We’ve all become quite used to a bit of a fanfare when a new handheld gets announced. Promo videos, pre-orders, even the occasional countdown. But sometimes one just appears out of nowhere, and in those cases they’re usually not worth the plastic they’re made from. But not always! Let’s have a look at the Family Pocket FC3000.
Scroll down to the bottom for a cool update.
As time goes by the word “obscure” in our context becomes less and less accurate. “Mainstream” is pushing it, but the member count of the various online communities must be well into hundreds of thousands now.
When this site first started it was fairly common that the coolest, most recent handheld was one that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. I kind of miss that a bit. So there was definitely a little bit of intrigue and nostalgia involved in my purchase of the Family Pocket FC3000!
WHAT IS THE FC3000?
Variants of this form factor have been around a while now. Some of the earlier ones looked a little different and came pre-loaded with Famicom era games, hacks and clones.
The FC3000 is different in that it has a selection of emulators built in, as well as a cartridge full of other, stranger games. The cartridge is hidden underneath a removable cover on the back of the device, and you’d be hard pushed to find it unless you knew.
There are 130 games installed on that tiny cartridge. They’re definitely Famicom/NES era games, but I am unfamiliar with any of them. Doing a bit of googling, it turns out that they’re all developed by a Chinese studio called “Nice Code Software”. I found a list of all the games they’ve developed on this great site. With the cartridge installed you can only boot up to the list of the Nice Code games on the cartridge. It’s not possible as far as I can tell to boot to the emulators menu without first removing the cartridge.
With the cartridge removed you boot up to a well presented menu showing all the systems that the FC3000 can emulate. The obvious absentees from the list are GBA and SNES. That gives us some idea of how powerful the FC3000 is I suppose.
- LCD: 320×240 3″ Non-IPS
- Buttons: D-pad, ABXY, L1, R2, Start, Select
- Volume control: Analog wheel
- Storage: 2GB / 4GB (variable)
- CPU: M900 XCM2010GP40 (No idea)
- OS: Unknown (Java based?)
- Battery: 3x AAA or included 1800mAh BL-5C clone
- Play time: Around 3 hours from BL-5C
- Charge port: MicroSD
- TV Output: Composite
FC3000 BUILD QUALITY AND CONTROLS
Let’s not set expectations too high, the FC3000 costs about $20 shipped after all. The handheld is fairly light and plasticy, but at the same time it is very sturdy in the hand. It doesn’t creak or flex, but it does have a kind of hollow feel to it. Part of that is probably due to the addition of the clip on back cover which hides the battery and cartridge.
The D-pad is decent enough whilst being a bit mushy, certainly not something to complain about on a handheld this cheap. The ABXY buttons are mushier, and they have a little too much travel. Their positioning is also a bit odd. Obviously they’ve been modelled on the NES alignment, but have had another 2 buttons tacked on.
On the top edge are 2 shoulder buttons, which are hard to make out in most of the AliExpress listings. They are there though, and they’re independent of the other buttons. The only system that would make use of them though is CPS1, for a small selection of Capcom fighting games (I think?). I’m not really all that familiar with Street Fighter 2, but it does appear that each button has been mapped to a different action. So they all appear to be functional, rather than just replicating the inputs from A/B or something.
The 320×240 LCD is acceptable for a $20 handheld. The colours wash out or invert if you don’t look at it more or less straight on, but otherwise it’s pretty good. It’s colourful, crisp and bright without any ghosting or tearing to speak of. There is a little light bleed from the left and right sides, but it’s not too bad. There’s a plastic screen lens built in to the fascia that protects the LCD too.
The built in emulators on the FC3000 are:
- Nintendo NES
- Capcom Play System 1
- Sega Mega Drive (Genesis)
- Game Boy Color
- Sega SG-1000
- Game Boy
- Sega Master System
- Sega Game Gear
For the most part each emulator works well. There is no option for a fps counter, so it’s hard to see which are running at full speed. From what I’ve played, a lot of them are either full or close to full speed. In every emulator, the Player 1 button in the top left corner brings up a menu of options. From here you can resume the game, save state, load state or quit the game. There are 5 save state slots for each game, and a little thumbnail is saved alongside each slot.
Those are your only customisations. There are no options for frame skip, button mapping, aspect ratio or anything else you might wish for. It keeps things simple, but would be a huge improvement if implemented.
FC3000 HARDWARE VARIANTS / LOADING ROMS
As is often the case with these fly-by-night manufacturers, there appears to be a few different variants of this handheld. I seem to have been sent a newer version than the one in this video. Where this guy has an SD card slot I have a 2GB WinBond branded flash memory ship soldered to the mainboard.
I initially thought that was where my ROMs were stored, but many thanks to Meco in the comments for pointing out that there is actually a MicroSD card in the battery compartment of this model. This means it’s probably a newer version to the one in the above YouTube video.
I have also read comments that say some versions do not have the save/load state function in the emulator menus – but they may be confusing the Family Pocket FC3000 with one of the older versions above.
The Family Pocket FC3000 is not recognised as a mass storage device when plugged in to a Windows PC. I’ve tried every combination of buttons and power I can think of, but nothing allows it to be recognised by Windows as far as I can tell. The only “Easter Egg” I’ve found is if you boot up with D-pad down it boots into an input tester for all of the buttons. This test software is probably made for a few other systems too. Notice it has a test for a digital volume control, whereas the FC3000 has analog volume.
The chip on the Family Pocket FC3000 is listed as an M900 XCM2010GP40. I have no idea what this is, and neither does Google by the looks of it.
The board also has the name XCM_FC3000_V1 printed on it.
There may be a small clue as to what software this handheld runs if anyone can identify this logo. Before a ROM is loaded, this displays on the screen momentarily. Is it a java logo, or something else? (Sorry for the bad pic).
For what it’s worth, if you’ve got an SD version and want to add ROMs, you might want to watch this (Spanish) video that shows you how to include artwork and stuff for each game. Now that I’ve discovered the SD slot in this one, I will have a play around and update with any interesting findings.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably got some kind of interest in this weird little handheld! But I’m also going to guess you’ve already got something far more capable too. There are a few reasons I can think of to buy one of these.
- It makes a (very) cheap and fairly capable handheld to throw in your bag.
- As a gift for a youngster who can’t yet be trusted with more expensive handhelds.
- To try and figure out exactly what it is, and potentially hack it.
I really like this little thing, I just wish it could be a bit better. With aspect ratio adjustments and GBA/SNES support it would be a definite recommendation. As it stands, it is far from perfect, but it’s also only about $20 which is quite incredible for what you get. The AliExpress listing below is for the new version with SD card in the battery compartment. It can perhaps be found cheaper at other stores, but be aware of the different hardware revisions before committing.