When you break the $20 barrier or bootleg handheld consoles, you have two specific expectations : real games, and lots of them. The Family Pocket, aka FC 3000, aka Empire Retro Handheld Simulator Full Speed 70 Frames, which cost just under $26 via AliExpress, seemed to have neither. It’s advertised as having 2000 games, with more on a separate cartridge, and the possibility of adding more to an internal 2GB of memory, but how exactly this happens presents the user with an impenetrable mystery. When you first turn on the system, it tops out at 130 games, all of them trashy shovelware. That’s it.

The FC 3000 has two shoulder buttons. They have no use in any of the terrible 2-button bootleg games that are included, so their inclusion was truly mysterious.

While this is an incredibly handsome package, it’s presents itself as one of the more useless handhelds out there, and that’s a feat. All of this is especially bizarre, because even other product shots by real customers show that this handheld should be able to simulate multiple systems, and has a full complement of games.

This is where I may be an idiot. My FC 3000 was stuck in ‘Game Card’ mode, even though there was no game card to be found – and no apparent place to even insert a game card even if there was one. The included manual didn’t offer any hints, and the handheld’s listing also offered no explanation. It wasn’t until I was already seeking to replace the system with an identical one that I found a real set of instructions on a separate listing. As it turns out, you have to pry the entire pack of the system off along an invisible seam in order to really get to the action. Once inside, I found a game cart, probably just a crappy jumper cart, already plugged into the hidden cartridge port. It was stepping on the hose, and effectively made a very robust system limited to 130 terrible games. Like Fishwar.

Once that cart was removed, the real system revealed itself; multiple system emulators and a collection of interesting games became available. This is either terrible design, or amazing design. It’s terrible that the average user is given zero indication about how to use this unusual function in the accompanying instructions, so they’re left scrabbling at the edges like so many ape-like simpletons. It’s pretty innovative that even something this cheap could be so seamless, and hide both the cartridge port, as well as two separate battery options: rechargeable or three triple-As. The only indication is a faint arrow on the back of the machine, pointing inwards; this isn’t even the direction you need to pull in order to separate the machine. They slapped a PUSH sign on a sliding door, and it took a coincidence to decipher the code.

But ultimately, once the cart is removed, it can apparently never be re-inserted. Well, it can, but it just won’t work, so you permanently lose access to the terrible block of games. Flipping the cart over and re-installing it backwards helps sometimes, but not always. And then, you get Antisars.

The full system includes emulators for many systems : the Famicom, a small handful of arcade games, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Color, Game Boy, Sega Master System, Game Gear, and the Sega SG-1000, in that order. Curiously absent are the Nintendo and Super Nintendo emulators, especially because this thing is built to look very Nintendo-y. But that’s okay! There are dozens of Nintendo emulators, and you rarely see an SG-1000 emulator, or even a basic Game Boy emulator. The Game Boy list is pretty interesting, as it includes all of the incredible Final Fantasy Legend games, but no Kwirk, or Motocross Maniacs. You’ll find Harvest Moon and Metroid II, but they won’t have the right names. Instead, they’ll be Harvest Mooa and Galactic Samurai 2. The bizarre renaming is the second best part of any system, of course.

Spot = Hero Wanted
Beavis and Butt-Head = BTT-Head
Kid Icarus = Kidicars
Gex : Enter the Gecko = Crave
Crystalis = Crmstafis
GTA2 = Downtown2
Dexter’s Laboratory = Lrborrtobt AND Lrborrtoby
Street Fighter Alpha = Score Ranking
Spider-Man 2 : Return of the Sinister Six = Torusgames
The Smurfs = The Smgafs
Thunder Blade = Thunder Bland

Because the system has no removable memory, you can’t really add more… but the random assortment is pretty interesting., if you want to be presented with something you probably haven’t tried before. Want to play Star Trek Generations : Beyond the Nexus? It’s here! Different versions of the same Spider-Man game released on the Game Gear and Game Boy Color? Yes!

Like all of these, it’s an eclectic mix of games, but they all seem to work great. It’s one of the more enjoyable packages of surprises I’ve bought from the wilds of the unmoderated internet of bootleg electronics. You can get yours at this affiliate link, if you’re so inclined.

Nintendo is finally releasing Game & Watch retro mini-handhelds to capitalize on this whole experience that everyone else has been having for years. While it would probably be impossible due to rights issues, how incredible would it be to have a legitimate Marvel NES/SNES game collection on one mini handheld? A collection of the mostly bad Star Trek games, and the mostly good Star Wars games? It’s great that they’re finally catching up, but until then, this is a pretty sweet little set that doesn’t take up much room, or take much cash.

C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.