Back in October I posted a NES Wish list and one of the items that I decided I wanted (and shortly after caved in) was a Sharp Twin Famicom. The Famicom is the Japanese equivalent of the NES and due to it being the home country of Nintendo received a lot more games over its lifespan of 20 or so years. Just delving into the Famicom’s long lifespan shows a system that was well loved past the turn of this century with production only halting around 2003/4 because parts were no longer available. What we are left with is a legacy of games (and pirate titles, practically an industry itself) that spans 2 decades. Nintendo aren’t one for licensing their hardware out to other companies but it seem in the mid 80’s they decided to offer such an opportunity to Sharp who went on to build the Twin Famicom unit I now have sitting in my living room.
The TF comes with a Famicom Disk Drive built in as well as the cart slot so you can pretty much play any game available for the Famicom. Much better than buying a Famicom on its own, followed by the expensive Disk Drive add on later.A chap known as Andy-games-Japan on eBay has been my main stay for Famicom goods so far especially a great benefit being that he can understand English. Asking a lot of Japanese importers about the stuff they have for sale can sometimes be a right pain when it comes to crossing the language barrier so Andy has been my choice of call each time. I also went on a bit of a spending spree during my initial Famicom excitement, buying around 12 games, mixed between cart and disk but all of which will be covered here on the blog in due time with Andy more than happy to provide plenty of (cheap) games to keep me going.
You will have to forgive the mobile phone snaps of the box being opened but it felt like Christmas morning peeling back all that cardboard and Japanese newspapers (there’s some in the picture, look at those fancy letters, amaze at the pretty paper) I didn’t want to waste time digging out the proper camera. The box even came with a Panda on the side; consider this my cultural exchange for the year! Finally pulling the console free everything was well packaged and in order. I then spent several minutes slotting in different carts and disks just trying to check they all worked.
However disaster struck! Within 2 days of plugging the system in it refused to work. At first I was in a panic, having spent close to £100 on importing the console it lay there in front of the TV laughing at me and no matter what I seemed to do it wouldn’t switch on. In the end I had to buy a multi-meter (thanks to 133MHz at the Famicom World forums, linked to in the right of this blog, for his help and constantly walking me through every step despite my pestering) a small device that can measure the voltage passing through electrical items. On closer inspection it turned out that the Japanese power convertor I was using had simply blown. Phew the TF was safe. One Universal adaptor later and we were back in action!
Once everything was back to normal and I could finally stop tearing my hair out I thought I’d take a closer look at the system itself. I quite like the design, its sleek for something from the 80’s to one side there’s an expansion port for what I think is a RAM disk, a way of using the TF with a standard Famicom effectively as a Famicom Disk Drive. There’s also a slot for what I think takes extra pads though the description beneath it is in Japanese so I’m only guessing. A quick glance around the back there seems to be an input for S Video but I have vague recollections of a Famicom keyboard add on so it could be solely for that. If anyone knows then please drop a line in the comments section below.
The console itself has the usual reset and power buttons on the front add to this a huge eject button for cartridges which forces them out so fast its like using a toaster as well as a button which forces you to choose between disk or cartridge. This is a bit annoying you can’t leave a cartridge in whilst you use the disc drive as it locks the cart slot out whilst the drive is in use but I’m sure it made sense to someone at Sharp. Now for my main gripe about the console the controller leads. The pads are stored/connected to the back of the console so when you pick them up to play you loose a good chunk of the cable as it stretches forward add to this the cable is around 12 inches long and you practically have to sit on top of the system just to use it. I’m afraid I’m a bit lazy when it comes to playing games and lounge back in my seat but with these short leads I was right in front of the TV (which is a nightmare on a 32” screen).
My answer was to go back to Andy and import a plug in pad, one with a couple of metres long cable. I’m sure you are all worried about the Disk loading times which to be honest depends entirely on the game. Some titles load in a few seconds with others taking up to 30 depending on how big the game actually is follow this by the need to switch from Side A to B of the Disk and it can become a little frustrating with changes required mid level in at times however the main benefit of having a game on Disk is the ability to save straight to the media which usually requires battery backup when it comes to cartridges.
I consider the Famicom a close cousin of the NES they are for all intents and purposes the same system with a very different look. I have no ability to read Japanese so the games will have to be simple/easy to control without the need of instructions. So those epic RPG’s are definitely out. So I aim to treat the Twin as I would the NES and hope to post as many blog entries as I would the other, it will be the perfect chance for us all to learn about some more games from Japan and maybe even discover a few you lot wont of heard of which means plenty of recommendations for future entries please!
Edit: One thing I would like to add is a quick note about the Disk Drives belt, a small black piece of rubber that is prone to melting, breaking with relative ease and sadly quite often. These are usually only available to buy from Japan as they are used quite specifically with the Famicom. I decided to import 2 spare belts as they appear to be relatively easy to replace but thankfully Andy-games-Japan fitted a brand new belt before sending the TF over and even added a few for an extra $6.99 each (about £3.50. A bargain as these things can cost as much as £12 a time).