Riding the wave of the Famicom’s initial success, Nintendo and its third party developers soon ran into a slight problem; the games they were envisioning were quickly out-growing the media to which they were saddled. You have to remember that in the mid-eighties cartridges were expensive to produce and had a finite amount of memory in which to store data.
Nintendo seemingly solved both of these problems when it released the Family Computer Disk System in 1986. Developed in conjunction with Mitsumi, whose Quick Disk format was the basis for the Disk System Disk Cards, the Famicom Disk System gave developers a much-expanded amount of data storage (64K per side, on a double sided disk). In addition, the Disk Card floppies were much cheaper to produce and disks could be brought to kiosks and overwritten with new game data for a fraction of even the price of a new cartridge.
Another added benefit of the Disk Card format was the ability to write save data directly to the disk. The extra space afforded by the Disk Card format allowed developer to make much larger and more complex games. Massive and sprawling video games such as The Legend of Zelda and Metroid were initially developed for the Disk System, and both games arguably necessitated a save feature. Eventually cartridge technology matured to the point where Zelda could be released in North America sans Disk System, equipped with console gamings first ever on-cart battery back-up save feature. Metroid, on the other hand, was hampered by a password system which was (and is) frustratingly long and complicated.
The Famicom Disk System was released to much consumer and critical hype, and was quite successful in it first few years, before being deemed obsolete by improved cartridge technology and crippled by disk piracy .
In a curious move on Nintendo’s part, just 5 months after the release of the Famicom Disk System Nintendo licensed its hardware to Sharp, who in turn created the Sharp Twin Famicom.
The Twin Famicom is exactly as its name suggests; nothing more than a Famicom and Famicom Disk System integrated in one case. A peek inside the console reveals that it is literally a Famicom motherboard and FDS disk drive sitting next to each other, interfaced under the hood, forgoing the need for the original Disk Systems cartridge slot consuming RAM adapter.
In a marked improvement over the RF only nightmare of the original Famicom model, the Twin Famicom did away with RF completely, instead allowing an AV connection (with mono sound) that connected via standard RCA cables. For this fact alone, the Twin Famicom is a smarter and more convenient choice for importing over the original Famicom model because of this universal connectivity.
Sharp released two models of the Twin Famicom, with two variations each. Initially the Twin was offered in red/black highlights (AN-500R) and black/red highlights (AN-500B) color variations While the controller layout of the original Famicom was left unchanged, the shortened controller cords (sadly) made a repeat appearance.
The second model Sharp released is often referred to as the Turbo Twin Famicom, due to inclusion of turbo switches on the hardwired controllers. This feature gives the Turbo Twin the distinction of being the first and only Nintendo console to ship with turbo controllers included. The Turbo Twin was released in two variations, red/grey highlights (AN-505-RD) and a black/green highlights (AN-505-BK).
The Turbo Twin one-upped the original model and included, for the first time on a Famicom an LED power indicator. The Twin also introduced glorious 4 foot controller chords, vastly improving the previous model’s 3 foot cord. The freedom that this extra 12″ affords cannot be under estimated.
Both Twin models have more or less the same utilities as the original Famicom; a start and reset button on the front, a cartridge eject lever and the DB-15 expansion port for peripherals. Added to the Twins was a switch to choose between cartridge and disk mode. This switch is actually mechanical in nature, physically blocking the cartridge slot while switched to disk mode.
The Twin Famicom uses a fairly unique power supply that is common across all variations These adapters can be difficult to find, and as of the date of writing can cost upwards of $50 USD for a third party version, if you are lucky enough to find that. To save yourself a headache in the long run, I would advise making sure an adapter is included before you decide to make a purchase.
The rate of fault and reliability of the disk drive is the same as the original Famicom Disk System model, as they are identical internally. The addition of the integrated disk drive is certainly a plus, especially of you are interested in getting into Famicom Disk System collecting. However, insure that the disk drive is working properly before you purchase a Twin and find out when the last time the drive belt was replaced. Many Twins are sold with non-working drives, and the disk drives are often problematic to trouble shoot and repair, and often the drive belt needs to be replaced.
The Sharp Twin Famicom is an excellent introduction to the Famicom, and especially the Famicom Disk System. The AV connectivity certainly puts it over and above the original RF-only Famicom console. The Twin Famicom can be quite a bit more expensive then the original Family Computer, especially if the disk drive is well-maintained and functional. The Turbo model, due mainly to its unique nature and compelling features, usually fetches even more then the non- Turbo Twin, but is certainly the better of two Twin models.