Why do I have such a passion for Famiclones? To say that's simple to explain wouldn't be true, and to say it's complicated wouldn't be true either. But then again I understand perfectly why I have such a passion for Famiclones, so I guess its just easier if I took the time to explain it.
Famiclones were never on my video game hunting radar until about 2010, hell I wasn't even familiar with the Nintendo Famicom until about a decade earlier. I live in the United States, where it seems we selectively import what we want from other cultures and never bother to import anything that doesn't fit our current commercial needs. We already had the NES, so why would we want another system that was essentially the same but looked different? Not to mention the cartridges weren't interchangeable without an adapter.
It's not to say the US didn't have an import market, it was just that I never knew about it for most of my life; and even when I found out it seemed very niche, and must less popular than it is now. As an adult I'm now noticing that Canada seems to have imported Japanese video game culture, on a much broader scale then the US, for decades! Mexico has not only been importing Famicom games and consoles, but also the Chinese pirate versions as well. So why did it seem that the US interest in Japanese video game culture was so niche and underground? Your guess is as good as mine, perhaps even better!
Once I knew, or assumed falsely to be more accurate, Famicom games were expensive and wouldn't work in my NES, I completely removed them from my scope of collecting. About 2010 is when I started to see a large influx of portable Famiclone consoles, the Power Joy and Super Joys, in the thrift stores I frequented. It wasn't until I found an extremely cheap Power Joy that I ever really took interest in the whole Famiclone market.
Just having a non-working Power Joy gave me reason enough to do some research on the whole history of Famiclones, I'm a sucker for researching things I enjoy researching. The results were astounding; Famiclones came in all shapes, sizes, colors and where spread throughout the world, far and wide! Famiclones could take on the shape of penguins, racecars, N64 controllers, alien space ships, pseudo officially licensed consoles and even shaped exactly like a Nintendo Famicom. The more research I did, the more interested I became in the subject, causing even more research.
I found it intriguing how they could fit a fully functional (although not really 100%) Famicom clone into the many various shaped consoles and controller style portables. Not only that but the fact that some consoles, and most every portable Famiclone, had built-in Famicom/NES classics without the need for external cartridges, while still adding a 60 pin connector for just that matter in case the user desired it. All of this really appealed to my OCD for keeping things neat, tidy and confined within small spaces.
Knowing these systems were a potential way to play Famicom games, which was a far cheaper alternative to importing the Famicom console, sparked my interest in importing Famicom games. But before my interest in Famicom games could fully blossom, my interest in the dark, seedy world of piracy and its strange history firmly planted itself within the fertile soil of my brain and grew into a vine that encompassed my cerebrum and short circuited my interest in the real thing.
The story of how Famiclones and pirated games came from the desire to have the nice things every other country had, but most countries couldn't afford, also appealed to me, the sheer ingenuity! Call them demakes, pirated or even cheap junk, but these were all the exposure some countries had to the classics we have so readily available. Faced with a desire for the finer things in life, a choice needed to be made. The birth of that choice was an extremely interesting line of consoles and video games that simulate/emulate something most people take for granted.
I take great interest in the way they take consoles that most gamers already know and modify them in drastic ways, while making the internals as simple, yet functional as possible. Although functionality of Famiclones run the gambit from very good to only lasting a few months, I'm certain a lot of engineering goes into the planning and manufacturing of these systems, and engineering is exactly what makes my heart race when I see a new Famiclone I've never seen before.
Necessity is the mother of invention. The need to fill a market left empty in many countries by financial hardships or trading limitations has created something fascinating, a whole sub-market of video games and video game consoles that gave many people the pleasures they couldn't otherwise have. Whether you hate them or love them, the fact is they always will be a part of video gaming history. Even if nothing more than a footnote.