Manufactured by: Sharp Corporation / Nintendo of Japan
Released by: Sharp Corporation
Release Date: July 1st, 1986
The Sharp Twin Famicom is not a clone. Believe it or not, way back early in Nintendo’s jaunt into the home console business there was a time when Nintendo of Japan actually licensed it’s precious hardware to another company for manufacturing and sales. The company was Sharp Corporation, and the result was the Sharp Twin Famicom.
The original Famicom Disk System hooked up to a Family Computer.
Nintendo released the Famicom Disk System, a floppy drive add-on to their Family Computer on February 21st 1986. This add-on allowed you to play specially made disk cards that could have data written over them, whether it be game save data or a new game altogether.
An assortment of Famicom Disk cards.
For one reason or another, Nintendo licensed the Famicom and Disk System hardware to Sharp Corporation for the purpose of creating a two-in-one console. The Sharp Twin Famicom was released just 4 months after the debut of the original Famicom Disk System in Japan.
Interestingly, the Nintendo name is completely absent on both the packaging and casing of the Twin itself. Even the bios was altered creating a different ‘Nintendo’ free boot screen, as you can see below through the side-by-side comparison.
The Twin came in four variations. The one I own is the red model with black highlights . This same version also came in black with red highlights. The Twin was later released in two additional colors ( black with green highlights and red with blue/grey highlights) with a redesigned casing and the addition of turbo sliders on both controllers. This model is referred to as the Turbo Twin.
The Sharp Twin Famicom includes all the features of the original Famicom, such as a top loading cartridge slot and the peripheral port which is located on the side of the console rather than the front. An area that had been improved was the cartridge eject mechanism, which feels really solid when compared to the cracking-prone slider on the Family Computer.
Located right below the cartridge slot is a switch that changes the console from Disk to Cartridge. This is simply a mechanical device that physically blocks the cartridge slot when the disk drive is in use and vice versa.
On the disk side of things, everything is exactly the same as the original Disk System. There is the disk slot, the eject tab, and the LED that lets you know when the disk drive is working. Replacing drive belts is identical to the procedure used in switching out belts in the stand-alone Disk System, as the internal hardware for the actual disk drive is the same.
The biggest improvement Sharp made when creating the Twin was their choice to make the unit AV instead of RF. This is excellent for us westerners because the Japanese frequency (NTSC -J) is just slightly off from ours (NTSC), so while the RF connection works on channels 1 and 2 in Japan, overseas here it works on channels 80 -96, most commonly between 94 and 96. However, on all of my televisions my Famicom only works on channel 7, and only after I turn the system on, off, and than on again. The Twin, however can be plugged into a TV or VCR through standard RCA cables.
The controllers are physically the same, with the same button placement, layout, and features as the original Famicom, including the microphone on the second controller. They have been cosmetically altered to match each models color scheme and the gold plate present on the original controllers has been removed altogether.
Overall the Sharp Twin Famicom is a solid piece of hardware. It has excellent build quality and doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy in the least. My only complaint with the console is that they did not lengthen the hard wired controller cord, which means that you practically having to be sitting over the console while you are playing it. The life of the drive belts are the same as the disk drive, and the frequency about finding one with a newly replaced belt is also about the same as well. Despite its menacing appearance, the Twin it’s actually quite small, about the same size as a Family Computer and Famicom Disk System unit placed side-by-side- which makes sense, because internally, from a hardware standpoint, that’s exactly what they are.
Personally, the Sharp Twin Famicom is one of my favorite consoles of all time. Everything from the case design to the look of the controllers has been itching to play it whenever I see it. With the addition of a 72 to 60 pin adapter the Twin Famicom could give you thousands of hours of classic gaming bliss.
If you just starting to get into the Famicom, I would recommend just getting an original Family Computer. An AV Family Computer is recommended if you don’t want to deal with, or anticipate, connection issues between you television and the units RF output.
Doki Doki Panic, the original Disk System game on which the North American Super Mario 2 was based .
However, if you are already really into the Famicom and the Disk System, and are on the fence I definitely recommend the Twin. They can be found for between $150 and $300 online. I would recommend staying clear of Ebay because a majority of sellers gouge pretty bad when it comes to import hardware, especially the Twin and Twin Turbo. An exception to that would be Andy Games Japan, who sometimes has Twins up for sale and he always has really decent starting bids. An excellent place to pick up a Twin (of any other Famicom console, for that matter) is the Famicom Shop. Carl sells good quality, clean and tested stuff so I highly recommend him because you always know exactly what you are going to get.
Where ever you end up picking up your Sharp Twin Famicom, you count on one thing. You will definitely be happy that you did.