Handy Famieight represents in some ways the culmination of my childhood. I have distinct memories of playing Voltron in grade school. Someone had the entire 15 piece vehicle Voltron set with which we, as the Galaxy Alliance, would fend off the evil Drule Empire... Actually I don’t think anyone knew about the evil Drule Empire. We just thought that a bunch of toy cars and planes that turning into a giant effing robot was effing sweet. All the boys on the playground had some sort of vehicle to play with even if it was some lame boat or motor scooter. It was all good fun until the asshat who owned the set wanted to form the giant robot then nobody had any fun. The days of playing with the giant Voltron set was short lived, as I believe that play devolved into fighting and breaking of toys. Naturally I, as I believe everyone else was, was a bigger fan of the lion Voltron. It was a lot easier to keep track of the 5 lions than all the vehicles. Five characters were more than enough to cover all the archetypes for basically any show for young boys. There is the Leader, the Kid, the Joker, the Girl, and the Brawler or Brain. I did not immediately remember if the Brawler or Brain was used in Voltron. I had to take a quick trip to Wikapedia to remind myself. I do remember that I would have gladly traded my Ewok village play set and all my Ewoks for those five lions. Oh and I had all the Ewoks.
The Handy Famieight is amazing. It reminds me a lot of the lion Voltron. The device is, even in its most stripped down form (pictured), too big to fit in anything but the largest of pockets. Much like the Black Lion, it forms the bulk of the unit. We will refer to the main body of the device henceforth as Black Lion or Captain Keith. Black Lion is made of the cheapest plastic. It is far flimsier than the die-cast lion toys of old. It features a wobbly digital joy pad on the left side and four buttons on the left labeled A, B, AA, and BB. The double letter buttons function as turbo buttons for the single letter buttons. There are also a set of Start and Select buttons. Much like Captain Keith, the base unit of the Handy Famieight is, to quote his Wikapedia article, “a quiet individual who spends much of his time pondering his decisions, thinking up new strategies, and simply being a leader”. Not much more needs to be said about Black Lion as the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
The Red Lion, left hand and second in command, was Lance Charles McClain. He was always cracking jokes. The Red lion of Handi Famieight attaches to Black lion through a pair of controller slots on the bottom of Black Lion. The choice of making the external controllers the Red Lion had less to do with the fact that the controllers are the secondary way to command the Handi Famieight and more to do with the fact that the controllers are a joke. You see what I did there? The controllers have all the buttons from Black Lion but are softer and less responsive and as a bonus they are made of even crappier plastic than Black Lion. It’s like awesome took a holiday and then someone designed Red Lion.
Darrell "Pidge" Stoker piloted the Green Lion and was the token kid from the group. The token kid of Handi Famieight is, rather arbitrarily, the set of AV in AV out connectors on the Handi Famieight. These cables allow you to hook the unit up to the TV or to run cables in to the unit and play them through the screen… But wait?! The Handi Famieight has no screen! Enter Tsuyoshi "Hunk" Garett AKA Yellow Lion!
The Yellow Lion and tough man of Voltron, Tsuyoshi "Hunk" Garett, to quote Wikapedia, “may look tough and mean, but has a soft heart, especially when it comes to children.” Just like the Yellow Lion of Handi Famieight. Yellow Lion is otherwise known as Nintendo GBA SP. Yellow Lion slides onto the front of Black Lion to display games or input provided by Green Lion. If you don’t know about Green Lion I’ll review GBA SP later. That’s just how cool Green Lion is, he gets his own review.
Before I move on to Blue Lion I’ll forego trying to describe the rest of Handi Famieight’s features and crib from the games manual.
- Ergonomic and comfortable style design.
- Precise four way of arcade directional pad.
- Super heavy bass of stereo speaker built in.
- Single and turbo action button give you new experience.
- Come with two piece of precise four way digital controller.
- One player or two player depend on you and your friend request.
- Use GBA SP console play your favorite of FC / NES games.
- Use your PS II, PS I, XB, NGC, DVD player, video camcorder and other TV-game console system display on GBA SP console.
- Take you back to FC / NES Wonderful TV Games Dream World.
Another passion of my youth was Nintendo. I have no idea where my Nintendo came from. I think I bought it myself with birthday money but I am not sure. I am aware of the time before the Nintendo (hence forth referred to as TBN) because we had no TV before we had Nintendo. The TV and Nintendo came into my life at the same time, in fourth grade. I know that I found the small black and white TV next to a dumpster at the apartment complex my mother and I lived at. It remains one of the most exciting days of my life. The discovery that people threw away valuable things fueled years of dumpster diving and packratishness.
I of course loved Mario and, though I spent god knows how many hours playing Super Mario, I never really improved. I cut my gaming teeth on Dragon Warrior and Mario. I spent countless hours on Dragon Warrior and it’s the game that really grabbed me. I hear the same story every so often working with gamers about how they learned to read by playing games but I was quite an avid reader prior to becoming interested in Video Games.
Princess Allura, who piloted the Blue Lion, made Voltron sexy much like the games you can play on Handi Famieight make Handi Famieight sexy. It may take an adaptor to play NES games but most of them work if you can keep the unit perfectly still. Famicom games work fine which make them both sexy and exotic much like Princess Allura. Princess Allura is the library of games that attach to Black Lion thru the Game Slot on the top of Black Lion.
Things were not all good when I first formed Handi Famieight/Voltron. I fussed around with it for quite a while and couldn’t get it to work. For some reason I could get my PS2 to display on the GBA screen but couldn’t get the Famicom version of Bomberman to play at all. To keep the analogy going this would be like Princess Allura and Hunk getting in a fight so Hunk, Pidge, and the Captain decide to team up with Optimus Prime. Finally I decided to consult the manual where I managed to glean the following nuggets of wisdom:
Power indicator light
When “Green Light” bright, means Handy Famieight in state of full power, but “Red Light” appear in “Green Light” center point. Means power is not enough to supply for Handy Famieight. Please first time to replace dry batteries or connect GBA SP / NDS AC adapter
Dropping the analogy, this pretty much sums up the Handi Famieight. It is confusing to use, it is quirky, it uses dated technology, it is cheap and the makers paid little attention to detail Handi Famieight is a sub par game system and a completely ludicrous portable device. However, there is something undeniably cool and magical about Handi Famieight, just like a bunch of giant mechanical lions.