The Amazing World of Keyboard Famiclones [Part I]

I’ve been getting a lot of questions and requests lately regarding keyboard Famiclone machines, so I thought I would comment on a few of the different keyboard models, which I personally own.  To be honest, I am not exactly a huge fan of these machines – while impressive and fun to tinker with from time to time, the actual use of a keyboard Famiclone is quite limited, for a Westerner with a proper computer, and to use the machine solely as a gaming device is also a bit overkill.  Although it can be hard to imagine someone using one of these machines as an affordable alternative to a computer, the keyboard clones are still fun to have around.

Little Com-

Boxed Little Com

Boxed Little Com

My favorite keyboard Famiclone (to date, I have a second potential favorite that we will briefly take a look at later) has to be one that was marketed by Asder during the mid-2000s.  Asder Korea distributed the clone I own, but rumors exist of some Arabic-language variants as well.

Little Com Contents

Little Com Contents

Little Com Printer Port

Little Com Printer Port

One of the first things I noticed about this machine, the Little Com, is the outstanding quality of the product.  Opening the package reveals two joy pads, as well as the main unit itself, a full-sized keyboard made of durable plastic.  Peering towards the back of the machine, I spot a printer port, suggesting that the Little Com could actually be used to print out documents.  Also included is a massive instruction manual, containing information on how to use the machine, programming information and more.  If only I could read Korean!

Main Menu Screen

Main Menu Screen

Powering on the machine loads up a screen, which allows one to access the built-in software included in the Little Com.  Included in the package are a variety of applications, such as several mathematics games, a music program, a text editor, and F Basic and G Basic programming tools.  There are also several games dedicated to teaching children the English alphabet.

Alphabet Hit Marmot

Alphabet Hit Marmot

Text Editor

Text Editor

For a Famicom fanatic like me, though, the most interesting games built into the unit are none other than Porter, Balloon Monster, and Magic Carpet 1001, three of our favorite selections from the infamous Caltron 6 in 1 cartridge.  Since this produce was developed by Asder, all three of these games are legitimately included in this product.

Balloon Monster

Balloon Monster

Magic Carpet 1001

Magic Carpet 1001

Asder would also publish an additional software pack for their keyboard machine, known as the PC-95.  Included on this cartridge are more games aimed at teaching children English.  If you tire from all the computer applications, the machine has a Famicom cartridge slot built in as well, so that you can enjoy playing your favorite Famicom games of yesteryear.

PC-95 Software

PC-95 Software

Word Game

Word Game

Overall, I find this product to be worth the money.  Although a bit limited in capability, the Little Com would be the perfect way to familiarize children to the world of computers.

Cyber Computer-

Cyber Computer

Cyber Computer

Another keyboard Famiclone I have is known as the Cyber Computer.  Unlike the Asder machine, this one looks a bit cheesier.  The Cyber Computer is basically a fake laptop that you plug into your TV.  The built-in keyboard has a cheaper feel to it than that of the Little Com, and unlike the Little Com, there is no additional software or applications built directly into the machine.  Aside from the cheesiness, this machine has nothing going for it.  Let’s move on, shall we?

Diamond Leopard King-

Diamond Leopard King

Diamond Leopard King

Before examining the Famiclone itself, we know that things are going to get a bit ugly just by examining the box.  Although the machine is the Diamond Leopard King, there certainly aren’t any leopards or diamonds in sight.  Instead, we see Shrek and crew in the corner, while a picture of the game machine takes up the other two thirds of the box.

Diamond Leopard King Contents

Diamond Leopard King Contents

Unlike the other two clones examined, this one comes with a mouse.  Yes, now we have a mouse for our Famicom.  The control pads and gun are standard fare.  In terms of quality, the keyboard itself feels very cheap imo, and there are no games built into the machine.  Instead, two cartridges came with the Diamond Leopard King.  The one cart is quite generic, containing many classic Famicom games, whereas the second cart is a bit more interesting.

English/Spanish Translation Game

English/Spanish Translation Game

The 48 in 1 game pack contains many interesting applications.  There is an English-Spanish dictionary, Solitaire, and IPA program, Mine Sweeper, Poker, etc.  As with the Asder programs, it is interesting to see these games on a Famicom cartridge, but I find it hard to imagine that people would actually crank out a game of Mine Sweeper on the Famiclone than on an actual computer.  I can’t really say much else about this machine, as it is PAL formatted, and my TV is only NTSC compatible.  Like the Cyber Computer reviewed previously, the Diamond Leopard King really doesn’t offer much of interest for Famicom collectors.

SB-2000-

SB-2000 Box

SB-2000 Box

The last clone I am going to make mention of tonight is the SB-2000, which was developed by Subor, a Chinese Famiclone manufacturer.  Before continuing forward, I just want to say that I owe Patrick a big thanks for this one, and that I hope to examine this beast closer in the near future, after I get paid (and can thus try some ways of getting around the PAL / NTSC problem).  When I can work around the compatibility issue, I think that I will find that this will become my favorite keyboard Famiclone, kicking the Asder machine to slot two.

The box itself shows the Subor machine hooked up to some sort of monitor, as well as a printer.  From this image, it becomes easy to view the SB-2000 as a valid replacement for a computer from the start.  When I open up the package, I also see a few differences between this machine and the others that I have examined tonight.

SB-2000 Contents

SB-2000 Contents

SB-2000 Disk Drive

SB-2000 Disk Drive

SB-2000 Ports

SB-2000 Ports

Unlike the other keyboard clones, where everything was directly built into the keyboard (sans the controllers), the SB-2000’s keyboard is an add-on, just like everything else.  The controllers, mouse, keyboard, etc. all plug into the disk drive, located at the back of the box.  As well as containing a disk drive (and several floppy disks containing some mysterious programs, which I have yet to discover), the SB-2000 also has a cartridge slot, and a printer port.  The SB-2000 seems to be well-built, and as a machine, certainly appears to be capable of being used as a replacement computer.  I hope to be able to investigate the SB-2000 more in the near future.  And by then, I might also have a few more keyboard Famiclones to examine as well, so stay tuned.

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Fun with Dooly

Thus being 2014, it really comes as no surprise that we are reaching the end of an era, the Famicom era.  By now, many unreleased games have been discovered, dumped, and preserved for the masses, and the list of known retail games that have yet to be backed up has been decreasing by the minute.  Regarding obscure games, it feels as though we are reaching the last frontier.  On that frontier is Dooly Bravo Land.

Welcome to Dooly Bravo Land

Welcome to Dooly Bravo Land

Last summer I had the opportunity to purchase what I would consider the holy grails on the Famicom, namely Koko’s Adventure, Metal Force, and yup, you guessed it, Dooly Bravo Land.  All of the aforementioned titles were published by Daou Infosys, an unlicensed Korean game outfit.  While two of the elusive trio, Koko’s Adventure and Metal Force, offer gamers with a superb adventure,  the third title from Daou, Dooly, somehow misses the mark.

Dooly was released in 1992, sometime during the middle of the Famicom’s lifespan.  When loading the game up, one is immediately greeted with an appealing title screen, which depicts the lovable hero of the tale, Dooly.  Pressing start takes us to a map screen, where the player can choose which stage he or she wants to try.

Floating down a Lava River

Floating down a Lava River

There are about eight or so different stages situated on the map screen.  The sort of stages appearing in Dooly is quite varied; in one stage, the dinosaur is riding rollercoasters at a theme park, whereas in another stage he is fighting pesky bats in a cave.  In one of the stages, Dooly has to fight his way through an enchanted castle, and in another he explores outer space!  Likewise, there is a nice variety of enemies situated through the various stages.  Based off of the level design of this game, Dooly Bravo Land seems like a good game…unfortunately, it’s a stinker.

Dooly Bravo Land *could* have been a superb platformer, but the game is marred by clunky controls.  Dooly does not maneuver well throughout the stages that he traverses, and this can lead to a bunch of frustration.  The dinosaur will walk to the right, get hit by a few enemies, and then die.  Every time.  The character does not respond as well to his surroundings as the protagonists in Koko’s Adventure and Metal Force do, and that is a bit of a letdown.  The sloppy controls add to the challenge in this game, and despite the fact that the developers were merciful enough to provide gamers with unlimited continues, I have only been able to make it through about three-fourths of Dooly Bravo Land.  And that leads to the big problem surrounding Dooly:  it isn’t that fun.

Dooly in Space

Dooly in Space

When playing through Dooly Bravo Land, I feel as though I’m walking on eggshells.  If I happily cruise along, I end up whipping the prehistoric hero into an enemy, and I need to restart the stage.  If I poke, I feel as though I am slowing down the pace of the game too much, and I receive the same sensation that I get when playing Somari:  one of agony and pain.  And thus is the problem:  Dooly Bravo Land had the potential of being a good game, but the mechanics of the game force the gamer to watch his or her every step.  By doing this, the fun is quickly extracted from this game.

You'll See This a lot

You’ll See This a lot

As a whole, Dooly Bravo Land certainly isn’t worth the price of admission.  On a good day, the game is an average platformer at best, and on a bad day…well Dooly smells worse than a bunch of stale buffalo chips.  I would leave this one for the collectors only.