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Philips CDi Appreciation Thread


Nathan Wind
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I learned that one of my close friends had a CDi back in the day which he still had stored in his family loft. So we busted it out last time I was down. Unfortunately he had none of the Nintendo licensed games but dear god it is the worst console I’ve ever played. Alien Gate goes down as arguably the worst game I’ve ever experienced. Mutant Rampage another epically bad game. Although amongst all the shite there was actually one game that was pretty good; Chaos Control. Was an on rails space shooter which was very fun and took place in some (for what must have been at the time) very impressive 3D environments considering the hardware it was on. Did not think anything like that was possible on CDi hardware. 

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I quite enjoy Mutant Rampage 😂

 

It’s not a great system though, there’s a lot of duff games on it. I’ve only played the demo of Micro Machines, so I don’t know if the full version is the same, but it’s fucking terrible. It runs so painfully slow.

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A friend of mine had a CDi when they were first released. It was the original model with the remote style controller with the little built in joystick.

He had three games - Battleships, Palm Springs Golf and Escape From Cyber City.

At the time, i thought it was absolutely mindblowing. I think I still had a C64, so to play a game which had full motion video was just crazy. 
I don't think we ever really got anywhere on Cyber City - it looked great but was rock hard. We had plenty of fun on Golf and Battleships though.

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13 hours ago, phillv85 said:

I quite enjoy Mutant Rampage 😂

 

It’s not a great system though, there’s a lot of duff games on it. I’ve only played the demo of Micro Machines, so I don’t know if the full version is the same, but it’s fucking terrible. It runs so painfully slow.

The full version is the same.

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51 minutes ago, phillv85 said:

Grim, that'd be one of the best games on the system if it actually worked properly. 

My non-techy (and possibly bad and wrong) assumption is that the CD-i had to use its 68000 processor to handle moving sprites about and stuff, while the Mega Drive and Amiga and so on used their graphics chips. Explaining why the version on the CD-i runs as slow and juddery as an Amstrad CPC game.

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16 hours ago, Oh Danny Boy said:

Chaos Control. Was an on rails space shooter which was very fun and took place in some (for what must have been at the time) very impressive 3D environments considering the hardware it was on. Did not think anything like that was possible on CDi hardware. 

 

Its just a pre-rendered FMV though isn't it, with sprites overlayed from 3D models (like Killer Instinct/Donkey Kong etc).

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2 hours ago, dizogg said:

 

Its just a pre-rendered FMV though isn't it, with sprites overlayed from 3D models (like Killer Instinct/Donkey Kong etc).

 

Yes it's just an FMV video playing in the background while you shoot sprites, just like in Microcosm etc.

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The thing that gives away Chaos Control (apart from the fact that you know the hardware couldn't do graphics like that without FMV) is that, when you shoot the enemies they just have an explosion graphic glued on the top.  So if the enemy happens to be one that stays on screens long time it just flies around on fire as if nothing is wrong.

 

The CDi is a colossal piece of shit (I have two), and even for the time it was woefully underpowered.  Even FMV games like Mad Dog McRee have dreadful wait times as it switched tracks.  The irony is that Chaos Control could be done better in real-time today and would still be a terrible game.  I think Philips thought the FMV capabilities would hide the fact that the player was so weak, although the FMV cart was an extra purchase at the time. A CDi without FMV didn't do much of any interest at all, and I doubt Philips even considered it a games console at all, until they released the 450 model.

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  • 1 month later...

 I could have sworn I had posted in here before now.

 

 Anyway, still got one tucked away in a cupboard somewhere I think. If I recall correctly, my favourite games on it were Burn Cycle, The 7th Guest and a point and click adventure called Secret Mission. 

 

 I remember going almost every week, for what felt the better part of a year, to the local hi-fi shop trying to get the FMV cartridge and it always being delayed. Once I received it, I actually got an invite from Philips to test out a web browser. They sent me a modem, which I don't think was even 56k? (still got it somewhere) And the software to get the internet up and running. 

 

 Oh boy was the browsing slow. You could even send emails but typing using that original wireless controller was a bit of a mare. But I stuck with it because at the time it was my first time accessing the internet and I found all this porn! 😳

 It wouldn't run videos as far as I recall and took bloody ages to even load up jpegs. I think at the time one of the favoured sites was something like "Ahhhhhhh, celebrities missing their panties" 😳 but that isn't quite gaming related. 

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As I mentioned back in march, the thing that made Burn Cycle so impressive (at the time) was that the enemy characters are part of the FMV.  Most games of the genre have impressive video backgrounds with crappy sprites overlaid (Microcosm, Sewer Shark), so the Mpeg digital video of CDi really did make it stand out.  

 

Then when you play the game, all that happens is a poor quality explosion graphic is glued onto the FMV enemy until it naturally exits the frame. On later levels these enemies can stay on screen for ages and its funny to shoot down a ship, watch it explode, then see it continue to fly around for way too long.

 

I appreciate I'm making the same point as I did on this same page earlier, but what I didn't make clear was that, even though CDi used the 68000, it appears to use it for everything. No custom chips, the CDi seems to struggle to do the most basic of things.  Games that don't use the FMV card are, in general, absolutely shit.  The games that use the FMV card are either basically a video (Space Ace, Mad Dog McCree)  or absolute shit with video in it. 

 

Alongside CDTV and 3DO, CDi is the strangest thing.  It's like they made a set top box for CD encyclopedias then decided to launch it as a games machine instead. 

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The trouble with CDi (and CD32, and 3D0) these days is that most of the games that came out on them are also available on PC CD-ROM where they are much more accessible and run a lot better, due to hard drive rips or high-speed CD-Rom drives. With a few exceptions like the CDi Nintendo crossover stuff of course. I like the idea of having one of those original early 90s CD consoles as a curio but they are so big and expensive and prone to developing faults that they aren't really practical. Much as I love playing on original hardware, early CD games are one area where it's really just better to stick to emulation IMO. 

 

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I thought the CDi had its clock battery inside a chip so it's a big task to replace the battery when it runs out.  And when it does, your CDi won't turn on.  

 

 

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9 hours ago, dumpster said:

I thought the CDi had its clock battery inside a chip so it's a big task to replace the battery when it runs out.  And when it does, your CDi won't turn on.  

 

 


That is hilarious. A combination of Philips having no clue what they were making and a lack of faith the machine would stick around in the market.

This alone makes it even worse than the Jaguar.

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I dunno. Those sorts of batteries tend to last a long time before they die. If they are anything like CMOS batteries in PCs, they should be good for a huge amount of time. I had a CMOS die in a 90's laptop but we're talking 20+ years after I originally bought it. If the clock battery in the CDi is anything similar, no manufacturer would care about that product still being operable that far into the future. They would hope to be a success and have sold 3-4 generations of subsequent hardware in that sort of timeframe.

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1 hour ago, megamixer said:

I dunno. Those sorts of batteries tend to last a long time before they die. If they are anything like CMOS batteries in PCs, they should be good for a huge amount of time. I had a CMOS die in a 90's laptop but we're talking 20+ years after I originally bought it. If the clock battery in the CDi is anything similar, no manufacturer would care about that product still being operable that far into the future. They would hope to be a success and have sold 3-4 generations of subsequent hardware in that sort of timeframe.

 

No sadly it was a very common fault and they didn't last at all. Problem was the idiots sealed the battery into the small box and it needs drilling/soldering to sort so awful design decision all round.  Especially when other devices were using very simple springs/slots for removable batteries. It doesn't stop the machine from working in my experience just stops you saving the time, I've had a couple with the problem. 

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Both of my CDi’s have more or less dead battery’s. A good session might get you a few hours of off time before your save gets wiped. Sadly there aren’t many games you’d actually want to play for a decent session.

 

It hasn’t caused me any more issues than that though, I’m surprised to hear it can brick systems. I’d have thought the only way it could do that is if the battery has ruptured and damaged the chip it’s cemented into.

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I think certain models brick, but the reality is that the failing battery causes unexpected game behaviour and games crash or do odd things. So ideally you want to have a new timekeeper chip to save your game files, or have no battery at all, so the games play properly without saving. But having a failed battery in the console means that a good play session puts some charge in the battery so things start misbehaving.  

 

I've just done some googling and it appears specific models can lock up / brick, but most carry on working.

 

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