Released in late 1993, the HVC-101, or ‘AV Famicom’ as its commonly referred to was a total redesign of Nintendo’s Family Computer console. The A/V Famicom was released along side a total redesign of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the West. Unlike the night-and-day design aesthetics of the Famicom and NES, the two regions redesigned 8-bit machines are cosmetically identical, save for the unusual lump on the NTSC version, added as a means to steady the much larger NES cartridges in the top loading slot.

One key difference between the two redesigns is the AV connectivity. The AV connection was removed from the North American version (it was present on the original NES), while it was added to the Japanese version (the original Famicom was RF only).

Internally the A/V Famicom houses nearly the same, albeit slightly condensed Famicom guts. The NES model 2 redesign on the other hand, while having remedied the zero insertion force (ZIF) cartridge loading mechanism by making the console top loading, inherited an issue with scanlines by virtue of sparsely sufficient RF shielding.

The A/V Famicom came packaged with the console itself and two of the redesigned “dog bone” controllers. These revamped controllers are identical to the controllers sold with the NES model 2. The power adapter and proprietary AV cord were sold separately in Japan, although the AC adapter is interchangeable with the original Famicom power supply. The A/V cord is the same style used with the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and Gamecube, although it does not output S-Video and the console only supports mono sound.

The interchangeable controllers add a long absent feature to a Japanese Nintendo console, as the controllers were no longer hard wired to the motherboard and provided much longer controller cords. The controller ports themselves are compatible with original North American NES controllers, although an internal mod is required before the NES Zapper can be used. The AV Famicom even retained the ability to connect older Famicom accessories and peripherals via the included DB-15 expansion port.

The A/V Famicom is by far the preferred console of choice for hardcore fans of the Family Computer, simply because it eliminates the RF connectivity hassle of the original Famicom and it has a much more reasonable price point in comparison to the only other AV friendly Famicom console, Sharp’s Twin Famicom.

If you have the money, and want to seriously get into Famicom collecting, I highly suggest the AV Famicom. It is reliable, easy to clean and maintain, and the ability to use North American controllers cuts out having to track down specialty Japanese hardware.