Should You Buy An Intellivision?

The Intellivision was the second major console to enjoy strong sales success (after the Atari 2600). Consider this my informal advice on whether you should buy an Intellivision or not and, if you do, which games you should get.

Should I Buy An Intellivision Now?

If you don't already own a classic console, Yes. The Intellivision was the first 16-bit console, but don't mistake it for being as powerful as later systems such as the Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, or Super Nintendo. However, the Intellivision is arguably the most unique of all classic consoles. Because its controllers had a full numeric keypad, much more complicated games were able to be made for the Intellivision than its peers. The very first "god game" (think Populous, Sim City, Black & White, etc.) was made for the Intellivision: Utopia.

But What If I've Already Got An Xbox 360? Should I Buy One Now?

The Xbox 360 has a title called Game Room where classic games, including a growing number of the best from the Intellivision's library, regularly appear. It is probably not worth cluttering up your gaming area with yet another system unless your favourite Intellivision game has not yet appeared on Game Room.

But What If I've Already Got A PlayStation 3? Should I Buy One Now?

Yes, unless you can find the Intellivision Lives! compilation for PS1, or the same title for PS2 if you have a PS3 that's backwards compatible with the PS2.

But What If I've Already Got A Wii? Should I Buy One Now?

Yes, unless you can find the Intellivision Lives! compilation for Gamecube, and run that on your Wii (or on a Gamecube, for that matter). But you'll want to use a Gamecube controller to do so.

Where Will I Find One?

The Intellivision was manufactured from 1979 to 1990, an 11 year span. In addition to them being available at flea markets and garage sales, it's usually possible to find them on eBay, often with games included.

What Are The Best Games On The Intellivision?

In addition to the aforementioned Utopia, the Intellivision was host to many well-remembered games. Astrosmash is probably the best known Intellivision game, and well worth a look. There were two AD&D games released, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and its sequel Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin. The first was a maze-based exploration and combat game, merged with a top down strategy game. The second was a first-person dungeon crawl, another innovation brought to us by Intellivision. Sea Battle was a naval combat strategy game that merged action and tactics in a unique way, but be warned that it is two-player only (no AI-based computer player, two humans are required). Atlantis was a third-party title that is unmissable if you liked either Missile Command or Defender, as it merged elements from both. Lock 'N Chase was an impressive Pac Man clone for its day. Loco-Motion was later copied in games like Pipe Dream, but in Loco-Motion you have to keep moving the tiles around to keep a contiguous track for a train that is moving inexorably down it. Q*bert is a classic title that merges a tile-based puzzle game with timing elements from platform games. SNAFU was the game that would later inspire Snake (that appeared on so many Nokia phones), but SNAFU was far better and allowed for up to four snakes (up to two human controlled, and up to three computer controlled). Sub Hunt did a great job of creating the paranoid feel of performing sneak attacks on convoys, and diving and hoping the depth charges from the PT boats were set for the wrong depth (never before, or since, have I sat white knuckled while holding a game controller and doing nothing but waiting). Finally Space Spartans is one of a handful of games that used the Intellivoice module that brought computerised speech to game consoles for the first time, which is worth a look if you can find an Intellivoice. A complete list is available here: [en.wikipedia.org]

Is the Intellivision Backwards Compatible?

In a sense, yes. There was an Atari 2600 compatibility module made available for it, but it's highly collectible and not necessarily cheaper than purchasing an actual Atari 2600.

What's Wrong With The Intellivision?

It's innovative controller has the down-side of having poor ergonomics. You are forced to trade one of the most capable controllers ever made for a game console for shorter play sessions, or live with "Intellivision Thumb".

Are There Any Hidden Costs?

Other than purchasing games, no.

But Wait, Won't The Intellivision Be Replaced Soon?

Other than an April Fools' issue of a gaming magazine in the '90s, there has been no suggestion of a successor to the Intellivision.

Essential Facts About The Intellivision:
The Intellivision "Master Component" was a home game console originally manufactured and sold by Mattel, and later by INTV Corp. It was released in select test markets in 1979, and North America-wide in 1980, and was produced until 1990. It was the first 16-bit game console, though it has the least powerful 16-bit CPUs ever put in a game console. There was a system sold by Sears called the Sears Video Arcade that was a rebranded Intellivision. Mattel released an Intellivision in a smaller form factor called the Intellivision II, and after the right to the Intellivision were sold to INTV Corp they re-released the original Intellivision Master Component as the INTV System III. Neither the Intellivision II nor the INTV System III had any internal upgrades, despite their names.

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