East Meets East

Review by Ed Dille
From Electronic Games Magazine
November 1993

SuperVision Watary Industries Limited Distributed in the U.S. by Goldnation (U.S.A.), Inc. $4.95

China and Japan have been rivals since their first discovery of one another, dating back to the many wars between the geographically close, yet politically distant countries. Ideological and cultural differences aside, the conflict between these nations has traditionally been driven by economic considerations within the Asian sphere of influence. Since the end of WWII, China's isolationist policies and technological inadequacies have precluded it from competing with the Japanese directly in the electronic and computer industries. Recent moves toward capitalism within mainland China, as well as political actions which have increased China's welcome within the community of nations, are indicators of a possible shift in the current dominance enjoyed by many Japanese electronic manufacturers. China's trump card, destined to be played in 1997, is the reacquisition of Hong Kong, this hard-working city will also help to boost that country's economic clout in many markets, including the ever-expanding electronic sphere of buyers.

Hong Kong has been a hotbed of electronic gaming activity since the early '80s, when this author first browsed the streets of Kowloon. Although not as congested as Tokyo's Akihabra district, there had already developed a tremendous interest in video and computer based gaming. Unfortunately, due to inadequate trade and copyright law enforcement, Hong Kong's marketplace suffered from a maligned reputation revolving around software piracy. As such, it is not surprising that it has taken almost ten years for companies such as Watary Industries to emerge in the Western marketplace in direct competition with one of the Japanese giants, Nintendo. However, Watary has a new flagship item, and it should make the competition with the "Big N" quite exciting for the next few months. The product is SuperVision, and it is targeted squarely at capturing the exiting Game Boy market.

SuperVision has a very slight technological edge over the Game Boy, but it does offer some unique design features. The first of these is a bendable midsection which allows the player to easily adjust the angle of the LCD screen. This feature offers two immediate advantages: the ability to eliminate glare without moving one's head at odd angles and the freedom to alter the balance point of the unit to make long play sessions less painful to the wrists. SuperVision also offers the largest display in the hand held market, eliminating the need for a follow-up attachment like the lighted magnifier utilized with Game Boy. Bravo to SuperVision for having the foresight to think of player eyesight. Another feature which will be appreciated by ergonomically concerned and point players alike is the design of the control buttons and rocker panel. Both A & B buttons are 1.5 times the size of the Game Boy and slightly more separated, minimizing the chance of hitting the wrong one inadvertently in a moment of passion. The rocker panel is also larger and features raised knobs at the control points, ensuing more positive directional control.

The similarities between the units are actually greater than the differences. Like Game Boy, SuperVision offers a two player link for head-to-head competition as well as full stereo sound output. The latter has four tonal and one noise channel like Game Boy, but adds a separate channel for Audio DMA output. Both units use VLSI processors and 8-bit MPU video chip controllers. SuperVision's controller is capable of 160 x 160 resolution versus 160 x 144 for the Game Boy, but the visual difference is negligible.

Given the large degree of equivalency in terms of technology, one might reasonably ask why they should purchase SuperVision either in addition to or in lieu of Game Boy, which has an available library of 215 cartridges at the time of this writing. Watary has two strategies to address inherent consumer skepticism. The first of these involves unit pricing. SuperVision is currently being test marketed at $49.95 with one included game, Crystball (more on that later). Interestingly, Nintendo of America recently announced a new packaging option called the Game Boy Basic. Priced at $59.95, the package includes the base unit and batteries only. When questioned as to the timing of the announcement, Nintendo representatives denied that their marketing plan was influenced by the introduction of Supervision to the U.S. market. Individual Supervision games will be priced from $8.95 to $14.95. This pricing directly targets consumers who are irritated at spending $30 and up for individual games, many of which are mastered by their adept offspring in a week or less.

©1996 Happy Puppy Games. Your comments are welcome.