The Coleco Chameleon is reportedly a console that has had a storied development over the last 13 months. This Friday, February 26th, RETRO Video Game Systems Inc – the company behind the Coleco Chameleon, will be launching a Kickstarter campaign. Reportedly, RVGS Inc will be looking for a minimum of $400,000 to $500,000 to even make the console (SegaNerds audio interview), then stretch goals on top of that for yet to be announced additions. At the New York Toy Fair (February 13th to February 16th) the “prototype” for the Coleco Chameleon was shown at a limited, closed to the public, convention. This has irked many fans across the Internet for many reasons, especially considering the myriad of retro gaming themed conventions that occur regularly around the USA. That is not the only concern for many potential fans. What was under the glass at the New York Toy Fair is a major concern.
The Coleco Chameleon “prototype” was shown to show attendees starting the morning of February 13th. The video below, which RETRO Video Game Systems Inc originally uploaded to their Facebook account (we uploaded it for archival purposes to our Youtube channel) shows it in action for the first time.
At first glance, things are fine. There doesn’t seem to be anything happening in this video that should not be happening. There is a Jaguar case, which Mike Kennedy purchased with his own funds as described in this forum post (Retro Gaming Roundup forum link). The mold purchase has been documented before here on Retro Gaming Magazine previously.
In the video, the prototype is not under glass yet. Mr. Kennedy is holding a cartridge that is marked “Coleco Chameleon Prototype 1”. Some members on AtariAge forums speculate that this is an SD2SNES flash cartridge taped to the front half of a Jaguar cartridge (Mr. Kennedy owns the molds for the carts too). Photo comparison on Imgur.
Eventually a picture of the back of the unit was posted to the RETRO Video Game Systems Inc Facebook page, later deleted. In the picture, below, we see a proprietary Super Nintendo video/audio plug and what, according to StoneAgeGamer (owner of StoneAgeGamer.com) is an aftermarket 3 in 1 SNES power supply. StoneAgeGamer also goes on to detail that the layout of the back of the “prototype” that Mr. Kennedy is showing is exactly the same as an SNES Mini.
A closer look at the back of the prototype reveals what is apparently black electrical tape “covering” something. Image credit, AtariAge forums.
If you look closely at the connectors in the video, you will see those match 100% to those inside of a Super Nintendo (comparison pics below, credit AtariAge forums).
There is also apparently electrical tape on the front of the console at the Toy Fair. Again, credit the AtariAge forums for pointing this out. While electrical tape on a prototype is not a red flag, it is disconcerting that Mr. Kennedy has said they cannot open the case as it would damage the prototype, which is allegedly one of a kind.
Also, it has been asked on the official RETRO Video Game Systems Facebook page about the power light not working. The response is, “[the console] powers on when plugged in.”
If the people responsible for the prototype have indeed created one of the world’s ONLY FPGA/ARM systems capable of playing random Super Nintendo games that are developed in several unique ways then surely they could wire a power LED on the prototype console. It has been mentioned on many forums and in many YouTube videos that the SNES Mini does not feature a power LED though we cannot confirm that that is what was powering the “prototype” at the New York Toy Fair.
Another interesting development in this prototype is the fact that the digital signal provided by the FPGA/ARM board is being converted to analog for some unknown reason. This surely adds unnecessary cost and development time to the prototype and is quite strange considering HDMI is a single cable. Is this an attempt to further the “retro” feel that RETRO Video Game Systems Inc wish to impress on the public? None of the announced Kickstarter tiers show support for any video connection other than HDMI. Does this mean that the prototype developer just happened to have the rear of an SNES Mini laying around and decided to complicate their situation by using it?
Interestingly, last year, Mr. Kennedy stated in an interview with me (link here) that they did not have a working prototype available due to it being too expensive. In the few short months since their failed IndieGoGo campaign, Mr. Kennedy’s team have not only apparently created a working prototype but have also created one of the only working Super Nintendo FPGA cores in the world. For more on FPGA please refer to my previous article here on Retro Gaming Magazine. Image credit, AtariAge forums.
This prototype, which is reportedly an FPGA plus ARM combination is capable of playing random SNES games from Piko Interactive (Jim Power), Psygnosis (Apocalypse II) and Collectorvision (Sydney Hunter). Two of those titles were originally created with official SNES development kits while Sydney Hunter is created with, to the best of my knowledge, homebrew software that is not official Nintendo development software. Rather interesting that Sydney Hunter worked perfectly at the Toy Fair, if that prototype is indeed running an FPGA SNES core then it is a technical miracle.
Piko Interactive made the trip to the New York Toy Fair to see the prototype in action and were denied seeing the prototype. Reportedly they requested to see the prototype board inside the case but were rebutted each time. More information on the experience that Piko Interactive had is available on their website.
The AtariAge forum community has taken it upon themselves to build a replica of what they believe the Coleco Chameleon prototype really was. This post shows an angle specific shot of the prototype from the Toy Fair with a forum member’s mockup using an SNES Mini in a Jaguar case.
The mockup from this member is down to the black electrical tape over the back end of the SNES Mini. This mockup is true down to missing the corner where some of the SNES gray shows through in the video at the beginning of this article. Below is the mockup with the top of the case in place, complete with black spray paint applied. Shown from a similar angle to that of the prototype at the New York Toy Fair.
Someone on the RETRO Video Game Systems Inc Facebook page has stated that it is not just an SNES stuffed into the shell.
This is quite a different stance from their previous statements that this was not an SNES at all. Also, in episode #24 of Talk RETRO we find out that the back end of the prototype is indeed an SNES [Mini]. Talk RETRO is a podcast that accompanies RETRO Magazine, which is owned by Mr. Kennedy. The admittance of the “salvaged” SNES back half is around the 1 hour and 3 minute mark in the podcast. There is no discussion as to why the prototype uses the SNES cartridge slot. Also, it is simply stated that we should accept that Mr. Kennedy is telling the truth because this console obviously housed the prototype- though no one was allowed to see it.
Why would they go through the trouble of taking parts from an SNES, such as the “back of the unit”, an SNES cartridge connector and then use 3rd party SNES style controllers if this is supposed to be a “prototype” of a new console?
By refusing to open the case and show what was inside, whether due to possible damage to the prototype or not, is rather perplexing. If this was a “one of a kind” prototype then surely there are pictures of it somewhere for insurance purposes, why let the Internet run wild for what is going on 10 days now, and still three to four days to the Kickstarter without quelling those concerns? It is rather strange that all the RETRO Video Game Systems Inc team will say to the questions of people that do not have their Facebook posts mysteriously disappear is – wait for the Kickstarter.
We have less than five days for the Kickstarter to launch. Will everything be answered then? What are your thoughts on the Coleco Chameleon and their handling of the concerns of fans?