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Useful Notes / Nintendo Entertainment System
aka: Famicom

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The North American NES-001
Click here to see the NES- 101 toploader. The Japanese Famicom with Famicom Disk System and RAM Adapter
Click here to see the AV Famicom. 

"Now you're playing with power."

The system that brought video game consoles back from The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 in North America (they were pretty healthy elsewhere) and ushered in The 8-Bit Era. Known internationally as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), in Japanese as the Family Computer (commonly abbreviated as the "Famicom") and in South Korea as Hyundai Comboy (현대 컴보이) made by Hynix with unlicensed clones made in Eastern Europe, India, the Middle East and in China (most notably the Dendy in Russia, although many in Asia are also familiar with clones sold under the brand Micro Genius), it was the console that brought in the oldest and longest lasting competitor in the Console Wars, Nintendo. It also served as the initial console for many of gaming's oldest franchises, introduced the modern third-party licensing model for video games, and set the standards in control pads for consoles. It is still very much an icon of video games (less so the redesigned variant).


To a casual observer, the graphics for the NES may be seen as "blocky". This is because every graphical element generated by the system is made up of 8x8 pixel blocks known as tiles. The reason all NES games are tile-based is because that's what the NES hardware does; the graphics system is a separate processor that has its own memory space for palettes and images. It only understands tiles, tilemaps, and sprites, and it implements them directly in the video output hardware. While this imposed limitations on developers that even Atari 2600 games didn't have to suffer under, it also freed them from having to deal with the minutiae of graphics. Yes, you could only do tile-based graphics with sprites, but at least they were good tile-based graphics.

While the NES-001 is an iconic part of video game history, it's pretty badly designed. While the Japanese version (HVC-001) is a remarkably solid piece of engineering that often continues to work over 25 years later, the American release (handled by Nintendo of America) was rather sloppily redesigned to distance itself from pre-Crash consoles due to many vendors refusing to stock anything even remotely resembling the console, fearing that they wouldn't sell.


So what was wrong with the NES-001? Well...

  • NoA's industrial designers made the console look like a VCR, adopting a VCR-like front-loading cartridge due to a combination of wanting to make the system look as little like a game console as possible and a desire to avoid players in drier areas of the America from accidentally shocking themselves and possibly damaging the system (as the original top-loading Famicom had a direct connection between the cartridge slot — which could very easily be touched on accident because of how close to the outside edge it was — and motherboard, compared to the front-loader's more roundabout circuitry and less accessible connector pins in the cartridge slot). Due to expenses, a "zero insertion force" mechanism was used (put a cart in, fix it with a lever) but said mechanism ended up putting great force on the pins in both cart and connector, bending them slightly more with each insertion and shoving the ROM board back into the cartridge.
  • This was further compounded by using rather substandard materials for the connector and its frame, making it susceptible to bending. With each cartridge insertion, the cheaply-made pins and frame were bent more and more until no contact could be established. The fact that the pins were simple, ungilded copper and tarnished easily at exposure to moisture didn't help, and only intensified when NoA blamed dirty cartridges... which led to the classic tactic of blowing into the system and/or games, which actually just exacerbated the situation by throwing more moisture onto the pins from the water vapor carried in one's breath.
  • The infamous 10NES lockout chip, required for all NES cartridges. While intended to keep unlicensed games from being used, the fact that it required a constant connection meant that constant usage of the system made it block even the licensed titles (hence why the system occasionally resets once per second). The Famicom didn't have this problem because it had no lockout chip or any contact problems in the first place, all due to being a traditional top-loader.
  • Despite being given a slot with more pins than the original Famicom when the original pins for the co-processor is now connected to the 10NES, the extra pins ended being only for show and not really connected to anything, rendering it impossible to include co-processors on a cartridge, a function that is usually used to expand the audio capabilities of the original Famicom (as was the case with the Japanese version of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, which made use of a special mapper). note 
  • The removal of the Mic on controller 2 and removal of the DB15 peripheral port. This meant that the NES was incompatible with many hardware peripherals released for the Famicom, and added the burden of necessitating the swapping of Zapper and controller 2 should the player wish to play a Zapper game (the Japanese Zapper always connected to the DB15 expansion port. As a nice side effect, it is possible to use both controllers to control both ducks in two-duck mode in Duck Hunt). The removal of the mic also meant that several novel features in games (like defeating the Pols Voice monster in The Legend of Zelda by screaming into the microphone proper) had to be changed for the American release.

This wasn't to say the Famicom also didn't suffer from it's own share of issues and design flaws:

  • The launch model of the Famicom had controllers with square buttons made of a very, very soft rubber, not unlike cashier machines or the ZX Spectrum, which deteriorated very quickly with use. It's not uncommon to find these models in the used markets with an A button, a B button, or both missing. Nintendo rectified this with the second revision, which made the buttons hard plastic with a soft membrane underneath to make physical contact with the board; this style remains the industry standard to this day.
  • The controller cables' length are infamously short, at just under 2 foot in length. Extending them required opening the system, cutting the cables and soldering them up to extensions. It wasn't an issue at the time with how small on average Japanese homes and apartments are, but became an issue for those wishing to import one. Third party controllers made by Hudson Soft, Hori and others offered longer cables and extras like turbo functions, but some games won't work with expansion port based controllers.
  • The system only launched with RF out, for the widest possible compatibility with TVs at the time, but as the years went by, RF was quickly being replaced by RCA composite or RGB SCART, making the Famicom increasingly cumbersome to set up on more modern TVs and near-impossible outside of Japan without extensive modding to add composite or RGB out, largely due to how the Japanese VHF frequency range is completely different from the stock NTSC VHF frequency range. It wouldn't be until a decade later, and 6 years after the NES, the Famicom would receive a redesign with RCA composite out as the AV Famicom.
  • The Famicom Disk System is prone to failure over time, due to the soft rubber belt used to drive the mechanism rotting away or outright melting from heat generated by the system. Replacements are somewhat easy to come by, but cleaning the old belt out of the clunky drive can be a long, arduous process.
  • Further compounding that issue is the Famicom Disks themselves have no protection for the magnetic film inside their casing outside of rare, special blue or gold disks (typically used for national contests and prizes such as US Golf or Famicom Grand Prix 2: Hot Rally 3D), which came with guards to protect it like you would see on a standard floppy disk. Because of this, standard disks are far more vulnerable to dust and sudden temperature changes than conventional 3.5" floppies. FDS games were shipped with thick plastic cases and a slip of wax based paper to store them, but it's not uncommon to find disks with the infamous Error 22, which means their contents are damaged or forever destroyed.
  • Additionally, the disks themselves were laughably easy to pirate. The format was based off the Mitsumi Quick Disk format with some custom software changes. The drive checks for a series of imprints inside the "NINTENDO" molding pressed on each disk as the only form of protection; this could be easily fooled with self made notches into store-bought disks with deliberate spelling mistakes to bypass any trademark issues. Because Quick Disks were also much shorter than FDS disks, it was also possible to simply buy a Quick Disk and attach a plastic frame with a few holes in the right areas and achieve the same effect. Bootlegs of earlier and some later made Famicom games converted to the FDS would start showing up on the market alongside unlicensed games; also around were disk copiers (allowing you to chain two Disk Systems together to copy disks from one to another with a blank disk), cables to copy games from a PC to the system's RAM adapter and even homebrew tools and hacks like "Tonkachi Mario" (which was effectively the Ur-Example of console ROM hacking and predated the likes of Lunar Magic for Super Mario World by a decade!). Later games added anti piracy routines to attempt to thwart this, but ultimately failed to deter hackers and pirates until the FDS was discontinued in 1990, by which point games had become too big, complex or used additional hardware the FDS could not replicate or store. The effects of this would cause Nintendo to be cautious of non-cartridge media until the Nintendo GameCube, and in hindsight is credited with promoting the company's infamously draconian approach to IP protection.

In 1989, Sharp made a television with a built-in NES known as the Sharp "Game Television" or "My Computer TV C1" alongside the Sharp Twin Famicom (which combined the base Famicom hardware and the Famicom Disk System into one unit with composite RCA output; the later AN-505 "Twin Turbo" model added a power LED, slightly longer controller cables and was the only official NES/Famicom console with turbo controllers built in) and finally the Famicom Titler, which allowed you to use the Famicom hardware to superimpose rudimentary subtitles on VHS video tapes (this is the only consumer model that supports RGB output natively outside the Playchoice 10, but finding one of these units is difficult in and of itself, regularly going for over $1000). Additionally, companies like Konami actually made licensed famiclones, with licenses and patent access officially granted by Nintendo.

Why so? Well, the Big N reaped enormous profits from being the sole manufacturer of the carts for its system, and thus being able to decide what gets published, in what amount, for what price, and what the developers would have from it. Thus the Japan branch felt it safe to license out their technology to other companies, since they earn much of their income from royalties of cartridge sale and licensing. Additionally, Sharp was a major hardware partner of Nintendo, with the Game Boy being built using Sharp's LCD panels and a Sharp-developed Z80 derivative, and Famicom BASIC being developed with assistance from Sharp and Hudson Soft. Also, Konami was a major third party developer for Nintendo in Japan.

While the Japan branch was able to enforce this without resorting to technical means, the American one was wary of the Atari situation when everybody and their dog was producing carts for the Atari 2600... hence the 10NES and 72-pin cartridge, as well as the refusal of the American and European branch to license out the patents for the American and European variants of the console. But in a misguided attempt to make it easier to integrate the never-released American counterpart to the Famicom Disk System (the Japanese version used a rather convoluted hookup method that wouldn't have worked with the NES's front-loading design), NoA engineers removed two pins that connected the motherboard to the sound extension chips in the cart and rerouted them to the expansion connector on the bottom of the console, ensuring that American releases would always have inferior sound. note 

However, Nintendo of America did give Sharp the blessing of launching a North American version of the NES TV, now remade to look like a VCR-TV combo unit and dubbed the "Game Television". Sharp sold a limited number of units as a market test at Sears and Kmart in several markets in the U.S., and shortly later, market tested a revised model in a limited fashion again at the two outlets, but ultimately Sharp did not go on with a nationwide launch. Due to this nature, the TVs are considered a rarity and a must have to the most diehard Nintendo collectors.

The NES-101 (aka "NES 2"), a top-loader styled after the SNES and a bit after the original Famicom, was released in 1993 and not only used a 2-pin version of the original 60-pin connector but further lacked the 10NES chip. Despite being released in all Nintendo markets simultaneously, nobody remembers it. The last official game, a PAL-exclusive port of Virgin Interactive's The Lion King, was released in 1995, after which the console as a whole was discontinued in the west. Japan, meanwhile, produced new units until 2003, recorded sales numbers up to 2004, and continued repair support until 2008, only stopping because Nintendo of Japan finally ran out of the necessary parts and had no way to source new ones within a reasonable budget. At a whopping 20 years, two months, and ten days, the Famicom had the longest lifespan of any video game console to date.note 

The NES' cultural impact and image is more subject to transatlantic dissonance than perhaps any other major games console: in North America and Japan the respective console versions are iconic, and are The '80s for many people, whereas in Europe the system was far more obscure—especially the UK, where Nintendo made some bad decisions with their source of distributor (Mattel) that meant that the NES' very existence was considered apocryphal by many kids who first encountered Nintendo through the SNES and Game Boy. Mattel did, however, distribute the NES in Canada.

However, the NES turned out to be so impactful and well-loved by gamers that Nintendo decided to bring it back. Sorta. On July 14, 2016, Nintendo announced that they would be releasing the NES Classic Edition (known as the NES Classic Mini in Europe), a miniature Plug N Play Game console with 30 built-in games.List (exclusives in bold)  The device's only function was to play these 30 games; it was not capable of playing any game paks or connecting to the internetnote . The control deck also came bundled with one NES controller, with additional controllers being sold separately. The controller ports are also identical to those found on the Wii's Wiimote, meaning that the NES Classic Edition's controller and the Wii Classic Controller can serve as effective substitutes for each other. The Classic Edition hit store shelves on November 11, priced at $59.99; while this might seem rather expensive for a plug-and-play device, many noted that it was only around one-fifth the price of 30 actual NES game paks and around two-fifths the price of buying all of those games on the Virtual Console, and that's not even getting into the price of a regular NES nowadays (that is, assuming you're not buying the Classic Edition from any scalpers). Despite high demand through the system's life, though, Nintendo unexpectedly pulled the plug on it very early while stock problems were still abound, discontinuing it in April of 2017. It reportedly sold 2.3 million units during its short life, and secondhand units now command the prices you expect from scalpers. On September 2017, Nintendo announced that the NES Classic will return in stores at the end of June 2018.

On September 30th 2016, Nintendo of Japan revealed their own version of their 8-bit icon: the Famicom Mini. This one has all the same features as the NES Classic Edition, but features hardwired controllers and a slightly different game lineup.List (exclusives in bold)  On May 2018, Nintendo of Japan announced a special Shonen Jump edition of the Famicom Mini for the magazine's 50th anniversary, hitting the shelves on July 7. This edition features gold plating, packaging resembling an issue of the magazine and an exclusive lineup of 20 games, 19 being licensed games based on Shonen Jump manga properties and the last one being the debut installment of a video game series that had a spin-off manga running in the magazine.List (grouped by license in bold) 

Technical Specifications:


  • Central Processing Unit: The Ricoh RP2A03, a custom MOS 6502 with a few extras added on like a sound generator. It runs at 1.79 MHz, or 1.66 MHz in PAL regions.
  • The system's sprites are generated by the Picture Processing Unit, which is a lot faster. Its speed is 5.37 MHz (5.32 MHz for PAL), which allows it to lay a lot of sprites at once, and render huge backgrounds compared to the pre-crash systems.


  • The Nintendo Entertainment System had sound circuitry built into its main CPU. It was capable of generating 5 channels of sound: two (largely identical) pulse waves, with 16 volume levels, hardware sweep, and 4 duty cycle settings; one triangle wave channel; one noise channel, with 16 volume levels and 2 sequence settings; and one 7-bit delta modulation channel capable of rendering primitive samples. The delta channel was used mostly for drums and sound effects and occasionally for bass.
  • Famicom cartridges (but not NES cartridges) could have extra sound circuitry:
    • Famicom Disk System sound chip: 1 wave table.
    • MMC5: 2 extra square waves and 1 8 bit DPCM channel.
    • Sunsoft 5B: 3 square waves, really a AY-3-8910 chip built into a variant of the FME-7 mapper.
    • Namco 163: 8 wave tables, same (if not similar) chip found in many Namco arcade games (like with Mappy and The Tower of Druaga). Roughly comparable to Turbo-Grafx 16's audio and Konami's SCC and SCC+ chips' audio.
    • Konami VRC6: 2 square waves and 1 saw wave, for a example of how this chip sounds like, here's an 11 part (parts 1 to 9 and 2 encores, with some remix tracks of whole games as well) video (and on going, but the next volumes of the videos take a while) of fan made remix music tracks from Konami games useing the VRC6 chip, and it's awesome.
    • Konami VRC7: 6 FM channels, based on the YM2413.
  • The NES is capable of outputing audio in mono only. However some famiclones boast having stereo output, this is done by splitting the four internal audio channels into pairs of two- undoubtably this is only possible on (unlicensed) Clone CPUs. Either that or it’s just the mono channel repeated on two RCA jacks.


  • RAM: The NES had 2 KB (2048 bytes, 0x800 in hexadecimal) of on-board main memory, although chips on the Cartridges could expand that.
    • In fact, iNES, the de facto standard format for NES ROM images used in emulation, actually implies, by default, an extra 8 KB of expansion memory. Some cartridge circuit boards based on Nintendo's MMC1 and MMC5 chips allowed one to bank-switch the expanded RAM area, meaning one could access a whopping 32 KB of extra memory.
    • The system can read a ROM size of up to 32 KB, but like the 2600 it used bank switching (however, mappers can make the banks bigger). Cartridge sizes ranged from 16KB (Galaxian is the only one — most other games from 1983-4 are 24KB) to 1MB (Metal Slader Glory was the only such game, released in 1991, apart from multicarts and much later Chinese releases).
    • To put that into perspective, Super Mario World, a SNES launch title, was half a megabyte, or 512 KB.


  • The NES could display sprites of 8x8 or 8x16 pixels; anything larger is actually two or more sprites acting as one (Super Mario in Super Mario Bros. 3 is four sprites), or a background object made to act like a sprite (e.g., the dragon boss in Mega Man 2). The choice was global; all sprites on the screen were the same size, unless one used carefully timed code to change the setting mid-frame.
    • The picture processor can generate up to 64 sprites per screen, but no more than 8 sprites could be displayed on a single horizontal line (such as firing the machine gun in Contra) — in order to deal with this limitation, games would cycle which sprites were visible on alternating frames, resulting in the NES' infamous flickering. This was the main reason a game like Mighty Final Fight had such small sprites. It would take at least four NES sprites just to make one of the characters in the arcade size, and with so many characters on-screen it would've been impossible to make out anything properly.
    • Obviously, the NES was incapable of doing vector graphics or sprite scaling/rotation—but with clever programming and a lot of sprites, it could successfully imitate it and still run fine, such was the case with the port of Elite. The 3D Adventures of World Runner and the opening of Battletoads also convincingly imitated sprite scaling by using a large series of carefully made sprites.
    • Parallax scrolling was not a default option on the NES either, but clever programmers could imitate it and make it work, so several games took advantage of it when they got the chance. Super Mario Bros. 3 simply copied it during the sky sequences by having cloud sprites moving at different speeds from each other (most noticeable when you're falling from an airship), but some games got way more ambitious than that. Kick Master, Ninja Gaiden, Bucky O Hare, G.I. Joe, Mega Man 3 and Mega Man 6, Batman: Return of the Joker, Mitsume Ga Tooru, Shatterhand, Sword Master, Battletoads and Kirbys Adventure have scenes with one or two seperate background layers moving at once! Totally Rad had at least 3 layers in one background. Ninja Gaiden 3 had a scene where a whopping FIVE scrolling layers are working together at once! Joe & Mac had six layers in one scene. Probably the most technically accomplished of all the examples was the train ride level in Vice: Project Doom, which had an incredible EIGHT scrolling background layers working together!


  • Total palette of 64 colors (with several duplicates, reducing the effective count to about 53) with up to 25 on-screen at once (potentially more using special tricks). Up to eight different tints could be applied to the screen, or to horizontal strips of the screen using carefully-timed code.
    • From the programmer's point of view, the NES palette had 32 entries. This was divided into eight 4-color palettes, four for the background and four for the sprites. The first palette entry was shared between all eight, giving a maximum of 25 colors per screen.
  • Screen Resolution: 256x240 pixels, though NTSC televisions would often crop it to 256x224.
  • Backgrounds: The NES supported only one background layer. In the absence of cartridge-provided expansions, the PPU in the NES has enough memory for two screens' worth of background. Each background or "nametable" is a matrix of 8x8 pixel tiles, with each byte in the table being an index into a bank of 256 tiles.
  • The NES has support for up to four nametables; without cartridge expansions, only two of these are useable; the other two are duplicates. The background can be scrolled horizontally and vertically. Color information is stored separately in an "attribute table"; one 4-color palette can be selected per 16×16 pixel block. This might be why 16×16 pixel blocks are pretty much a universal feature of NES games.
  • The Nintendo MMC5 chip provided extra memory which could be used as extra attribute data, allowing for each 8x8 pixel block to get its own palette and bank number.
  • The NES connected to the TV via RF coaxial. It came with an automatic switcher box that allowed the user to connect a coaxial cable from the wall, allowing the signal to pass through when the console was turned off. While the Famicom only outputed an RF signal, the original NES model also had composite ports on the side, allowing for a generic composite cable to be used to connect the NES to a TV. This was omitted from the NES Mini (NES-101 revision), but some models replaced the Coaxial port with the Multi Out port used on the SNES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube. Unfortunately, these models only came as replacement units from Nintendo and are exceedingly rare.


  • Important note: Japanese Famicom peripherals used a DB 15 connector that plugs into the front of the console, while NES peripherals use the proprietary 7-pin connector and is typically connected to the port that is also used for Gamepad 2. This makes Famicom peripherals incompatible with NES ones and vice-versa. However, the NES has an expansion port on its underside that, with a little elbow grease, is possible to build an adapter to connect a Famicom peripheral to.
  • R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), the NES robot which worked with Gyromite and Stack-Up.
    • R.O.B. was really never intended to be anything more than a Trojan Horse outside of Japan: it was intended outside of Japan to camouflage the NES as a "toy", and not as a "video game"— the crash made retailers wary of anything video-game related. This got Nintendo their initial American distribution deal with Worlds of Wonder, the builders of the Teddy Ruxpin line of animatronic dolls. Ironically, once the NES started to take off, the fact that R.O.B. was a Trojan Horse caused the deal to fall apart. But of course, by then the console was already a hit, so they didn't need R.O.B. anymore.
  • The Zapper Light Gun. Capable of detecting brightness only. It functioned by having the screen go black for one frame after pulling the trigger where it would check to make sure the player wasn't just trying to trick the game by aiming at an outside light source, after which the game would light up one target at a time per frame to see which one the player is aiming at.
    • The original Famicom Zapper resembled a realistic-looking revolver. The NES Zapper was redesigned to make it look less like a real gun, and later on the original grey NES Zapper was changed again to be bright orange.
  • The Power Pad, a floor mat with buttons used for track and field-type games.
  • The Famicom Disk System, a floppy disk drive add-on introduced in 1986. The Disk System was only released in Japan, and even there was moribund by the end of the 1980s due to improvements in cartridge construction and rampant piracy concerns (though Nintendo continued to support it until 2003).note  The Legend of Zelda (its first title), Castlevania, Doki Doki Panic (which later became Super Mario Bros. 2), Kid Icarus, and Metroid were all originally released as Disk System games. Sharp had actually built two models of officially licensed Famiclones with a FDS built right in, called the Famicom Twin and Famicom Twin Turbo respectively, the only difference being that the latter had turbo buttons. The periferal does work on an NES with a pin adapter, but only the NES-101 model, as it simply doesn't fit inside the NES-001note . That being said, a computer magazine from 1986 reveals that a localized variant of the peripheral was planned at one point, but nothing came of it. The port for where the RAM adapter would go can be found on the underside of the NES covered by plastic.
  • The Power Glove: A controller that was made in the form of a glove. It utilized rudimentary motion control technology by measuring finger and hand movements. While usable with multiple games, only two Power Glove-specific tiles were ever released. This was not an official Nintendo accessory, instead being created by Mattel. The Glove was made (in)famous by its Product Placement in The Wizard ("It's so bad.").
  • The Famicom keyboard, a compact MSX-style keyboard supplied as a pack-in with Family BASIC. It is actually a required peripheral to operate the Famicom Data Recorder, as the recorder works by hooking up to the keyboard, which is presumably where the modulator and demodulator circuitry resides.
  • The Data Recorder, a cassette tape recorder intended mainly for storing programs created with Family BASIC; some games also used it for saves. Like the Disk System and Famicom BASIC with Keyboard bundle, it was only released in Japan. Essentially just a standard portable mono tape recorder with line-in/line-out jacks and the necessary mono 3.5mm cables bundled and Nintendo branding. Requires the Famicom Keyboard or a third party device like the Hori S.D.Station to operate as the keyboard actually contained the necessary modulator/demodulator circuits, while the S.D.Station cloned the modulator/demodulator parts but left out the rest of the keyboard.
  • Famicom Modem: A Japan exclusive adapter that made your Famicom go online; it takes its own card based (like NEC's/Hudson Soft's PC Engine) format, and the only games made for it were ports of cartridge games (like Super Mario Bros. 3) with online game play, however the cards are quite rare to find.
  • NES Advantage: An arcade-style controller with slow motion. The slow motion effect was achieved by constantly pausing and unpausing the game, so it had very mixed results. Used to pilot the Statue of Liberty.
  • NES Four Score: Multitap used for 4 Player games.
  • NES Satellite: Similar to the above, except this one also doubles as a wireless transmitter/receiver for controllers. It utilized infrared like a standard TV remote, but since the transmitter is just a big box with four ports on it, aiming the controllers at the receiver is not an issue since its intended use means it will stay fixed in place.
  • NES Max: Wing controller.
  • NES Cleaning Kit: The cleaning accessory to clean the gamepak and console.
  • Hori S.D.Station: Third party accessory from Hori, allows use of the Famicom Data Recorder without the need of a BASIC keyboard, also duplicates the audio out pin to a headphone jack and amplifier so you can connect headphones directly to the Famicom.
  • Famicom Sewing System: Sort of a sewing machine; aimed at girls which are learning how to sew while using the Nintendo Famicom.
  • U-Force: A rudimentary motion control peripheral in a similar vein to the more well-known Power Glove. It utilized infrared sensors to measure hand and accessory movement for game control. Released by Broderbund Software.
  • Fukutake StudyBox: An unusual tape player that plugs into the cartridge slot of a Famicom, ostensibly to allow loading games from tape. Apparently only used by said company to distribute educational titles.
  • ENIO EXP: A third party device that makes use of the NES’ expansion port. The device adapts the port to provide a DB15 connector for use with Japanese accessories, and additionally connects the two unconnected pins from the cartridge slot such that Japanese games with external sound chips that is inserted into the console via an adapter will have a working sound output. It even provides an interface connector to connect an ESP8266, a common networking co-processor, so you can put your NES on the Internet and use homebrew software to post tweets and browse the web!


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  • Bad Export for You: As noted above, Nintendo's redesigning of the Famicom into the NES introduced several flaws into the hardware that weren't present in the original.
  • Boring, but Practical: The hardware was dated almost as soon as it was released, paled in comparison to arcade hardware of the time, and was quickly outclassed in hardware by the Sega Master System, but it was perfectly capable of delivering aesthetically pleasing tile sprites and it got the job done just fine as a gaming machine. Skilled programmers could really push the hardware further than what one could expect the console to do, as games like Vice: Project Doom show.
  • Bowdlerise: To improve the PR image of their games, Nintendo enforced strict censorship policies in contrast to companies like Atari.
    • Blood and gore were explicitly verboten, and violence had a lot of restrictions; beating up or shooting robots, aliens or zombies was OK, but against real people it was usually discouraged. Any excessive or gratuitious violence, especially against non-enemy characters, was not allowed; Maniac Mansion originally had a scene where you could blow up a hamster in a microwave, and Nintendo forced it to be removed.
    • Using the words "Death", "die", "kill" or "killed" was not allowed.
    • Sexual references weren't permitted either. Maniac Mansion had a scene where a message written on a wall said "For a good time, call Edna.", which Nintendo edited to remove the first four words.
    • References to touchy topics such as religion and or hate groups like the Nazis were also not allowed. In Super Mario Bros., Daimaō Kuppa (Great Demon King Koopa) was changed to Bowser. One of the bosses of Mega Man, the Yellow Devil, was renamed to Rock Monster due to this. note Bionic Commando had all references to Hitler and the Nazis removed, renaming them as "Master-D" and "The Badds" and replacing the Swastikas with eagle symbols (curiously, the gruesome image of Hitler's head exploding was left in). Some other edits were done if it had the potential to be touchy, such as replacing the seals from Ice Climber with Yetis. In the unreleased US port of Mother, all references to religion were removed (along with sprites edited to remove references to blood or tobacco). The most extreme victim of this was Devil World, which to this day has never been released outside of Japan or Europe.
    • Swearing or obscene gestures were not allowed. The Who Framed Roger Rabbit game had to edit the name of the one of the weasels, Smart Ass, into "Smarty" because of this. Curiously, the Rambo tie-in game got away with a brief use of the word hell.
    • References to drugs, smoking and alcohol were also strictly forbidden, even in the context of portraying it in a bad light. In Punch-Out!!, "Vodka Drunkenski" was edited to "Soda Popsinski" for this reason. The port of NARC removed all references to drugs, even though hunting down drug dealers is the entire premise of the game!
    • Games with "subliminal political messages or overt political statements" were barred from release too. This is likely the reason why the game Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill, where you controlled President Clinton's cat and fought caricatures of Republicans, such as George Bush and Richard Nixon, never got released.
    • The Japanese Zapper gun accessory looks like an actual gun. Realistic gun toys aren't allowed, or are at least frowned upon, in many regions so the accessory was redesigned to look more like a toy intentionally. The Zapper was further Bowdlerized later down the line by giving it a new orange color scheme, to further differentiate it from real guns.
  • Follow the Leader: Sega's Master System console tried hard to play catch up with the NES in the West, and the consoles own controller is very similar to the NES pad. The pack-in game, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, was an obvious attempt to ride the Super Mario Bros. bandwagon. While it tanked in the U.S. due to Nintendo holding a huge monopoly over market shares and third party support, it actually managed to outsell the NES in other countries.
  • Light Gun Game: The NES Zapper was the standard light gun for the console and one of the most iconic ever made, used and bundled with games like Duck Hunt. Konami came up with their own unique variation called the Laser Scope, a headstrap that allow you to shoot using its eyepiece by speaking voice commands.
  • Nintendo Hard: Most of the games developed for the console tended to be quite difficult, first and third party games alike. Justified, as this was the era where arcade games were the norm and were purposely designed to be hard so they could quickly suck up quarters from less skilled players, and they were often the basis of certain games on the NES console. It also was out of fear that if people beat the games too quickly, they would feel cheated out of the money they spent (remember, these could cost $50 brand new, which is still a lot of money today, never mind inflation), so the high difficulty was used as a means to artificially make the game last longer even if it didn't actually have that much content.
  • Product Facelift: The original NES design was heavily redesigned from the Famicom, and as noted earlier, it was not for the better, so it's quite difficult to find an original NES in good working order. The NES 2 revamped it again into a smaller, much more reliable top-loader format, but it needed an adapter to use a Game Genie, and it only had RF cable support—no AV inputs—so the picture quality took a hit, too. The controllers were also revised from the old rectangles into a dog-bone shape, in order to match the rounded corners of the Super NES controller.
  • Quality Vs Quantity: Part of the reason Nintendo was so strict about licensing in the early days of the NES (and installed a lock-out chip to prevent unauthorized games from playing on the console) was because they wanted to avoid having the consoles game market be swamped with crappy games, a fate which befell the Atari 2600 and its competing consoles during The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Nintendo required that they be the sole manufacturer of all cartridges, and that the publisher had to pay in full before the cartridges for that game be produced, so they basically called the shots on what could and couldn't be released. Unfortunately, Nintendo went way over the line in this—companies were required to sign a contract by Nintendo that would obligate these parties to develop exclusively for the system, order at least 10,000 cartridges, and only make five games per year (a rule that developers like Konami worked around by forming dummy corps like Ultra Games), meaning they could basically blacklist any third party developer who worked for a competitor. Unlicensed developers like Wisdom Tree found ways to work around the lockout chip anyway, and In 1991, Nintendo's practices were ruled as a monopoly in court, forcing them to become more lenient with third party developers and with what games could be released on the NES. While this ultimately allowed the NES library to balloon with hundreds of games of varying quality, Nintendo's reputation had already been established by that point, so it didn't truly hurt them in the long run.
  • Region Coding: Several factors prevented region interoperability. Japanese consoles do not have a NES-10 chip, but had a different cartridge slot which meant American and European cartridges will never fit. Likewise, for the American and European cartridges, having a different slot from the Japanese version meant that Japanese cartridges will never be accepted without an adapter, plus there’s the added complication from the NES-10 Copy Protection chip, of which there are different versions for North America and two different versions for Europe, meaning that the Europeans were especially hit as buying the wrong version (there were two models of the NES in Europe- the Mattel version and the Nintendo of Europe version) actually meant you can't play the game. This went as far as hardware, Japanese accessories used the DB-15 expansion port while the American and European accessories used the proprietary 7-pin port, blocking even accessories from being used across regions. And to top it all off, for some reason, despite the European versions of the consoles having the same 7-pin port as the American console, they will not operate with an American controller, although American consoles can operate with an European controller of either types just fine.
  • Regional Bonus: The NES uses controller ports and you plug your controller into it, instead of the controllers being hard-wired like on the Famicom, letting you change just the controllers if they break rather than having to have the entire console serviced or take the risky approach of unauthorized repairs. It also had composite built into the console, which was seen as a big improvement in video quality over RF (Which was the Famicom's only output option). Both of these changes would later see the light of day in Japan in the form of the AV Famicom system refresh.
  • Revenue-Enhancing Devices: The R.O.B. toy was initially packaged with the first release of the NES as a way of getting the consoles foot in the door—since the American game industry crash made retailers wary of anything video game related, they used R.O.B. as a way of marketing the NES as a toy instead of a video game console. It only worked with two games (Gyromite and Stack-Up), but the Trojan Horse tactic worked due to gamers finding another hit game to play on the new console. R.O.B. was soon dropped from the NES line-up, but it had served its purpose well.
  • The Wiki Rule: NES Wiki.


Alternative Title(s): NES, Famicom