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10 Groundbreaking Game Consoles that Time Forgot
Entex Adventure Vision
At first glance, the Entex Adventure Vision may look like your typical table-top arcade-type machine, but in reality, that couldn't be farther from the truth. In 1982, a year prior to Sega's first failure, a company called Entex released this uncommon artifact unto the world. Instead of running on circuit-boards and CRT screens, the Adventure Vision solely relies on mechanical hardware--more specifically: a mirror, a motor, and a strip of 40 tall crimson-colored LED lights. To achieve these trembling graphics, the Adventure Vision fervently rotates a mirror around these red lights using its built-in motor. The result? A wobbly-looking, monochromatic red screen boasting four (yes, four) arcade-port games that rest snugly in the compartments found on the top of the machine. It was such an unsuccess that only 50,000 units were ever sold, with only an estimated 100 still left in existence, thus making it one of the rarest video game consoles in the world today.
On July 15th, 1983, Sega dropped their first game system onto the Japanese market. Interestingly, the Nintendo Family Computer (more commonly referred to as the Nintendo Famicom) was initially released on the same day. It featured an inconvenient, hardwired joystick and inferior graphics compared to the Famicom's; graphics which closely resembled those of the Colecovision, available publicly a year earlier. Pitted against a fiercely competitive industry with arguably nothing new to offer, it was quickly buried in the shadow of its rivals and swept under the rug as Sega set sail to create what would become its eventual replacement: the Sega Master System.
The famed XE in the flesh... sort of.
Atari XE Game System
The seventh installment in Atari's 8-bit family, the Atari XE Game System (or XEGS) was released less than 12 months after the 7800's re-release. It was marketed as both a game console and a personal computer; able to support cartridges, floppy disks, tapes and printers. Unfortunately, much of its inevitable failure boiled down to the fact that the XE mostly just repacked many of the Atari's old games and released very few exclusive titles, as well as being unable to compete with many of the newer games coming out for the NES. Eventually, XEGS was replaced by the handheld Atari Lynx, and the Atari Jaguar home game console.
Taiwanese company Funtech released the Super A'Can game system in 1995. Sold exclusively in Taiwan, the system itself resembled the Japan-variant of Nintendo's famed SNES, but with a ridiculously inflated price tag and a meager library of games. With dual 16 and 8-bit CPUs, the A'Can was powerful compared to other 16-bit systems; but more impressive 32-bit consoles were already comfortably nestling in on the video game market by the time of its release, making the A'Can graphically obsolete before it even had a chance to make its debut. With only 12 confirmed game titles, a highly unaffordable cost, and outdated technology, very few units were ever sold. The Funtech corporation lost an estimated six million dollars USD in this investment, and dismantled most of the unsold systems to sell abroad in parts, making the Super A'Can another rare piece of video game history.
The Vectrex was another vastly under-appreciated splash in the pool of '80s gaming. Trickling down late in November of 1982, it had an integrated monitor and relied not on the standard raster (bit) graphics, but on vector-based imaging instead. It was the first and only home game system to do this. This gave the Vectrex its name; and its smoothly-rendered, line-based illustration. Though strongly black-and-white themed, the Vectrex offered colored plastic overlays that fit over the screen for use with certain games. Also available was the Vectrex 3D imager: a 3D peripheral for use with the console, preceding the SegaScope by approximately four years. It was, ultimately, a commercial failure; due in part by the video game crash of '83, and ended up costing Milton Bradley millions of dollars in losses. The system itself, however, has retained a devoted fan following over the years, and is often praised for its overall durability and library of games.
The Konix Multisystem was British company Konix's attempt at releasing their own video game system to the public. The idea spawned action in 1988, and promised to incorporate a steering wheel, flight yoke, and cycle handlebars onto the console itself, as well as something the home game market had never heard of before--tangible force, rumbles, and vibration. It sported MIDI support, light gun, and the "power chair," a which anticipated motor-movement and the feeling of recoil. It was first unveiled to the press in 1989, at Earls Court Exhibition Centre during a toy fair, and though the idea met with good reception, the reality proved to become much more problematic. Funding the project and the technology needed to produce it was a debilitating issue; in order to keep the price of software affordable, it was decided that the games would use floppy disks, instead of the standard cartridge design. A shortage of affordable available RAM hindered ambition, and soon the initial release date was pushed back from August to October. By October, it was scheduled for a 1990 release, and by that point there was simply not enough money to keep the console afloat. Employees weren't paid, checks bounced, and software developers were unable to continue. This, the Konix Multisystem--a brilliant idea--disintegrated before it could even be released.
Arriving to the scene in 1987, the Action Max was a VCR-based game system. Because its games came in the form of VHS tapes, it required its owner to also own a VCR. Its controllers were essentially NES-esque light guns, and the gaming was solely point-based (you could never "win," nor could you ever truly "lose"). Games incorporated a "target" system, relying on an external sensor that must be attached to the screen prior to paying, which would flash red when something became shoot-able. The strict point method--coupled with the fact that the only genre of game released for the console were first-person shooters--crippled interest in the system and led to dwindling public appeal, which caused the Action Max to quickly slip out of the public eye and into the spiraling chasm of failed game systems.
The Virtual Boy hit Japan on July 21st, 1995, and made its way to America in August of the same year. It was Nintendo's first attempt at "true 3D graphics" and a [poorly thrown] shot at virtual reality. What can be considered today as the Nintendo 3Ds's ambitious but mentally challenged great-grandfather, the Virtual Boy's use of mirrors and monochromatic red and black graphics are eerily reminiscent of the famed Adventure Vision released over a decade earlier. Quite unlike its Entex counterpart, however, the Virtual Boy is capable of 3D, and despite its many flaws, does it rather well. Essentially a pair of overweight goggles on a set of flimsy legs with controller attached, the Virtual Boy could have been, in theory, a success--that is, if it weren't for the awkward design, difficulty to comfortably use, headache-inducing gameplay, and lack of anything even remotely resembling virtual reality (save a few first-person titles, such as Teleroboxer). The Super Nintendo was still widely in use at the time as well, and the seemingly significant step-back in graphics (compared to the SNES and similar consoles) led to an increased disinterest in consumers. Regrettably, the Virtual Boy was pegged as a failure early in its life, and was canceled not long after it was released; resulting in only a handful of titles and several scheduled features--such as two-player mode, where two consoles could be linked using a specialized cable--to never be employed (all systems were made with a place to plug the cable in, but could never be used since the cable was never sold). The Virtual Boy's premature demise makes the system another rare collector's item in the gaming community.
A valuable collector's piece indeed!
The Philips CDi, released in 1991, was a disc-based system used for audio CDs, museum tours, educational software and video games, created under the pretenses that it would provide as a a practical, less expensive alternative to personal computers with CD-ROM drives at the time. This was because it lacked almost all of the things a PC had: hard drive, floppy drive, keyboard, mouse, and monitor. It used a standard TV set, and possessed numerous faults that soured the public's opinion of it, such as the difficult controls, poor graphics, and staggering initial price tag of $700. Several games released for the system have been rated as some of the worst games ever made, even by today's standards; and remains remembered (if remembered at all), as one of the worst blows to the Zelda franchise ever dealt.
The Phantom is an aptly-named device due to how few people have ever seen or heard of it. An idea set forth in 2002 to produce a "revolutionary" game console that would play all present and future PC games on a home system setting, and would utilize directly downloaded software instead of discs or cartridges. It was met with generally positive reception, the Phantom Lapboard receiving the "best of show" award in 2004 at E3, but was ultimately doomed to fail when it could not achieve its 30 million dollar capital raise to finish production of the system. After missing every release date that had been set (a total of five different dates, over a span of two years), the company seemingly gave up on the idea, and the spirit of The Phantom home game console vanished like the spectre it was forever destined to be.