The original Odyssey had a number of removable circuit cards that switched between the in-built games, of which there were 10 in Europe and Asia, or 12 in America. The Odyssey followed in the steps of the Fairchild Channel F and Atari 2600 by being designed to play programmable ROM game cartridges. With this improvement, each game could be a completely unique experience, with its own background graphics, foreground graphics, gameplay, scoring, and music. The potential was enormous, as an unlimited number of games could be individually purchased; a game player could purchase a library of videogames tailored to his or her own interest. Unlike any other system at that time, the Odyssey included a full alphanumeric membrane keyboard, which was to be used for educational games, selecting options, or programming. (Philips also released a game cartridge with the intent of teaching simple computer programming.) The Odyssey used the standard joystick design of the 1970s and 80s: the first wave had a moderately sized silver controller, held in One hand, with a square housing for its eight-direction stick that was manipulated with the other hand, while later releases had a similar black controller, with an 8-pointed star-shaped housing for it's eight-direction joystick. In the upper corner of the joystick was a single 'Action' button, silver on the original contollers and red on the black contollers. One other difference in these controllers is that the earliest releases of the silver joystick were removeable. They could be plugged and unplugged from the back of the unit, while all later silver and all black contollers were hardwired into the rear of the unit itself. One of the strongest points of the system was its excellent speech synthesis unit, which was released as an add-on for speech, music, and sound-effects enhancement. The area that the Odyssey may well be best remembered for was its pioneering fusion of board and video games: The Master Strategy Series. The first game released was the instant classic Quest for the Rings!, with gameplay somewhat similar to Dungeons & Dragons, and a storyline reminiscent of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
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