Saturday, October 30, 2010

Amstrad GX4000

Today on the internet I stumbled across a console with which I was completely unfamiliar - the Amstrad GX4000. So, in accordance with my usual routine in such circumstances, I felt compelled to learn a little about it and, of course, to add it to the ever-growing list of systems I emulate on the game cab at home.

Here is a TV commercial for the system:

Amstrad released the GX4000 (only in the UK) in 1990 to compete with the other popular 8-bit consoles of the time, the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System. It was essentially a stripped down version of their CPC 6128+ computer and did have some hardware advantages over the other consoles, but unfortunately for Amstrad, Sega released the Mega Drive (Genesis) that same year to bring consoles into the 16-bit generation and the SNES followed shortly thereafter - so the GX4000 became obsolete almost immediately.

There were several other factors in its failure - inadequate advertising, the existing hold that Sega and Nintendo had on the industry, the complete lack of games for the system (fewer than 40 produced in the system's lifetime), and the fact that most of its games were just straight ports of older CPC games that were readily available at much lower prices on tape or disk.

I for one think it looks pretty cool though. How can you not like a system that looks so much like a rebel snow speeder from Empire Strikes Back?

The Amstrad GX4000

The Rebel Snow Speeder
It looks like it might have a little Cylon Raider mixed in there too which doesn't hurt in my book.

It came with the pack-in game Burnin' Rubber - which I assumed would be the European version of Bump n' Jump but actually turned out to be a racing game that was somewhere between Pole Position and OutRun. A decent little racing game that actually featured "drafting" where you could increase your speed if you approached directly behind a car to take advantage of their wind-breaking. But certainly no killer-app.

One fan even made a website as a tribute to the Amstrad GX4000 -

A glance on eBay shows these things are available for dirt cheap in the UK, but most of them didn't ship to the US and I don't even know if they would work with US power or on a NTSC TV so I found a good emulator for it instead. If you are disturbed like I am and want to try out a few of the GX4000 games then check out WinAPE at - it's a nifty little emulator. And you can download and try some of the games from theoldcomputer.comI played a few just to check out the console's capabilities and they were OK - but probably nothing that would bring me back to it -which I guess is what the general public thought back in 1990. But regardless, now I'm ready in case someone somewhere happens to recommend some obscure GX4000 game to me!

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gnome said...

Always enjoy reading about the CPC range dear Madplanet. Oh, and I'd suggest the CPC 6128 Plus over the GX4000. The GX chips could also be used by disk games too you know...

MadPlanet said...

Thanks Gnome. I did read that the GX4000 was essentially a 6128+ without the keyboard and disk drive etc, so I assumed the parent CPC would have been technically superior. I've just always had a bit of fascination with old gaming consoles that I've never heard of. Did you ever actually play on one of these things?

gnome said...

Oh, but I did play on the CPC + a few times. Many more on the rather more classic CPC, which a) was very popular in Europe b) sported a ton of pretty amazing games.

MadPlanet said...

One of these days I'm gonna explore the CPC. That long black keyboard with the green, red, and black keys and the built-in tape drive just looked so different from any other computer I'd seen. Like a control center for a missile launcher or space station. It can be challenging to fully appreciate games on old computers that you have no nostalgic connection to though. I can only assume I wouldn't be quite as enthralled with my C64 games if I had never owned a C64.

Mik said...

Still don't know why but... I always wanted a GX4000. Which sucks, but for some reason is still expensive... Frickin' collectors.

MadPlanet said...

Yeah lousy collectors! :)
I saw some gougers on but I saw a few that looked affordable. Unfortunately for me none of those guys wanted to ship to the US or if they did the shipping (and handling - don't forget handling!) costs were just insane. If I happen across a cheap one though with reasonable shipping costs I might just snag it.

Mik said...

Well, let me know then, I'm always happy when someone I know gets a GX4000 (and, guess what, it doesn't happen too often)