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Bally Astrocade vs Arcadia 2001 vs Odyssey 2

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All systems were interesting and worthy for their time. I won't knock any of them. But I'll take the Astrocade in all areas except durability - it had cooling issues IIRC. I loved the Astrocade's arcade sound chip and couldn't get enough of it! The deep harmonic bass and "multi-timbral" sound was intoxicating. Definitely 70's. Definitely synthesized. Spacey & moody.

 

The graphics felt freewheeling and raw, down to the hardware, not plugged up with 500 APIs like today's games. Not like Intellivision. Like the VCS. But certainly not as good.

 

Loved Galactic Invasion and that one tie-fighter style game, forget the exact name. Just thank god that it got emulated in MESS otherwise I'd be extremely depressed.

 

---

 

I played with the Arcadia, but I don't really remember much. I didn't have one. I did have an Odyssey2 though. But I thought it sucked hard. The boxes always made the games look better. Even to a larger degree than the Atari VCS boxes. And the keyboard, it was underutilized. In retrospect It was pretty cool and had I been a grown up in that era I might have appreciated it more. I have no ill will toward it today.

Edited by Keatah

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I mean you can actually make stuff with Bally basic so it already beats the 2600 one there. Cartridge library doesn't really have any stinkers I've tried so far on the Bally, but incredible wizard is certainly one of the best. Really just comes down to how much you like 70s style gaming, cuz that's most of the library.

 

The Odyssey2 has some great games, some crappy ones, and some that are really only cool if you're into that system's era and style. Same with the Arcadia, though I'm a lot cooler on its library overall (lots of jank)

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how did the Odyssey 2 stack up against Bally in terms of basic?

 

Is there a BASIC on the Odyssey2?

 

Bally BASIC and "AstroBASIC" are great programming languages, as the large library of BASIC programs shows. I think at last count, there were about 500 or so BASIC programs available for downloaded on BallyAlley.com-- although, some of these are two versions of the same programs (one in 2000-baud format for "AstroBASIC," and one in 300-baud format for Bally BASIC).

 

I remember using Computer Intro! on the Odyssey2; I thought it was a great idea, but it was very limited. I still think it has one of the best manuals for any classic system. I just tried to look for the manual so that I could link to it here, but I couldn't find a copy of it.

 

Adam

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Much like 2600 basic, computer intro is very limited because you can't save or load programs (I also am pretty sure it's restrictive in terms of what you can do, anyway). The only BASIC cart I think competes on a home console is Famicom BASIC.

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Is this a new incarnation of 2600problems?

 

For that matter, the Videopac G7000 did have a BASIC extension which included its own Z80 and user RAM. I'm not sure how much of the system's graphics resources it could use, but then again it is true for nearly every system that BASIC will limit your use of the system compared to machine language programming.

 

It would seem to me that the Bally Astrocade ($299 in October 1977), the Odyssey^2 ($179 in February 1979) and the Arcadia 2001 ($199 in March-May 1982) entered different price segments at different times, filling different parts of the market. Actually if those prices are correct, the Odyssey^2 was a steal and the Arcadia was grossly overpriced given that even the ColeoVision seems to have launched for less.

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I owned all three at one point as a collector. The Astrocade (didn't have until 1998) seemed very ambitious for the time it originally came out. It's a good system but I found it hard to collect for. The joysticks are all a little finicky.

 

The Arcadia 2001 (again, didn't have until 1998) was just okay given when it came out. The games are a little generic. The Atari 5200 and ColecoVision would have come out about the same time as the Arcadia and I would say go with the 5200 or ColecoVision if you want something from that time frame.

 

The OD2 is the only system that I actually had back in the day (got in for Xmas 1979). At the time of it's release it was on par with the Atari 2600. However as time went on the 2600 was able to out do the OD2. With that said I still prefer the OD2 over the 2600 to this day. Games I like on the system include: Killer Bee's, Attack of the Timelord, Pick Axe Pete, K.C. Munchkin, K.C. Crazy Chase, Freedom Fighters, & UFO. There are a few two player games that I like such as Smithereens, Armored Encounter/Sub Chase, Monkeyshines, & Showdown in 2100 AD.

 

If you can get the voice module for the OD2 it makes Smithereens, Attack of the Timelord, K.C. Crazy Chase and Killer Bee's much more fun. ;)

Plus it just looks darn cool on top of the OD2. :thumbsup:

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The audio-visuals on the Astrocade are much better than on the Odyssey2, although the Odyssey2 does get bonus points for nice use of color and no flicker, as well as a great voice module. The game selection is also better on the Odyssey2.

 

The Arcadia 2001 was an early 1980s console as opposed to the other two being late 1970s consoles and was essentially a budget alternative to the big three non-Atari 2600 consoles, Intellivision, ColecoVision, and Atari 5200. The Arcadia 2001 in theory could exceed the Intellivision in a few technical areas, but was clearly inferior to what the ColecoVision and Atari 5200 could produce. As was stated by others, though, the overall quality of programming/polish on most Arcadia 2001 games was well below that of those three.

 

So, I'd roughly say:

 

Graphics [Arcadia, Astrocade, Odyssey2]

Games (were they good or not, counting ports, if any) [Odyssey2, Arcadia, Astrocade)

sound quality [Arcadia, Astrocade, Odyssey2 (bonus points for The Voice)]

and durability [Odyssey2, Arcadia, Astrocade]

There are several x factors with both the Astrocade (basic, four controllers, quality of controllers, etc.) and Odyssey2 (TheVoice, the board game hybrids, etc.) that put it ahead of the Arcadia 2001 overall for me.

(Side note: For the record, my favorite Arcadia 2001 game is probably Route-16, one of only two home consoles to receive a port of that arcade game.)

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I think all things considered, I'd go:

Odyssey > Bally >>> Arcadia

The Bally has arguably the best graphics--at least in terms of resolution, if not color--and definitely the best sound, although it tended to be underutilized until later titles like Incredible Wizard and Galactic Invasion started trickling out in the early '80s. The controllers were ingenious and obviated the need for all kinds of peripheral controllers to play different games, and the system supported up to four. Perhaps coolest of all, with a Bally/AstroBASIC cartridge and cassette system, the Bally also served as an honest-to-gosh computer, although its capabilities and interfaces were limited, primitive, and clunky.

However, although the Bally is known for excellent titles like the oft-mentioned Incredible Wizard and Galactic Invasion, it really has few other standout titles (Space Fortress, Solar Conqueror, Cosmic Raider, and Muncher being a few). Which of course isn't to say the rest of the games are bad--quite the contrary, IMO--but given that Bally ceased support by 1980, the bulk of the system's cartridge titles are very, shall we say, of their era. Every game system in the late '70s had a tank battle game, a car racing game, a blackjack game, a maze game, a baseball game, a spelling/math game, a Breakout game, a nim/codebreaker/number puzzle game, an outer space shooting gallery game, etcetera, and the Bally was no exception. In fact, much of the Bally-era library resembles suped-up Channel F games. Like Ubersaurus said, these probably aren't going to be especially compelling to most players today unless they have a particular interest in '70s-era games*.

And of, course, Bally systems are notoriously death-prone.

The Odyssey is a much more limited piece of hardware in many respects, and beneath the veneer of its keyboard and slick futuristic marketing style, is a less sophisticated game console. But, it still has a lot of things going for it. The colors are much more pleasing to the eye, flicker is essentially non-existent, using The Voice with games like KC's Krazy Chase! is absolutely delightful, the joysticks are great (although usually also hardwired...meh), and the library offers some healthy variety. And the hardware, cartridges, and controllers have proven remarkably reliable.

The biggest problem with the Odyssey is that its graphics and sounds were generally tethered to hardcoded character sets and sound voices. Consequently, the games tend to have a very similar look and feel, with the same trees, robot men, geometric shapes, and sound effects appearing in almost every game. And like the Bally, much of its library consists of the usual late '70s console fare inspired by arcade and computer games of the time (I hate to say "generic," but it fits).

However, some really great stuff came out for the Odyssey once Pac-Man Fever started sweeping the country. The so-called Challenger Series of games was where the system really started getting good, with titles like UFO!, Pick-Axe Pete!, Freedom Fighters!, K.C. Munchkin!, K.C.'s Krazy Chase!, Attack of The Timelord!, Smithereens!, and P.T. Barnum's Acrobats! that took basic gameplay concepts of some of the biggest arcade hits of the day and added their own distinctly "Odyssey" flavor. The Voice essentially amounted to a gimmick apart from the two or three games that were kind of unplayable without it, but what a gimmick it was, alternately cheerful and jovial (K.C.'s Krazy Chase!), sinister and menacing (Attack of The Timelord!), or simply augmentative to the Odyssey's sound effects (Killer Bees), but always memorable.

And that's essentially what puts the Odyssey 2 on top for me: it just has more games that I really like than the Bally does. And it's much less expensive to build a library for, and I don't have to worry that every time I power it on will be the last. :P ;) The Arcadia really isn't even on the map for me, interesting as it is. But also, at the risk of discrediting my entire argument, I do have some nostalgic attachment to the Odyssey 2, as it was the first system I got when I started building my retro game library in the late '90s. Fond memories of digging it out of a closest at my friend's house after school one day, setting it up and playing for hours, and deciding I *needed* it and would trade him whatever PlayStation games necessary. :-D


*Sidebar: The Bally's lineup in this timeframe compares favorably to the Odyssey and Atari, FWIW. The "console war" of the late '70s is especially interesting to me because while the Bally, Atari, Odyssey, Fairchild, and even Studio II (eh, why not? :P) essentially all ran the same types of games, they often did them in different and distinct ways, each with tradeoffs. But they complemented each other pretty well. If I had to pick between the Bally, Odyssey, Atari, or something like the APF M-1000 in 1978 or '79, and assuming I had no knowledge of what the near future held for these systems, I think it would be a tough choice (if the Atari seems like a no-brainer here, remember that it was not yet the tour-de-force it would become in the '80s). Even the Fairchild would be a viable option once they started being discounted.

1980 seems to have been the "year of truth" for the crop of game consoles that came out during the back half of the '70s; while they seem to have moved along a more or less similar trajectory until then in terms of game design as well as market performance, they diverged pretty wildly thereafter. The Atari became a belated smash hit with Space Invaders and proved itself an enduring and flexible system; the Odyssey's limitations became increasingly obvious to consumers and developers alike, and the system fell to a distant 3rd-place behind the new Intellivision; the Bally would have disappeared altogether if not for Astrovision and the dedication of its hardcore user base; and you practically had to know a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy to get Channel F product.

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By European or at least German standards, I suppose the 1292 series systems and in particular the Interton VC-4000 may have been one more contender in the late 1970's. Being some sort of older cousin to the Arcadia 2001, it belongs there.

 

While there supposedly were no 3rd party console game publishers until the gang who left Atari formed Activision, I wonder if all the others strictly had inhouse development or contracted other parties to make games for them? I'm sure it is a topic that belongs in a different discussion and probably has been exhausted in great detail elsewhere, but the availability of both own and possibly outsourced development of games for respective system makes a great difference in the end. While graphics, sound and inputs may be simple, I find most of the earliest games lacklustre too. There are exceptions, but often it seems like they came up with a game concept (or copied someone else from the generic library of games) and simply implemented it in the most straightforward working way. In the late 1970's, perhaps kids and adults who got to play those games didn't know what they could expect from a video game so they were happy with what they got.

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The Arcadia really isn't even on the map for me, interesting as it is.

Well, I just bought an Arcadia 2001 and a gaggle of games, so maybe I'll be able to revisit this and provide a little more personal insight soon.

 

I have played the Arcadia before, but only fleetingly. Based on those impressions and from gameplay videos I've been watching, at the moment I still feel that the Odyssey 2 and the Bally are generally better systems (despite being a half-decade older!), but we'll see where I land after I've been able to log some more time on it. :)

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I have played the Arcadia before, but only fleetingly. Based on those impressions and from gameplay videos I've been watching, at the moment I still feel that the Odyssey 2 and the Bally are generally better systems (despite being a half-decade older!), but we'll see where I land after I've been able to log some more time on it. :)

 

I hooked up my Arcadia 2001 recently and have been re-reading Ward Shrake's Arcadia 2001 FAQ and his section of the Digital Press Collectors Guide #7. The Arcadia probably has the most convoluted history of any computer or game console ever released. I've also been playing some Arcadia games lately: there are a few standouts, but most games for the system aren't very good.

 

If you're new to the Arcadia world, then try playing Cat Trax; as that game is pretty fun and has lots of options, including different mazes, speeds and some traces of Mouse Trap (you can open and close doors).

 

If you don't have an Arcadia multicart, then try to get one; they're wonderful because they open up the Emerson Arcadia 2001 to all of the international games that were never released in the United States. This brings the Emerson Arcadia's library up from 22 games in the U.S. to about 55 or so total games-- and that doesn't include some of the homebrew games/programs for the system.

 

Now, as to which of the three game systems is best (Odyssey 2, Arcadia 2001 or the Bally Arcade); the answer is easy: the Bally Arcade. But you knew I was going to say that.

 

Some reasons I like the Astrocade:

  1. Great controller
  2. Superior sound
  3. Weird world of BASIC games
  4. Arcadian newsletter that ran for seven years.
  5. Bitmap graphics
  6. Could program your own game out-of-the-box in BASIC.
  7. Third party software allowed you to program in machine language
  8. Had a great homebrew scene that started in 1978, with hundreds of games released on tape in the late 70s and early 80s.
  9. Could be upgraded (unofficially) into a computer. Yes, some people used full-size keyboards, monitors, modems, printers and other hardware on this "game console."

Some reasons I like the Odyssey 2:

  1. Some great games (Pick Axe Pete, among many others)
  2. Combination Video-Board Games (innovative, but not really too fun because these were a bit overly-complicated, but they were a great idea!)
  3. Nice controller, but it's too bad it's hard-wired
  4. Speech synthesis
  5. Fantastic box artwork! The artwork is so good that I have homemade posters of Invaders from Hyperspace! and Alien Invaders - Plus! hanging up right here in my office
  6. Only one life for nearly all games. Only wimps need more than one life or more than 640K of RAM!

Some reasons I like the Emerson Arcadia 2001:

  1. Many exclusive arcade games like Astro Invaders, The End, Funky Fish, Jumpbug, Jungler, Pleiades, R2D Tank, Red Clash, Route 16, and Spiders.
  2. Japanese Exclusives (Doraemon, Dr. Slump, Gundam, and Macross)
  3. It has Macross. Yeah, I mentioned it already, but did I say that there is a Macross game for the Arcadia?!? And... it's wonderful, easily one of the best games on the system. As a Robotech fan to this day, I would have loved this game on my Commodore 64.
  4. Emerson's box-art is so-terrible-it's-good!
  5. Some cartridge releases had easy-to-modify PCB boards that used EPROMs. Just remove the 4K EPROM and put in a socket. "Homebrewers, unite!"
  6. Probably the most widely licensed console in the history of videogames, yet the originator of the system remains a mystery.
  7. Weird relationship with the earlier, non-compatible VC-4000 (1292 Advanced Programmable Video System).
  8. Used the 2650 CPU, which was based on the IBM 1130 mini-computer (released in 1965). Also, the 2650 CPU was created in 1972, but it wasn't released until 1975.

In looking over my above list of "likes," I see that all three of these systems have their owns strengths (I've avoided listing any weaknesses). This proves that if you keep an open mind, then these classic systems are all fun in their own way!

 

Adam

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I think all things considered, I'd go:

 

Odyssey > Bally >>> Arcadia

Okay, I got my Arcadia 2001 a few days ago and have been spending some time with it. Unfortunately for the Arcadia, my appraisal hasn't changed too much, although I'm pleased to report I find the nine games I got to be more enjoyable than I anticipated, albeit mildly. ;)

 

The console itself seems surprisingly well-built for what amounts to a cheap "me-too" system, although its aesthetic is clearly rooted in the stark, utilitarian designs of the dedicated systems of the '70s; it doesn't look particularly inviting. The small shape and form factor is nice, but also cramped with the hardwired RF cable and coiled controller cords--as well as the 12V power cord--hanging off the back. There's a lot of cord spaghetti going on at the rear of the console, which really wigs out my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. :P :-D

 

The hardware was clearly dated even upon the Arcadia's 1982 release; as Adam pointed out above, its CPU dates from, like, 1975, and it shows. The Odyssey and Bally were also built around chipsets dating from the late '70s, but they also benefited from five-odd years (by 1982) of development, support, and coders learning to maximize their capabilities. The Arcadia, by contrast, didn't have that. In fact, I have a theory that UA Ltd. developed the Arcadia platform and most of its games concurrently, licensed it all out to companies like Emerson as a package deal, and never really intended to do much development beyond that.

 

Interestingly(?), there seems to have been some pretty blatant code-sharing among some of the titles. For example, the "running men" from Escape and Tanks A Lot are the same guy, except UA changed the sprite to give him a bazooka in Tanks. The manner of firing is also the same in both games, as is the large blue projectile.

 

The games themselves have a very VIC-20-meets-Aquarius look. The graphics clearly employ redefineable characters rather than true sprites. Color palettes are often somewhat bland and a little on the dark side, and aren't as attractive as the Odyssey's, or in many cases even the Bally's--I guess I prefer Red/Blue/Green/Yellow to Red/Green/Black/White! :P I don't mean to suggest they look necessarily bad, but there's a definitely a roughness about them compared to other systems of the time. The sound is pretty terrible, though; basic and functional at best, and grating and obnoxious at worst.

 

The controllers are unabashed copies of the Intellivision controller design, and they work well, although there's a lot of friction between the control disc and its housing, causing it to occasionally stick a little bit. Speaking of sticks, the removable joystick is a nice feature which somehow seems to work better on the Arcadia's controller than on the Intellivision's. Hmm. Control in many games feels rigid, in part due to grid-based movement (depending on the game), and in part due to the sometimes sticky control disc.

 

The console and games aren't nearly as intuitive to use as the Odyssey and Bally. Using the Atari VCS as a reference, the Reset, Game, Option, and Start buttons on the Arcadia 2001 console don't function as expected. The Reset button wipes out high scores, and Start effectively fulfills the "game reset" function. The Game and Option keys essentially cycle different banks of game options. They make sense in a roundabout kind of way, but without the help of an instruction manual, they are confusing. By contrast, navigating the Odyssey 2 or Bally Arcade is as simple as reading the cartridge label or onscreen menu.

 

The packaging for the game cartridges is strange. It screams "chintz," from the "concept drawing" style of the artwork and the overuse of gray on the box, the vaguely descriptive Engrish on the back of the box and inside the dryly written, cheaply printed manuals, to the absolutely generic, colorless, and nondescript controller overlays. But the boxes are sturdy and hold up well, and the rainbow font used for the titles is neat in its way. They still don't beat the Odyssey 2's boxes (which not only look better, but also give you an actual idea of what the game is :P), but I'll give them the edge over the Astrocade's flimsy, back-opening, the-manual-is-the-cover boxes.

 

The quality of the library--or at least what I've played of it--isn't quite on the level of the Bally or Odyssey, though. Even the best Arcadia titles fall just barely above those systems' "just okay" games in terms of how fun they actually are to play. And nothing really comes close to UFO!, Incredible Wizard, Attack Of The Timelord!, or Space Fortress. But the games are at least somewhat entertaining nonetheless--I'm partial to Space Raiders (the best Arcadia 2001 game, IMO), Cat Trax, Breakaway (even without a paddle!), Tanks A Lot, Jungler, and Escape. The main problem with Arcadia games is that, with few exceptions, the games never advance the difficulty past whatever the initial option setting is. Another problem is that their difficulty, as often as not, has little to do with the games themselves, but rather with coping with occasionally uncooperative controllers, dubious programming, or simply screwing up because your brain is so numb.

 

One very nice feature of many Arcadia games that I wish more Intellivision games had is a provision for keypad use for fire/action functions. It sounds a little weird, but man, is it a thumb-saver! :)

 

One very weird feature is that some games use the same controller for two players, while leaving the other exclusively for pausing the game. :?

 

An interesting thing I learned about the system is that many Arcadia 2001 games...didn't actually come out on the Arcadia 2001. :P Funky Fish and Pleiades appeared in the catalog but were never released, an d games like Jump Bug , Hobo, and R oute 16 only seem to have come out in some of the international "clone" formats, and so, many of the game titles attributed to the Arcadia 2001 technically aren't Arcadia 2001 games. ;) (Then again, they also technically are, since the only difference in the various hardware platforms seems to be the cartridge connector...just depends on how you look at it, I guess!)

 

Overall, the Arcadia 2001 is a weird system. Interesting in some ways, fun in others, and puzzling in many others still, but the sum of its bizarreness and mystery still doesn't measure up to the quality and plain old fun of the Odyssey 2 and Bally Arcade.

 

:)

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The audio-visuals on the Astrocade are much better than on the Odyssey2, although the Odyssey2 does get bonus points for nice use of color and no flicker, as well as a great voice module. The game selection is also better on the Odyssey2.

 

 

Amen. Astrocade is one of my favorite systems. Not even sure how you can compare to Odyssey2. Astrocade has a somewhat interesting history that I will be writing about soon. Not sure why I am so fascinated with Astrocade, but I am.

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Astrocade has a somewhat interesting history that I will be writing about soon. Not sure why I am so fascinated with Astrocade, but I am.

 

Hmm... what are you going to be writing about? Are we talking about a book here?

 

Adam

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Okay, I got my Arcadia 2001 a few days ago and have been spending some time with it.

First off-- great post! I really enjoyed reading your review of this Arcadia 2001. It's was well thought-out and it covered many of the primary bases that people want to hear about when they're reading a console review. It was a treat to read it. In many ways, your thoughts mirror many of my own ideas about this little-regarded console. I do have a few points I wanted to extend upon.

 

The small shape and form factor is nice, but also cramped with the hardwired RF cable and coiled controller cords

The coiled cords are a good idea, but you have to be right next to the Arcadia when you're playing the games. The controller cords, at best, only reach about two feet from the back of the system. I've been playing Cat Trax lately, and the shortness of the controller cords has been maddeningly annoying to me!

 

as Adam pointed out above, its [2650] CPU dates from, like, 1975, and it shows.

It's not the CPU's fault that the Arcadia system uses "old" technology. For instance, the MOS 6502 CPU was used in the Atari 2600 (1977), but it was also used in the NES (1983 as the Famicom and 1985 as the NES). It's not truly the CPU that matters with many game consoles, but the graphics chipset that they used. The Arcadia's graphics chip, the Signetics 2637, isn't too bad and it's not really dated either (it was only a year or two old). The 2637 was limited compared to many systems that came out in around 1982. However, the Arcadia and, say, the Colecovision had two different markets.

 

I have a theory that UA Ltd. developed the Arcadia platform and most of its games concurrently, licensed it all out to companies like Emerson as a package deal, and never really intended to do much development beyond that.

I'm not sure of the complete story of UA Ltd., but they certainly did continue to develop games themselves and they also contracted out games to people in America after the Emerson family was released. There are some interviews with programmers who were contracted to program games for the Arcadia system (you can find these in the interview file area of the Yahoo group). While the Emerson Arcadia 2001 is usually thought of a loser in the home video game market, it had to have been popular in some way, as there are about thirty varieties of the system throughout the world.

 

Interestingly(?), there seems to have been some pretty blatant code-sharing among some of the titles.

Code sharing was and is common. It only makes sense to share code among programmers. If it was good enough for Activision, then it surely was good enough for programmers of the Arcadia family.

 

The games themselves have a very VIC-20-meets-Aquarius look.

I never would have thought of a Vic-20/Aquarius comparison, but this is right on the mark!

 

The graphics clearly employ redefineable characters rather than true sprites.

The Arcadia has both redefineable characters and sprites. If you're not afraid to dig a little bit into the hardware, then I highly recommend reading James Jacobs continually-updated document called the Emerson Arcadia Coding Guide. James wrote and updates the WinArcadia emulator. In his guide, he explains the nitty-gritty of how the Arcadia system works, including the hardware features that the Arcadia supports. If the Arcadia 2001 system is interesting to you, then you should read, or at least browse through it:

 

https://amigan.yatho.com/a-coding.txt

 

Who knows, maybe James' document will inspire you to code a game for the Arcadia!

 

[Arcadia 2001] Color palettes are often somewhat bland and a little on the dark side, and aren't as attractive as the Odyssey's, or in many cases even the Bally's

 

The Arcadia's eight colors are black, white, red, green, blue, yellow, cyan and purple. In comparison, the Vic-20 does have sixteen colors, but many of the colors are very similar to each other. The Vic's eight "main" colors are white, red, cyan, purple, green, blue, yellow and orange. The other eight colors on the Vic-20 are light orange, light red, light cyan, light purple, light green, light blue, and light yellow. So, the comparison between the Vic-20 and the Arcadia 2001 is pretty accurate, at least color-wise. The Astrocade's color palette is 256, but (under normal circumstances) there are strict restrictions of four colors per the left/round color boundary. For this reason, many Astrocade games have about six colors on screen at once. Sure, there are exceptions, but these more-colorful games were released later.

 

The sound is pretty terrible, though; basic and functional at best, and grating and obnoxious at worst.

 

The Arcadia's basic sounds are serviceable. Whether or not the sound is good or "grating" is based entirely on the programmer's efforts. The Arcadia has a "beeper" and a noise channel. Many, possibly all, of the Arcadia games seem as though they were written "quick and dirty." I've love to hear the type of music that a modern homebrew programmer could make the Arcadia play.

 

The controllers are unabashed copies of the Intellivision controller design, and they work well, although there's a lot of friction between the control disc and its housing, causing it to occasionally stick a little bit.

Yes, I agree, the Arcadia's controllers are basically near-clones of the Intellision layout. However, keep in mind, that this was hardly unique. In 1982, the same year the Arcadia was released in the U.S., the Atari 5200 had a similar controller layout as the Intellivision. Also, something that isn't too obvious with the Arcadia controller is that the joystick is analog, and not digital-- which makes it kind of similar to the Atari 5200 controller.

 

I agree that the Arcadia joysticks tend to stick, but I wonder if they always worked this way, or if this is due to age of the controllers. I find that the Arcadia games rely too heavy on the use of the keypad.

 

The packaging for the game cartridges is strange. It screams "chintz,"

 

There's no denying that the Arcadia's boxes and manuals are made on-the-cheap. It's also notable that the long-style cartridges are identical the APF MP1000 cartridges (which were released, originally in 1978). Also, the Arcadia 2001 and the APF also share the bottom molding of the console itself. Ward Shrake has suggested that the original APF injection molds for the console's housing were purchased and then re-purposed with the Arcadia.

 

The quality of the library--or at least what I've played of it--isn't quite on the level of the Bally or Odyssey, though.

The Emerson Arcadia's library of games is only 22 games, but many more (as you mentioned) were released overseas. I think the Arcadia family of consoles was aimed at people who wanted an inexpensive game system that could play games. Any games. And that's exactly what the Arcadia delivers: many games which are look-a-likes or work-a-likes of many popular games on other systems.

 

Overall, the Arcadia 2001 is a weird system. Interesting in some ways, fun in others, and puzzling in many others still, but the sum of its bizarreness and mystery still doesn't measure up to the quality and plain old fun of the Odyssey 2 and Bally Arcade.

You're right that the Arcadia game library doesn't hold up against either the Bally or the Odyssey 2, but it's important to note that the Arcadia's hardware probably isn't to blame. For example, the Arcadia's resolution is much more detailed than the Astrocade. It all seems to come down to that the Arcadia's games were made quickly to be sold cheaply.

 

Could the Arcadia have competed head-on with the Colecovision? No. Could the Arcadia have competed with any of the established U.S. consoles in 1982? Probably not, but it's quite possible that the Arcadia may have done much better in other countries. And maybe it did do better: the complete history of the Arcadia family is still unwritten, even a decade after it was laid out plainly by Ward Shrake that the Arcadia was just one console released among many clones worldwide. I'd love to see some of the mystery of the Arcadia 2001 solved, beginning with who designed it, and how was it licensed to other companies around the world.

 

Adam

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I hooked up my Arcadia 2001 recently and have been re-reading Ward Shrake's Arcadia 2001 FAQ and his section of the Digital Press Collectors Guide #7. The Arcadia probably has the most convoluted history of any computer or game console ever released. I've also been playing some Arcadia games lately: there are a few standouts, but most games for the system aren't very good.

 

 

 

Can you provide links to the best sources of Arcadia history please?

 

You mentioned a yahoo group as well.

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Lloyd

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Hmm... what are you going to be writing about? Are we talking about a book here?

 

Adam

 

You are the one that should write a book. :)

 

Quick question. How many docs do you have on Atsrocade bankruptcy? Just the one you link to?

 

lloyd

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