Review by Macintosh User

"8-Bit Colecovision Revisited"

(Introduction)

In 1982 the Colecovision gaming system was launched with the intention to go toe to toe with the Atari 2600. The Colecovision console had very impressive specifications and could easily do anything the 2600 could, and more. Colecovision didn't receive the kind of third-party support that Atari's 2600 did, but what counts is quality over quantity and a lot of the 2600 games are pure junk, while most of the Colecovision games were of the highest-quality and were very enjoyable. One of the smartest moves made by Coleco was to contact a little-known Jappanese company named "Nintendo" to ask them for the rights to the Nintendo arcade hit, Donkey Kong. Coleco paid $250,000 for the right to use it on their system. The Colecovision system sold over six million units over the two-year span between its launch in 1982 and its death (due to the video game crash) in 1984.

Overall the Colecovision system was a very high-quality machine that had all the necessary tools to compete with the Atari 2600. Perhaps the only thing that prevented the Colecovision from ousting the 2600 as system king was the video game crash. It certainly looked like the Colecovision was on its way to overtaking the 2600 in units sold. This is a testament to the value and quality of the Colecovision console, a machine that lost one of the earliest video game wars not because it failed, because the Colecovision was a successful venture for Coleco, however, the terrible video game collapse in 1984 doomed the system to obscurity right when it was hitting its stride. It is a shame that the Atari 2600 and Colecovision systems were never given the time to really go to battle and determine a clear victor. Although most people will say the Atari 2600 won this war, I beg to differ. Neither system won the war, they both lost because of circumstances outside of their control.

(Colecovision Technical Specs)
The Colecovision system had some impressive specifications for its time. The processor itself was an 8-bit Z-80A that operated at a frequency of 3.58 megahertz. There was also 8K of main system RAM and 16K of Video RAM packaged inside of the machine. It featured a resolution of 256 x 192 and could display 16 colors on-screen out of a palette of 16 colors. Up to 32 sprites could be on-screen at any given time. The system used cartridges to store games on, and besides the cartridge slot on the top of the system, there was also an expansion slot which held Expansion Modules. One of the Expansion Modules, known as Colecovision Expansion Module #1 actually could fit an entire Atari 2600 system inside of it. This gave Colecovision owners the ability to play Atari 2600 games and Colecovision games. There were three expansion slots included on the machine, the second slot was used for a driving controller which featured a steering wheel and a gas pedal and it was used for the game Turbo which was created by Sega. The third slot was to be used for the Super Game Module. This Module was to add some memory to the system as well as microwafers that held 128K. This Expansion Module was never released. Instead of using off-the-shelf hardware components (like the Atari 2600 used) Coleco decided to design the system as a customized gaming machine with custom parts. The Colecovision system made a huge impression on the video game market during its two-year run against the Atari 2600. This system was simply a technological marvel, that was very advanced for its time.

(Controllers)
Several controllers were available for the Colecovision besides the original controllers. The Atari 2600 Expansion Module allowed for the use of Atari 2600 controllers for the 2600 games. Most of the controllers were simply joystick controllers, but there was also the Coleco Roller Controller which was a trackball controller, plus the Super Action Controllers made by Coleco also. The standard controller used a little stick with a knob on it, it also featured a numeric keypad built into the controller itself, plus two fire buttons.

(Games)
Many games were released for the ColecoVision system, including Burgertime, Centipede, Donkey Kong Junior, Frogger, Jumpman Junior, Q*Bert, Zaxxon, Pitfall, and Mouse Trap. The games were very good and had clear, crisp graphics with lots of colors. The ColecoVision had a large library of games considering it only lasted two years. One of the best games was Donkey Kong. It is the original arcade version where you must climb ladders to ascend to the top of the stage where your girlfriend is tied up and being held captive by the giant villain, Donkey Kong.

(Recommendations)
The ColecoVision is a great system and if you are a nostalgic gamer this console is the one to buy if you are picking between it and the 2600. Since the ColecoVision could play Atari 2600 games and use 2600 joysticks, there really isn't any reason to own a 2600 if you own a ColecoVision. Of course both systems are so cheap these days that you could own both of them and a huge pile of cartridges for about the same price of a brand new console with no games included. The only real issue I have is the standard pack-in controllers. They suck. So make sure you can locate a third-party joystick/gamepad before you take the plunge and buy the machine. This console features a great library of fun games and has really good graphics for its time. The ColecoVision is a piece of video game history and should be included in any gamer's collection.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/04


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