Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Lost" Review - Yobo FC Twin

Since not having the Webstation up has some sticklers up in atoms, here's a little something to tide you over: a months-old review of Yobo's dual NES/SNES clone video game console, the FC Twin. Keep in mind that this was written before the release of the Retro Duo, a similar system which reportedly has better game compatibility. Even so, I stand by this review for the most part and find that the Twin is somewhat easier to get your hands on if you don't trust the Internet for hardware. Chances are you'll luck out at a flea market, but I found that the local Superclub Videotron on Beaubien street (in Montreal... of course) also sells these. With that said, here's the review:

A long time ago in a galaxy two feet away, in the days before there was Blu-Ray this and HD that, the purpose of a video game console was to play video games. Nothing more, nothing less. It didn't play movies or music; it played video games. It didn't need a fancy set-up like a hi-def television or Internet connection; all you need was a TV, a wall outlet to plug the power in, a working controller, and a game cartridge. This was the gaming life. But then they introduced CDs to the mix and the multimedia revolution began its course; turning what were simple games with deep gameplay and fun into beautiful eye-candy with little to no substance... and no, fifteen-minute long unskippable cutscenes are not my idea of substance. Soon, video game hardware developers attempted to turn simple video game machines into second-rate computer systems that can play CD music, DVD movies, browse the Internet, and even watch porn... wow, it's just like using a computer, except on a computer, these are standard features that serve somewhat of a purpose while on game consoles, they are tacked on extras so developers could bump up the prices.

Maybe I should just review the damn console before this turns into a rant on the current gaming scene... although that's not a bad idea.

To relive the old days of gaming, we have game compilations on CD/DVD, X-Box Live Arcade, Wii's Virtual Console service, and even entire websites offering game downloads for a reasonable fee. However, for those of us who still have those old cartridges, we have to find vintage working consoles to play the classic we already own. Those that work cost an arm and leg and the dirt cheap ones are likely not to work. There is the option of repairing your faulty console, but if you're like me, chances are you're not much of an expert in taking things apart and putting them back together in the same shape it was before. Fortunately, we have third-party alternatives as a group of Asian developers have made a bunch of clone consoles. One of them is a 2-in-1 clone console called the FC Twin, developed by Yobo. This console is a follow-up to their NeoFami/FC Game console which was basically a NES clone system.

THE GOOD: Probably the FC Twin's best feature over other Fami-clones is its ability to play classic NES (8-bit) or Super NES (16-bit) games on the same console. NES emulation is somewhat spotty (more on this later), but SNES gameplay is absolutely flawless, with every pixel, soundbyte, and control movement almost perfectly replicated. The console itself looks to be fairly well-built and the controllers aren't too bad either. They function a little stiff for my tastes, but nonetheless, they are a pretty good reproduction of the SNES controller, which is quite possibly one of the best controllers I've ever laid my hands on. For $70 Canadian, I found it to be a steep but fair price, considering what I was getting; a dual NES/Super NES console that requires one plug and one set of A/V wiring.

THE BAD: It's been stated that certain games won't work with the console due to special chips and designs in these games and this is somewhat true. Castlevania III on the NES side of things is a perfect example, as the game would just halt before any gameplay would take place. Also, sound emulation on the NES side of things tends to be off, but this is to expected since this isn't original NES hardware and thus the little details can't be perfectly recreated. Later FC Twin models would have improved sound emulation (read: SMB plays sound just as you remember them), but some minor flaws in the emulation do exist. Another discerning criticism (and one that is used often against the FC Twin) is the exclusive use of SNES controller ports. While you can use your SNES gear without fault, this means no slots to use classic NES gear such as the Zapper or Power Glove. Whether this is a big loss is dependent on whether you actually need a dose of Duck Hunt or Gyromite in your life. Finally, as a personal peeve, the included controllers have really short wires, so you'll probably want to dump those for actual SNES controllers with longer wires (or even no wires) fairly quickly.

OVERALL: The FC Twin is a very nice, affordable, and space-saving alternative to the NES and Super NES in a time when both consoles can be hard to come by in a functional state. While the lack of compatibility for select titles will scare a few folks away, I wouldn't mind sacrificing a few games for something as sweet as this. It's certainly easier than to take your old NES apart and replacing the connectors unless you're a soldering saavy person, in which case you wouldn't be reading this review and started ordering the required pieces. In any case, if you're looking to replay some classic games of an era long gone and are hard-pressed to find original hardware that still works - not to mention save a bit of space in the process - the FC Twin is your best bet.

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