The Vectrex is one of the few consoles where emulation just doesn’t do it justice. The reason is because of the way the Vectrex draws the images on the screen.
Nearly all other consoles draw their images using scan lines, they start in the top left and then go horizontal line by line, drawing pixels where required until the full screen is completed. This process then repeats 50-60 times a second.
The Vextrex however, has a vector display, which means that the electron beam actually draws the individual shapes on the screen. For this reason, the lines it draws are completely solid and not pixelated like other machines. It’s kind of difficult to explain which is why it really needs to be seen in person to understand how different it looks.
Obviously, this means that the games were also a different style to other systems and were all vector-based games. The upside of this is the game library for the Vectrex is quite different to other systems of the time.
The downside of the technology in this console was that it was a monochrome display. The way they got around this was also pretty unique. Each of the games came with a colour overlay that you would clip in front of the screen. The brightness of the Vector graphics would then shine through this overlay and provide the colours for the games.
The controller for this console had an analogue stick and four buttons. The analogue controls give you a much smoother control over you vector character in the games and give playing them a really nice feel.
Games can be pretty pricey for this console now, but luckily the community has come together and produced various different solutions for loading games such as Multi Carts and also another project called Pi-Trex.
Pi Trex Allows you a Raspberry Pi Zero into the cartridge slot. The Pi Zero then takes over as the processor for the system and just uses the Vector diplsay for it’s output. Because of the faster power of the Pi Zero, this open up the ability to run Vector based Arcade games such as Star Wars, directly on your Vectrex console. A really neat thing to play around with 🙂
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