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Tiger R-Zone Headgear model.
|Type||Handheld game console|
The R-Zone is a portable game console (originally head-worn, later handheld) developed and manufactured by Tiger Electronics. The R-Zone was shown at the American International Toy Fair in February 1995, and was released later that year. The R-Zone was a largely unsuccessful handheld console and would only be manufactured for a short period, before being discontinued in 1997. Although the R-Zone was not designed to compete directly with any other handhelds, it marked Tiger Electronics' first multi-game entry into the portable electronic game market.
The original R-Zone unit consisted of a headset and a separate controller containing batteries. Each game cartridge contained its own transparent LCD display screen which was projected onto a mirrored surface held in front of the player's eye. It is thought that this original design, including the red color scheme, was designed to capitalize on popular buzz for the Nintendo Virtual Boy at the time.
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- R-Zone games varied only in title and subject; gameplay within the R-Zone's gaming library was almost identical from title to title.
- Popular franchises released one or more games on the R-Zone, including Star Wars, Virtua Fighter, Men in Black, and Batman. The Lost World: Jurassic Park, based on the 1997 film of the same name, was also released on the R-Zone.
The R-Zone's controls are located on the lower top front face of its body and are positioned on the left, right, and bottom sides.
- The R-Zone has ten face buttons. The buttons on the right are labeled "A", "B", "C", and "D". The functions of these face buttons vary from game to game but typically the buttons correspond to a four-direction attack scheme (whereas the "C" button would attack to the left, the "D" button would attack up, the "B" button would attack right, and the "A" button would attack down or do nothing at all. The buttons on the bottom are labeled "ON", "START", "SELECT", "SOUND", "PAUSE", and "OFF". The functions of these face buttons are universal and do not vary from game-to-game. The "ON" button simply turned on the console but was largely un-used as inserting a game cartridge would automatically turn the unit on. The "START" button was required to begin all games. The "SOUND" button turned the audio from on-to-off and vice versa. The "PAUSE" button would allow for any game to be stopped at the exact point in which gameplay was taking place. Pressing this button again resumed gameplay. The "OFF" button was used to turn the console off.
- The R-Zone also features a directional pad, allowing four directions of movement in its games.
- The R-Zone game cartridges were transparent in the center. - This allowed light to pass through and reflect off a specialized mirror to the gamer's eyes.
- The LCD in each cartridge operated identically to Tiger's earlier handheld LCD game units. All of the graphics were pre-drawn and permanently set into the LCD itself. Different portions of the display were darkened/activated at different times to provide animation.
- The mirror had minor tilt adjustment and could be pushed up against the unit for protection and storage.
- The games only displayed a dark red color.
The R-Zone contains the following input/output connectors:
- The bottom side of the console shows two ports (one on the left side, the other on the right). Each port was accessible with a screwdriver and held two AAA batteries or two AA batteries. The units manufactured from 1995 to late 1996 held a total of four AA batteries, whereas the units manufactured there after utilized a total of four AAA batteries.
- A single speaker allowed for mono audio output.
- An input for R-Zone cartridges is situated on top of the R-Zone.
Sales and competition
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The R-Zone did not see much success in sales. With other successful and popular handhelds (such as the Game Boy and Game Gear), the R-Zone was often overlooked. Games did not allow users to save their data, link to other players, adjust audio levels, play a true variety of games, or connect accessories/peripherals (whereas other handheld consoles in the market did).
A few variations of the R-Zone were produced:
- The R-Zone Headgear (1995) was largely different from later units in that the game cartridge was inserted into a device that was strapped onto the user's head. The user would flip down a transparent lens that was designed to reflect the game images into the user's right eye. The head unit held the game being played and was connected to a controller with a cable approximately 2.5 feet (0.76 m) long. The controller required 4 AAA batteries, sported a cartridge storage slot (for keeping an additional game protected and available), volume adjustment dial, and brightness adjustment dial. This unit as a whole is sometimes thought to have been designed to compete against the Virtual Boy. The very first game to be distributed with this console was Batman Forever, based on the 1995 movie of the same name, followed by Sega's 1995 arcade racing game Indy 500.
- The R-Zone Super Screen (1995–1996) allowed R-Zone games to have color for the first time. Some games allowed for a special lens to be used with this particular R-Zone and simply provided the user with a non-animated color background. Game movement on screen was black. The screen was considerably larger than the other R-Zone models, because of this and the fact that the user was not required to look at a mirror (at a precise angle) to see the gameplay, other people could also see gameplay. Because of its size, the R-Zone Super Screen was often not considered a handheld at all. The unit changed the layout yet again and required 4 D batteries to run. In this model the D-pad was swapped out for four directional buttons (up, down, left, and right).
- "X.P.G. Xtreme Pocket Game" (1997) was a completely handheld version of the console. It lacked a headset, and instead projected the game's display onto a mirrored surface directly above the game controller area on the unit. This version also used the AAA batteries.
- The R-Zone "DataZone" (1997) was a handheld version of the console. This version of the R-Zone no longer projected the image through a mirror but rather just flat displayed it with a backlight. It also now had other features, like a digital journal, a datebook, a calculator, an address book, and a clock. It used one watch battery to store data and 2 AAA batteries to run the game portion. It was originally believed to only be a prototype but it turns out Tiger released this model in the UK and it is the most sought after version of R-Zone among collectors.
David Jones of the Chicago Tribune called the R-Zone "a waste of time and money" and wrote that its screen "is hard to see and the controls are very awkward. That's not all – if you keep the head band on for, say, five minutes, you'll have two deep lines on your fore-head and a headache". Jones noted the failure of the R-Zone's extra head-band padding – which was designed to prevent pain – and concluded, "The R-Zone should be dumped into the trash can where it belongs".
- Hanrahan, Brendan (February 28, 1995). "The Noise on Toys". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
- Jones, David (November 28, 1995). "Save For X-mas, Skip The R-zone". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
- "VC&G - Retro Scan of the Week: Tiger's R-Zone — the Ultimate Eye Strain Device". vintagecomputing.com.
- "The Strange (and Rare) Videogame Pics Page". tripod.com.
- "The Lost World: Jurassic Park (R-Zone)". IGN. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
- "PIC_0928_R-Zone". museo8bits.es.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to R-Zone.|
- R Zone Head Gear commercial(link goes to commercial on retrojunk.com)
- El Museo de los 8 Bits with a list of games
- Video Review by YouTube user Ashens
- Info and pictures of the R Zone DataZone game console and organizer