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Video Game Connection - Museum : Bandai Super Vision 8000

Review Submitted by Terry Herman (marriott_guy)

Notable game developer Bandai was very involved in hardware development and manufacturing beginning in 1977 with its popular line of TV-Jack pong based consoles (six total releases within two years). Building on their mild success in this arena, the Bandai Super Vision 8000 debuted in 1979 and was the very first programmable game cartridge system released in Japan. This timeline (1979) and notoriety (initial entry and the developer, Bandai) may be a surprise to some simply due to the fact that Japan has been a leader in video game technology for some time, with big hitters Nintendo and Sega in the fold.

While the video game player in the USA had been exposed to the new programmable game cartridge systems (Fairchild Channel F, Atari VCS, APF MP-1000, Bally Professional Arcade, Odyssey 2) beginning in 1976, pong based consoles enjoyed a prolonged following within the Japanese market. This initially retarded the growth, development and embracement of new technology. The release of the Super Vision 8000 was a small, but significant, step taken by Bandai in changing the atmosphere within the hardware gaming market in Japan.

Constructed of hard, thick plastics, the light grey chassis of the Super Vision 8000 is accented well with classic black molding resulting in a clean, crisp look. Cradles for the two included controllers flank the respective sides. This console will never be mistakenly described as being small. The Super Vision 800 is a healthy sized piece of hardware, relatively rectangular in design with a gradual incline of roughly 15 degrees from the bottom to the top. The seven (7) confirmed games were rendered in 16-bit color across three sound channels, graphically in between the output of the Atari VCS and the Mattel Intellivision. Powered by an 8-bit NEC D780C running at 3.58 MHZ that was complimented by a AY-3-8910 coprocessor, this advanced piece of hardware was quite revolutionary, as well as expensive, at that time in Japan. With an initial offering of around 60,000 yen ($560 USD, $1,300 USD comparable in 1979), the Super Vision 8000 was priced out of the reach of most Japanese gamers.

This console is often mistaken for being a clone of the Mattel Intellivision, primarily due to controller design. However, the exact opposite actually applies. The Super Vision 8000 was released prior to the Intellivision, and the internal hardware specifics are completely different and not compatible at all. The story behind the controller similarity is varied, with half of those with actual knowledge of both systems siding with the thinking that Mattel was the original developer, the other stating it was Bandai. There seems to be more historical data to side with the former in this debate.

Though the hardware technology at the time (1979) in Japan was not as advanced as that in the USA, there is evidence that the Super Vision 8000 was developed independently, and prior to, the Intellivision. Further, there are claims that Bandai was going to sue Mattel for patent right violation(s) when the initial Intellivision was displayed at a gaming demonstration forum. There seems to be some validity to this story since Bandai gained the rights in 1980 to be the sole manufacturer of the Intellivision console in Japan. With the Super Vision 8000 not selling well at the time (due to the high price and a changing Japanese market), Bandai focused their efforts on production of Intellivision units. This eventually lead to the cessation of production and development for of the Super Vision 8000 within one year of its release.

Bandai, though mostly known now as a great game developer, was a big player in the video game hardware industry in Japan and paved the way for juggernauts like Nintendo and Sega. The Super Vision 8000 is an extremely rare system and is considered to be a holy grail amongst console collectors. Games for this system will run you around $80-$100 USD due to their rarity. The system itself was not sold in great quantities. Finding one at all (working or non) is quite a chore. To land yourself a working, CIB unit, expect to lay out $700+, plus S/H. This is definitely a system that should be targeted by only the most serious of console collectors.

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