Hello, and welcome to Flashback Friday! Today we will be discussing one of the most recognizable consoles of all time, The Nintendo Entertainment System/Nintendo Famicom. This console put Nintendo on the map as a serious hardware manufacturer as well as helped revitalize the United States video game market after the crash of 1983 (See Flashback Friday: Atari 2600 for more details). This console also introduced us to
one of the biggest franchises of all time: The Super Mario Bros series.
During the early 1980’s Nintendo was rising in popularity in the arcades and decided they wanted to create a cartridge-based home console known as the Family Computer, then shortened to Famicom. This console would then become known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the United States. Originally the Famicom was tested with cartridges the size of Cassette tapes but ended up being quite larger. The controllers, on the other hand, were designed almost identical to those of the Game and Watches, but the original plan was for the controller to feature an arcade style joystick. I was later decided against featuring a joystick for fear of children stepping on them when they were laid down as well as the durability of the joystick. On July 15th, 1983 the Famicom was released in Japan along with 3 ports of their most popular arcade games: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye. At release, the Famicom was met with a lot of criticisms because of a bad chipset and eventually had to be recalled in order for the chip to be replaced, after the recall and re-release of the console the popularity of it rose to new heights. Nintendo then set their sights on a new market: The United States.
After the success of the Famicom in Japan, Nintendo contacted Atari to discuss releasing a version of Famicom in America known simply as, Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System. The deal was to be finalized in the summer of 1983 but reached a standstill after Nintendo’s Donkey Kong was displayed on Atari’s competitors Coleco’s new console, after this, all discussions between the two ceased and Nintendo decided they would distribute the console on their own. This would happen on October 18th 1985 when the Nintendo Entertainment System was launched in North America along with 17 launch titles which were: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Pinball, Soccer, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew, and Super Mario Bros. Several of these games were simply Famicom chips with a built-in adapter for play on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This can be seen in Gyromite and Stack-Up which displays their Famicom names: Robot Gyro and Robot Block respectively.
This console would help revitalize the American gaming market after the crash two years’ prior. Nintendo knew of the fast drop in sales previously and decided they would make their own “seal of approval” in which all hopeful video game manufacturers would need to opt for Nintendo’s permission before releasing their games to the public which were the first real quality control seen in the video game market. Unlike it Japanese brother the Famicom, the Nintendo Entertainment System was marketed heavily towards children and had a rather large censorship of things such as blood and profanity. This can be seen later in games such as Mortal Kombat (SNES) in which the blood was replaced with a green slime.
As stated in all of the Flashback Friday articles a console is only as good as its games and this one is no different, with so many iconic franchises homaging their roots to the Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom it is no wonder that this console helped put Nintendo on the console map. Some of my favorites just to name a few would definitely have to be the Super Mario series, the Legend of Zelda series, as well as other iconic games such as Final Fantasy. There were games on this console for almost every walk of life and could be picked up and played by almost anyone no matter their age. You also had ports of other popular arcade titles such as Pac-man which helped Nintendo simply due to the fact they had several already established franchises on their console.
In my opinion, this console was a major factor in the way we enjoy games now. Without things such as quality control, the amount, and content of games could be as short as the creator wanted as well as buggy and would have the same marketing as a very high-quality game. If you have never experienced this console before Nintendo have announced that in time for Holiday 2016 they will be releasing an all in one console that will include 30 original NES games built in. This console will maintain the same design as the original Nintendo Entertainment System but will be much smaller as well as not feature interchangeable cartridges. I would suggest any video game fan to go and pick one of these up upon release!