15 years ago or so, there began a craze. Companies like Jakks Pacific, ATGames, and a handful of toy companies decided to make game systems out of controllers. These systems were basically systems on a chip. A small board, with a bunch of ROMs on them, usually run under some sort of emulator. But they were often a step up above those bootleg contraptions we’ve all seen at one time or another. These didn’t skirt around copyright law either. Most of them went to the original publishers, and paid for the rights to resell these games in their units. There were joysticks with classic Namco games built in. There were controllers with Midway games in them. There was even an EA Games pad with old Sega Genesis ROMs of Madden inside. But in that sea of joysticks lied one TV game controller you most definitely ought to own.
PROS: 30 games in a controller. Modifiable.
CONS: Joystick could have been a little bit better.
REGIONAL DIFFERENCES: NTSC, and PAL have slightly different game rosters.
The brainchild of Jeri Ellsworth, the C64 Direct To TV is one of the best devices of its kind. Originally sold through the QVC Television shopping network, and the now defunct Kay Bee Toys this system was, and is awesome. When you turn the system on you’ll have the option to play 30 different games on it. The system was also sold in Europe, where it is almost the identical. The differences being that the EU version is set up for a PAL signal, and that there is a minor difference in the library due to publishing rights.
Among the thirty games though you’ll see some of the better titles put out by Hewson, and EPYX. Including both Cybernoid, and Cybernoid 2. Firelord is also here, along with Jumpman Junior, Tower Toppler, even the Impossible Mission games. Best of all, you really don’t have to be familiar with the BASIC interface of the Commodore 64. This was designed in a way that requires no typing in of LOAD or SAVE commands. Nor do you have to worry about the odd SYS or POKE commands. Turn on the unit to find it auto boots to a launcher. Pick your game, and play away.
More importantly though, the games here don’t run under an emulator. The C64 DTV runs on a custom board but uses both SID and VIC-II chips for authentic Commodore sound, and video. So how do the games themselves run? Pretty favorably. Everything seems to run about as it would on an actual Commodore 64. Except as the games are preloaded, you won’t be dealing with any load times.
The joystick the system is built in is pretty solid. Things feel sturdy. You won’t feel like you’re going to break it if you move it. The joystick also re centers itself nicely. If you stop moving, it stops moving. All in all, it isn’t too bad, and feels a lot better than most of these other “Compilations in a joystick” products. But it isn’t perfect. Some games like Jumpman Junior require spot on, pixel perfect movement. The joystick here may sometimes shift you left, coming off of a ladder. Leading to an unintentional suicide when you fall to your doom.
Still, when compared to a lot of these other contraptions, the C64 DTV fares much better, doesn’t feel gimmicky, and has one huge edge over all of them. If you’re willing to do some tweaking, and are also willing to risk damaging the system should you fail. It is entirely possible to turn this unit into a nearly fully functioning Commodore 64 computer!
Doing this opens you up to being able to run the lion’s share of C64 games. Just remember this is going to be for the advanced home brewer only. It requires a lot of soldering, rewiring, and electrical knowledge. But if you have the time, and the guts there are a number of Commodore enthusiast sites that have guides on how to do just that.
But even if you don’t want to do any of that, this is still a great device. Especially if you’ve always been curious about Commodore 64 games, but aren’t sure you want to invest in collecting the computer, peripherals, floppy diskettes, and cassette tapes. It’s also nice if you’re a collector who lives in the USA because some of these games were only released in Europe when they came out. As far as these compilation systems go, the C64 DTV is one of the best.
Final Score: 8 out of 10