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In episode 59 I showed the very first home console light gun and the game used with it. In the present episode I will continue to explain how the history of light guns went on.
After the success of the Magnavox Odyssey the video game marked was flushed by what is known today as pong consoles. Instead of custom built DTL boards many of these later consoles used an LSI integrated circuit which is often nicknamed "pong on a chip" as these contained the discreet logic of these systems. The most notable LSI chips for light gun gaming were made by General Instrument. The pong consoles weren’t unlike what we consider today as plug and play systems as they were stuck with the present set of games without any means of inserting new games. Notable pong consoles with light guns of that era were the Epoch TV Game System 10, Philips Videojeu N20, the Binatone TV Master series, the Coleco Telstar series and the Radioshak Scoreboard series. Often the light guns of these systems used the same or at least very similar plastic shells. Designs like the Colt Single Action Army revolver or the Stack Light Rifle were dominant. Nevertheless systems like the Ameprod TVG-10 used original gun designs such as the Videotraf.
At some point pong consoles sporting a cartridge socket came to marked, which allowed the user to insert modules containing other LSI chips and hence change games. Examples for this are the Tokatoku Video Cassette Rock, Bandai TV Jack 5000 and the Prinztronic Tournament Colour Programmable series. This development was in parallel to the rise of ROM cartridge based systems which began some time before in 1976 by Fairchild’s Channel F. After releasing its System 10 LSI based pong system Epoch chose its own distinctive path and developed single game plug and play systems, which used a single chip ROM, RAM and microprocessor hybrid made by NEC. The system I am showing in this episode is the Epoch Cassette Vision, which is Epoch’s pendant to the LSI cartridge based systems, but using their NEC chip hybrids. This unusual design came with unique advantages. As ROM RAM and processor aren’t separated, the system is capable of 48 bit instructions, making it a true 48 bit machine. The controls for the games are built into the console itself. The four action buttons use linear keyboard switches with a Cherry like mount underneath. Apart from that the console sports four potentiometers and two one dimensional analogue sticks. The console outputs sound in mono and video as RF. Personally I looked into outputting video as YPbPr and s-video, but so far I have just moderate success recreating the colors correctly. As the console operates at a negative voltage of -6 VDC I face problems inverting the luma and difference signals. I recorded this footage in s-video, but I am not 100 % happy with the video quality yet and I am going to address the necessary hardware modifications in a future video.
The light gun for the system is a Mauser C96. It also supports the Epoch System 10 and the Toshiba TVG-610. It is connected to the system via a 6.35 mm TRS connector. The later released Cassette Vision Jr. lacks the TRS socket and hence is incompatible. The gun is very loud. A brass striker is hit by the metal hammer upon shooting and is propelled against a thin copper sheet, which is then bent and pressed against another copper sheet. These two sheets act as the closing contacts a switch.
The only cartridge which supports the gun is called Big Sports 12. The game was supposed to be released as the stand alone successor console of the System 10 at one point, but then found its way to the Cassette Vision. Four of the 12 included games are light gun games. In the shown footage I am going to spare or miss the first few shots by purpose and then play the game normally. All these shooting games give the player 15 shots to achieve a maximum of 15 points. In the first game a square bounces on the screen. In the second game a square slowly escapes the screen and has to be shot prior to that. In the third game a square randomly appears and disappears on the screen. There is no penalty for allowing the square to fade. In the last game a square travels from left to right. Like before, the square has to be shot before it escapes the screen as the trial is counted as a miss otherwise.
As there is no game play footage of Big Sports 12 in the internet, I am going to briefly show the remaining games. One game is a pong game for two players only. Each player has two paddles. The next game is similar but there is a dotted line in the middle of the playfield, which repels the ball. In order to achieve points the player has to obtain the face-off first. One game is a cooperative two players match of squash. The players are distinguished by size. Another game is football themed. The next game is again squash, but this time it is competitive. In the next game the player tries to shoot a falling green bar with a torpedo like object, the trajectory of which can be steered. The next game is similar, but this time a dotted wall may stop the projectiles. Another game has a similar wall scrolling down the screen.
Personally I am glad to own Big Sports 12. Even though it is much more advanced than the games of the "pong on a chip" systems which came before, it is very similar to these games. To me it is a deluxe substitute to such a system. Furthermore it introduced me to one of the most interesting systems of this console generation.