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A History of Gaming Platforms: The Vectrex
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A History of Gaming Platforms: The Vectrex

December 17, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

Game cartridges are easy to find and generally sell for five dollars, or more depending upon rarity, which can increase the price exponentially. Many users hold out for games with the original overlays, though reproductions of varying quality are readily available. Original boxes tend to be flimsy and are often found slightly flattened. Light pens in the original packaging with Art Master can sell for up to $100 or more. Original 3D Imagers have sold from the hundreds into the thousands of dollars depending upon completeness.

Spike's Circus is one of a handful of titles to take advantage of hardware speech synthesis, with one optional peripheral, the VecVoxX from madtronix, shown plugged into controller port two. This particular model, VecVoxX Developer, supports several additional features, including PC interface, headphone jack and lightpen port. A homebrew light pen in a Paper Mate enclosure is shown plugged into the lightpen port.

Emulation of the Vectrex platform is robust and well-implemented on computers and select videogame systems. Emulators include M.E.S.S., ParaJVE and VecX, and legal ROM images of the original Vectrex games and certain homebrews are widely available. However, despite the convenience of emulation, the original hardware is really the only way to get an authentic experience. The unique characteristics of the Vectrex's display and overlays, as well as its accessories, simply don't transfer well to a standard PC or console setup.

Vectorzoa's 2006 homebrew, Spike's Circus, in action, with color overlay and packaging.

As mentioned earlier, the Vectrex's homebrew community is among the best in terms of quality, innovation and depth. Some of the most popular homebrew software includes Christopher Tumber's Omega Chase (1998) arcade shooter conversion of Midway's Omega Race (1981); Clay Cowgill's Moon Lander (1999), which is inspired by Atari's arcade Lunar Lander (1979); John Dondzila's All Good Things (2000), which features a collection of several quality games; Alex Herbert's Protector and Y.A.S.I. (2003), with the former a Defender (Williams, 1980) clone and the latter a VecVoice/VecVox speech-enhanced Space Invaders (Bally Midway, 1978) clone.

There's also Craig Aker's Nebula Commander (2005), a real-time strategy game supporting one or two simultaneous players; Revival Studios' Debris (2005), a vertical shooter that features simulated bitmap graphics instead of the usual vector; Alex Nicholson's Star Sling (2006), a shooter that supports analog controls and two player simultaneous action; Fury Unlimited's 3D Lord of the Robots (2006), which is the first new game for use with the 3D Imager; and Revival Studios' Vectoblox (2007) puzzle game. There's even VecOS, which upon its future official release promises a Graphical User Interface (GUI), bitmap display, sound player and VecOS BASIC, a fully embedded Vectrex BASIC editor and interpreter.

A collection of homebrew items, including a converted Genesis controller and Vecmania (1999) from John Dondzila, Thrust (2004) from Ville Krumlinde, Protector and Y.A.S.I., Moon Lander, City Bomber (2007) from Andy Coleman, and VecFlash from Richard Hutchinson, which allows ROMs to be transferred and run

Homebrew hardware on the Vectrex is just as exciting. Some highlights include a variety of adapters and controller conversions that make use of Sega Genesis and Sony PlayStation controllers; Richard Hutchinson's series of increasingly sophisticated add-ons that allow for, among other things, speech synthesis and ROM usage; low cost replacement light pens; and, perhaps most impressively, a low cost and 100% compatible 3D Imager replacement from madtronix.

While the madtronix 3-D Imager offers a slightly greater viewing angle than the original GCE model, the base display technology, like most 3D/headset systems, is still too uncomfortable for most people to use for anything more than brief play sessions. Shown to the bottom left is a special multi-cart (games are selected by modifying jumper combinations) that came with this edition of the Imager. Shown to the upper right is the special edition of 3D Lord of the Robots with laser engraved box cover.

The clever homebrew 3-D Imager from madtronix

All in all, a working Vectrex is an excellent find for any collector of vintage systems. It's a unique platform with many features that aren't found anywhere else, and its collection of software, both old and new, put its innovative hardware design to excellent use.

GCE/Milton Bradley Vectrex (1982)

Typical System Specifications

Release year: 1982
Resolution: 330 × 410
On-screen colors: Vector Monochrome
Sound: Three channels, mono
Media format(s): Cartridge
Main memory: 2K

Capability Ratings

Visuals: 3.5
Audio: 3.0
Control options and quality: 6.5
Features, expandability, and add-ons: 6.0
Software diversity: 5.0
Software density: 4.5
User experience: 10.0
Initial popularity: 2.5
Overall score: 41.0

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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