12bit Blog

RS-1 part 4: The Aftermath

Posted by taizou at 2019-08-12 00:28:37 Clones, Famicom

Last time, I wrapped up my exploration of the E-mods 162-in-1 RS-1, which you could consider the latest iteration of the "normal" RS-1 system. But, of course, the saga of the RS-1 didn't end there. It'd never just be a straight line from the earliest 89-in-1 to this latest 162-in-1. Not in this business.

Qingshe QS-4 six colour variants
source: various amazon listings

Another tangential update, following the same lines as the E-mods RS-1, is the Qingshe QS-4. This is actually my favourite RS-1 variant aesthetically; rather than having an all-white console with differently-coloured faceplates like the standard RS-1, the QS4 goes for multiple colours of console with a uniform black faceplate. (I say "faceplate" like it's a separate part and not just spray-painted, but you know. Frontispiece?)

(I almost didn't mention this, having become inured to completely fake screenshots on promotional pictures of dubious handhelds, but: the screenshots shown on the pictures above are actually from Senca Technology's Family Sports games, an original set of games developed for Sunplus hardware and found in various cheap consoles with more legitimate aims. But this thing has no legitimate aims, and those Senca games aren't really here. It's still a Famiclone.)

Here, again, they took the base 152-in-1 RS-1 and added a bunch of extra games on top of it; this time a whole 30, bringing the total to 180! The new games on this version are:

  2. CONTRA 24IN1
  5. ROBOCOP 1
  8. GAN NAC
  15. BLUE CAT
  18. TUOYU
  19. TINY TOON 1
  23. MARIO 9
  24. ALIEN
  25. SD TOTAL
  27. MARIO 10
  28. MARIO 14
  29. MARIO 3

So, Qingshe's approach here was to add another 30 big games, including the likes of Mario 3 and Somari(!!), as well as more obscure niceties like Gun-Nac and Zombie Nation, which honestly probably represents much better value for your casual buyer than the graphically-nicer-but-shallow VT03 stuff tacked onto E-mods' version.

CoolBoy RS-1S box
RS-1S five solid colour versions
source: some old listing

The "true" successor to the RS-1, though, was the RS-1S. And, of course, it couldn't be so simple as there just being one "RS-1S". Of course not. The first RS-1S seems to have been a Chinese-market release by Renshun, actually bearing the CoolBoy brand on its box this time, and can be identified by its all-solid-colour shell (despite the box showing the prior design). I couldn't dig up much coverage of this version, but its internal ROM has been dumped and can be emulated in emulators supporting VT02 OneBus systems, MAME and NintendulatorNRS among others.

RS-1S 110-in-1 Chinese/English selector RS-1S 110-in-1 English menu first page

This reveals it to be a 110-in-1 unit with a menu more akin to the "PVP Station"-type machines, Mighty Final Fight music and all. I believe the first 61 games here are mostly based on the lineup from the 89-in-1 original RS-1, but considerably cleaned up and using the "proper" versions where there were weird hacks and misnamings on the 89. The one exception is Aladdin 3, which was moved to the top of the list and then replaced with Plants vs Zombies, while neglecting to change its name in the English menu.

However, the rest of the games from 62 onwards are fresh additions, with no repeats whatsoever! Mostly these are more small multicart staples, but there are a few unexpected sights, like Hello Kitty no Ohanabatake, Burai Fighter and Sachen's Pyramid. Also included are a smattering of hacks like "Deflower", homebrew like Bomb Sweeper, and the rare Korean original Block Puzzle.

RS-1S blue/silver and white/silver versions
source: E-WOR GAMES @ aliexpress

Later on came ANOTHER RS-1S, seemingly an internationally-targeted release along the same lines of the 152-in-1 RS-1. Originally, this one came in either blue with a silver faceplate, or white with a silver, gold or rose gold one.

Later, this was rebadged as "ES-9S", presumably related to the "ES-8" number originally printed on the box of the 152-in-1 RS-1; but that change was reverted for later versions, whereas here the change was only made for later versions... which is odd. The ES-9S version also came with the addition of some new colour schemes: all red with white buttons, all red with white buttons, and red with red buttons and a black faceplate.

Family Pocket RS-1S box
source: Digital Innovate Store @ aliexpress

The packaging of this new RS-1S and/or ES-9S bears the "Family Pocket" name, probably placing it as being made after the Family Pocket 638-in-1 console, whose branding spread across various other consoles after its release. It's also described as being "classic & empire retro" - remember that Empire Retro Handheld version from earlier? It seems like the manufacturers took this and slapped it on subsequent consoles as a generic marketing phrase, without actually clocking that it was referring to their client's brand name. Also, much like the CoolBoy RS-1S packaging, this box appears to show a unit in an old RS-1 colour scheme, and not one of the actual 1S ones.

video by RealGenericDemon, 17 Jan 2018

It has a similar style of menu to the previous RS-1S (except featuring a rad dude instead of a buster bunny), but the game selection is completely different, with no particular callback to any earlier RS-1. Again, there are no more repeats, but we have a LOT more larger, later games like Super Mario Bros 2 and 3, Mega Man 3 and 5 and a healthy selection of bootleg fighting game ports.

So, an unambiguous upgrade? Not quite! For some reason, this version lacks both the TV out (!?) and the volume control wheel (?!?!?!?), repurposing that vestigial "T" button as a simple sound on/off switch. It also adds a screw-hole to protect the batteries, with included screwdriver. For the kids! The Chinese-market RS-1S also seems to have had these alterations, judging from the few remaining listings I found, so I'm guessing the "S" was targeted overall at being a cost-reduced RS-1 in terms of parts required, in spite of its improved game selection and presumably-larger internal ROM size.

GB-9X promo image with 5 colour variants
source: Zhishan Mall

Another variation of this later RS-1S/ES-9S has been released by Zhishan as the GB-9X, which apparently re-adds the TV out, volume wheel AND a headphone jack, which I don't think any other RS-1 has supported. It also comes in a few more - pretty nice - colour schemes. So this is probably the one to get if the RS-1S' game selection appeals to you. (Apparently the "GB" stands for "Great Boy", if you were wondering).

RS-1 Plus with box and accessories
source: QINGSHE Direct Store @ aliexpress

And finally! The most recent development in the RS-1 saga is the most ridiculous, barely-an-RS-1 RS-1 yet: the RS-1 Plus! At first glance, it doesn't look THAT different - but the Plus is actually way bigger, abandoning the compact dimensions of the original to bring its screen up to 3.5 inches from the original's 2.5. So if the RS-1 was the ideal handheld for kids, this is the version for grown ass adults. Just look at that swanky, sophisticated box. Like something you might get a shitty aftershave in. Look at this businessman, enjoying his "private entertainment". Hell, look at the game list. AV Poke? Demon Head? Hung? Dongkey Kong?? This is for ADULTS. This is RED HOT.

It comes with 218 games, no repeats, giving it a heftier game count than any previous RS-1. Like the later RS-1S, it carries the Family Pocket branding, and its menu system seems to come from the same (pocket) family as that of the original Family Pocket console. But I'm not going to go into too much detail on this one, since it really is a completely different unit that just takes a few design cues from the original RS-1 family. Maybe some other time!

In any case, now I've explored just about every RS-1 variant there is (that statement undoubtedly presaging me finding three completely new ones the instant I hit "publish" on this post), I can put together this highly professionalised pocket family tree of the whole lot:

RS-1 family tree

The only thing I haven't really done yet is take an in-depth look at something down the RS-1S branch. Because I'd have to buy one to do that. So I did. Oh no.

Next time: I do that! And then put this whole damn thing to bed


RS-1 part 3: 162-in-1 game set

Posted by taizou at 2019-08-10 18:55:39 Clones, Famicom

Previously I explored the hardware, packaging and menus of the E-mods RS-1 162-in-1 handheld console. And what else is there to cover about this game console, made for playing games, with a bunch of games built in?

Oh yeah, the games!

I'm gonna list them off here using their names from the console's menu, in rough groupings, and only go into detail on those that are somehow more interesting or unique than the usual multicart fare. What the other truncated menu names represent should be mostly obvious for those familiar with bootleg naming conventions, but I've also put together a list over here with the full game list and what each one actually is, for the curious.

Games 1-12

  1. CONTRA 1
  4. CHIP DALE 2
  8. NINJA GAI 2
  9. NINJA GAI 3
  11. DOUBLE DR 2
  12. DOUBLE DR 3

Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu title screen Ninja Ryukenden 3 title screen

The first 12 games here are what you might call the headliners - larger, more complex titles (aside from Super Mario Bros., which presumably earned its lofty position thanks to its fame). "Trooper" is actually Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters, a mistake which was not made on the 152-in-1 version; but one of the added games here is called "Trooper", so presumably someone made a copy-paste error and overwrote its name. "Blood Fight" is actually Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu, a cool 4-player fighting game from Technos's Nekketsu/Kunio-kun series, while "Ninja Gai 3" is a Chinese translation of Ninja Ryukenden 3 credited to PEACOCKWANG.

Games 13-67

  4. GRADIUS 1
  8. 1942
  9. 90 TANK
  10. F1 RACE
  12. KUNG FU
  14. CIRCUS
  15. GALAGA
  20. DIG DUG
  23. POOYAN
  26. NINJA 2
  31. MAHJONG 2P
  32. MAHJONG 4P
  35. DONGKEY 1
  36. DONGKEY 2
  37. DONGKEY 3
  38. MAPPY
  40. NINJA 1
  42. POPEYE
  43. PACMAN
  47. BALLON
  52. JOUST

Games 13-67 are mostly multicart mainstays, small ROMs which get thrown in bulk onto anything needing a large number of games (shout out to the DONGKEY trilogy). A few unusual things did make their way into this set, however.

World Cup title screen World Cup gameplay screen

"World Cup" is a hack of Nintendo's Soccer, changing the music and replacing the players with fox-like creatures. more like fur-ld cup am I right?? "F1 Race" does something odd with the stage ordering to allow for later repeats, meaning the first instance here starts you out on "course 0".

On the Road title screen On the Road gameplay screen

"Road Fight" is not the regular Konami Road Fighter game, but a hack called "On the Road" credited to "©2000 NEW GAME STAR". This makes the odd change of rearranging the cars on the starting grid into two rows of four (which also has the effect of hiding the "fuel" marker on the right, since it's rendered as a sprite and the new arrangement pushes that line over the NES' horizontal sprite limit).

Pizza Boy gameplay screen "Jewellery" gameplay screen

"Desert Tank" is actually Absolute's Battletank, "Pizza Boy" is a Nice Code game, and "Jewellery" is a graphical hack of Hwang Shinwei's Magic Jewelry which seems like it might be a de-creepified version of the more common "Coin Tetris".

Games 68-83

  8. TANK B
  9. TANK C
  16. CLOWN

Adventure Island repeat gameplay On the Road repeat gameplay

And now we get into the repeats- these are all just versions of Adventure Island (68-74), Tank 1990 (75-76), "On the Road" (77-79) and Circus Charlie (80-83) with their starting levels changed. The "On the Road" repeats interestingly have no title logo here, which was probably a provision made by "New Game Star" to make the repeats look less obviously like the same game again. Some of these repeats leave your car out of bounds at the start, since they didn't reconfigure the courses to account for the changed starting positions...

These particular repeat titles appear on quite a number of multicarts and consoles, going back to around 2000 or so, and seem to have been copied and reused quite extensively since then. "Bugged Racer" was originally "Rugged Racer" on those earlier compilations, but, well, it's kind of appropriate here.

Games 84-95


Maze Tussle gameplay Bitha gameplay

More repeats? You'd THINK, but... "Su Digdug" is actually "Cryptcar", the Inventor hack of Dig Dug. "Su Pacman" is "Maze Tussle", "Dongkey Kong3" is "Bandits", "Bomberman" is "Golgotha", and "Su Pooyan" is "Bitha", again all Inventor hacks of their respective games. "Bitha" is even the later revision of the hack with completely-changed music.

The three Arkanoids here are all Arkanoid with different starting levels, even though normal Arkanoid hasn't shown up yet. Galaxing 1 is just Galaxian again, Super Tank I and II are Tank 90 D and E, and "Fast Bross" is Super Mario Bros starting on world 3 but with no apparent increase in fastness.

Games 96-115

  3. CUBAN
  6. DISNEY 2
  7. F1 HERO
  10. ALADDIN 3
  18. GAIDEN
  19. DRAGON 2
  20. DRAGON 3

Fighter Street VI gameplay Doki! Doki! Yuuenchi gameplay

Hey, NOW we're talking. More actual games! Even a few big ones! Revolution and Cuban are both SNK's Guevara (seemingly identical). Street Fight is the common "Fighter Street VI 12 Peoples" hack of Cony's Street Fighter 2 port. "Disney 2" is actually decent platformer Doki! Doki! Yuuenchi, despite its menu preview being from Tiny Toon Adventures 2. Aladdin 3 is sadly the title hack of Magic Carpet 1001, not any kind of Hummer Team port.

Angry Birds gameplay Plants vs Zombies gameplay

"Angry Bird3" and "Plants vs Zomb" are the Nice Code ports of Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies respectively, and presumably the only thing lending truth to the box's claims of "phone" and "Android" games.

Then, games 109 to 115 are all repeats from the first 12. Boo.

Games 116-152

  2. DISNEY 2
  3. ALADDIN3 1
  7. RACE 2
  8. CHIDALE 3
  9. GIANT
  10. SILKWORM 4
  11. RACE 3
  12. DISNEY 3
  13. MARIO 2
  14. CHIPDALE 4
  15. RACE 4
  16. SILKWORM 5
  17. MARIO 3
  18. DISNEY 4
  19. CHIPDALE 5
  20. MARIO 4
  21. SILKWORM 6
  22. DISNEY 5
  23. ALADDING3 2
  24. CHIPDALE 6
  25. SILKWORM 7
  26. MARIO 5
  27. RACE 5
  28. CHIDALE 7
  29. MARIO 6
  30. ALADDING3 3
  31. RACE 6
  32. CHILDALE 8
  33. MARIO 7
  34. DISNEY 6
  35. MARIO 8
  36. CHIPDALE 9
  37. SILKWORM 8

Mario jumping high in On the Moon Chip n Dale 2 cutscene

And now we're fully back in repeats-with-different-starting-level territory. The few exceptions here are "On the Moon", Super Mario Bros with weird and inconsistent moon-jumping physics (which I assume is easy to activate with a few changed memory values, since I've seen it on other multicarts before), and then "Giant" which just seems to be unmodified Super Mario Bros again.

Of note here for their crapness are the Chip & Dale 2 repeats, which give over entries to sub-areas, cutscenes, and boss fights immediately following those cutscenes... meaning the latest stage selectable is the 3rd sewer area, only about a quarter of the way into the game.

Games 153-162


Hey now, what's this? Could these be the 10 games added EXCLUSIVELY for the later E-mods revision of this console? Why yes, yes they are!

Space War III title screen Space War III gameplay

Firstly, "Space War" here is actually "Space War III", something like a 3rd-generation Inventor hack of Gun-Nac for the NES. Its first iteration, as far as I know, was called "Star Wars" - but obviously, for a hack intended to quell the copyright-anxiety of western importers, that wouldn't exactly cut the mustard. A later revision adopted the generic title "Space War", but still left in a lot of the original cutscenes and text from Gun-Nac, which often identified its source game by name. Finally, this version, "Space War III", excised the cutscenes and remaining Gun-Nac references along with the lightly-modified shop girl, and changed a bunch more graphics along with it.

Curly Monkey 2 title screen Curly Monkey 2 gameplay
Kong King title screen Kong King gameplay
Extreme Racing title screen Extreme Racing gameplay

Now we get into the REAL shit; games 154 through 160 are all VT03 games developed by Nice Code. If you aren't familiar with VT03, it's an enhanced NES clone format offering 16-bit-like 8bpp graphics, so you get a nice little graphical boost for a few games at the end of the list. And that, presumably, is where the "12 bit" designation on the box comes from. Curly Monkey 2 is probably the best VT03 game here, and in my opinion one of Nice Code's best overall.

Unfortunately, I can't take any nice video-capture screenshots of these games, and have had to instead photograph the LCD screen, thanks to a strange flaw of this hardware. Here's what similar screenshots of the above set of games would look like through the TV out:

Curly Monkey 2 title screen with wrong colours Curly Monkey 2 gameplay with wrong colours
Kong King title screen with wrong colours Kong King gameplay with wrong colours
Extreme Racing title screen with wrong colours Extreme Racing gameplay with wrong colours

Yep, the VT03 games' palettes are COMPLETELY wrong A few other handhelds have this problem, so I can only assume it's a problem with the particular VT chip in use here.

Trooper title screen Trooper gameplay
Blobman title screen Blobman gameplay

And then, finally, two more non-VT03 Nice Code games round out the set. Trooper is one of their shoot-falling-shit games, originating in their port of Astrosmash for the Intellivision, and judging from the music here this may be a rehacked version by BBG/Waixing or someone else. Blobman, meanwhile, is just Blobman. Blobby.

These additional ten games weren't just plucked out of nowhere: they actually have a common origin, as they all previously appeared on the related RS-16 console. Specifically, the 7 VT03 games here are the only 7 VT03 games found on that machine, while the other three were seemingly just random picks from the rest of its game set. I'm going to cover the RS-16 in detail another time - in fact I wasn't even planning to mention it here, since it technically came after the RS-1, but... well, it actually came in between the 152-in-1 RS-1 and this 162-in-1 expansion. So it has managed to worm its way into the RS-1 lineage by lending a few fancy 12-bit games to its older sibling when its makers were looking to add some distinctive content to a new revision.

I should probably point out here that, of the "unusual" games on here (e.g. the hacks and the Nice Code originals), all of them have been dumped on various consoles and carts, and most their ROMs are catalogued in Project Plug 'n Play, hence why I haven't gone into much detail documenting individual games here. The strange 4-cars-in-a-row version of On the Road is a little harder to come by, but can be found on the dumped RS-5 138-in-1 ROM, which actually reproduces the old 89-in-1 RS-1's lineup with extra repeats.

And that's it for the E-mods 162-in-1 version of the RS-1! Is it the best RS-1? If you like VT03 games, probably! If you don't, well, maybe you'll find something you like in the next post! That's right, I'm not done yet!

NEXT TIME on 12BIT CLUB: The Aftermath


RS-1 part 2: E-mods 162-in-1 overview

Posted by taizou at 2019-08-09 00:49:02 Clones, Famicom

Last time I covered the quite extensive background of the RS-1 series. Today I'm going to take a deeper dive into one particular unit that I purchased off of the internet just under two weeks ago, with the express intent of covering here. So this is FRESH RS-1 MATERIAL right here.

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 box front

This is the E-Mods Gaming RS-1! They want you to know that they design the best modded controllers. Just FYI. The packaging has been completely redesigned again from the Game Prince version shown in the previous post - it still claims to have built-in games from vastly more sophisticated platforms, but the "i" has been dropped from "iPhone" this time.

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 box back

The back shows a diagram of the unit, plus a list of some of its features; the most important thing here is that it has "New Classic 12 bit game", handing it a fully unassailable position in the exclusive 12bit club. The diagram actually seems to have been redrawn or cleaned up from the Game Prince version, yet it still shows a M100 or OneStation or some other copy - with a connected d-pad and bottom-located volume control - rather than the RS-1 itself.

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 box bottom

I don't believe the version supporting a Li-ion (🦁) battery was ever produced - at least, I've never seen one. It would require a completely different mould for the back piece, as the current unit is only shaped for AAA batteries; the usual approach for "dual-power" consoles is to design the shell in a way that would fit AAAs one way and then the Li-ion battery at a 90 degree angle to it. (But hey, did you know the original OneStation had a rechargeable battery pack released for it? Because it sure did!)

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 box top

This top panel has an empty space perfectly sized to the Amazon barcode sticker, if there was any doubt as to where this was intended to be sold. Note that sticker (upside down) says "162红", (红 meaning "red"), alluding to the enhancement made to this particular model above its predecessor. But, anyway, let's get into that box...

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 console in tray with cable

Here's what you get for your money: the RS-1 console, E-mods branded, plus an AV out cable. No lanyard. :( Strangely, the AV out feature isn't advertised on the box at all (the diagram even omits labelling the port on the top), despite being standard across all RS-1 models as far as I know. You may notice here that the console-holding part of the tray has extended, rounded sides, which happens to make it perfectly suited to holding another console in this series, which also happens to be the one I actually wanted to cover before getting down the RS-1 rabbit hole.. but that'll come later.

RS-1 manual front page RS-1 manual back page

The other thing in the box is this manual, English only, on a double-sided single sheet of paper. Mine actually came with two copies. Bonus!? It saved me a bit of scanning time, anyway. This seems to vary a lot across different RS-1 versions, with some having this same manual in both Chinese and English, and some having a completely different English-only design.

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 console

Here's a better view of the console itself - it's quite a nice compact design (for which all the credit can go to the OneStation, which was itself largely biting on the Game Boy Micro, but hey).

One slightly sub-ideal thing it's inherited from the OneStation is its control configuration: absent is any kind of select button, with A and B in reverse order from the original NES, accompanied by a single "T" button. On the original OneStation, I believe this "T" could have different functionality per-cart, with the Mega Drive adapter using it as the "C" button, and (although this is based on fairly hazy memories, so don't take my word for it) the NES multicarts mapping it to Select. On the RS-1, it simply functions as turbo "A". Which, with most games using "B" as the more usefully turbo-able fire button, renders it fairly useless. But you can make Mario do lots of really fast small jumps?

The one thing it does change from the OneStation is the D-pad, going for a PlayStation-style split design rather than the indented single-piece cross pad of the original. (Some early OneStation models actually DID have a split D-pad, but it was of a different design to this one and doesn't actually seem to factor into the RS-1 lineage, as they're descended from the M100 which copied the single-piece design)

Unfortunately, this D-pad's segments are spaced further apart than the PlayStation's, has hard rather than rounded edges (although the degree of hardness seems to vary between revisions), and is actually just 4 separate buttons with no connection underneath... all of which come together to make it quite uncomfortable to use, really.

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 console back

And here's the extremely non-OneStation back I mentioned in the previous post. Can't say I'm a fan - I much prefer the chubby original, which you can see about two thirds of the way down this post. This one just looks cheap. Maybe it's more ergonomic? Also, I haven't taken this picture upside down, they really have moulded the word "OPEN" upside down on the battery cover there.

E-Mods Gaming RS-1 console switched on showing menu

And here's what it looks like switched on. That's right: a hundred and sixty two games in one, a full ten more than the previous RS-1! Such generosity! The screen is pretty nice, as usual for modern handhelds really, but unfortunately is prone to tearing in horizontally-scrolling games. And the little speaker can be turned up incredibly loud to the point of distortion. So there's that. It does, at least, offer a proper volume wheel, which is quite nice to find in 2019 when so many cheap handhelds are resorting to a single button that cycles through a few different volume levels and resets to MEGA LOUD whenever you reset the console.

I touched on the various menu revisions in my previous post, but here's a run-through of the whole menu system on this unit:

There's a lot to unpick here! It's essentially the same as the later 152-in-1 menu lacking a Chinese option (at least, an explicitly choosable one) with the game count bumped up, but let's get into some details.

162 in 1 title screen

The title screen looks like a copyright-friendly attempt to evoke Super Mario Bros. (which is maybe limited in its legal effectiveness by the fact that the real Super Mario Bros is on here), playing a tune of whose origins I'm not sure, but probably coming from a bank of "multicart music" composed by someone somewhere some years ago. At least it's neither Nice Code music nor Mighty Final Fight music, unlike most Famiclone handhelds these days.

162 in 1 English menu first page

The menu itself has no music, only the usual multicart sound effects. It features the game preview images commonly seen on modern Famiclone handhelds - some of them are literally just bits of wall, and a few are from the wrong game entirely, but at least they tried. Compared to other menus, it does feel fairly slow and clunky when navigating between items, though, and this seems to be related to the time it takes to load in those previews.

152 in 1 Chinese menu first page

Although the presented menu is English-only, the removed Chinese menu from prior versions can still be accessed by holding START at boot, or pressing it just as the title screen appears. This menu only features the 152-in-1 lineup of the more common RS-1, so presumably there was never any intent of providing a Chinese menu for the new revision. My suspicion is that when the Chinese option was removed, it was done in a fairly clumsy way such that the default Chinese is still selected for a frame or two when the title screen loads, leaving it still unintentionally accessible if the "START" input comes quickly enough.

Aaronix test screen

As is common for these things, it has a test screen which appears if you hold A+B on boot; the unusual thing here is this screen is labelled "Aaronix", a Taiwanese console manufacturer from the late 80s and early 90s. This test screen has actually shown up on a number of Famiclone handhelds and plug n plays lately, but I have no idea how the manufacturers got hold of it - I don't even know where Aaronix used it originally, but can only assume some of their old Famiclones had it built in.

One flaw this test screen shines a bright shiny light upon is that sound channel "3", aka the triangle channel, is silent. This is unfortunately a problem with a whole lot of cheap Famiclone handhelds, RS-1 included, meaning a lot of the game music on here loses something from its original rendition.

At this point I should also touch on the TV out, since those videos and screenshots were captured through it. It's pretty decent quality, no major complaints... or that's what I WOULD be saying, if this still had the 152-in-1 game set. Unfortunately, the extra games here expose a major flaw, which I'll get to later.

I wasn't planning to take any photos of the PCB, simply because there's already this teardown of a theoretically-identical model from flawed.net.nz, but I did pop the back off mine out of curiosity and found it's the next PCB revision up - v1.9 on the main green board and v1.8 on the brown one, where the other one was v1.8 and v1.7 respectively. So here are some pics anyway!

RS-1 left PCB back side RS-1 right PCB back side RS-1 front PCB with screen

Unlike the somewhat anonymous v1.8/v1.7 boards, these updates actually have the console model number(s) and, in the case of the main board, the date printed on them. The components present here are nothing unusual for all manner of cheap/clone handhelds and consoles - some kind of system-on-chip under an epoxy glob (almost certainly one of VR Technology's VT-series), a flash ROM chip, and a timing crystal. And that's about it.

Next time: the games!


RS-1 part 1: History

Posted by taizou at 2019-08-07 00:07:55 Clones, Famicom

Usually, on this blog, I write about things I find interesting. Unusual or unique items which aren't widely covered elsewhere, featuring games not commonly seen. The RS-1, on the other hand, is something I've ignored for a long time: it has an uninspired, copied design, contains a set of common NES games with repeats, with a handful of seen-em-before Chinese originals and hacks scattered in. It's also one of the more ubiquitous bootleg handhelds on the market, its variants being extensively sold on every online marketplace for at least seven years, widely reviewed and dissected by many before me.

So, why am I covering this? The reason I started investigating it to begin with was my desire to cover one of its successors – the idea was I'd devote a paragraph or two to this device, and then launch into what I REALLY wanted to talk about. But as I researched it, I found a console with a multitude of variants and a highly confusing lineage that was actually pretty interesting in and of itself. So I bought one. But I'll come to that later.

To begin with, a brief detour.

Pink OneStation console with cartridge
source: my really old pic

In 2006, console manufacturer and game developer Jungletac released the OneStation. This was a unique handheld concept whereby the console itself only housed the screen, speaker and controls, but each cartridge contained a full system-on-chip along with its ROM. This allowed them to release a variety of cartridges using completely different architectures, including NES, the enhanced-NES VT09, Sunplus 16-bit and Mega Drive (in the form of an adapter allowing the tiny MD Max Mega Drive cartridges to be played). However, promised media player and camera attachments never materialised, and the majority of the cartridges released for it after the initial batch ended up being simple Famicom multicarts bundled with a NES-on-a-chip.

Pink Digital Dragon System
source: jncota @ weiku

The OneStation was fairly popular, and naturally inspired imitators. One of the earliest was the Digital Dragon System from console- and cartridge-maker Jncota, released under their "PK-Dragon" brand. The Digital Dragon System abandoned the OneStation's multi-system concept, instead being a dedicated Famicom clone handheld with its own smaller cartridge format, each cartridge now just containing a ROM chip. From here, Jncota would put out consoles copying the designs of more mainstream systems, like the GB Station and PVP Station, and others would copy Jncota's copies, and both Jncota and their copyists would transition to using completely fake cartridges and the whole thing would get slightly out of hand.

But we're not here to talk about that whole mess today. We're sticking with those OneStation copycats for a while longer.

4 different coloured OneStation clones
source: some dead taobao listing

At some point, another OneStation-clone Famiclone appeared on the market, with its principal difference (at least frontally) being a solid coloured faceplate instead of the patterned one found on the original. Information on this system is EXTREMELY hard to find, and it doesn't seem to have been sold very widely or for very long. The only photo I could track down, other than that promo pic above, was this one from difuno on photobucket, revealing the model number M100 (the same as the original OneStation) and an 86-in-1 built-in game set including the likes of Super Contra, Super Mario and Angry Birds (likely Nice Code's port, which would have been fairly new at this point). The lack of any more information, or pictures from other angles, leaves me unsure whether it featured a cartridge port or not, or if the rear design was changed at all.

But then!

box art for the original RS-1
source: another old listing

Sometime around 2012, yet another OneStation-like was released: our unlikely protagonist, the Game Prince RS-1. Like the M100, it mostly reproduced the familiar OneStation design in a series of solid colours, but took a couple of new departures: a PlayStation-styled D-pad in place of the indented plus-shape of the original, and the front panel being simply painted (with the screen left unprotected) rather than having a separate faceplate. This machine lacked any kind of cartridge support (real or fake), though, and the back panel of the OneStation design was completely replaced with a more compact but also uglier and incongruous piece. Interestingly, some online sellers continued to use the promo pic of four M100-type consoles with a white RS-1 pasted over the top, which seems to cement the idea of the RS-1 as a successor to the M100, perhaps introduced to reduce costs or dodge Jungletac design patents.

This machine is believed to be a product of Shenzhen Renshun Technology; early units featured their name on the manual, and it has been (and still is) listed by them on various wholesale and retail outlets. Its "RS-1" designation presumably comes from the initials of "Ren Shun", common to their other products. However, it has never had their well-known CoolBoy/CoolBaby/酷孩 (Kuhai) branding applied to its packaging or on the console itself, probably due to its early release.

It's also unknown how much of the design and manufacturing process for each of Renshun's products was handled in-house by them, as opposed to contracting out to some more established manufacturer or branding an existing product. Renshun in general and what actually constitutes "a Renshun product" is a bit of an enigma, not helped by the propensity of some Chinese sellers to list everything as "CoolBaby" regardless of its origins. But, anyway, for now let's attribute it to them.

video by indask8, 7 Oct 2012

The first version of the RS-1 is as you see in the 2012 video review from indask8; an 89-in-1 system featuring a reasonable number of non-repeated games, plus a few of the standard different-starting-level type repeats tacked on the end. The game set seems to be similar to that of the M100, if the first page is anything to go by. Nice Code's Angry Birds port is there, but strangely their Plants vs Zombies is not, despite the box using Plants vs Zombies art and those games usually coming as a pair. Apparently this console was sourced from DealExtreme, who were probably one of the first to sell it into the international market (they had also been a key supplier for the OneStation back in its day).

The following year, a new revision appeared:

video by JumpMen Podcast, 24 Feb 2013

The packaging here looks ALMOST identical, except, for some reason, they removed the Chinese text from the "Game Prince" branding. I'd almost say it was done to make it more export-friendly, if not for the fact the product name is still written in Chinese and pinyin with no English in sight...

The bigger difference, though, is the menu system; the game selection seems to be identical, but the menu looks completely different, and a little vaguely-Super Mario Bros-like title screen has been added, offering a Chinese or English language selection.

Unfortunately, this particular version suffers from a sound problem that plagued a few Famiclone handhelds of its vintage, whereby the noise channel makes a harsh grating sound which really does the games no favours.

Then, about a year later, THIS appeared:

RS-1 Game Prince revised packaging (front)
source: aliexpress seller himm store

This version has entirely different packaging, retaining the "Game Prince" name but otherwise mostly redoing everything; no longer do we have a big box with stolen Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds art splashed all over it, instead it's compact, with a window for the actual system, and some vaguely misleading claim about having iPhone, Android, and PC games. There's also a lot less Chinese text on this packaging, meaning it was probably intended primarily as an export model. And at that, it seems to have succeeded – you can still buy it on just about every online marketplace to this day.

RS-1 Game Prince revised packaging (back)
source: aliexpress seller himm store

The diagram on the back of the box actually seems to show the M100, with the connected D-pad and volume control on the bottom (where the RS-1 has it on its side), further reinforcing the lineage between the two.

Inevitably, having been on the market for so long, this version has been through a few revisions of its own...

video by lmull3, 20 Nov 2014

The unit in this video - probably one of the earliest, given the video's 2014 date - has the model number ES-8 on the box, and the "RS-1" text on the console in a squarer font rather than the scripty original. I'm not sure what ES-8 signifies, but it stuck around for a few printings of the box before being changed to RS-1. The square-font "RS-1" on the console is very rarely seen, though, and seems to have been quickly reverted back to the previous design.

The most significant difference in this repackaged RS-1, though, is what's built in. The menu system is almost the same as the previous model, but the game count is much higher – no longer a measly 89(ish) games, we now have a massive 152! Ish. While many more repeats were added, this version also brings some pretty good additional games, like Batman, Doki! Doki! Yuuenchi and, uh, the Cony version of Street Fighter. And Plants vs Zombies is finally here, having been promised but not delivered back in 2012.

video by Nysek 「」, 12 Jun 2016

While the 2014 version seen in lmull3's video retains the Chinese/English language option, by 2015 it was gone, as you can see in the menu video above and this later review. In its place was a blank space and an exhortation to "prass the START key". So, despite going to the trouble of adding Chinese in the 2013 version, and updating it in 2014, by 2015 they'd unceremoniously yanked it back out. Presumably this was done to emphasise the export-friendliness of the repackaged model; some listings I've seen make a big deal out of it being "all in English".

In any case, as mentioned, this version seems to have been a success. It has been sold on Amazon, eBay and Aliexpress by many sellers for many years, apparently untroubled by litigious copyright holders, and has attracted many glowing reviews. To my jaded eye, it never seemed like anything that special, but I suppose its compact, kid-friendly size, coupled with its low price, reasonable build quality and a decent not-too-exaggerated game set all added up to make it a hit in a world of cheesy 9999999-in-1 PSP knockoffs (hi again Jncota).

Wolsen rebranded RS-1 packaging and contents Qingshe rebranded pink RS-1 packaging and console Empire gaming rebranded RS-1 boxed console
sources: wolsen store @ aliexpress, dead amazon listing, empire gaming @ facebook

Naturally, it has also been rebranded by others; Wolsen have a version in completely different packaging with their logo printed on the console itself, while Qingshe have released two different packaging variations (and they added a pink version!) but with no additional branding on the console. In South Africa, it was sold by a company called Empire Gaming as the "Empire Retro Handheld", which may become relevant later.

E-Mods rebranded RS-1 boxes with a selection of consoles
source: 深圳市福田区新乐电子商行 @ 1688

It was also picked up for distribution by a company known as E-Mods or E-WOR (primarily a modded controller maker, as the former name might imply), who sold it in a completely redesigned packaging, but with the same game set. For a while.

At some point, evidently, E-Mods decided they wanted their RS-1 to have an advantage over and above those common-or-garden RS-1s, and that's where the unit I bought comes in. But that, I've decided, will be a post for another day, because I've gone on too damn long already.