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The PlayChoice-10 is a cartridge-based arcade cabinet developed by Nintendo and first sold in 1986. The arcade cabinet's motherboard contained 10 slots and games could be purchased by arcade owners and placed into the slots. The games were slightly modified NES cartridges with a couple added features to take advantage of the PlayChoice-10's features. Unlike Nintendo's earlier VS. System, where players could play the game until they lost all their lives, on the PlayChoice-10 players bought a set length of time to play, and could switch between games at their leisure. This made the PlayChoice-10 more of an advertiser than a traditional arcade game.

As a child, I occasionally saw the PlayChoice-10 in arcades, but I never played on one. I rarely had the money to play in the arcade, and, when I did, I usually played more impressive looking 16-bit games. I have played a couple of the games using MAME, but, since they're mostly just slightly-modified NES games, I haven't spent much time on them.


A PlayChoice-10 motherboard loaded with games.

The cabinet's internal hardware is very similar to the NES featuring the same Ricoh 2A03 CPU (a modified MOS 6502), however, it uses a slightly different PPU chip which outputs to RGB rather than the NES's luminance-chrominance system. This allows the system to use RGB monitors resulting in a crisper display than an NES attached to a TV. The cabinet has two sets of controls, each with an 8-way joysticks and a B and A button. It also features an optional light gun which could be added if the arcade owner bought a game that needed it. There are a couple other buttons on the front of the cabinet which allow the player to select a game, start a game, and reset back to the game menu. Game boards were very similar to their NES counterparts, but included an additional 8 KB ROM chip which housed the game information. The game ROMs were often identical to the NES games.

The PlayChoice-10 and NES were so similar in their technical design that a lot of the parts can be swapped between them. For example, the PlayChoice-10's RGB PPU can be taken off the mother board and put into an NES giving the console true RGB output. Also, many of EPROMs can be removed from PlayChoice-10 boards and swapped out with NES EPROMs, and, provided the mappers are the same, you can even replace the EPROMs with different games!


At least four models of PlayChoice-10 cabinets were designed. The original model used a typical upright arcade cabinet with two large monitors stacked on top of each other. Top top monitor displayed information and the lower monitor displayed the game. The PlayChoice-10 "Super de-luxe" used a smaller monitor on top. A single monitor upright cabinet called simply the "PlayChoice" was also made which included a button that would toggle the monitor between game and information display. The first PlayChoice-10 cabinet model contained two monitors. The main monitor showed the game, while a smaller monitor above gave instructions and hints for the game. A later cost-reduced cabinet had only a single monitor, and players could press a button to switch between the game display and the information display.

The cabinets all use a similar red, black, and white color scheme with a line-thickness gradient which I find to be pretty dull. I can only assume the graphic designers didn't want to make the cabinets too complex looking to distract from the wide variety of cardboard toppers that could be added to the cabinet.


A PlayChoice-10 game board.

In total, 52 games were released for the PlayChoice-10, most of which were made by Nintendo, but a fair amount of third-party games were released as well. Unlike NES games which had protective plastic shells, games were sold as PCBs with all the ROM chips visible.

Title Year Developer Notes




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