[RetroPicks] The comeback of the CD-i

Hello guys,

During the last months I’ve kinda had a sort of “step up” in my collecting goals and I think is what it usually happens to a collector when the time passes. While at the beginning of course I tried to get as many games and consoles as possible trying to spend the less that I could, in these last months of the year, always trying – of course – not to spend a fortune, I’ve started to look for a bit more sought after systems or games, so not the
“traditional” NES or PlayStation games but something a bit more obscure and less “mainstream”.

I identify the beginning of this more “mature” behave when I first bought the CD-i 210 back in September (you can read about it here); the same day I bought also a Commodore 16, so not the main computer they have ever released but one that is quite pricey down here. The CD-i I bought did work, however it started soon to suffer some problems, since the audio was really bad and sometimes the pictures didn’t even show up at all. That’s what happens when you’re trying to bite more than you can chew: it was my first market, I felt like a kid in a candy shop and I bought things without even knowing their story and the problems they could have had. Lesson learnt for the future.

Having some CD-i games ready to try but not an actual hardware to test them, I started to look online for a good console, this time complete with all the cables and in the best possible condition. It took me almost two months but I eventually found in Italy a guy who sells like “modern-vintage” items. Not all gaming related, but even other like “modernist” things, like old billboards, vintage documents and stuff like that. He had on sale a beautiful new old stock Philips CD-i 450, so not the same model I already had but a further one, more compact, surely less heavy than the mammoth I had and still in its original box, with all the leads, all the styrofoams, 100% complete and still brand new. It was one of those “start from 1€” auctions and I really feared that someone could have taken it before me and that the price could have jumped to figures I couldn’t afford, so I’ve contacted him and after a few negotiations we agreed on 120€ shipping included.

After a few days I’ve received the parcel and when I opened it…oh boy, the thing was perfect!

The only small issue (that I don’t really care about) was a little hole in the box, but all the rest was pristine. The console was brand new, still in its plastic, it had all the papers, manuals, documentations and even a subscription letter for the CD-i club (is there still someone in this club?). It was so perfect I didn’t even know if it was worth to unbox the console and put it under the TV with all the others.

As I opened the top loading CD slot a I’ve smelled a breath of “new”, the same smell of the cables and the companion CD. The oddities of this console don’t end with the fact that they produced dozens of different versions each one completely different from the others. When I connected it to the wall socket I’ve noticed that the power lead was quite different from the others because it’s virtually undistinguishable from a LAN cable. But of course the biggest oddity is the controller, if you dare to call that spoon a controller.

It is something that is barely usable to browse the menu in a DVD player and it would be usable if you could use it as a mouse, so if you could move it to move the arrow on screen, but no! You have to move the cursor with the directional pad! Were they out of their mind??? Of course this machine wasn’t indended to be ONLY for games but God Lord, could have they done something a bit more handy???

Gampad aside I was finally able to test my games and they worked perfectly. I was so happy that I started to play Voyeur for like 3 hours. Could you believe it?

After a few weeks, as I told you my original CD-i 210 started to have problems. I tried to check if it was something I could fix but when such old machines have problems reading discs is game over, no way to fix or replace the laser. That’s the reason why I started to look for a replacement.

A common person would tell me I’m a fool not only because I’ve thrown 120€ for a CD-i, but even because I was about to throw away other 70€ for a replacement unit! I’ve looked online for weeks and I finally found an italian guy living in London who was selling his CD-i 210 with all leads, two games and – most important – the digital video card and two controllers, the Remote and the Gamepad.

The twins together

The console arrived just a few days ago (in time for the monthly [RetroPicks] column) and, beside the small problems that all of the CD-i have (damaged belt and out-of-grease rails) it works fine, without any issue. The most important thing is that it has the digital video card that allows to encode various video formats that the console itself is unable to stream. An even more important thing is that with the console came a normal controller, the Genesis-like Gamepad.

It’s a relief to play a game with something actually designed for a game but I couldn’t help but feel how cheap it was in my hand. I mean it is not SO bad, but it looks like chinese quality, it’s very light and looks like the controls are a bit delayed. Unfortunately there’s nothing better than this so I’m gonna stick with it.

The Remote is another “neat” controller even though is clearly designed to use it as an actual remote control, not as a game controller; however I couldn’t help but have a Tetris session with that. It’s an experience you have to try. So far I can say I have all of the main controllers for the CD-i: it’s not an achievement to be particularly proud of but it’s still something I can put on my Curriculum.

Even if my wallet has a different point of view I hope that my journey in the big CD-i world won’t be over with the two models I own so stick around for some possible news in the future!

To be continued…

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