Category Archives: 1985

The NES, a home video game console by Nintendo

The 30th Anniversary of the NES

It’s a toss-up as to what I would consider the most important video game console ever made. I could say the Atari VCS (later renamed the 2600), for it helped popularize the market for programmable video games. It wasn’t the first, but it was certainly the most popular of the first-wave game machines. 

But as ground-breaking as the VCS was, I have to give the nod to the Nintendo Entertainment System, first hitting American shores on October 18, 1985. In the face of the collapse of the entire video game market in 1983-1984, the NES was test marketed in the NYC area over the Christmas season. A redesigned version of Nintendo’s popular Japanese market Famicom console, great pains were taken to inoculate the NES from video gaming’s diseased past, diseased at least according to retailers and distributers of video games. The NES was made to look like a sleek piece of A/V equipment, to the point where the action of inserting a game cartridge was made to be analogous to putting a videotape into a VCR. It was also accompanied by a robotic game mate called ROB, to capitalize on the then-current wave of toy robots like Teddy Ruxpin.

 

This all helped to move NES units, with 50,000 consoles sold during the NYC test. By the time the NES rolled out wide in the fall of 1986, 350,000 to 400,000 sets had been sold.  But nothing helped spur sales like the 1986 release of Super Mario Bros., a magnificent side-scrolling adventure by Shigeru Miyamoto that caused NES units to fly off shelves faster than a Koopa Paratroopa. By 1987, the NES was the most popular toy in America, and had made the video game industry the fastest-growing segment of the toy industry, again.  

The Atari VCS may have helped popularize the industry, but absent Atari, somebody would have come up with an improved, programmable video game system eventually.

Only Hiroshi Yamauchi and the NES could have saved video games.

For more information on the Nintendo Entertainment System, consult your local Dot Eaters Bitstory.

Box art for Super Mario Bros., a video game by Nintendo, 1985

A Look at How Super Mario Bros. Came to Be, on Its 30th Anniversary

This weekend, Super Mario Bros. turns 30 years old. The game has become so ingrained in popular culture that it’s easy to lose sight of just how important and influential Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi’s creation was when it hit Nintendo’s Japanese gaming console on Sept. 13, 1985. The Famicom had been enjoying success in Japan, but Super Mario Bros. became such a phenomena in that country that by 1989 there was one Famicom in every two households in Japan. In 1986, when SMB made its way to the North American version of the Famicom, the NES, it helped the system overcome the toxic environment left from the great video game crash of 1983 and became a huge hit here as well.

A couple of years ago TDE celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Famicom, and as part of that celebration we posted a look at the development of the game and the influences that helped shape SMB. After the jump, we present that post to you now, as we pay tribute to one of the greatest video games of all time:

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Kayaking in Summer Games II, a computer game by Epyx 1985

The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64

Armchair Olympians returned to compete on the world stage with Summer Games II, released by Epyx in 1985. Scott Nelson and Jon Leupp were accompanied by Chuck Sommerville, Kevin Norman, Michael Kosaka and Larry Clague to make the sequel to the well-loved olympic-styled Summer Games. Eight new events were included, along with both an opening AND closing ceremony.

When starting a competition using the full slate of sports, the first event might completely put you off the game.  The Triple Jump is a pretty disappointing beginning, as it is very finicky about the controls and when you should actually move the joystick to make your hop, step and jump. This stands in stark contrast to the responsive feel of player control in the previous game. Also included here are your typical joystick waggling contests in sports like Rowing and Cycling. For some reason, I find the hoity toity events, namely Equestrian and Fencing, to be the most interesting. They contain a fair amount of excitement and strategy, with the one-on-one dueling of Fencing a particular standout. However, while playing the game to record the video included with this post, I thought the same exact thing I did back in the days of yore trying to fence in Summer Games II on my C64: I have no idea what I’m doing. I’d probably rate Kayaking the most fun out of the package, as reading the currents and aligning your kayak for the next gate is extremely satisfying.

One thing that isn’t quite as stellar as the first Summer Games, though, is the music. A few songs are just riffs on the main melody, and overall the score is not as bombastically funky as the first game. What you definitely won’t find lacking in bombast is the stellar closing ceremonies in Summer Games II. They are suitably awesome after a long and exciting competition, and can only be described ultimately as, if you’ll forgive me, an Epyx conclusion to the contests.

I’ll leave you with the video of glorious olympic-style competition. I really surprised myself performing so well in the High Jump, considering the very imprecise nature of how you flip your body up and over the bar. Excelsior!

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.  Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on the Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more information on Epyx and the Games series, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Soaring to new heights in Winter Games

The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64

The bread and butter of computer game maker Epyx was their Games series, starting with the beloved Summer Games, initially released in 1984 to coincide with the Summer Olympic games held in Los Angeles that year. It was followed up by Summer Games II the following year, along with the game we feature today, Winter Games. All of the games in the series were great fun and reasonable representations of the included sports, but apropos of the commencement of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, we present to you the pomp, the passion, and the pixels of Epyx’s Winter Games.

The graphics are spectacular in the game, really putting the player in the environment of a grand winter sports spectacle, surrounded by mountains and running streams.  The music score is another standout, with a simultaneous grandiose and groovy attitude.  But the hallmark of all the Games games by Epyx is the precise feeling of controlling the athletes. The designers were well aware that the almost intangible “feel” of movement and control is what makes or breaks a sports title.  Gold medals all around for their work on recreating seven different Olympic sport challenges for the player, without any undue frustration. I’d like to complain about the figure skating in Winter Games, as it initially feels like the only part of the game where you’re not in complete control of the athlete… but ultimately I’ll have to be honest and say that my cursing and swearing in that part probably comes down to my own fumblings with the controls and not because of the design.

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.  Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on the Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more information on Winter Games maker Epyx, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Excerpt from a family portrait of the NES and Famicom video game systems by Nintendo 1985/1983

NES and Famicom: A Family Portrait

Into the smouldering crater of the Big Videogame Crash of 1983 – 1984 came the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a game console whose wild success upon release in 1985 single-handedly resurrected the industry in North America.

It was a daring move by Hiroshi Yamauchi and Nintendo, but not a completely blind gamble. The NES had already met with stunning success in the guise of the Family Computer (Famicom), a system released in Japan in 1983. The Famicom was so successful that by 1989, there was one console in every two households in Japan. For its U.S. release, the system was re-tooled as the NES, made to look more like a piece of A/V equipment than a video game in order to shake off the bad vibes that the collapse of the market had left with American toy buyers. To say the plan worked is an understatement.

Here we present a family portrait of the two systems, the NES and the Family Computer  They might not have been the lightning that started the industry, but they certainly delivered a desperately needed shock to the system that got the heart of video games beating again:

Image of the NES and Famicom, two video game consoles by Nintendo 1985/1983

The NES and the Famicom

For more information on the history of the Famicom, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

 

Title screen for Super Mario Bros., a video game for the Famicom by Nintendo 1985

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – Super Mario Bros.

Here is the last of the TDE articles detailing various aspects of the Famicom, as well as the NES, the North American version of the console released in 1985.  These posts celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Famicom, and lead up to the full history of the Famicom, to be posted tomorrow. The post today also falls on the 30th anniversary of Mario Bros., so two koopa’s with one fireball, so to speak.  While Famicom project lead Masayuki Uemura and his team at R&D2 labs at Nintendo do great work putting together the hardware of the famed video game console, it’s the games for the system that give it longevity.  And there’s few games that boost Famicom and NES sales as much as Super Mario Bros..

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