You may or may not be familiar with the term “Famiclone”. Basically it’s any third party console capable of playing original Nintendo games. These have been available for several years, and by several different manufacturers. But just last year, we saw another jump in Famiclones, with some of the Super Nintendo patents expiring. This is where the FC Twin comes in. It’s truly one of a kind. It can play both 8-bit Nintendo and 16-bit Super Nintendo games. To be more specific it uses what’s called a NOAC (Nintendo on a Chip) for NES games, and a Ricoh or compatible processor for SNES games [Wikipedia: FC Twin].
The FC Twin has two slots for cartridges: SNES cartridges in the front and NES cartridges in the back. You control which game you want to play with the slide power switch. It has three positions: Off, 16-Bit, and 8-Bit. It is available in three colors, Black, which is apparently the easiest to find, and Silver and White.
I found an FC Twin on eBay for around $45, and they are pretty easy to find. Obviously, you will have mixed results as far as shipping time and packaging, so I can only speak for the packaging quality of the actual product. The packaging felt a bit on the cheap side, but it got the job done. Nothing moved around during shipping. Included in the box are the FC Twin console, 2 controllers, A/V cables, and a DC power adapter.
Usually when you buy generic video game stuff made in China, it feels really cheap. But the FC Twin feels pretty sturdy when compared with its Famiclone counterparts. It’s very light, and is a little bigger than the SNES Model 2, or as some call it, the SNES Jr. It’s got two Super Nintendo controller ports at the front, and power and standard composite A/V ports in the back. As far as the controllers that come with the FC Twin, they are your standard fare third party controllers. Since the FC Twin uses a standard SNES controller port, I would highly recommend using official controllers. Aside from having a decidedly cheap feel, the controllers also have a cord length of only four feet, as opposed to the six feet official SNES controllers give you.
The NES Compatibility is very comparable to other NOAC clones. Most of the unlicensed Tengen games do not work very well, or in some cases not at all. I tried Gauntlet, which displayed garbled graphics and had clipping issues. I couldn’t get Rolling Thunder to work at all. I didn’t have a copy, but I’ve read Castlevania III doesn’t work either. This has something to do with a special chip in the game. Aside from that almost all Nintendo games work, which is something like 99%. From what I’ve read, most NOACs have problems with the original Zelda, but the FC Twin runs Zelda almost perfect. The colors were a little off, but it was definitely playable. I’d say the only issue I have on NES Compatibility that is consistent across all games is that the sound seems a little off. Granted, this is subjective, and some people might not even notice.
Aside from the aforementioned ones, it definitely won’t make any games unplayable. Check out the video I posted further down to get a listen to the differences yourself. The NES outputs in mono sound, so I just had that go to the right sound channel in the video. Also, given that the FC Twin only has SNES controller ports, you will have to play games with a Super Nintendo controller. I didn’t have time to try, but theoretically, you could wire a NES controller port to a SNES controller cord to play NES games with the NES controller. Both controllers used the same method of sending button presses. However, it’s quite possible that wouldn’t work, I just won’t know until I try it.
This is actually opposite of what I would have thought, but SNES games are where the FC Twin really shines. Every game I played worked and played great. The only problems I saw were some pretty minor coloring issues. One thing I noticed was that whenever there wasn’t much displayed on the screen, like an initial “Nintendo Presents” logo at the beginning, the image would be smudged a bit. However, when the screen was full of other things, it wouldn’t be a problem. I noticed this especially in the intro of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which is in the video I made. However, once graphics fill the entire screen, most games look perfect. Also, I noticed some strange coloring in StarFox, which is also in the video.
Aside from that, everything seems to look peachy. I have since played games like Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Kart, Street Fighter II, and many more with no problems at all. As mentioned before, the FC Twin does use standard SNES controller ports. I hope you still have that SNES mouse or Super Scope 6, because they will both work with the FC Twin. I have Mario Paint and can confirm that it works perfect with the mouse. I don’t have one, but I have read numerous places that the Super Scope 6 works flawless as well.
Cool, but is it legal?
This is the first question I had. And to be honest, I still don’t know. Famiclones generally remain legal by taking advantage of patents made by Nintendo that have since expired. As with any IP discussion, there are a lot of gray areas. I am no lawyer. But I do know that most of the NES and SNES patents have expired, but that some are still valid. I could not find any conclusive documents concerning which patents have expired. From general discussion on the Internet, most people seem to agree that the FC Twin is indeed legal but there is a gray area of opinion. Notice this relies on expired patents, and not trademarks. Trademarks take much longer to expire, so you won’t see anything like NES, SNES, Nintendo or Famicom on the packaging or product. For more information on Famiclones and patents, check out this great article on Gamasutra. Basically, the legality of Famiclones will only be challenged when Nintendo views them as worth the effort to pursue. Given Nintendo’s recent activity and re-releases on the Wii’s Virtual Console, the chances of legal action by Nintendo is greater. Like a good American, I will declare the FC Twin innocent until proven guilty. ;)
So that’s the FC Twin in a nutshell. Obviously, if you already own a NES and SNES, the FC Twin might not be worth it to you. But these consoles are getting more and more difficult to find, so I’m glad options like the FC Twin exist. If you are a retro-gaming purist, all of the subjectively minor compatibility, coloring, and audio issues are probably going to annoy you. But honestly, I can live with them. Almost all the games are playable, and the only issues that arise have little impact on gameplay. The FC Twin definitely isn’t perfect, but it definitely delivers an enjoyable gaming experience at a great price.
(click play button above or download video comparasion as WMV file)