ERS Electronic Basketball (handheld)

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scotland
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Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

ERS Electronic Basketball (handheld)

Postby scotland » August 8th, 2015, 4:16 pm

This is one of those dedicated handhelds from the late 70s to the early 80s. This one uses LED (VFD - think of those clocks that illuminate parts of a blocky letter 8 to get just about anything you want, and LCD where you turn on a pre-existing image were also common for handheld games - LCD pretty much replaced the other two types as it became cheaper), where the graphics are just red dashes of variable brightness on a black field with a printed overlay of a basketball halfcourt. The audio is a series of chirps and warbles. The control is a d-pad with the action button in the center. Check out the pseudo VFD display font on the words 'electronic basketball'.

ElectronicBasketball_150.jpg
ElectronicBasketball_150.jpg (5.93 KiB) Viewed 748 times


While Mattel, Coleco and others made many games, this appears to be a generic knockoff. So generic, even the handheld museum has it twice, once under miscellaneous and once under unknown manufacturers since the game seems to may or may not have the ERS lettering put on. The back, whose photo is not there, says its model 003401, made in Hong Kong. Year of manufacture is unknown, but I'll guess circa 1980.

If you have never played an LED game, some were reproduced as retro gifts about 10 years ago. Those were mostly the Mattel Football I and Baseball, although I think Football II was remade too. There is also some Colecovision plug and play, but I think I would veer clear of that.

The LED graphics are as minimal, although the printed gamescreen helps as it does for the Vectrex, the gameplay can be surprisingly tight, interesting, and engaging especially in short bursts -- basically mobile games of their day. There are games that are designed for 1 player, 1 or 2, and just 2. The LED lights are bright and easy to see in a variety of lighting situations. I don't think there is much more than some transistors inside. Some games, like this basketball game, have similar gameplay to other games by other manufacturers, but like the Pong consoles of the time, the controls and casing often were distinctive. The red plastic is nice, the game fits nicely in your hand, your right thumb is an excellent spot to hit all five keys, and the four key d-pad is very responsive. The game itself is pretty sturdy too, given its age thats doubly nice.

The gameplay is not as nice as say Mattel Football, since its half court basketball and there is almost never a reason to go to the right. Its the left move button that gets most of the use, and my model shows that. There are two settings - amateur and professional, but since the clock is also faster in professional along with the opponents, your score will probably be similar playing either variation. The gameplay is pretty straightforward. You are the bright dot with the ball. There are 5 opponents, but you do not need a clear shot in this game at the basket. My usual technique is a fake to one direction, then a fast break to the other and a shot from the corner. Unfortunately, once you find a pattern, the fun of the game is diminished a bit. You can try to weave between opponents or go for a layup, but its hard. I've gotten a score of 50, which I think is pretty good, but I can probably do better.

Sut
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Re: ERS Electronic Basketball (handheld)

Postby Sut » August 8th, 2015, 5:22 pm

Really enjoyed the write up, these devices never caught my interest back in the day. Steve Benway also put up a recent video showing a couple of LED gaming devices which was interesting. The only one I can vaguely remember owning was a LCD racing game in which you moved left-centre-right to avoid the other cars.
Is there some sort of super simulator for all the LED/LCD games ? Or are they best experienced on original hardware ?

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scotland
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Re: ERS Electronic Basketball (handheld)

Postby scotland » August 8th, 2015, 10:40 pm

Sut wrote:Really enjoyed the write up, these devices never caught my interest back in the day...The only one I can vaguely remember owning was a LCD racing game in which you moved left-centre-right to avoid the other cars.
Is there some sort of super simulator for all the LED/LCD games ? Or are they best experienced on original hardware ?


Thanks Sut. I would have said no to simulator, but sure enough, there is one here:
http://www.peterhirschberg.com/handheld/ledhead/
Its possible it works okay using an NES controller, but I would think the original hardware is just better for the controls, for the tactile feel, for holding a handheld in your hand, for the bright lights of actual LED. A simulator is a good idea, or these games will be lost, but its not the same.

Considering all the portable gaming options available today, I wouldn't advise anyone to collect these. However, you can get common ones relatively cheap on ebay if you want the fun and experience of playing at least one of these games. The LED Mattel or Coleco sports games are usually both common and pretty solidly built with decent gameplay for what they are.


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