Here we go again.
It’s almost hard to believe that after everything that happened with the Retro VGS and the Coleco Chameleon, Mike Kennedy would be back so soon singing such a similar tune. Yet here we are, looking at yet another promise of great things to come in the form of a brand new machine that plays retro styled games. "Things are different this time" Kennedy says. "We've learned a lot from our mistakes, and we're finally ready to deliver the new console that we honestly believe gamers have been clamoring for."
What you're looking at is the new RETRO CD-O. It's remarkably similar to what their concept for the Coleco Chameleon was, except Retro Video Game Systems Inc. has addressed some of the biggest concerns potential customers had with the Chameleon's design. First, the console itself is housed in a shell reminiscent of the Panasonic 3DO. Kennedy says "People were giving us a lot of flack for using the Jaguar shell on our console. So we decided to scrap it and find another pre-existing design that people would think looked cool. After going over our new design specs with our dev team, we landed on the 3DO shell, which was remarkably inexpensive to buy." You may be asking yourselves where the cartridges will go, since the 3DO was a CD-based system. Well, Mike's got the answer for that one as well.
"Another thing that people got on our case about was the use of cartridges. They kept insisting that we were using flash carts, and that even if we weren't that they would be way too expensive to produce. That's when we had the brilliant idea to use CDs." That's right, the RETRO CD-O will use CD's as the console's media delivery system. Not DVDs or Blu Rays, actual compact discs. "They're remarkably inexpensive to get a hold of. I just bought a spindle of 25 at the local Shop Rite for $6.50. And believe me, there are plenty of other grocery stores in the area. At these prices, we'll be able to deliver a much more affordable solution than we were ever going to do with the Chameleon." Of course, CD-based systems are notorious for their loading times, but Kennedy assured us that "loading time is just part of the experience."
So, what does the new name mean? As it turns out, the 3DO deal extends far beyond just the use of the shell. Kennedy says that the new RETRO CD-O will not only play new retro-inspired games, but it will also be over 85% compatible with existing 3DO CDs. But that's not all. The console will also be 100% compatible with all existing Philips CD-i games and movies. Hence the name CD-O. This is in addition to the previous incarnation's ability to play original games created in the style of Super NES or Sega Genesis, which will now be on CDs. The controller will be the same one planned for the Chameleon, and the system will again feature multiple USB ports, HDMI and RGB out, and absolutely no internet connectivity of any kind. "We still believe that no gamer wants to sit through updates. When you turn on your CD-O, it'll play completed games. End of story." When asked why gamers would be opposed to waiting for updates, but have no problem with waiting for CD loading times, Kennedy said "That's different. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I left the oven on."
The RETRO CD-O Kickstarter is said to be starting by the end of April, which is where things start to look a bit dicey. Kennedy's relationship with Kickstarter isn't the greatest given his history, but he promises that there really is a working prototype this time. "I can't show it to you, but it's there. Nobody can see it though. People could get fingerprints on the thing, and we want it to be spotless when we start filming our Kickstarter video, but trust me. It's there. I've played it, and it's incredible."
The breaches between Kennedy and his magazine startup seem to have been mended as well, but not without some controversy. Sources close to the project claim that the entirety of the content for the next issue of RETRO Magazine has been scrapped in favor of creating a new issue that is entirely dedicated to promoting the RETRO CD-O. This has left many of the staff writers understandably upset, but thus far nobody has come forward publicly to complain. According to everyone we've reached out to, the mood in the office isn't great, but most people seem to be falling in line with the new format. In addition to this special all CD-O issue, all subsequent issues of RETRO Magazine will feature multi-page sections dedicated to the new console. This could bode well for the CD-O's library, so long as they manage to keep their writers happy enough to keep doing what they're doing. The issue in question is said to land in subscribers' mailboxes before the crowdfunding campaign ends.
So what games will RETRO Magazine be writing about? Kennedy isn't saying. "The developers we've spoken to want to keep their involvement a secret for the time being. Some of them are taking it so seriously that they aren't even returning my calls. But trust me, they're there, and they're bringing some of the biggest names the industry has ever seen." Some rumors have been floating around that the RETRO CD-O will launch with a brand new mascot-based platformer, and there's evidence that this will be a character gamers are familiar with. When asked who it might be, Kennedy replied "I can't say, but he's a character who has a very passionate fanbase in the retro community. There will definitely be some exclimation points in your future. What could possibly go wrong?" Very cryptic indeed.
That oddness aside, things seem to be looking up for Kennedy and his little console that could. He and his team have a long road ahead of them to repair the damage they did with their previous projects, but you have to admire their dedication to the concept. They haven't said how much they're asking for to get the project off the ground. I guess we'll find out when the campaign finally launches later this month.