The Japanese manga
also translates to "Game King".
is an 8-bit handheld game console
produced by the Chinese
company TimeTop since . It is based around a 65C02 CPU
running at 6.0 MHz
and exists in two variations, the original GameKing and the GameKing II, with mostly aesthetic and ergonomic differences.
The consoles have above-average sound circuitry capable of multi-channel music and digital sound playback, but have quite inexplicably been equipped with an incredibly poor quality black and white LCD screen, only supporting four shades of grey and having a very low (48 by 32 pixels) resolution, combined with a slow refresh rate, poor readability and adjustments, compared to the original Game Boy.
The quality of its games, graphics wise, can be compared to some of the best built-in cell phone games (excluding Java games), while their playing speed (scrolling etc.) and audio is far superior to those found on cell phones (multi-channel music and digitized samples and voices are quite common in GameKing games).
Models and features
The original GameKing console is fashioned to look like Nintendo's Game Boy Advance
and comes in a wide array of vivid pastel colours, either opaque
, and uses 2 AAA
size batteries. The original GameKing lacks a backlit screen, a feature which has been added in its "successor", the GameKing II.
The GameKing II, on the other hand, is fashioned to look like Sony's PlayStation Portable
, comes in more sober colors (either black
- but yellow
ones do exist), and uses 3 AAA
size batteries, of which only 2 are used to actually power up the GameKing's hardware, while the third one serves to power up both its built-in audio amplifier (a bit more powerful than the one on the original GameKing) and its backlit LCD screen (which can be turned on and off at will, depending on external lighting conditions, thus saving power). The unit can still work with 2 batteries, only with no sound and no backlighting available.
Also, the GameKing II has a fixed color background picture for its LCD screen, only visible when the backlighting is switched on. This is probably to give the false impression of having a colour LCD screen, as implied on its box.
The picture may vary between various GameKing models, however it has a mostly negative effect on screen readability when the backlighting is turned on.
This background picture can also be removed or replaced simply by opening the machine and removing the small plastic transparency behind the LCD. Removing it makes using the backlighting much more effective.
Notes: Likewise with the GK, no page exists for the GKII, but the Chinese site stills lists the machine as product code GM-219
GK "I" vs. GK II
However, the two models are fully hardware compatible, can use the same games/cartridges, both have volume and contrast controls and use the same LCD screen. Also, they both have an external DC power supply 3.5 mm minijack plug; however, the plug is not labelled as such, and its function is only slightly hinted at in the units' manuals. The GameKing requires 3V DC, while the GameKing2 requires 4.5V DC with the peculiarity of needing to keep at least one battery in the unit in order to have sound and backlighting.
The Chinese Timetop page has a photo
of a GameKing like console named GM-222. It's named there as a Gameking II, but the English page has a slightly different CG picture
with GameKing III. Claims to support 37 games, like the original model.
Timetop has also released, or plans to release, a third Gameking machine, called the 'GameKing III'. Although accurate technical information is hard to obtain, it seems to be a handheld console using a 64-colour (or grey shades) LCD
screen, although little else is known about it.
Timetop's site claims it uses a "64 level" LCD screen and that it is compatible with the previous GameKing games. While early advertisements shows that the GameKing III had the same "false color" background picture as the GameKing I and II, which would indicate that the system is actually black and white like the previous GameKing models, the Youtube video in the external links proves that the GameKing 3 is in fact, color. The resolution doesn't seems enhanced compared to an original GameKing, and "classic" GameKing cartridges are automatically colorized, while games especially developed for it allegedly make use of the full color palette, which for the moment remains unknown.
A new design for the GKIII was placed in April 2006 at the Timetop site, and later removed. The site claimed a total of 12 carts for this system.
Timetop Game King hardware seems to be the basis for a series of other low-budget machines. The build quality is normally lower, and they don't have an external cart slot. It is unknown if these machines were originally designed by Timetop or if they are actual clones.
The Game Star, manufactured by Shenzhen Baoanqiu LIKE Electronic Factory
seems to be based on the GameKing II hardware. As shown on this page
on the Chinese version of the site, it looks distinctly like an original-format Gizmondo
. Significant changes:
- There is no card slot. Game King carts will not run on this unit.
- It runs off 2 AA batteries. There is no option to turn off the LCD backlighting.
- Sound is controlled by a button, that cycles between 3 sound levels and silent. There is also a headphone jack, that isn't affected by this setting - but it is very loud.
- The games included are modified copies of original GameKing games: CS-1(Soldier), 2005, Risk King(Carlo). All feature a new "character select" option.
- The Connect Line lets two persons link their Game Star consoles to "fight each other".
- When the machine goes into standby, the backlight remains on.
- Start Button is named S/P. There is no Select button.
Game Star linking procedure
According to the manual this is the procedure to initiate a successful link:
Connect both machines. Pick identical games and press S/P. Both machines shall make a sound. Press S/P again to enter the game. 1P will be the first to press the button.
PSP Game Player
Shenzhen Xinfeilong (product name Jinka) has a series of machines named PSP Game player
Two versions of this machine exist:
- JK-R538 has a form factor that resembles the PSP more than the GKII, but lacks the backlight. Available colors are Black and Silver.
- JK-R540 has an original design, and features a backlight.
Despite looking like four action buttons are available on the right side of the screen, those are actually Start/Pause and Volume.
All machines have 6 games : CS-1(Soldier), KingBoXing, F-16, Super tank, Super risk-king(Carlo), Apache.
Most of its games have digital sound effects, but it's unclear whether the machine has a traditional sound chip
or relies only on digital samples for music and sound effects. Many of the "soundtracks" of its games are in fact very short looping tunes appearing to be sampled around 8 kHz
, which would mean the cartridge space is used very inefficiently in this sense, like what happens with graphics. In other words, the machine just plays back digital samples with no other manipulation and appears unable to do traditional music synthesis. The overall result is however functional.
According to some sources, most GameKing games heavily rely on bitmap
rather than tile
-based rendering of the screen, e.g. most levels in its platform
and shoot'em up
games are in reality large 4-colour bitmaps, instead of using the most common method of graphic tiles and tile maps, like in most other game consoles and arcade games. This was probably done for economic reasons (the CPU alone can handle all graphics easily, at that resolution) and easy development of the games, apart from the objectively low resolution of the screen. While such a scheme seems to work, it has the disadvantage of using cartridge space inefficiently, so that e.g. most platform games are limited to 3 levels. At this point, it is unknown if the Gameking uses some form of sprite rendering, although this is probably unlikely and unnecessary.
GameKing/GameKing II games
The console has a small selection of known games (38), being 3 built in and 35 in carts, although 37 games were said to be available by TimeTop. Most games are clones
of famous NES
or Atari 2600
titles, with heavily dropped graphics. The games come in cartridges resembling the original Game Boy
ones, with a typical size of 128KB, although 4-in-1 cartridges are available, containing 4 normal GameKing games plus a selection menu, and have a maximum size of 512KB.
Both the GameKing and GameKing II come with three built in games.
Here follows an incomplete list of known games.
Please note that many GameKing games use the same program altering only graphics to create "new" games e.g. 2003 and 2004 are essentially the same game with minor differences. Also, many games have major inconsistencies between the box, manual and in-game title. E.g., Lanneret becomes Hawk in the game title,
or Carlo Adventure Legend becomes Caro in-game.
Notes: The two previous titles are the only motor or sports games available on the GameKing.
- 2004, essentially the same game as the built in 2003.
- Popper, essetially the same game as the built in Miner.
- Hawk or Lanneret, a Choplifter clone.
- Dino Adventure, essentially Carlo Adventure Legend with different graphics.
- Duckman, a Darkwing Duck clone.
- Ares, Feichuan are all classic arcade shooters, probably using the same engine as 2003 and 2004 with different graphics.
- Penguin, a Antarctic Adventure/Tux Racer clone.
- Street Hero, a Double Dragon clone.
- Trojan Legend, a Mega Man clone.
- Seatercel, a ''Tiger Heli clone.
- Star Wars, a Macross-based clone, allowing the player to choose all three shapeshifting Fighter-Gerwalk-Battroid configurations.
- Nagual, a Kung Fu Master clone.
- Blaster, a Blaster Master clone, a platform game with a shooting vehicle.
- Chaser, a marine defense game (clone unknown).
- Star Ghazi or Star Chazi, a Star Force clone
- HERO: a Batman or H.E.R.O. clone.
- Dracula Zone or Surf Eidolon: A Silver Surfer clone(?).
- Pocket Tank, a Rambo/Front Line clone with a tank.
- Warrior, a Front Line clone without the tank.
- Clever Hawk, a Star Force-like game, but not the same game as Star Ghazi.
- Valliant, a robot space fighting game (clone unknown). The sprites are pretty large.
- Metal Deform, a platform game with shooting elements and a jetpack(?). (clone unknown)
- Three Battles, a Ikari Warriors-like game.
- Lightsword, a shooter that puts you on foot and then into a flying-robot shooter form (clone unknown).
- Risker, a game similar to Spy Hunter in mechanics.
- Catman, another platform game with weapons, but with large sprites.
- Armada, an arcade shooter (clone unknown).
- Brains, a puzzle-action game, clone unknown.
Games are generally sold in separate cartridges, but there are 4-in-1 cartridges holding 4 distinct games. Later games seem to be only available in this manner. Also, each 4-in-1 pack comes numbered and higher numbers seem to provide games that are more refined in presentation.
GameKing III games
GameKing III machines have a built-in game:
At the moment the only known game carts for the GameKing III come from this picture
- Urgent Action
- Fly Car
Popularity and trivia
The console has not gained much popularity mainly because of its incredibly poor screen and graphical capabilities, which are significantly weaker than its other hardware. It has however generated some interest among collectors of rare game consoles or hardware and some people (especially emulator fans and retrogamers) find its games quite enjoyable, arguing that most of them still have good sound, controls and features, despite the poor graphics.
The low price of the unit and its games (about $10 for a Gameking 1, $15 for a Gameking 2, while games are typically $2 to $8) also has helped the console gain some popularity among classic arcade games fans, since the low prices are believed to compensate for the poor graphics (or vice versa).
Overall, the console seems to be bridging a gap between the economic LCD Game and Watch games and the "true" yet comparatively expensive programmable portable games consoles, the quality of its games falling somewhere between those of the best "Game and Watch" machines and those of an original Game Boy, being fully programmable.
The poor quality of the console's and cartridges' manuals, boxes, containing a lot of Chinglish and Engrish mistranslations, inaccurate or outright false info (sometimes including the titles and names of the games themselves) is regarded as an "added value" by most GameKing owners and collectors.
The titles given to most of the GameKing's games are also often regarded as involuntary hilarious references to well-known game titles:
E.g. Carlo → Super Mario, 2003 → 1942, 2004 → 1943, Happy Killer → Lode Runner, Soldier → Contra etc.
There are even people who managed to reverse engineer and reprogram the GameKing, and an emulator known as Gamekengu is at beta stage, for Nintendo DS (formerly planned for Game Boy Advance) and Windows systems.