Famicom Turns 30
Thirty years ago, video gaming was a rather different beast. After seeing quite a surge in popularity during the 70′s and 80′s, video games hit a rough patch. In fact in 1983 companies such as Atari were feeling the pinch after the North American video game crash. People thought that the era of video games was coming to an end – a fad, which had served its time. However a Japanese company had a different idea…
Its 1983 and Nintendo are finding success as a third party developer, porting arcade titles such as Donkey Kong to various consoles including the ColecoVision. However they had bigger ideas and on July 15th they launched the Famicom in Japan! Nintendo’s first console hit the shelves; an 8bit console using interchangeable cartridges. What a crazy idea, eh!
Initial sales were slow, and Nintendo soon realised that quite a few of the consoles had a faulty chip. These were recalled however and once the issue had been addressed, Nintendo seemed to have a change of fate. The Famicom took off and became the best selling console in Japan – boosted by their success, Nintendo soon looked at the rest of the world and the NES was launched.
The Famicom was designed by Masayuki Uemura, and looked rather different to our beloved NES. It was cream with a dark red border. It’s cartridge slot was at the top of the console. Also the cartridges were around half the size. Nintendo wanted to make a difference and decided to to implement a lock-out system on their console. This stopped unlicensed software from being able to run on the system. Nintendo wanted quality and with this new system they were able for the first time to enforce strict licensing standards. A brave move, yet a lot of people considered poor quality titles on offer to be the main cause of the crash in 1983.
Of course more importantly, Nintendo and various other developers gave us some sublime titles to while away the wee hours. They also gave us some of the most famous video game characters – some that are still around today! A rather famous plumber had hist first adventure in the mushroom kingdom, setting a precedence in the platforming genre that has rarely been bettered. We were also introduced to Samus and a cool little guy called Link. It was the beginning of a new era and was something very special!
Other developers began to flock to the system, and not being content with that Nintendo also gave us some rather cool peripherals. Who remembers the NES Zapper? The cool light gun that made games such as Duck Hunt – legends in their time. Whilst I’m on the subject did anyone else have massive arguments with siblings as they walked up as close to the TV as possible, waving the light gun for some easy points?
There were other peripherals, however, that didn’t quite hit the mark yet showed some real innovation, especially for their time. Remember the power glove? An innovative controller allowing you to manipulate your game with a wave of your hand. Alas the dream wasn’t that great, with it proving about as much use a chocolate teapot! Then we had R.O.B… I always wanted R.O.B – he looked so cool; a robotic buddy to play games with. Way ahead of its time, it only ever worked with a couple of games.
The Famicom changed the industry, a much needed light at the end of the trouble. Standing up to the test of time, even today playing the old games brings a smile to your face, allowing you to get lost in a plethora of 8bit goodness. The Famicom is 30 years young today, and has given me memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Well done Nintendo, and happy birthday Famicom!