The Odyssey² is one of those consoles that is fun to play when I pull it out of storage and plug it in, but when it’s back in its proper place amongst the rest of my video game collection, I honestly don’t think about it much. It registers a zero on the nostalgia scale for me since it’s not a console I ever played or even knew existed until I was an adult. The games available for it, while they certainly have their fun moments, are very hit and miss. It’s overshadowed in almost every respect by its brethren of the late 70s and early 80s video gaming scene. So what makes the Odyssey² even remotely collectible and worth owning today?
The Odyssey² may not have won the 2nd generation console wars, or even finished second or third (depending on what you consider the 2nd generation), but it did some things that no other console was doing at the time. For example, its membrane keyboard located on top of the console itself was extremely unique, even if its purpose wasn’t fully realized. There are quite a few exclusive games for the Odyssey² that, while they may be somewhat derivative of other more popular titles, are also just unique enough to make them worth playing and owning. I’m looking at you K.C. Munchkin, UFO, Smithereens and Killer Bees. The Computer Intro cart and booklet offers a glimpse into the past of computer programming. The Voice module gives gamers an idea what measures had to be taken just to add voice enhancements to gameplay. The Master Strategy series of video/board game hybrids gave fans of board & strategy games a reason to pick up a controller. Many of these things were either firsts for a home console and as a result, the Odyssey² doesn’t get the respect it deserves as a result.
If I attempt to highlight both the positives and negatives to owning and collecting for the Odyssey² in 2018, it might look something like this.
- Affordable console and games
- Complete in box games are easy to find as the design of the boxes made it easy to keep the manuals
- Controllers are well built, well designed and ergonomic
- Distinct looking cartridges….with handles!
- Speaking of exclamation points, every game made by Magnavox ends with an exclamation point, which inherently means they are more fun and exciting!!!
- Super colorful and well drawn box/cartridge art. Sega should have taken a page out of Magnavox’s video game artwork design book when coming up with the Master System box art.
- Uniqueness abounds – the aforementioned console keyboard, the Computer programming cart/book, the very first voice module add-on, educational carts, video/board game hybrids.
- Lack of third party game developers
- Lack of well known arcade conversions
- Disproportionate amount of poorly aged titles vs. high quality titles
- Most versions of the Odyssey² came with hardwired controllers which is bad if they fail
- Difficult to find the better games for the system due to low sales numbers
In all, I think the Odyssey² has a lot to offer a fan of gaming consoles of this era but there’s not much of a reason for anyone who doesn’t care for the Atari/Intellivision age of video gaming to pick one up. There just isn’t that must own game that everyone needs to play, plus there’s little historical or pop culture reason to own one. I personally enjoy owning an Odyssey² because of the unique features I highlighted above, but I totally understand if someone decides they’d rather not take up space in their collection with one. I don’t have the ability to foresee the future but my prediction is that the Odyssey² is destined to be one of those consoles that will fade into obscurity a few decades from now. It never had enough of an impact on a large percentage of gamers that would allow it to stay somewhat relevant. And for that, I’m saddened but I understand the place in history the Odyssey² fits in.
As an aside, I intended to add a couple of the harder to find games as well as The Voice module to my collection this month but it wasn’t to be. I thought I had won an Ebay bid for a complete in box Turtles cartridge, but I was refunded my money a few days after winning the auction with a note from the seller stating that they misplaced the game. Also, there were several Voice modules for sale this month that I almost pulled the trigger on, but most sellers were wanting $60-70 for a loose version and I was really hoping for an in-box version which I haven’t found yet. The only addition I managed to pick up this month was the third and final game in the Master Strategy series, i.e. the video game/board game hybrid titles. The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt is a stock market simulation game that I HAD to own to make my Master Strategy collection complete and I had no problems finding complete in box copies of this title for relatively cheap. There are so many “common” titles I don’t own for the Odyssey² but I’m not compelled in any way to buy anything for this console that isn’t at least playable. I already have quite a few less than stellar titles in my collection so I only want to add the best games still available. The problem is, it may take me years to find them.