Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Ratings Jam: Neo Fami/FC Game Console (plus Bonus: The Amityville Frontloader)

Since I mostly started this "weblog" because I wanted to do peripheral reviews, I figured I'd start with my most recent acquisition: The FC Game Console, which is the "USA Version" of a pirate system called the Neo Fami. (This is gonna be a long one, so I'll put the condensed version at the end.)

Just pulling it out of the box, I can tell that it's not just a typical NESClone. The thing is tiny--about the size of four standard CD jewel cases stacked together. It's a top-loading unit, and the slot is pretty tight; in fact, sometimes I have a lot of trouble getting the games out. The power and reset switches are toward the front of the unit, and the power switch lights up with a sweet blue LED. Two standard NES controller ports are in the front, as well; due to the unit's tiny size, they're sidways, whcih keeps me from using the NES Satellite without some fancy wirin'.

The AC jack and AV out are in the back of the unit, and that leads me to both my first big plus and my first big minus. The video out is EXCELLENT, much better than what I expected. Why couldn't Nintendo put nice video on their toploading NES instead of the worst RF out ever? The colors are clean and crisp. The audio out, however, leaves something to be desired. The sound does not emulate properly; some of the sound channels are spot-on, but others are way off-pitch. This is particularly noticeable in Super Mario Bros, which was the first game I tested in the system.

The second real problem with the machine is compatibility. All of my licensed NES games work properly with the FCGC (although certain games, like Kung Fu, took like a million re-inserts and adjustments before they'd work). A few unlicensed games didn't work, but others worked fine. Example: Gauntlet, in the black engen cartridge, was unplayable, but Pac-Mania worked better on the FCGC than it does on my NES. The same with my Camerica gold-cartridge games; Micro Machines was a garbled mess, but Dizzy the Adventurer worked wonderfully.

Of course, I had to try out some pirate cartridges on this thing. Super Mario Bros. 3 was so bad that I couldn't even get past the title screen. Rockman 2, however, played just fine, no stability issues or anything. My Super Mario Bros. 2j cart also works perfectly, albeit with the same sound oddities as regular Super Mario Bros.

The FC (why do my abbreviations keep getting shorter?) comes packed with 2 controllers. they're standard pirate controller fare, except they feature both turbo for A and B and slo-mo buttons. Granted, it's the crappy push-pause-really-fast slo-mo which I've found only really works with Q*Bert, but hey, it's there. The controllers have a pretty cheap feel to them, also standard pirate fare, but they work just fine in both the FC and my regular NES.

I ventured to get the classic Famicom-colored unit (red/white), which comes with matching controllers. The unit is also available in indigo/blue or, for an extra couple bucks, chrome. Pretty swanky. It's made by Gametech, but the logo on the unit says Yobo, and it's sold in the US by Gamesoft. I decided that the best stress-test for the unit would be to take it out to one of our weekend get-togethers, where Zapper games are the toast of the town. We discovered that the Zapper works great, and after extended periods of time the unit generated very little heat.

So, to sum it up:

+Very portable
+Works with any NES controller, including Zapper
+Very clean video output
+Cool design

-Flawed sound output
-Incompatibility issues
-Very finicky cartridge slot
-Cheap feel

The Bottom Line: If you're going to buy one of these, buy it for the novelty. Working NES units are not hard to find, and with proper maintenance they'll last a long time. Still, the FC Game Console is a pretty cool conversation piece, and you can always whip it out of you cargo pocket at a party: "Hoo-wah! Nintendo!"

At lunch today, discussion about a particular cartoon from Ill Will Press sparked this conversation:

Drew: Hey, look what I got from that internet auction site.
Kevin: What is it?
Drew: It's a front-loading NES from that haunted house in Amityville. Amityville!
Kevin: You bought a haunted Nintendo?
Drew: Watch, this is cool, you put in regular old Super Mario Bros. and...

48 seconds later

Kevin: Duck Hunt? How did you end up with Duck Hunt?
Drew: No one knows! What’s even cooler is when you put in Duck Hunt, you get Hogan's Alley, and when you put in Hogan's Alley you get a gold Zelda cart!
Kevin: Bull$#!+.
Drew: Oh yeah? Fine. It just so happens I have Hogan's Alley right here.

56 seconds later

Kevin: Whoa!
Drew: See? Legend of Zelda.
Kevin: That's freaky. What happens if you put Low G Man in there?
Drew: Good question!

6,798 seconds later

Kevin: Is... is that a Famicom Disk System disk?
Drew: Oh man, what a jip. I was hoping it'd be one of those Game Genies.
Kevin: Ooh, try Friday the 13th!
Drew: Eh, you know, the auction description said not to use Friday the 13th.
Kevin: Why?
Drew: I dunno, something about getting back Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu hand or something. Eh yeah, don't fuck around with it.

987 seconds later

Kevin: Whoa, it's Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu.
Drew: What did I say about using Friday the 13th?!?

Drew: The Amityville toaster, make gaming spooky, spooky talk from toaster, spooky play me game, yum yum yum, Master Chu.


Anonymous Lil Sis said...

Yay!!!! I've seen and played on his new system and it totally rocks (but then again, if I can jump I'm happy. It took me way too long to figure out the "B" button.) So go with The JackOfClubs here, he knows his stuff.

10:30 AM  
Blogger XLShadow said...

Cheap is kinda harsh. I understand where you are coming from, the plastic isn't high-grade by any means. But the buttons feel just fine and the controller works well. Nothing will beat the feal of the orginal NES controller. This is top of the line when it comes to 3rd party.

2:45 PM  

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