Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Power Joy!

Ahhh, the Power Joy! The very first Famiclone I ever owned, as well as the one that kicked off my whole adoration for the Famiclone species in general. I had seen them before, strewn about the shelves of various thrift stores, but it wasn't until someone went a bit cheap with the pricing gun that I dared to take a chance and pick up one of these fabled "console in a controller".
The very first one I picked up was just the controller; no cartridge, no second player controller and no battery door. Ignorantly I used an NES power adapter to try and boot the thing and within seconds the pungent aroma of heavily leaded solder filled the air around the system, with no signs of life I quickly unplugged it and packed it away. I had seen a lot of people online showing off that the system would play Famicom games, a console I had yet to tap into, but with no way of powering mine up properly, or even know if it would ever work again at this point, I had to keep on searching for another.
It took a while but finally I had found myself another Power Joy that came complete, with the battery door and the PJ-008 cartridge, so I pulled my original one from its thrift store bag casket in my closet and give it a good play through. Without a cartridge plugged into the system there are 10 built in games, most of them taking advantage of the built-in light gun, which is quite accurate! Almost all of these games are based on different hacked versions of Duck Hunt, replacing the ducks with helicopters, alien ships, etc.
The PJ-00X cartridges are probably one of the best features of the Power Joy line, as they offered the choice of many great Famicom/NES titles. Mine came with the PJ-008 and I've seen different lists of games given to the same # cartridge, Chinese quality control there, huh? But the great thing about the cartridges is the simple fact that they work in an NES (w/ converter) or a Famicom, obviously as the Power Joy is a NOAC.
One of the main reasons I enjoy the Power Joy is due to its all-in-one design, so I don't need to hunt down accessories and parts if I want to play the thing. The Power Joy is strictly utilitarian but quite comfortable, as well as painfully obvious that this was spawned from the breeding of a Nintendo 64 controller with a fighter jet model kit. One of the major features, at least to me, is that unlike the Super Joy units the joystick on the Power Joy is fully functional, yet only a digital pad and not analog.

Another utilitarian feature that I quite like is the hardwired AV and power cables, although I think the power input could have easily been put about the same spot as it was in the Super Joy systems, but thats just splitting hairs. This means I don't need to hunt down a set of AV cables when I want to play the system, making the Power Joy completely portable. Powered by 4 AAA batteries, you're good to take this thing almost anywhere you need to go, as long as there is power for a television.
And finally we reach something that Super Mario Bros. taught us all those years ago, other people want to play too, and they have as much right as we do, us controller hogs! It took me a while to actually track down a Power Joy second player controller, but I did and its fairly standard, yet pretty good. My only complaint would be that the spacing on the grips is a bit strange, which I personally can't use it for too long, but then again that could be a ploy to keep people from wanting to become player 2.

I currently own the Power Joy and Power Joy Voyager, but I hope in the future I will find more Power Joy systems and even more of the cartridges. I'll never forget the first time I passed up an absolutely complete Power Joy for $10 at a thrift store, but through time and patience I've pieced one together, with a spare one for parts if needed. The Power Joy is nothing more than pure Chinese piracy and I don't really favor it over any of my other consoles, or even Famiclones, but it was my first and thus I will forever remember the joy and excitement of exploring a world that was completely new to me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Dreamstation Famiclone

The Dreamstation was a console I stumbled upon at a local flea market, after I spotted a yellow pirate multicart on top of its box. It was also my first proper Famiclone console. I had just bought the 57000 Video Games less than a month prior, but the Dreamstation was my first complete in box, with everything needed to get started right away Famiclone console.
Up to this point I was only familiar with the numerous handheld clones and the clunky 57000 Video Games, so when the Dreamstation actually worked as well as any of the officially branded systems I own, I was kind of shocked! The Dreamstation isn't flashy or splashy but it did exactly what I wanted it to do, it worked. The video quality was good, the sound quality was what you would expect from an NOAC, yet a year later I found out that the Dreamstation had a trick up its sleeve.

One night I was playing my (official) Famicom copy of Bases Loaded when I noticed the volume was much lower than any of the other games I had been playing, so I simply turned the volume up. Shortly after the game started I heard voice clips and additional sound effects I had never heard from the game before. The  Dreamstation was somehow emulating the FM synthesis chip from the Famicom.

None of my other Famiclones will play these voice or audio clips hidden deep within the game's coding. And the NES was never given the FM chip, so when I play that cartridge in my NES all volume levels are normal, but the game play is devoid of any real noise, I can tell there are missing sound effects. I'm not exactly sure how the Dreamstation is able to emulate or replicate the FM chip, but I know for a fact it does.
Besides being able to emulate FM sounds and overall functioning better than any of my other Famiclones, the Dreamstation isn't without it's faults, simply the short controller lengths. I covered this in my controller extension cable article. But to their credit the A and B buttons are laid out like an actual NES, with A and B shoulder buttons as a cool bonus, meaning I can use these controllers without getting confused by backwards controls.
In addition to the controllers the Dreamstation also included a gun, which looks insanely too real to be used outside of the home. The trigger on mine was snapped off by the previous owner, but even so the light gun is quite accurate and comfortable to hold. Not surprisingly the included pirate multicart has quite a few variants of games to test the gun out, which is handy.

Not only did the seller toss in the above mentioned cartridge, which looks a lot like a Nintendo 64 cartridge, they also included the yellow cartridge, as I stated at the beginning of the article. Both cartridges are filled with the standard pirated games as well as some random hacks tossed in. Finally I have a pirate cart with Dream Mary built in! (Super Mario Bros. with the wrong scrolling)
I've seen many other Famiclones in this shell with various other names, but I'm not sure if they are the exact same board inside or not. Which makes me wonder if they would all be able to emulate the FM chip. So far the Dreamstation is my favorite Famiclone console that I own, but if there is a better Famiclone on the market I'm sure I'll track it down!