In 2006, the first home-grown retro plug-n-play systems showed up in Japan in the form of Namco Nostalgia 1 & 2 and Taito Nostalgia 1 & 2, from Bandai, under the "Let's! TV Play Classic" brand (an extension of their "Let's! TV Play" motion game line). These actually also used XaviX technology, along with a very consumer-unfriendly setup for power and output: you had to buy a separately sold proprietary AV/power cable in order to play any of the units (note the lack of a battery power option, though there was a battery backup of some sort, as evidenced by a "Load" option at the game title screens). This was made worse by what seems to have been a recall of that cable. Each of the units in this series came with 2 retro games and 2 remixes of those same games. In the case of the Namco games, the remixes used a similar setting but with a different type of gameplay, while the Taito games' remixes used characters with different abilities under the same gameplay. Another difference, the Namco series are labeled as "8M ROM" (megabytes? megabits?), while the Taito series are "16M ROM."
I never thought I'd actually find myself with any of these Let's! TV Play Classic systems, mostly because of the proprietary power + AV cable they require. The asking price on that cable, which, as I noted in the 2010 post I quoted (outside of the excerpt above), was originally 1599 yen, skyrocketed in the years after the product line was terminated. The cable can now cost more than any of the systems themselves. Still, last month, I came across a crazy good deal on eBay for unopened Namco Nostalgia 1 & 2 units, and after outbidding only one other bid, I found myself winning them for under $25 shipped. That's less than you could normally expect to pay for just one! Too good a deal to pass up.
So, I thought I'd bought myself a nice pair of paperweights; there was no deal to be found on that cable, after all. But then I found out that the proprietary cable still uses standard power and AV plug tips. The only really proprietary part is the special casing that bundles those together. Thanks to some useful info people generously posted online, I found cables in my own home that fit the electrical requirements, bought a plug adapter cable to finish things off, and successfully got my new Namco Nostalgia 1 & 2 systems working on my TV!
Here's what you need to replace the proprietary cable:
1. AC adapter: You need a 5V DC, center-positive adapter, and it needs to be able to handle 0.4 amps at a minimum. If you have an Intellivision Flashback or a ColecoVision Flashback (or both, like me), congratulations! You already have an electrically compatible AC adapter. However, the Let's! TV Play Classic systems take a cylindrical power plug with a 4.0mm outer diameter and 1.7mm inner diameter (i.e., it's what's known as an EIAJ-02 connector; the PSP AC charging cable uses this plug). The INTV/CV Flashbacks' AC adapter has a plug with a 5.5mm outer diameter and 2.1mm inner diameter. I found a little adapter cable for exactly that conversion on eBay for just $4, and that was my only expense in this endeavor to mimic the proprietary cable.
2. AV cable: You need a cable with a 3.5mm, 4-ring plug at one end and composite video + stereo audio RCA plugs at the other end. The cable's 4 lines need to be ordered thus, going from the ring at the 3.5mm plug's tip end to the ring at its base: white (left audio), yellow (video), ground, red (right audio). This ordering is the same as what most camcorders use for their composite video cables. It is not the same order as what iPods used to use back when they had a 3.5mm video port, BUT since those old iPod video cables did have ground on the same ring, they'll work if you shift the colors of the RCA plugs. Note that there are video cables out there which have ground at a different ring position (usually on the ring at the base, I think), and those are not going to work. I have neither a camcorder nor a video cable for one, but I remembered that I had an extra Kenshin Dragon Quest video cable. That's a plug-n-play game system whose underlying hardware is from the same family as that of the Let's! TV Play Classic systems, ShinSeDai's XaviX technology. I figured that that game's video cable would probably be electrically compatible, and whew! I was right.
3. Possible required modding: The proprietary cable's special plug fits into a recessed part of the Let's! TV Play Classic system casing. The system's power and video ports are side by side at the "back wall" of the hollow. In order to fit into this indentation, your power and AV plugs' head casings need to be at most ~9mm thick, for a length of ~1cm from the base of the metal back toward the cabling. And, in case it isn't obvious, a right-angle plug head will not fit into this indentation at all. In my case, the 4.0mm/1.7mm plug on the adapter I bought for my AC adapter had no trouble fitting. However, I had to do a bit of whittling on my Kenshin Dragon Quest AV cable's plug.
Once you have an electrically compatible AC adapter and AV cable, along with plugs that can reach the ports in the proprietary slot, you're all set. I happened to have compatible equipment already and only needed to spend the cost of a sandwich for a plug adapter--which is a pretty good savings over the $70+ that Amazon Marketplace sellers want for the proprietary cable. :) I should note that I really had to force my AV plug into the AV ports on both of my Namco Nostalgia systems; even though the rubber casing was no longer an obstacle after whittling, it seemed like the AV port itself was a tight fit for the 3.5mm plug tip. It only went 3 rings in until I hit the afterburners.
Now for some mini-reviews. Of the Namco Nostalgia games, I had already had Xevious and Mappy for years (on Jakks Pacific's plug-n-play systems), and neither Dragon Buster nor its Dragon Buster 100 survival remix really interested me. So, once I got everything working, I went and tried out the other four games. Xevious: Scramble Mission is a remix of Xevious set inside some sort of complex (i.e., you'll have to navigate corridors) and made up of 6 time-limited stages that each end in a battle with a mini Andor Genesis. I thought it was pretty fun, as a mixture of Xevious shooting and tight quarters gauntlet time trial. Mappy: Nyamco-Dan no Gyakushuu ("Nyamco Brigade's Counterattack") is a Breakout clone featuring the Meowkies bouncing Goro into the air to break crates and grab treasures. After getting all the treasures, Mappy appears, walking left and right at the top of the screen, and you have to bounce Goro into him to end the level. I found this game terribly tedious, mostly due to the need for finely timed button presses to turbo-bounce Goro in order to reach the higher parts of the screen; it's like a hobbled Breakout. The levels with unbreakable crates blocking your shots are particularly annoying. Gaplus took me some time to understand, but the main thrust of this third game in the Galaxian series seems to be building a squad of enemy fighters captured with your tractor beam. Lots of captures makes a wide squad, which makes the Challenging Stages easier, and that's where you get the big points. The stages ("parsecs") increase in difficulty pretty quickly, make for an engaging game. Gaplus Phalanx is a vertically scrolling game in which you use your tractor beam to try to grab as many blue enemies as possible; if you capture red enemies, they subtract from your score (fortunately, they take longer to ingest than blues). The parsecs I've seen do quite a bit of variation on this theme, so it's more interesting than that basic description.
If anyone wants to compare high scores on the above games, let me know. :) And, if anyone has a hot tip on where to get Taito Nostalgia 1 & 2 for cheap, let me know.
P.S. There's a nifty feature in these Let's! TV Play Classic games: after each level (or area, in Xevious), the system auto-saves your progress. So, you can die an ignominious death in Gaplus, switch off the system in a hissy fit, and sulk for a week . . . then come back and retry from the beginning of the parsec where you hit Game Over. Each game has its own auto-save slot, too. That's the "Load" option on each game's title screen.
P.P.S. On the topic of plug-n-play in general, I've so far found only one release planned for 2015 (outside of whatever AtGames releases in the fall): an ESRB rating popped up in May for Star Wars: Blaster Strike from Jakks Pacific. Based on its description, it sounds like a light-gun-style shooter (Jakks has released at least one each year since 2009). Oh, and I did eventually get the DreamWorks Dragons Hero Portal side-scrolling shooter system. Low difficulty, but I still find it fun.