We recently reviewed the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega from Retro Computers Ltd, a system that managed to impress us a great deal despite having a few limitations compared to the original hardware. Now there’s a new kid on the block as the old playground rivalry of the 80s is about to start once again as a crowdfunding campaign has been launched for a new retro console based on another 8-bit classic computer…
While Retro Computers Ltd may have settled for releasing a console version of the UKs best selling computer, Retro Games Limited set their sights a bit higher and have launched their campaign to release a console and handheld device based on the world’s best selling computer – the Commodore 64. They unveiled their new machine, THE 64, a couple of days ago and it’s already causing something of a stir online.
Being offered to backers as a console version in a modernised version of the classic “breadbin” C64 design or a handheld unit, it’s being promoted as being an “exciting and respectful re-imagining of the original home computer, the Commodore 64 ™ and being developed using the latest (old) technology”.
Very little has been revealed about the team or the company behind the system right now apart from the lead designer, Darren Melbourne, who was the creator of the Commodore 64DTV Plug And Play console. While nothing has been said about the hardware inside the system, as to whether or not it is running C64 software via hardware or software emulation (as was the case with the Vega) it is something we are hoping will be explained in more detail shortly. However, while the Commodore 64 name / branding hasn’t been licensed (unlike the aforementioned Vega), the ROMs, BIOS and the overall look itself have from Cloanto who currently own the rights for most of these for use with their emulation package C64 Forever. This has lead to some confusion as to whether or not the console is an emulator or real hardware but again only time will tell. The campaign does refer to a new hardware design but doesn’t offer much detail at this stage.
The console will be bundled with licensed games (as the C64DTV did before it) and if the library of games on offer with that was anything to go by then I would say that there should be an impressive line-up as the Indiegogo campaign promises. Nothing has been said in terms of how many games will be included but as long as there is sufficient quality then quantity shouldn’t really be a deciding factor against buying one of these.
(scale model of the console version)
On the hardware front, there are two versions being produced. A handheld device but of interest to most is the console. Designed to resemble a more contemporary C64, it features a full size keyboard, cartridge port (this does take games although no clarification has come forward about it taking standard C64 cartridges), HDMI output, two USB ports for joysticks, a third Micro USB for power, and an SD card slot for external files allowing for additional software to be used beyond the pre-installed games.
Whether this is a success really depends on the hardware itself and what can be done with it. For now, it doesn’t seem to offer support for regular Commodore 64 accessories – cassette deck, disk drive etc unless future support is planned through USB or the cartridge port – and if that is the case then this could limit its appeal to those who just want the convenience of playing games on a modern TV and miss C64 gaming. For people who still hanker after the real C64 experience then they may want to find out a bit more before committing themselves to it.
You can support the campaign on Indiegogo at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-64-computer-and-handheld-console#/
or find out more at www.the64.computer