wizard. Not that it’s heavy; it’s not. But size-wise, it’s decent. Hey, more real estate, more woodgrain! And like said woodgrain, the general design of the shell is very 1970s, and thus very cool. It’s hard to imagine this coming from any other decade!

So, just where did I find the wonderful Wonder Wizard 7702, you ask? Frankly, I’m hesitant to give up the location because the last thing I need is more competition, but rest assured, it was a thrift store I hit up frequently. And trust me, the Wonder Wizard really pushed the limits of the term “thrift.” That word implies something budget-conscious, and while Wonder Wizard wasn’t (alliteration) prohibitively expensive, it came a little too close for my comfort. I mean, it wasn’t like it was the equivalent of a PS4, and indeed, it cost less than the average brand new PS4 game. Still, for someone who balks at dropping more than $10 per thrift visit, the price tag wasn’t ideal, especially since I had no sure way of knowing if it worked. (More on that issue in a bit.)

As I approached the electronics section in which Wonder Wizard was residing and it became increasingly obvious that whatever I was looking at was an uber-old console, my first thoughts were of the aforementioned Magnavox Odyssey. Had I been thinking clearly I’d have recalled that the original Odyssey featured wired controllers, but obviously all questions were dispelled once I actually picked the thing up and saw the name.

Though, while I didn’t know it at the time, I actually was in the Odyssey wheelhouse. See if you can follow this, because it can be a little confusing: the original Magnavox Odyssey came out in 1972 and used “game cards” to access different types of games (these weren’t ROM cartridges though; scroll back up to that Wikipedia link for a better description), and that system gave way to a line of dedicated Odyssey consoles in 1975 and which continued for a few years until the Magnavox Odyssey 2 superseded the whole lot of them. As far as the line of dedicated consoles goes though, this Wonder Wizard is internally a Magnavox Odyssey 300, and externally a modified shell of the original Magnavox Odyssey. Well, at least the base is identical; here, let this site tell you more about it.

Put simply, the Wonder Wizard is a re-badged Magnavox Odyssey 300 console. Though truth be told, I think the Wonder Wizard looks much cooler. Check out the Wiki link and compare for yourself! (Also, reading that page on the dedicated console series, MAN did they have a lot of superfluous entries in the line. Minute-at-best modifications would apparently warrant a whole new console release!)

The Wonder Wizard wasn’t the most feature-heavy Pong clone ever released; there’s really not a whole lot of options at your disposal here. We’ll take a closer look at the games themselves momentarily, but for now, here’s what you get: hand ball, which is tennis played against a solid wall. Tennis, which is just Pong but not really but actually is. And hockey, which is tennis with more paddles and smaller “goalie” areas. (It’s only the sport of hockey in the most rudimentary sense.)

Curious about the difficulty options seen on the right side of the panel here? Why? They’re kinda self-explanatory, aren’t they? Oh alright, I’ll explain: “beginner” is supposedly the easiest setting, with larger paddles and a somewhat slower ball – it plays pretty much how (I guess) people would expect a Pong-type game to play. “Intermediate” shortens the paddles, and “pro” puts the paddles back to their original length but speeds the ball up considerably.

I probably would have changed the labeling of the difficulty settings somewhat, or at least renamed “beginner” to “normal” or something.

The underside of the Wonder Wizard is pretty barren, with only two things worth noting as far as I’m concerned. (In other words, y’all don’t need a pic of the whole bottom of the console.)

First, there’s this label, amazingly still affixed to the beast despite the 40+ years that have elapsed since the original, uh, affixation. See, 7702. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. And look; FCC approved!

I don’t really have much more to say about the label (what more can I say?), so I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that this particular Wonder Wizard wasn’t the only one released by General Home Products. Nope, according to this site, there were several other machines under that name. From the little bit of research I’ve done since acquiring this machine two days ago, it seems like the 7702 gets the most “press” online due to the Magnavox connections – and I assume because it strongly looks like it should be played by someone with oversized lapels – but I’d still say it falls more on the obscure side of the Pong clone spectrum overall. (Though truth be told, beyond Atari and their Sears Telegames rebrands, the Magnavox Odyssey and the Coleco Telstar lines, the vast majority of these Pong systems seem, to me, to fall on the obscure side.)

Here’s the other thing of note on the underside of the console: the battery compartment. Now, the Wonder Wizard 7702 does accept a power adapter, but such things were not included with mine. That’s okay, I’m used to it, and besides, as was common with these Pong clones, the option to use batteries was often (always?) included as an alternative. This was beneficial, because while I could have dug up or otherwise found a replacement adapter, I’m generally leery of such things, having once fried an Atari Jaguar many years back. (The subsequent ‘pop’ and wisp of smoke that arose from the Jag told me I probably did somethin’ bad to it. It was obviously my fault for not being more careful looking at the specs of the machine and the adapter, but hey, live and learn. I wound up getting a ‘good’ Jaguar later down the road anyway.)

So yes, if I was going to play this thing, it was going to be via six big ol’ size “C” batteries. Unfortunately, the sole issue regarding the condition of the Wonder Wizard – and I was cognizant of this while still at the thrift store – is in regards to that battery compartment. The problem? Look at the top right of this picture, and you’ll see that the plastic around the battery connector (is that what it’s called?) has broken. The connector itself isn’t broken, just the plastic (hey, it is over 40 years old), and as such, I knew there was a strong possibility that I’d have to play Bob Vila and do a little repair work when I got home. Fiddling with some new batteries and the connector later that first night, I did get the unmistakable beeps and boops of Pong to emanate from the system, so I had a good idea that the system worked in some fashion. So the next day (yesterday to you), I opened the whole thing up, used a roll of adhesive (that’s tape to you), and began the process of sturdily taping the connector back in place just enough to make adequate contact with the batteries.

I discovered while having the Wonder Wizard opened that except for the battery compartment, the thing was in exceedingly decent, clean shape. (Same goes for the outside of the unit; it sure appears to have been well taken care of!) Due to the wiring inside, it was tougher to get a decent view and/or my big meaty paws in there than I expected, but eventually I prevailed to the point of “good enough.” Remember, this wasn’t a big time restoration job; the batteries just had to make decent contact.

We’ll get to the fruits of my labor momentarily, but long story short: I was successful. It was an achievement worthy of me stomping around the neighborhood and hollering “I is MacGyver!” over and over. I didn’t, because that would have drawn the consternation of my neighbors and I generally try to avoid them. But I could have.

(This battery compartment picture was actually taken after all was said and done, and as such you can see some of my expert professional tape job in it. I had it taped into place better than it appears here; I accidentally pushed the thing back out when removing the batteries. “These pics aren’t in sequential order in regards to the story at hand?! Say it ain’t so!” That black tape to the left was there when I got the thing, and I just noticed the relatively minor cracking in the bottom left corner a moment ago. If I ever do much work with this thing again, it’ll be via an actual power adapter, lest I make things worse than they already are.)

There was one other issue regarding the hooking up of the Wonder Wizard to a TV, and though I didn’t fully quite recognize it as such at first, it was actually a far more pressing issue than the battery compartment. If I didn’t get that thing going, I’d just find an adapter. But if this other issue didn’t work out in my favor, I was in some actual trouble.

The Wonder Wizard has the RF cable hardwired right into the console, which is all fine and dandy. But, because this was actually made by Magnavox, the Wonder Wizard is subject to the same trappings as the Odysseys, and that could cause issues nowadays.

How so? Look at this RF plug here; doesn’t look like your usual RF plug, do it? Magnavox used what was, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong), a proprietary format for their Odysseys. That’s to say, unique. In other words, you need the appropriate switch box that matches with this plug before you can connect the thing to your TV. I consider this to be decidedly “whack.”

(Could someone do some splicing/soldering/etc. and make this relatively more compatible, i.e. with a more common set-up? Probably, but I have no such skills, and besides, I’d be worried about messing up my one and only example of the console.)

Fortunately, I had just such a switch box, from a Magnavox Odyssey 2000 I got at a different thrift store many many years ago. That 2000 is in somewhat iffy condition so I never even attempted to use it, though coincidentally, that Wiki link says it’s basically an updated Odyssey 300. I just can’t get away from that thing!

The 2000 has just been floating around my basement since acquiring it, so it’s nice to see that it’s finally earning its keep by providing the original Magnavox switch box for me to use here. And in a pleasant change of pace, I didn’t have to go through a laborious search to unearth it! It was grimy enough to make me wonder if it even still functioned however, providing me with yet another “I ain’t know” in regards to whether I’d ever get the Wonder Wizard displaying on a real TV or not. But, at least I wasn’t completely out of luck. Yet?

So, everything’s hooked up, and while there was some trial and error and aforementioned battery compartment-fixin’, the results eventually yielded were…

…An earthshaking success! I am the man! I. AM. THE. MAN. Time for a bizarre touchdown dance? Maybe!

Remember my cool 1975 RCA portable TV seen both here and then here? It was the only relatively-accessible TV with the old school screwy RF antenna jack things in my immediate vicinity, so as you can see, out it came. Plus, playing a Pong clone on that TV feels right; the Wonder Wizard displaying on that uber-retro television set, I mean, it just looks cool. The woodgrain of the console, contrasting with the sleek, smooth 1970s-ness of the TV –  the old school gaming vibes are strong with this one! Though, I did have to remove the protective face cover on the TV before taking pictures, since it was apparently made of the most reflective substance in the universe and I didn’t need y’all inadvertently seeing the look of utter awe and/or joy on mah face.

Like I said earlier, when messing around with the batteries, I did get sound to emanate from the machine (this is one of those old school consoles in which all sound effects come straight out of the system and not the TV as you’d expect), so something somewhere somehow worked. Nevertheless, it was a moment of sheer exhilaration (or at least relief) to see that the money wasn’t wasted to bring the Wonder Wizard home.

(I would have liked to get some actual screenshots of this console in action for this article, as opposed to mere pictures of it playing on a TV. Now that I think of it, I guess I could have screwed this unique switch box into a common, generic switch box, and then screwed that into the back of a VCR, and then plugged that into the VCR I have connected to my PC. But boy, that sure sounds like an awful lot of work for an article only three people will look at and only half will actually read.)

What you’re seeing displayed above is tennis aka Pong aka ping pong aka still tennis. It, uh, acts exactly as you’d expect it to. It’s Pong, what more can I say? I did discover that the paddles are pretty jittery on the Wonder Wizard, so actually playing the thing isn’t really feasible. I fully expected this, such things are very common with these dedicated consoles; cleaning the knobs would solve the issue, should I so desire.

This here is hockey, or rather what is purported to be hockey. I mean, technically I guess it is. You’ve got your goalies, and, uh, other guys. I have no idea why the right side features three players while the left side only has two; maybe the right side had a power play?

No matter, cause guess what, CPU? My superior 2020 intellect and advanced game playin’ skillz are about to take you down! Let’s rumble!!!

…Oh wait, the Wonder Wizard is two players only. Yep, in an annoyingly endearing trait of early video games, the option to play by your lonesome is, erm, not an option at all. Don’t have anybody to play with? Guess you’re playing you, then! First one to 15 is the victor! Hey look, I won!

And here’s the hand ball variation. Tennis/Pong and hockey may hold more gravitas in comparison, but had the paddles not been so jittery and I felt like browbeating someone into playing with me, I could see this one being potentially pretty fun.

As it stands though, it’s, uh, hand ball. You slam a ball against the wall and, I guess, hope the other person misses it? Are those the rules? Hey look, I won again! 15 to 1!

This raises the question though: was there ever a legit Pong variant of Jai Alai? Or, dare I dream it, Bocce Ball? (Those two sports don’t really have anything to do with each other and I’m not very familiar with either one; I’m just writing filler here.)

While taking pictures for this article, I thought turning the light off might improve the quality of the shots my phone was taking of the television screen. The difference was negligible, but I did get this really cool pic of the Wonder Wizard illuminated by the light of said screen. it evokes, I don’t know, bell-bottomed kids staying up late into the night playing this wonder of technology or something. “It’s far out, man!” Wait, were people still saying “far out” in our Bicentennial year of ’76?

So there you have it, the Wonder Wizard Television Sports Games (aka Magnavox Odyssey 300) console. Is it antiquated in both looks and gameplay? Well, yeah, I guess. But you know, I absolutely love the overt 1970s look of the console. And the gameplay? I hate the thinking that just because a game is old or graphically challenged (or another apparently popular one: pre-NES), it can’t possibly be any good. Yes, the game variants here are all primitive to the max, but I can absolutely still see some potential head-to-head fun being had here.

And really, this is pure gaming history. Okay, sure, in comparison to other Pong systems it’s probably a relatively minor piece, but nevertheless, the Wonder Wizard is still a part of that de facto first generation of home video games. (You thought the Atari 2600 was first gen? Sorry ace; that and consoles like it are actually second gen.)

Is the Wonder Wizard my new favorite Pong clone console? Well, I’m definitely fond of it (for what it cost, I better be!), and I do indeed collect these consoles in general, but it still doesn’t top my two favorite dedicated consoles from the era: the Coleco Telstar Arcade, which is so (relatively) advanced that calling it a mere “Pong clone” seems like a serious understatement, and Atari’s Video Pinball console, which isn’t even really a Pong system at all.

Still, the Wonder Wizard is neato, man. You know what it sorta recalls to me? Lemme see if I can explain this: due to the look of it, it just seems like something that was bought and played, and then just sorta became ‘part of the scenery.’ Not relegated to the basement or attic exactly, but just sort of there, kind of more like a piece of furniture than something anyone ever really thought of playing by a certain point – especially once more advanced consoles started coming out. Maybe it was dusted and kept clean fairly clean (this example is still in very nice shape), but was paid little attention to otherwise.

Does that make any sense at all?

I don’t know, maybe I’m putting too much thought into this. Anyway, the Wonder Wizard 7702: it looks neat and cool and strictly of its time, it plays fine (well, except for the jittery paddles), and it’s now part of my collection. What more could a vintage gaming system ask for?

Atari 7800 Review: DOUBLE DRAGON (Activision, 1989)

Double Dragon on the Atari 7800? Time to rock!

Look, we need to get one thing straight right up front: I’m a Double Dragon fanatic. If there’s a console with an installment of the series found on it, I want it. I don’t claim to own every release for every system and/or handheld, but Double Dragon and its sequels do take up a relatively significant amount of space in my not-inconsiderable video game collection.

The series should be immediately familiar to anyone that was into video games in the late-1980s and early-1990s; the original 1987 arcade game basically launched the beat-’em-up genre. You know, side-scrolling fighting games in which you fought numerous enemies, typically but not always on a 3-D plane (that is, a foreground and background you can walk between). It was a smash, and naturally sequels followed. The original entries were eventually ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System, though they were only ports in a technical sense; they used the same street fighting motif and general plotlines, but basically did their own thing. Nevertheless, Double Dragon and its sequels, particularly those NES conversions, were seemingly ever-present on the video game scene of the early-1990s, which was when *I* was coming into my own as a young gamer.

Despite popularizing the beat-’em-up genre (though it wasn’t the first such game), looking back, it’s a little surprising how quickly Double Dragon‘s style of walking around and beating up bad guys was superseded by following games in the genre, and not just graphically, either. Only four levels (called “Missions”) and a relatively low number of enemies quickly appeared quaint when compared to longer, all-out fighting extravaganzas like Capcom’s Final Fight some two years later – a template beat-’em-ups largely followed in the early-1990s before the whole idea of a “fightin’ game” was steadily replaced by Street Fighter II and the like.

Actually, despite being wildly unfaithful to the arcade source material, the NES Double Dragon games probably hold up better than other versions nowadays simply because they lengthened and/or added original elements to the ports – additions that help them stand up against the subsequent, more-advanced games in the same genre.

The original Double Dragon arcade machine from 1987. The face that launched a thousand beat-’em-ups!

Still, taken on its own, the original Double Dragon (and at least the first sequel, Double Dragon II: The Revenge) remains a lot of fun today. Aside from some ugly slowdown when too many sprites are onscreen, it’s a fantastic beat-’em-up, though those accustomed to Streets of Rage and such may have a tough time getting into it. Nevertheless, for its time Double Dragon was quite the trendsetter. I mean, simultaneous two-player street fighting action, all in an effort to rescue a kidnapped girlfriend? A bevy of combat moves you could pull off? Colorful, detailed stages to traverse? A variety of enemies to pummel? Of course people would continuously throw quarters at it!

(Even if the period of revolutionary success was relatively short-lived, Double Dragon continued to be a name draw well into the 1990s, eventually spawning, besides the sequels proper, a Battletoads spin-off, a couple one-on-one fighters, an inexplicable board game, those ever-present Tiger handhelds, an animated TV series, and a terrible live-action movie that I, thankfully, only have limited experience with. The brand’s “oomph” sort of tapered off as the second half of the 1990s dawned, but there’s no denying how recognizable the franchise was in the years immediately preceding. A good deal of this popularity can probably be attributed to the series as it appeared on the NES, such was the visibility of both them and it at the time.)

It was also in this late-1980s setting that the 8-bit console wars came about. Perhaps calling it a “war” is a bit of a misnomer since, in the U.S. anyway, it was all about the NES. Seemingly every kid had Nintendo, and growing up, I initially wasn’t aware there even were other 8-bit consoles beyond it. I mean, sure, there were the home computers, but to me, it was basically those and the NES. In actuality, there were three viable 8-bit consoles at the time: besides the NES, there was the Sega Master System, and then there was the Atari 7800. Neither did much comparatively in the States, though the SMS was a force to be reckoned with in much of the rest of the world. (No kidding, the European and Brazilian SMS scene was, and is, fascinating!)

The 7800 was an interesting case; initially intended to right the wrongs that the Atari 5200 had ostensibly committed, the 7800 was meant to come out in 1984, restore Atari’s good name and blow the competition (namely the ColecoVision) out of the water. It was a pretty powerful system for the time, with terrific graphics, a sleek design, and the ability to play Atari 2600 games without an adapter right out of the box.

It didn’t quite work out as planned though. There was a brief test market in ’84, but the combined effects of the infamous early-1980s video game crash and the sale of Atari Inc. from Time Warner to Jack Tramiel put a halt on an immediate wide release. In the aftermath, Atari Inc. became Atari Corp., and the 7800 was placed on the back burner until 1986. The 7800 was still a capable console with an enormous amount of potential, but with a library of older titles and a somewhat-damaged reputation to the name “Atari,” not to mention constant cost-cutting measures regarding new titles and peripherals, well, it was an uphill battle against the Super Mario juggernaut that the NES became as the 1980s wore on. The added competition of the Sega Master System didn’t help matters, either.

Even though the NES, SMS and 7800 were all originally developed around the same 1983/1984 time frame, and all eventually wide released in the U.S. in 1986, due to the specific circumstances surrounding the 7800’s debut and subsequent library, it feels like a console caught between two eras of gaming. To me, it’s like a system from both the early/mid-80s and the late-80s, if that makes any sense. ‘Course, that’s one of the reasons I love it so much; no joke, the Atari 7800 is absolutely in my personal top five favorite consoles.

Anyway, fast forward to 1989. Gaming consoles are again big business, revolutionary titles are coming out left and right, and Double Dragon has already swept not only the arcades but also the NES and SMS. It was in this climate that the Atari 7800 port of Double Dragon, released by Activision, arrived.

The fantastic but ill-fated Atari 7800, complete with Double Dragon loaded!

This was amazing for a few reasons. 1) Nintendo’s licensing agreements with software developers meant that it was hard, often impossible, for the same games to come out on more than just the NES. Thanks to legal loopholes however, there were exceptions, and several titles well-known as members of the NES stable also appeared on competing consoles. 2) The 7800 was great at playing classic arcade ports such Asteroids, Centipede, Joust and Ms. Pac-Man, and had it been released in 1984 as intended, the matter would have been less egregious. But by the late-1980s, new names were needed, and the 7800 was woefully lacking in that area. Rampage, Ikari Warriors, Commando and Xenophobe were welcome exceptions, but that’s just what they were, exceptions.

(The issue of original games was another sticking point with the 7800, something Atari only seemed to truly realize within the last few years of the console’s life. By then it was far too late to save it, but we did get the Super Mario Bros.-ish platformer Scrapyard Dog, the intensely-quirky Ninja Golf, and what just may be the best game on the entire system, The Legend of Zelda-esque Midnight Mutants, starring Al “Grampa Munster” Lewis himself!)

The current homebrew scene has expanded the 7800’s library considerably, but where the original run is concerned, there were less than 60 titles released, and while many of them were/are pretty good, there were few that would have truly raised eyebrows in that late-80s/early-90s video gaming climate.

Enter 1989’s Double Dragon. Simply put, this was the exact type of game the 7800 needed. A modern arcade port, and a hot one at that. The 1988 home version on the NES was a massive hit, and 1989 was also the year a (very loose) port of the sequel arrived for the ol’ toaster. Furthermore, the SMS version of Double Dragon was also an extremely popular title, one which some would say was even better than the NES’.

So yes, in a library that initially only consisted of 59 games (two of which weren’t even released in the United States), Double Dragon stood, and stands, out big time. They came close, but Commando, Rampage, Ikari Warriors and Xenophobe, while more current than most of the 7800’s offerings, and with some late-80s coin-op clout to boot, just didn’t share quite the same name recognition that Double Dragon had. Could any of them touch Double Dragon as far as popularity went? Thanks mainly to the wildly successful NES port, I’d say “no.” Indeed, this release marked the only time that 7800 owners could truly partake in the same then-modern gaming experience as NES owners could. Some of the same games showed up on both systems, but Double Dragon was one of the gaming properties of the late-1980s, in both the arcades and at home. For once, 7800 owners could bask in the same glow as NES (and SMS) owners!

(A cool example of this “phenomenon”: I have a comic book buried in my collection from either 1989 or 1990 – I can’t remember which year for sure – and when it comes to the advertisements found throughout the issue, not only is this 7800 game pitched, but so is the NES original and sequel! I’m going to guess that sort of thing didn’t happen very often!)

A cart with perhaps more fisticuffs than any other 7800 game!

Double Dragon was a Technos Japan innovation, with the NES port released by Tradewest (in the U.S.) and the SMS’ by Sega themselves. Activision, they of River Raid and Pitfall! fame, were still riding the Atari bandwagon in the late-1980s, one of the few third parties to continue do so, and it was they that put out our game on both the Atari 7800 and still-breathing 2600. That’s right, there’s an Atari 2600 port of Double Dragon, too! Given the mega-primitive hardware and one-button limitation of the joystick, it’s actually a pretty impressive piece of programming, featuring some terrific graphics and sound given the console it’s on. It’s not the most playable version of Double Dragon ever released, the difficulty is too high and there are too many moves mapped to the single fire button, but it is recognizable as Double Dragon, and that in and of itself is amazing.

The cart you’re seeing here is, obviously, the 7800 version. The 2600 version looks very similar, with the same plain layout except the colors are reversed (white-on-black instead of black-on-white), and naturally with “for the…” altered accordingly. Considering the 7800 library is littered with dull, black & white cartridge artwork, it’s too bad a more-striking label didn’t show up, but beggars can’t be choosers – I mean, at least the 7800 got Double Dragon!

(Remember, this is an article from a North American perspective; label art and the like varied in other countries.)

The iconic Double Dragon title screen, reproduced on the 7800!

Upon powering up the cartridge, you’re presented with the pleasant surprise that the 7800 received the most arcade-faithful port of all three 8-bit consoles. Indeed, at points it almost looks like someone took the arcade game and “7800-ized” it.

Something is evident on the title screen that’s very, very important. Look down at the bottom of the screen and see what it says: 1 or 2 players.

“Yeah, okay, so what North Video guy? Everyone knows Double Dragon is a two-player game!”

Well sure it is…in the arcade and on most of the home editions. There was one home edition, however, that inexplicably made it two-players alternating: the NES port. Yes, in what was perhaps the most visible version of the game out there, the biggest feature of the original coin-op, the meaning of the very title itself, was stripped out! The NES port, for all the tampering with the levels and moves it featured (more on both of those in a bit), was magnificently playable. But, there’s no doubt that removing the ability to simultaneously beat down thugs with a buddy absolutely destroyed some of the magic that made the game so popular in the first place.

Well, that simultaneous two-player action is indeed present here on the Atari 7800!

Mission One’s “city slum.” That’s a whip in Billy’s hand, and a bat on the ground. Dig the “Scoop Moto” billboard – just like the arcade!

The arcade-accuracy continues into the game proper. Even the (in)famous intro, in which your girlfriend is slugged in the stomach and carried away is here – a shocking and wildly uncomfortable bit of violence that I can’t believe flew even back then.

That short sequence upon the start of a new game is about all the exposition you’re going to get, because there’s really no in-game plot to speak of. Not that you necessarily need one; saving a damsel-in-distress wasn’t exactly a new innovation in video game plots by the late-1980s, but it provides sufficient motivation for fisticuffs, methinks.

The plot was expanded upon in supplementary materials, sometimes exponentially so; Japanese releases place the setting at some point in the then-near future, after a nuclear war has devastated the population and caused gang warfare to rise. I don’t like this explanation at all; it adds an added layer of science fiction to the proceedings that, in my opinion, the game just doesn’t need. U.S. story lines were more straightforward in their telling, with a much simpler tale of a rampant street gang, the two brothers that oppose them, and the kidnapping of a girlfriend by said street gang. That’s all you need; background is nice, but it’s not something generally required in a game of this nature.

The gist of the plot, in both Japan and the U.S., is this: The Black Warriors (the bad guys) have taken over the city, and are opposed by relatively few, save for the twin brothers of Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee (the good guys), who are quite proficient in the martial arts. In order to lure them on to their turf and take them out once and for all, The Black Warriors kidnap Billy Lee’s girlfriend Marian. This is unacceptable, and so Billy (and his brother Jimmy as the second-player) set out to beat down some thugs and rescue her.

To get to Marian, the titular characters must traverse four environments: the city slum, the industrial area, the woods, and finally, the enemy base.

These level layouts in 7800 Double Dragon are far closer to the arcade than either the SMS or especially the NES. The SMS mostly followed the stages found in the coin-op (and included simultaneous two-player action as well), though it diverged in a few spots. The NES port was all over the place, with levels that typically started out somewhat faithful to the coin-op and then just went nuts. Platform elements, a trip up a construction site, into some caves, and so on and so forth. It was fun, and it actually did work, but it wasn’t exactly arcade-accurate. Though as I said earlier, the additions served to lengthen the game and make it more suitable for an at-home experience, which means it has held up better in the long run (the same thing applies to the versions of Double Dragon II and Double Dragon III on the console, as well).

In the 7800’s case however, what you saw in the arcade was by and large ported over to the Atari, and there’s something to be said for faithfulness to the source material. Unfortunately, Double Dragon wasn’t an especially long game as a coin-op, and that carried over here, too.

Mission Two’s “industrial area.” You certainly CAN climb up that fence!

By the way, if you’re totally bored, you may be asking yourself “hey, where’d y’all get these swell in-game screenshots, North Video Guy?” The answer to that is: I took them myself, with an actual 7800 console, cart and CRT TV. Y’see, I don’t emulate, so if these screenshots lack somewhat in the sharpness department, and I know that they do, that’s thanks to the good ol’ RF signal; no, the 7800 I used hasn’t been modded for AV output. Honestly, I actually think this gives a more accurate picture of how the game is meant to be displayed, closer to how kids playing it upon release first saw it. The harsh sharpness of emulation actually makes the game look uglier than it needs to.

And while on that subject, let’s talk about the graphics proper. 7800 Double Dragon isn’t a bad looking game as a whole, but it is a mixed bag.

The arcade-faithful backgrounds generally look pretty nice. The first two stages have sort of a drab color-scheme, but the detail is excellent and the layout is just like the coin-op. The third and fourth levels are terrific, with a richly-detailed forest in the third and foreboding enemy fortress (complete with deadly spike pit) in the fourth.  Modern day homebrew games aside, the graphical-detail in the latter stages of Double Dragon are some of the best graphics seen on the 7800.

As for the sprites in the game, well, they’re another story. Simply put, for the most part they look like something the Atari 5200, a full console generation before (and with hardware even older than that), could have pulled off. They’re awfully blocky, and with a minimal amount of detail. Except for Abobo (the big, hulking enemy that has become one of the most popular faces of Double Dragon), the characters don’t really look very good. It’s quite a contrast with the backgrounds!

They may not all look great, but did everyone from the arcade original at least make it over to the 7800? Yes and no. Billy and Jimmy are here, using the same, palette-swapped sprite. The same goes for common thugs Williams and Roper, and 2nd level boss Jeff; they all use the same sprite as Billy and Jimmy, just with different colors. Female thug Linda is here too, but shares the same image as the kidnapped Marian. Head bad guy Big Boss Willy obviously gets his own design, as naturally does Abobo. (Technically, there was Abobo and Bolo in the arcade, both nearly identical save for a few differences, but c’mon, it’s always just been Abobo to the layman).

So yeah, everyone’s here technically, but not without some caveats.

As mentioned, the NES version is one-player only, and can display two enemies at a time, albeit with some graphical break-up. The SMS has two-players simultaneously and up to three enemies, but there’s a lot of flicker throughout. With the 7800 however, one of the strengths built into the system from the get-go was the ability to move a lot of sprites at the same time, without flicker or slowdown.

The richly-detailed forest of Mission Three. Note the number of sprites onscreen, without flicker or graphical break-up! Neato!

This ability is readily apparent in Double Dragon. The game can have up to four bad guys onscreen, plus your one or two players. No graphical break-up, no flicker, and no slowdown either, except for some choppy scrolling when moving to a new screen. This version plays a bit more sluggish as a whole, but it’s not a deal breaker, and the relatively slower, more-deliberate pace of the game actually serves it well.

While on the subject of sprites, one thing about the original coin-op that wore real thin, real fast was its tendency to slow down when the screen became crowded. Yep, the more sprites there were at a given moment, the more the action crawled. Honestly, if you’re able to get beyond the relatively-archaic nature of the proceedings (early beat-’em-up and all), that’s really the only downside to what is otherwise still a terrific game.

The slowdown in the original coin-op often made the use of weapons more of a chore than a pleasure, which is a shame, because the ability to grab a new beat-down implement was another one of the revolutionary aspects of the game. You never saw Thomas appropriate one of those knives from a mindless grunt in Kung-Fu Master, after all!

The arcade featured bats, whips, knives, boulders, barrels, boxes and dynamite, all of which your character could pick up and use in his quest for kidnapped-girlfriend-vengeance. (And of course, they could always be taken from you, as well.) Only the bats, whips and knives made it to the 7800 port. In contrast to the later Streets of Rage, in which a knife could be used repeatedly or thrown at once, in Double Dragon it was always a one-throw deal. The bat and whips can be used repeatedly, though unlike the arcade, they eventually disappear when moving from one section of a level to another (common for home console conversions of the period).

Ah, but it was the attacks, the various combos you could pull off, that really sets Double Dragon apart from other side-scrolling fighters. Not set, sets. Later beat-’em-ups simplified the amount of attacks, sometimes with only a jump and punch button, maybe a special move. Double Dragon was considerably more involved, with a style of game play that more-closely resembled actual martial arts street fighting (I assume; so rarely do I get out to street fight). From the three buttons and joystick, you could pull off punches, kicks, jump kicks, reverse jump kicks, headbutts, elbow smashes, over-the-shoulder throws, the ability to repeatedly knee an enemy in the face, and with a buddy, one player could even grapple a baddie while the other slugged him (which worked the other way around, too). Amazingly, with all of these options at your disposal and relatively few buttons, it worked really, really well.

With only two attack buttons generally available, obviously all these moves didn’t always make it to the home versions intact. The NES port fared better than most; even though you had to continuously “level-up” to earn more of them, in some odd form of RPG-ness, you could amass an impressive range of attacks, including the ability to sit on an enemy and punch them relentlessly in the face. This wasn’t found in the coin-op, but rather in Technos’ prior beat-’em-up Renegade, which was Double Dragon‘s spiritual predecessor in more ways than one.

The SMS version retained a good number of the attacks, though for me, only the punches, kicks, jump kicks and headbutts were consistently easy to pull off. (You can elbow smash and knee-in-the-face, but I could only ever trigger those attacks by mistake!)

Mission Three is lengthy and culminates in a mountainside fight at the entrance of the enemy base…against not one but TWO green Abobos!

The 7800 actually fared pretty well in the translation. The knee-in-the-face and over-the-shoulder-throw options were, disappointingly, excised. (So is the grapple technique, though no home version got that, as far as I know.) But, along with the obvious abilities to punch, kick and jump kick, the reverse jump kick, headbutt, and elbow smash all made it in. Some of the button combos to make these moves happen are a little strange (down + punch to headbutt? What was wrong with double-tapping left or right like the arcade, NES and SMS?), but mostly this all works okay.

However, we now come to the biggest problem with the Atari 7800 version of Double Dragon, and it’s something that’s not even the game’s fault: the painful stock U.S. 7800 controller. Here in the States, we got the “ProLine Joystick,” and from start to finish, it was pretty much a holdover from the early-1980s era of controller-design. Basically an elongated grip with a joystick at the top and a fire button on each side (think ColecoVision or Atari 5200), it was a controller not suited to long sessions of any game, never mind one that requires constant movement and button-pressing like Double Dragon.

Overseas, Europeans got the “ProLine Joypad,” and it’s a far, far superior controller. Basically Atari’s answer to the NES control pad, it’s a continual mystery why it never replaced the joystick here in the U.S. It’s not perfect, but considering the alternative, it’s definitely preferable, and it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to Double Dragon.

Y’see, this game has gotten a reputation for being overly difficult, and in many eyes, not very good. Hey, I’ve been on that side of the fence a time or two in the past, too. When I first got the 7800 port many years ago, I was by no means a novice at Double Dragon. And yet, I could barely make any headway before exhausting all my lives (you get three to start, an extra at 50,000 points, and no continues). I was probably convinced it was either the hardest or most poorly-programmed port 8-bit console port there was.

Fast forward several years, when I decided to get myself some of the European Joypads. After all, I loved the 7800, so why not, you know, fully enjoy it? 2600, or even Sega Genesis, controllers were fine for single-button games, but some of the best 7800 titles, like Commando or our subject today, require two. And what a revelation! A whole new appreciation for the 7800 port of Double Dragon was gained, all because I could finally properly play it! Go figure!

I think 7800 Double Dragon gets a bad rap as far as difficulty is concerned. Don’t get me wrong, it’s on the challenging side; the enemies can hound you and get some cheap shots in. But, it’s really not any more difficult than any other 8-bit conversion, and in fact is probably easier as a whole than the NES port, where you can save all of your lives only to blaze through them in a hurry on the last level.

The controller, I think, is one of the issues with that difficulty perception. Seriously, get the European Joypads. Do what you gotta do to play Double Dragon comfortably, because it ain’t gonna happen using the regular ProLine Joystick. I can beat the game using it, but it’s not exactly an ergonomic experience.

The controller used isn’t the game’s fault, but another key to enjoying the beat-down frenzy is: the punch. There’s a very simple method to avoiding frustration with this game, and it’s this: just don’t punch. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. When animating the attacks, the punch is given a “wind up.” It isn’t instant contact. As such, there’s a moment of hesitation, and this leaves you open to hits. In other words, you end up taking taking cheap shots and trading blows back and forth.

Some players like to spam the elbow smash (just like the arcade!) and jump kicks here, but in my experience, you don’t necessarily need to do that. When using a normal, ground-based attack, just stick with regular kicking. There’s no animation between the button press and the result, so it’s ‘instant,’ and as such, you can hammer away at baddies without taking too many unnecessary hits back.

Mission Four, with some of the best graphics in the entire game!

On top of that, the enemy A.I. is painfully stupid. Yes, they can be tough, but once you learn their patterns, you can counter them pretty easily. Same goes for most beat-’em-ups, I know, but especially here. Much like the NES version, if you get in ‘close’ to an enemy, especially when coming in from underneath, you should be able to knock them down and eventually out while saving most of your life bar. As such, even the Abobos and Big Boss Willy, traditionally the toughest enemies, can be defeated without too much trouble.

So no, 7800 Double Dragon isn’t too hard. If anything, it might be a little too easy. You just gotta learn the tricks!

Lastly, we come to the music of 7800 Double Dragon. One of the most celebrated aspects of the game, in both its original incarnation and in most of the ports, was the soundtrack. Double Dragon featured an absolute classic score, one that not only fit the scenes you were traversing but also absolutely got you in the mood to beat down some street punks. On the 7800, we got…some of that.

Y’see, the system was originally intended to include a POKEY sound chip, which would have given it the sound quality of the Atari 8-bit computers and 5200, which was pretty good. When it was eventually released however, the POKEY was omitted as a cost-saving measure. The chip could be added to individual carts, though sadly, this was only utilized twice, for Commando and Ballblazer. Both have terrific music, but aside from those exceptions, the 7800 generally features sound identical to what the 2600 could pull off.

Now, it’s beyond old news to rag on the 7800’s sound quality. Compared to the NES and SMS, it sounds particularly bad, we know. It is what it is. It’s funny, I don’t even mind the sound of the 2600, but when it’s paired with the superior visuals of the 7800, well, it just kinda throws you for a loop.

That said, Double Dragon really should have utilized a POKEY sound chip. The soundtrack was so phenomenal that it absolutely, without a doubt deserved the honor. But, it didn’t. As such, we’re left with an incomplete, slightly-shrill score. Two of the mission tunes were omitted completely, meaning there’s some repetition involved. What is included is the famous title-screen track, Mission One’s theme, Mission Three’s theme (in the arcade, anyway), and the boss encounter music, plus the level-ending jingle. You’ll hear the first and third level themes repeated throughout, and not always where they should be.

Incomplete though it may be, at the very least, the music is recognizably Double Dragon.


Does this image practically scream “late-1980s” to you, or is it just me?

So when it comes right down to it, how does the Atari 7800 port of Double Dragon hold up? Better than it doesn’t. The music is a disappointment, and if you’re in the U.S., odds are you’ll have to contend with finding a better controller. Get over those obstacles however, and you’re treated with what I feel is one of the best games in the Atari 7800 library.

True, it lacks the length and extra features of the famous Nintendo Entertainment Version, but it makes up for that with the arcade-accuracy and simultaneous two-player action. And, while the graphics and sound are markedly inferior, I actually prefer this port over that of the Sega Master System, based solely on the gameplay. The SMS version, don’t get me wrong, I like it, but the control has always seemed too loose for my tastes; you’re basically out there swinging fists wildly – there’s no finesse, in my opinion. The 7800 version runs a bit slower, but you can really get into a groove while playing thanks to that.

Perhaps more importantly than how it stacks up against the rival 8-bit ports is what this Double Dragon represents. Think of it; you’re a kid in the late-1980s, you have an Atari 7800, while most everyone else has an NES. Maybe a few of your friends have an SMS. Now sure, there’s plenty of great classic arcade ports at your disposal, and the 2600 library, but that stuff isn’t what’s burning up the video game world at the moment. Games have evolved, become more complex, bigger worlds, better graphics.

All of sudden, here comes Double Dragon, the arcade smash, the game that’s tearing up both the NES and SMS. And now it’s available for the 7800! The series would continue to expand via sequels, spin-offs, and so on and so forth, but for this one occasion, 7800 owners could boast the same hot game as NES and SMS owners could. Not that Double Dragon was the only shared title across the three; Rampage hit all of them as well. But, Double Dragon was a trendsetting name brand that, as I’ve said, was incredibly recognizable in the late-1980s and early-1990s. It showing up on the 7800 seems special to me in a way that, frankly, Rampage doesn’t. That’s just my perception, though.

Furthermore, the beat-’em-up was a genre sorely lacking on the 7800. Kung-Fu Master was fun, but simplistic and old hat by the time it came out on the system in ’89. Ninja Golf and Basketbrawl were quirky Atari originals that combined sports with fighting. And Karateka? Well, we don’t talk about Karateka. None of them could attain quite the same level that Double Dragon achieved – and achieves.

Double Dragon was something special in the Atari 7800 library, and even if it wasn’t a perfect game, that’s still to be celebrated. Even today!

Two of my all-time favorite TV finds immortalized in old pictures I found saved on the PC.

How’s that for a short and concise article title?! I’m such a pro!

Looong before running this blog, I’ve been taking pictures of crap I own/owned. Goofing off on my PC for even a few minutes will undoubtedly unearth several such pics taken for various reasons. As far as this post goes, I actually had one of these pics in mind for an entry, but when I finally came across it, I found the other two, and they also seemed like good candidates for national recognition on my stupid blog. These aren’t new pics; they were taken waaay back in May 2010 for a planned article for another site. I eventually never went ahead with that one, although one of the pictures seen here did find its way into a later article for that same site. Should you ever come across that article, make no mistake, these pics and the TVs contained within them are all mine mine mine.

Philips Magnavox Projection Screen TV, model # 7P5433 W101 (1998)

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Ah, my 1998 Philips Magnavox big ol’ projection screen TV, model #7P5433 W101. I can’t remember if it’s a 50 inch or 55 inch screen, but either way, lotta TV here. I picked this up at a second-hand store in early-2010 for a really good price, the only caveat being that the screen had a very reddish tint. A little bit of online research revealed this was the coolant in the projection lamps going bad. Luckily, new coolant was cheap, and replacing it was relatively easy (as long as you were careful).

mytv1

As you can see, it eventually worked like a champ and quickly became the go-to TV for Nintendo (there’s also a Sega Genesis with the Power Base Converter for Master System games sitting on top of the set). That’s the NES classic Gun.Smoke being played in the pic above. I can waste quite a bit of time playing the game anyway, but when I had the NES hooked up to this big-screen, I would put the sound on mute, and just spend hours playing the game while listening to Jerry Lee Lewis vinyls I picked up at Time Traveler Records in Cuyahoga Falls. While it may not be the most dignified container ever, that Pampers box the NES is sitting on in the pic was filled with even more carts for the system. Trust me gang, you haven’t lived until you’ve played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Double Dragon and Double Dragon II on a big-ass TV like this.

Fast-forward to today: There’s something wrong with this TV’s picture. It displays very small and in the center of the screen. Unlike the coolant issue, I think I’m absolutely going to have to take the old beast to a repair shop at some point in the future, hopefully soon. I love this TV too much to ever get rid of it, so if worse comes to worse, it will remain a cool piece of decor in my increasingly-cluttered home. But, it pains me to not have it be useable at the present time. I must rectify this.

Zenith System 3 TV (1984)

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Sorry I don’t have a specific model # for this one, but this is a Zenith System 3 color TV from 1984. Despite the fact it’s missing the door that went over the channel-buttons and picture-adjusters, I instantly fell in love with this TV when I found it at Goodwill for like $8-$10 in either late-2009 or early-2010. Continuing my apparent need to have an NES in as many rooms in the house as possible, there’s, erm, another Nintendo hooked up, and on top of the set is my beloved Colecovision, complete with River Raid plugged in and ready-to-go.

This TV has always worked like a champ, I still have it, and I have no intention of ever getting rid of it. And yet, I don’t have it hooked up right now. In it’s place is a Sony Trinitron from, if I recall correctly, 1985, with a big huge, beautiful screen, speakers built into both sides of the set AND it’s built on top of a stand that’s also another speaker. Plus, multiple A/V inputs. So, probably a pretty high-end TV back in the day. I plan on spotlighting that Sony TV and the video game consoles I have hooked up to it at some point in the future, but for now, let us revel in the pic above.

I may not currently be using either TV seen here today, but man, of all the TVs I’ve bought over the years, they’re two of my absolute favorites, and I’m glad to have them.

APF M1000 Video Game System Review

apf1

I’m a big sucker for early video game consoles. The Atari 2600, of course, but also more obscure systems such as the Bally Astrocade. Even less well-known than the Bally is this, the APF M1000, released in 1978 and designed to be part of a larger, expandable computer called the APF Imagination Machine. The computer was apparently a pretty advanced beast for the time, but I don’t have one nor have I ever played one. All I’ve got is this core system. This was an Ebay impulse buy from about a year ago, albeit an impulse buy I mulled over for several days prior to the auction’s end. As soon as it was over, I sort of had second thoughts. But, as it stands, I’m glad I bought this thing. It’s kinda neat, it’s obscure, and, and…well, I don’t really have any other reasons, but it’s mine, okay?

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This thing reminds me of a cross between an Atari 2600 and an Intellivision. The black-and-woodgrain finish recalls the 2600, while the fairly awful numeric controllers and hardwired cords are similar to the Intellivision (even though the Intellivision hadn’t been released yet when the APF hit the market). Yes, the controllers and the RF cable cannot be disconnected from the system, which is always a double-edged sword. On one hand, you never have to worry about losing a controller. But on the other hand, if something breaks, you’re in trouble, especially nowadays. And, like any good system with hardwired cords, no matter how careful you are, things become a tangled mess in a matter of seconds. The APF is especially susceptible to this because the RF cable is approximately 1000 feet long, and even if you avoid tangling it with the controller cords, you still have to contend with other unrelated cables that may happen to be in the vicinity. I’m not joking, the cords on this thing are a legit pain.

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The controller looks like a cross between the Intellivison and Colecovision controllers, and that’s not really a good thing (keep in mind those systems weren’t released when the APF first came out, so no cries of “Copycat!” can be lobbied). Neither system was known for having especially comfortable control pads, but I’d give the Colecovision the edge, dubious honor that may be. Luckily, the APF has a joystick ‘nub’, somewhat comparable to Coleco’s, which I prefer to the Intellivision’s directional disc. Actually, since it’s fairly small and the fire button is located on the top of the controller, I’d say the APF’s controller may actually be a bit better than either of those other two, though that’s not saying much.

As for games, only a few were released for the console, and guess what? I don’t have any of them. Mine didn’t come with any carts, and while there’s usually one or two on Ebay, they tend to either be too much for the ones I want or games I would never spend good money on in the first place. I do want Bowling and Baseball, and there’s a Sea Monster game that sounds interesting, but as it stands, I don’t have any carts and thus have no idea if the cartridge port on my system even works.

Luckily, there’s a built-in game, so I can tell if my APF M1000 powers up at all or not…

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The game is Rocket Patrol, and frankly, it’s pretty awful. I know early video games weren’t the most sophisticated things in the world, but there were some madly addictive and fun ones. Rocket Patrol isn’t one of them. In two player mode, one player shoots a maddeningly slow missile while the other controls the speed of the rockets. One player mode lets you control only the rockets. There’s really no strategy or twitch gameplay to speak of, but at least you get a look at the graphics. The APF was able to present words that look halfway not-blocky, as opposed to the 2600, and the graphics are simple but not too bad given their age; they probably fall somewhere in between the 2600 and Intellivision (again). I have no idea if the actual cartridges live up to that declaration or not.

The APF M1000 is definitely a curiosity piece for those interested in early console gaming, and while it’s not really fair for me to pass judgement until I’ve got some actual carts, I think the best I can say is that it showed promise. It’s an interesting console, to say the least, but I think I’m safe in stating that It’s doubtful anyone would pass up the 2600 for it. Not today, anyway.