The Probe 2000 Story
In mid-1983, North American Phillips began to preview a new console, the Odyssey 3. It would replace the Odyssey 2’s membrane keyboard with a PC Jr.-style “chiclet” keyboard, and offer new high-resolution graphics – some of which would enhance existing Odyssey 2 titles. The Odyssey 3 looked like a serious bid to compete in a market that was now ruled by such consoles as the ColecoVision and Atari 5200. It was also competing against such computers as the Commodore 64, Apple II, and Atari’s computers, all of which were popular with game enthusiasts.
But with most of the Odyssey 3’s early titles being touted as “enhanced” versions of Odyssey 2 games, was N.A.P. shooting itself in the foot by trying to maintain backward compatibility?
“Yes and no. All the Odyssey 3 was, was an Odyssey 2 with a character-grid video chip behind it. You could make some nice pictures with the chip, but you had to reuse character patterns to do it. In other words, you couldn’t just draw a picture free-hand and expect to have enough character patterns to be able to accomplish that picture on the chip,” Harris recalls. “The initial idea was to release cartridges that worked on both the Odyssey 2 and Odyssey 3. What this usually meant was that the Odyssey 3 portion of it wasn’t going to be part of the game play, just a snazzy background that had no impact on the game. This is what you would see in Killer Bees, for example. Instead of the playfield being black, it was a honeycomb. Except then we realized that the honeycomb background made it difficult to play the game, so the honeycomb was relegated to the areas outside the play region.”
“There was also a plan to do Odyssey 3-only games,” Harris confirms. “The first of these was called FlashPoint, by Rex Battenberg, which played something like Defender or Robotron. The Odyssey 3 was never released in the U.S., though, so that went by the wayside.”
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