SUPER Nintendon’t Do Me Like That!
Updated: Feb 7
Welcome, Leaguelettes– to another not-so-highly anticipated entry in our TWO month long campaign on console gaming at large.
And as always sometimes, I: The Chairman, shall be your host!
Now, I realize it’s been a bit since you’ve all heard from me– but I assure you, the reasons for this are good. Not that I have any plans on sharing with the lot of you…just yet.
But soon! Soon you shall see the fruits of my labor. All…covered in embryonic fluids and what not… birthed straight from the recesses of my womb-like mind!
Aroused yet? I know I am…
Anyways– let’s waste no more time, and get straight to business, shall we?
The Super-est of Nintendo’s
Thats right, folks. I don’t even know what an editor IS.
Now then, stepping into our way-back machines– let us set our combobulators and whatsis’ dials to the year 1990. Better known to us gamers as: the 16-bit era.
Ahh the glory days. This was a particularly impactful time in the life of a young Chairman.. I was finally old enough to start forming solid memories. And most of them were of Super Mario World, Final Fantasy IV and yes…even Cool Spot to name a few.
In short– it was the dawn of the Super Famicom (SNES for us gaijin~), and the world would never be the same.
Two heads, one Hydra, yet again
It was late November of that fated year, that Nintendo would release it’s new console to the world. Though we in the states wouldn’t see it til August, a year later. Now, by this point, SEGA had already been two years deep into 16-bit tech with their Genesis console.
Despite this, the Super Famicom boasted better visuals and audio quality than it’s rival. Why? Well, to answer that– let’s engage in one of my favorite activities: Electronic Spelunking!
Under the Hood
First things first–
When I begun my research on the specs of the SNES, I’d noticed quite a few interesting bits… For instance– the main processor for the console; a Ricoh 5A22, was clocked nominally at 3.58 MHz– capable of slowing down to 2.68 or 1.79 MHz to access slower peripherals.
Meanwhile– the SEGA Genesis boasted a Motorola 68000 CPU clocked at 7.6 MHz.
Now, one may normally assume that the obvious gap in power would deem the Genesis a superior machine. So what made the SNES ‘better’?
Concerning RAM, the SNES contained 128KiB of general use RAM, 64 KiB of SRAM for video data, and an additional 64KiB of SRAM for audio.. KiB mind you– is NOT Kilobyte (1000 bytes), but Kibibyte (1024 bytes).
Anyway– the Genesis? 72kb (Actual Kilobytes) of general RAM, and 64kb of V-Ram.
Far less than that of the SNES. But what does that actually equate to? What does the extra RAM account for? I’m glad I asked..
The Genesis was capable of displaying 61 colors at once, from a palette of 512.
Except that the SNES was displaying 512 colors from a palette of– hold on to your seats, friends.. 32,768 colors. This sort of color depth matched with the additional power offered by a far greater array of audio effects/voices granted the SNES a massive advantage in quality over it’s competitors.
And it doesn’t stop there…
Over the Hood
While the power of the SNES in and of itself is impressive– it was also expandable. Nintendo knew that their processor was underpowered in contrast to competitors; infact, this was by design.
They figured that an expensive, powerful processor would end up becoming obsolete very quickly. And so– they opted to allow the actual game cartridges to boast the extra power for them.
Additional processor and ram chips were featured in some game packs that enhanced the overall power and functionality of the SNES, without the need for modifying the console itself.
One of the more well known of these on-the-spot upgrades was the Super FX RISC CPU. It was designed specifically to do things the base SNES processor could not possibly handle– and delivered the first 3D, polygon based graphics to games such as Star Fox.
Somewhere Around the Hood
Now that I’ve successfully bored the weaker of you with the technical nonsense– let’s delve into something more fun. Peripherals!
Almost every console to exist had them. The SNES was no different– save for the fact that it boasts some of my favorite of all time.
The Super Scope
Because the NES Zapper wasn’t bazooka enough
In 1992, Nintendo released this light-gun peripheral to North America and PAL region Europe– which was odd considering Japan itself would not see it until a year later.
Instead of relying on CRT light signals the same way the NES Zapper had, the Super Scope came with a receiver unit that connected to the second controller port of the system itself.
This would track your shots for you, and proved much more accurate than the NES Zapper had been.
Unfortunately, only a handful of games were ever made compatible for it, my favorite being the actual software the Super Scope camed bundled with; Super Scope 6.
Nintendo still shows love for this device though– as it’s a featured battle item in the Super Smash Bros. franchise.
The Super NES Mouse
AND mousepad, thank you very much
Originally designed for use with Mario Paint, the mouse peripheral ended up being supported by quite a few titles. Far more infact, than that of the Super Scope, though there’s not much else to say about it.
The Super Multi-Tap
Designed by Hudson Soft, primarily for use with Bomberman games– this device allowed up to four players at once. Not many (if any) other titles supported this device.
The Super Game Boy
This badboy does exactly what it’s name suggests. It superfies your Game Boy games. Plugging your Game Boy game into the open slot at the top of the cartridge allowed you to then play them on your SNES console, RIGHT on your TV.
The device also added a moderate amount of color to your games, which you were able to modify the base palette of with the in-game menu settings.
By far my favorite peripheral– and I’ve never even gotten to see one in person.
What makes it so special? Well– the Satellaview is a SATELLITE modem! Thats right, kids– the SNES used to have the ability to receive various satellite broadcasts which included radio and even live streaming games!
One of the most notable of these games being the ‘BS Zelda no Densetsu’ series of games which featrured live narration and live multi-play events.
Truly a device ahead of it’s time. Unfortunately– that would serve as it’s ultimate downfall. The price of the Satellaview, matched with that of the streaming service– and the lack of attention it received, would all culminate in the form of a short, five year lifespan for the device.
Still revolutionary, in my opinion…
In the end, it’s easy to see why the Super Nintendo came out on top of the early 90’s console wars. The impact the it had on gaming is felt even today, especially in the bowels of my memories.
In yours as well, I’d wager.
Join me next time, when I’ll be addressing the N64, and remember to keep your eyes and ears open for more goodies from the League.
Also– while I’m addressing you directly, I’d like to ask for some conversation on the topic.. Perhaps you’re a SEGA fanboy who would like to show me what for? I’d love to hear from you~
Until next time, kiddies…