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Nintendo's Famicom Turns 20

simoniker posted more than 11 years ago | from the happy-birthday-to-youuu dept.

NES (Games) 44

Warrior-GS writes "GameSpy has been running a weeklong series of articles dedicated to the Famicom, which became the super-console Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States. The Famicom turned 20 on July 15th. The series covers everything from the birth of the console to the hardware to many of the classic games." This massive article is, indeed, both comprehensive and lovingly researched, and is well worth checking out.

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Why is it called Famicom? (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 11 years ago | (#6470752)

Is this a Japanese term? Is it one of those made up words that looks cool in Japanese?

I'm glad they changed it for the American market: it sounds like the name of a pregnancy test kit.

Re:Why is it called Famicom? (5, Informative)

rylin (688457) | more than 11 years ago | (#6470801)

IIRC, It's "Family Computer" or something like it. http://www.atarihq.com/tsr/odd/scans/famicom.html

Thanks (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 11 years ago | (#6470811)

Thanks! Would have never known that "Atari HQ" (the link you gave) would have contained valuable Nintendo history information.

Re:Thanks (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6472529)

The Japanese are fond of creating new words based on parts of other foreign words, not just with famicom, but for example:

pasacon - personal computer
pokeberu - pager (pocket bell)
pokemon - pocket monster
etc.

Re:Why is it called Famicom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6472669)

If you read the FIRST FREAKING PARAGRAPH of the article, you'd know.

I bought the Sega Master System instead (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6470763)

I remember Nintendo's release in America, at the time it wasn't impressive at all. The graphics were on par with Colecovision and it seemed a no brainer to go with the Sega Master System(M.U.S.C.L.E. Wrestling vs Sega's Pro Wrestling was the deciding factor). Unfortunatly I made the wrong decision as I missed out on the Super Mario Series, Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania ... Though I did have Phantasy Star which was the best game ever made for an 8bit console.

It was the controls that kept me away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6470786)

It was the controls that kept me away: looked like something from Intellivision, rather than the erstwhile standard Atari joystick, which still beats so many controllers even to this day.

Re:I bought the Sega Master System instead (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6470915)

If it was a wrestling game that swayed your decision, you got what you deserved. (:

Same choice, different answer (3, Insightful)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472155)

I remember my mom taking me to the store and letting me try out both systems, and trying to make the decision on which my parents would get me for christmas. (Funny, at the time i never realized there had been a crash in the video game market. I'd been happily playing games on my Colecovision which had an Atari 2600 adapter, and though the NES and Sega Master system were just the next step up instead of a revitalization of the entire industry)

The NES was demoing Super Mario Brothers, the Sega machine was demoing, um, a couple pieces of crap, there was maybe one of the games that interested me, but i forget which. The graphics seemed more impressive on the Sega, but Mario was more fun. I thought about it awhile, and got the NES, and didn't regret it.

A year or two later i got a Master System as well since they'd gotten cheap, and a few games for it as well. However every time i had the chance to get a new game, there was almost always something for the NES that outweighed anything i was contemplating for the Sega. The Master System ended up getting stuck in a corner and got pulled out for a brief period ever six months or so once it got moved into my bedroom.

I'm glad to say that for the most part i've managed to stick with making decisions based on the quality of the games (PS2, GameCube) rather than purportedly superior graphics but only one or two games worth playing (XBox, with Halo and Panzer Dragoon)

Although i wonder if i'd be any different today if i'd grown up with Phantasy Star and Sonic and um, wrestling games? rather than Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior.

Re:Same choice, different answer (2, Insightful)

lidocaineus (661282) | more than 11 years ago | (#6474430)

Well, no offense, but if you think the only two games worth playing on the Xbox are Halo and PD, you're not really making decisions based on quality only, are you? You'd be purchasing the Xbox as well, because most players that are quality-only types (like me) will get every system out there, especially when you can only get things like JSRF, Gunvalkyrie, and Toe Jam & Earl 3 on the Xbox. Maybe you should go back and pick up a Saturn too, as well as a PC-Engine and TurboDuo?

You wouldn't be any different if you had grown up with PS and Sonic; you'd still like quality. Well, supposedly quality, you seem to be more of the 'quality-with-blinders' type.

Re:Same choice, different answer (2, Insightful)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 11 years ago | (#6475234)

Maybe you should go back and pick up a Saturn too, as well as a PC-Engine and TurboDuo?

Toe Jam & Earl 3 just looks strange, not something i'd be inclined to pick up unless someone i knew recomended it to me and explained why. Gunvalkyrie looks potentially interesting. Something i'd possibly get if i bought the system, but not something that would make it worth buying the system on it's own. As for JSRF, i still haven't managed to find time to play JSR on my Dreamcast.

Which gets straight to the heart of the issue. I have limited resources that i can devote towards gaming. I've only got so much money, and i've only got so much time. As such, i need to make choices about which consoles i buy and which games i get for them. Ever since i got out of college i've been falling progressively farther and farther behind the point i'd like to be, and keep having to be more and more critical of which games i get.

I'll admit i have biases, especially where Microsoft is concerned. Back when i was a Nintendo fanboy (although you'll note that even then i had a Sega system, i just found about ten times as many Nintendo games as Sega games that interested me) i resisted getting a Playstation for quite awhile. Partly as a matter of loyalty, even more so as a matter of not having much spare cash. Eventually however Playstation started coming out with titles i couldn't resist, culminating in FF7, so i went ahead and found a used PSX and bought that.

Microsoft however is facing a tougher task. There are well defined and consistent reasons why i dislike them. For all that Sony and Nintendo have tried to form their own monopolies, Microsoft has been far more sucessful in doing so, and has affected my life far more negatively. Even so, if they came out with enough good games to justify an XBox purchase purely in terms of money and time investment, then i would face a moral quandry about whether my philisophical objections to Microsoft outweighed my desire to play good games, and if such an event occured, i'm not entirely sure what i would decide.

However i was talking to one of my coworkers yesterday about the XBox because he has one and has quite a collection of games, and he was having trouble coming up with any suggestions that would make buying an XBox worthwhile. He had a couple suggestions which i looked at the time, but they weren't that appealing. Not enough to force a moral quandry on me. The two that really stood out were Halo and Panzer Dragoon Sage.

My main interests are RPGs and strategy games, and adventure and puzzle games as they strike my interest. I'm really not enamoured of FPS games however. I picked up HalfLife beause of the SF theme but never finished it because i'm just not very into FPS games. Yes it's high quality, but as we've already established that there are more games than i have time to play, why not play the high quality games in the genre's that interest me most? And that is the biggest strike against Halo. Panzer Dragoon Orta along with a few other games i'm half interested in playing isn't going to make me compromise my morals.

Yes, the XBox has a few quality games on it, but not enough to make the purchase cost effective when you consider that i'd have to skip over an equal number of quality titles on GameCube and PS2 to play them and in doing so deal with a company whose buisness practices i disagree with.

You wouldn't be any different if you had grown up with PS and Sonic; you'd still like quality. Well, supposedly quality, you seem to be more of the 'quality-with-blinders' type.

I'm up to my ears in PS2 games, GameCube games, old PSX games i still need to finish (currently about halfway through FF_9_ for gods' sake) Gameboy Advance games, and i've got emulators for NES and SNES and roms of the better games from back in those days. (Most of which i own the original cartridges for or were never released in America, and the rest I'm buying as they get rereleased on GBA, so i don't feel particularly guilty about "pirating" the games)

Sure, i could spend the money to get older hardware and games, or take the time to track down and install emulators for them if i didn't mind feeling a little guilty about that. But why bother? I've already got more games that i know what to do with, and a lot of the better games for those systems are being ported over to GBA or other systems anyways. Who knows when i'll get the play the Phantasy Star Collection GBA game i as a birthday present a few months back.

So no, i don't think it's 'quality-with-blinders' i'm intersted in, it's quality with concesions to the constraits of reality, at least as they apply to an average middle class american. If you have limited cash to spend on consoles, the best quality for your dollar would come from purchasing, well, the PSX and SNES actually. But in terms of modern systems, the PS2 and GameCube. Even with moral issues aside, the XBox is just not as good of a bargain. Maybe you're independently wealthy and can afford all the consoles and all the games and spend all day sitting around playing them as much as you want, but the rest of us aren't so lucky.

And personally i prefer to view video games at least partly as art and storytelling. The question was not about whether my views on qluality games would be different, but on what changes there might have been to my personality and philosophies if i had grown up with a different set of stories than the one i did. I don't think the particular video games i played as a child influenced me as much as my parents or the books i choose to read for example, but to believe that they had zero impact whatsoever seems naive to me.

Re:Same choice, different answer (1)

mink (266117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6490159)

PC-Engine and Turbo Duo are like the SNES and the Super Famicom. Same basic unit.
Only some minor phisical incompatability on the cardslot, need an adaptor to play import games.

Re:Same choice, different answer (1)

lidocaineus (661282) | more than 11 years ago | (#6493263)

I dunno about you, but my PC-Engine is missing something my Turbo Duo has in a big way...

a super-cd system 3 drive (yes, you can get the cd-rom attachment, but it's like saying a genesis and sega-cd are the same thing).

Come on kids! (3, Funny)

rylin (688457) | more than 11 years ago | (#6470769)

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, START!

*Cheat enabled: First Post*
/me hides

Re:Come on kids! (2, Interesting)

lightspawn (155347) | more than 11 years ago | (#6471949)

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, START! ... SELECT, START! That takes care of player 2 too - unless you've always played alone.

Re:Come on kids! (2, Funny)

rylin (688457) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472063)

... I had a Nintendo.. why would I need any other friends? :P

Re:Come on kids! (2, Funny)

lightspawn (155347) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472260)

I had a Nintendo.. why would I need any other friends? :P

Contra?

For Fuck's Sake! (1)

Schezar (249629) | more than 11 years ago | (#6473874)

This EXACT conversation happened the last time Nintendo was in a thread.

Goddamn geeks!

(Not that I didn't make the SELECT == Friends arguement in that last article...)

Re:Goddamn geeks! (1)

lightspawn (155347) | more than 11 years ago | (#6474560)

This EXACT conversation happened the last time Nintendo was in a thread.

Goddamn geeks!


Yes, I know.. but last time it was moderated funny, so I figured easy karma. Me, I had a Sinclair Spectrum back then, and for most cheats, you had to insert a POKE command between loading and executing, or use one of those handy edit-memory-in-real-time devices.

ah... famicon (5, Funny)

chadamir (665725) | more than 11 years ago | (#6470773)

that means it was 20 years ago today that the first cartridge had to be blown in and shook around as not to give that flashing blue screen when you power on!

Re:ah... famicon (5, Insightful)

Decaffeinated Jedi (648571) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472307)

Here's the big question: what kid was the first to pioneer that technique? Every kid in America (and, I'd assume, Japan) somehow knew that blowing into the cartridge and shaking it around would magically make it work. Where did this knowledge come from? Or was it just instinct?

"Cartridge no work! Me shake now!"

My best friend's NES eventually deteriorated to the point that he had to cram a pencil into the deck to keep the cartridges from popping up. Can you imagine the consumer outrage if one of the modern consoles had these kinds of problems? I guess we were willing to tolerate a little more way back when.

DecafJedi

Re:ah... famicon (2, Insightful)

theNote (319197) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472506)

Ahh, the pre internet days.
If the internet had been, and people really knew how bad the problems were, there would have been an outcry.

Another interesting question is how did cheats make it around?
Things like the contra 30 lives cheat.
I remember the kid who showed me, but who showed it to him?

Those were the good old days.
Now all you have to do is log on and you can get a list of cheats usually even before the game hits the shelves.

Re:ah... famicon (3, Funny)

Decaffeinated Jedi (648571) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472942)

Another interesting question is how did cheats make it around?
Things like the contra 30 lives cheat.
I remember the kid who showed me, but who showed it to him?
I'd imagine that most of the cheats got out to the public through Nintendo Power. After all, everyone knew someone with a subscription to the magazine. I can't imagine Nintendo bothered to publish a how-to on the old "shake and blow" technique of overcoming the limitations of their flimsy hardware in Nintendo Power, though.

Did I just use the phrase "the old shake and blow?" Sigh...

DecafJedi

Re:ah... famicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6472590)

Interestingly, the Japanese famicom was tiny compared to the NES, and the cartridges were loaded like the SNES/Super Famicom, and N64. So there weren't any problems with broken bits of plastic making the cartridge pop up. I wonder why they made the decision to make the American systems so big, blocky, and weirdly designed.

Re:ah... famicon (1)

mink (266117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6490193)

". I wonder why they made the decision to make the American systems so big, blocky, and weirdly designed."

I think you answered your own question.

Re:ah... famicon (1)

jpsst34 (582349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472860)

Before anyone in my neighborhood got their Nintendos I had a 2600. We blew on those cartridges, too. Also, they had these two little spring loaded prongs that had some mechinical significance to the insertion of the cartridge. Anyway, I was convinced that if you pushed those prongs in a couple of times it did something to clean the cirucuits on the inside of the cartrige.

River Raid needed to be prong-cleaned every time I wanted to play it. Adventure [homestarrunner.com] always worked. That's a damn shame since I remember having a dream where that freakin' duck chased me to my grandma's house and bit my ear. I woke up and had an earache and wanted to sleep with my parents.

Re:ah... famicon (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 11 years ago | (#6473482)

I remember my father used to blow in the 2600 cartridges when I told him the thing wasn't working, so I guess I picked it up from him. Of course, after years of blowing in the 2600 and NES cartridges, I learned that you really shouldn't do that, due to the moisture that ends up on the cartridge.

Bleh, anyway, at least the Atari still worked long after the NES need all kinds of weird tricks to load a cartridge (careful alignment of the cartridge so that it was in the console as little as possible while still being able to go down seemed to work best).

Re:ah... famicon (1)

Allison Geode (598914) | more than 11 years ago | (#6474210)

modern consoles not working? you've never used a first-generation playstation, have you? the PSX required you tip the thing upside down to get it to read discs! and if I recall, the first ps2's had some kind of issues, as well... and first-generation x-boxes scratched discs..... the only company that makes products that work as advertised without issue anymore is nintendo. on top of that, my NES still functions: yes, I do mean the NES I got for christmas way back in 1987. granted, connectors must be blown, but the machine is in one piece. and I knew a friend who somehow managed to drop their SNES out of a second story window... the plastic shell has a couple cracks, and part of it is smashed off, but the system still works. Nintendo builds stuff to last.

Re:ah... famicon (1)

PK_ERTW (538588) | more than 11 years ago | (#6474549)

I had a nintendo that a bunch of us that lived together all pooled our games together for. We had scores of them, and surprisingly enough, the nintendo got a lot of play time (even though there were many newer systems there).

The thing did deteriorate but still works. To get a game working now requires my favorite technique I have seen. After putting the first cartidge in and pressing it down, you cram a second cartidge into the slot. Works just about every time. It is fairly easy to figure out why this works, but the general humour of having to stick 2 games into the system to make it work puts a smile on my face.

PK

Re:ah... famicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6481477)

Of course the correct thing to do is run a pencil eraser along the oxidized contacts in the cart. Worked like a charm every time.

article lacks importance of famicom (4, Insightful)

nsda's_deviant (602648) | more than 11 years ago | (#6470882)

the article lacks the details of how great nintendo became because of famicom and how the famicom reinvented the game marketplace forever. Atari crashed the industry, Nintendo brought it back, Sega dented the industry, Sony dominated the industry and Microsoft is making the industry better (more competition is better). wether nintendo ever becomes the titan again will be questionable, now only if gamespy did an article about celebrating Nintendo creations. I always hope Nintendo will be remembered for their devotion to creating exceptional games, and creative applicaitons to games that no one ever pieced together (Zelda, the original Mario, evolution of Mario: raccoon mario!, Metroid) ... just my thoughts

Re:article lacks importance of famicom (1)

drivers (45076) | more than 11 years ago | (#6473479)

Did you read the same article I did? Actually I'm only on page 25 out of 27 (been reading it all freakin day almost) and it definitely covered how it rescued the video game industry.

Re:article lacks importance of famicom (2, Informative)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 11 years ago | (#6473524)

the article lacks the details of how great nintendo became because of famicom and how the famicom reinvented the game marketplace forever. Atari crashed the industry, Nintendo brought it back, Sega dented the industry, Sony dominated the industry and Microsoft is making the industry better (more competition is better).

Actually, if you continue reading the series of articles, you get to that point. However, the Famicom really didn't do those things, because Atari didn't crash the industry in Japan. The NES did those things, because it was released in America and had to deal with these factors in the American market (and had some specific hardware to address that, such as the chip that prevented unlicensed games from playing, which didn't exist in the Famicom). The article on the US NES hardware does address this to some degree, though obviously doesn't go into the Sony and Microsoft portions because it's about the Famicom/NES, not the Super Famicom/SNES, N64, or GameCube.

wether nintendo ever becomes the titan again will be questionable, now only if gamespy did an article about celebrating Nintendo creations. I always hope Nintendo will be remembered for their devotion to creating exceptional games, and creative applicaitons to games that no one ever pieced together (Zelda, the original Mario, evolution of Mario: raccoon mario!, Metroid) ... just my thoughts

Umm, the second half of the series is about the games, including Mario, Zelda, Metroid, etc.

NES games ported to SNES (3, Interesting)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 11 years ago | (#6471285)

I stopped playing the NES with Super mario world was ported to the SNES. My kids love the older Mario multiplayer games more than the Xbox/Ps2. Fun to watch them play the same games you did at their age. Also fun to kick their asses and put those young whipper snappers in their place. ;)

Multiplayer Mario just keeps the older consoles alive, even with new GFX, mario world is just simple fun for both boys and girls. Nintendo never did reach that same level of non-gender fun for newer consoles. (IMHO)

I'm not saying the new console games arent fun, but they are mostly single player, or gender biased games. Mario party was a good try, but something seems missing.

Wonder how many hours people spent building excitebike tracks, and having friends race them. Seemed to be a popular thing at pizza parties.

Re:NES games ported to SNES (1)

jpsst34 (582349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6471426)

BEEP BEEP BEEP boop
WHIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEE
whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrWHIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEE
whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrWHIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEE

Excitebike was great. But one thing that I really loved was Super Mario Kart on SNES. I didn't have an SNES, and never played any other games than that one, but I remember having sleepover's at Steve-Dave's house and playing that game all night and eating chocolate covered pretzels. We called it "Naked-Robber," but most people know it as Super Mario Kart.

Re:NES games ported to SNES (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6472010)

Excitebike was great. But one thing that I really loved was Super Mario Kart on SNES. I didn't have an SNES, and never played any other games than that one, but I remember having sleepover's at Steve-Dave's house and playing that game all night and eating chocolate covered pretzels. We called it "Naked-Robber," but most people know it as Super Mario Kart.
What the fuck?

Re:NES games ported to SNES (1)

jpsst34 (582349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472798)

Like so much on this board, either you get the references or you don't.

Ahh the Famicom (2, Interesting)

Monkeylaser (674360) | more than 11 years ago | (#6471583)

I actually played the Japanese Famicom a few years back the house of a friend of mine who was Korean.

It was pretty neat to play all the cool games years before they came out in the american Market, all bowderlized and generally edited to nothing.

Super contra was same damn good times. Another interesting part about the Famicom was how many bootleg games were made for it. We all know about the infamous black box tengen game series for the NES, but the Famicom had TONS of illegitimate carts for it.

Check out "Game Over" for a great history... (4, Interesting)

Hollinger (16202) | more than 11 years ago | (#6471603)

Go check out the book Game Over [amazon.com] by David Sheff. I'm an avid Nintendo fan (ever since my original NES). I found a 2nd hand copy in a bookstore, and must say it's one of the best looks into the history of the company, the people behind the company, and the games themselves. I'd highly recommend finding a copy on eBay or Half.com or (if you actually leave your computer) at a 2nd hand bookstore.

The riveting story of Nintendo's conquest of the interactive entertainment industry offering true tales filled with cocky arrogance, confidence and international intrigue that rival any novel. Whether it is recounting the struggles over the game"Tetris," offering blow-by-blow narrative of Nintendo's bitter legal warfare or its see-saw competition with other companies for market leadership, Game Over is a masterful piece of business journalism and technical reportage - a book both cautionary and hugely entertaining.

Sega (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6472158)

Nintendo should go the way of Sega and focus on making great games. Never happen of course but they should.

M.D. Inc.

Re:Sega (0)

sofakingl (690140) | more than 11 years ago | (#6475666)

The lack of competition for 1st parties would hurt the industry. Besides, Nintendo tends to be quite innovative in their hardware.

Re:Sega (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6490224)

Nintendo is doing that and at the same time not leaving the hardware scene.

Happy Birthday (2)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 11 years ago | (#6472236)

Just wanted to wish the Famicom a happy birthday. I blistered many a thumb on mine.

So long and thanks for all the carpal tunnel synd. (1)

I am Emmitt Smith (632062) | more than 11 years ago | (#6474121)

Thanks for the carpal tunnel syndrome Famicon! I never could have gotten it without you.
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