Category Archives: NES

Activision panel at CGE 2014 in Las Vegas. Left to right, you have Adam Bellin (ported Zenji to the C64, programmer on Ghostbusters), Garry Kitchen (Keystone Kapers), David Crane (Dragster, Fishing Derby, Laser Blast, Freeway, Pitfall!, Grand Prix, Decathlon, Pitfall II, Ghostbusters, Little Computer People, The Transformers: Battle to Save the Earth) and Steve Cartwright (Megamania, Seaquest, Plaque Attack, Frostbite, Hacker, Hacker II: The Doomsday Papers, Aliens: The Computer Game, Gee Bee Air Rally)

Space Shuttle Re-entry

When Garry Kitchen and a bunch of other Activision programmers left the company, they founded Absolute Entertainment in 1986, following a grand tradition of naming their new venture higher in the alphabet than their last. It was the same thing they had done to Atari when they left that company. Here is a description of the circumstances around their departure, outlined in the Atari/VCS/2600 Bitstory entry here at The Dot Eaters:

Then, one day in 1979, [David] Crane finds himself intently analysing a list of numbers on piece of paper. It is a memo from the marketing department, a part of Atari that has flourished with the ouster of engineer Bushnell and the instalment of salesman Kassar. The list, circulated throughout consumer engineering, ranks game sales figures for 1978, with each game as a percentage of overall sales for the company.  It is Marketing’s not so subtle advice to the programmers: make more games like those at the top of the list, and less of those at the bottom. It also has an unintended effect on Crane and fellow game creators Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead… they learn that the four of them are responsible for all of the top-selling games, 60 percent of cartridge sales for the year. With the knowledge that Atari made 100 million in sales that year, you don’t need a degree in computer mathematics to know that the four of them, each pulling in a salary of $25,000 – $30,000, have accounted for $60 million in sales for Atari. Armed with this evidence, the four meet with Kassar to request more financial compensation for their efforts. The CEO is unmoved, suggesting that making games is a team effort and their contribution on par with the assembly workers on the line who fit together the cartridges.  Soon after this exchange, the group get in touch with an attorney about incorporating their own business, making software for game consoles.  Kaplan leaves Atari soon after the meeting with Kassar, with Crane, Miller and Whitehead not far behind. The Gang of Four has left the building.

 

They must have taken some ideas with them when they left Activision because the following 1991 ad is for a redo Absolute did of Activision’s Space Shutte: A Journey Into Space, originally done by Garry’s brother Steve Kitchen for the 2600 in 1983. Absolute’s version, Space Shuttle Project, was designed by John Van Ryzin for the NES, a man who may be more popularly known as the creator of the great H.E.R.O. on the 2600 while he was at Activision. He helped his compatriots found Absolute, which Garry Kitchen eventually shuttered in 1995. Still, the company flew pretty high when it was making some great games for the 90′s top game machines.

Space Shuttle Project, a video game for the NES by Absolute

Ad for 1991′s Space Shuttle Project, by John Van Ryzin

 

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.

A martial arts explosion!

The Visual Cortex: Double Dragon II

There’s been a lot of left-right scrolling fighting games over the years, for a number of different consoles, but Nintendo’s NES particularly seemed to specialize in the genre. And amid that myriad of brawling cartridges stood the Double Dragon games. Beginning in the arcades, they soon punched and kicked their way to the console market, including a 2009 version for the Zeebo microconsole.  The pugilist brother team from the games, Billy Lee and Jimmy, also slugged their way into many computer game translations.

Lined up in the Cortex today is an ad for the NES version of the second game in the series, Double Dragon II: The Revenge:

Ad for Double Dragon II: The Revenge, a video game for Nintendo's NES 1990

The arcade smash comes home

 

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.

 

Hiroshi Yamauchi, 1927 - 2013 (photo circa early 80's)

Former Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi Passes Away

Hiroshi Yamauchi has died. Yamauchi came to power at Nintendo in 1949 at age 22, replacing his grandfather as head of the company after the elder suffered a stroke. Even so young, Yamauchi showed the iron will he would become infamous for, insisting that other family members in the company be fired, as well as quickly purging executives who refused to take him seriously.

Nintendo’s fortunes had come from the manufacture of playing cards ever since its inception in 1889. In the later part of the 60′s, Yamauchi took steps to expand the company into toys and games, creating an R&D department within Nintendo to develop such products. At the head of this group Yamauchi put a maintenance man with the name of Gunpei Yokoi, an enthusiastic tinkerer with an uncanny knack at creating new products out of older technology. With success after success, Nintendo would come to dominate the toy market in Japan. Later, as Yamauchi took notice of the new technology coming out of the States in the mid-70′s, they would do the same with video games.

With an almost preternatural ability to pick both talented designers and the games and systems they produced, hardly anything made by Nintendo reached store shelves without Yamauchi’s approval. When the company’s U.S. subsidiary floundered in the early 80′s and begged for a new hit game to sell, it was Yamauchi who took the chance on a young artist unproved in game design to come up with a product. The game was named Donkey Kong, and its creator was Shigeru Miyamoto.

After issuing orders to create a cartridge-based home console called the Famicom (Family Computer) that met with great success in Japan, Yamauchi would set his sights on conquering the American market. Undaunted by the toxic landscape created by the total collapse of the U.S. video game market in 1983-84, Yamauchi insisted on selling the Famicom to American homes as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985. The system would single-handedly resurrect the video game industry from cindered ashes back to billions of dollars in sales, and make Nintendo a word synonymous with video games, as Atari had been before it.

After 55 years at the helm, Yamauchi was succeeded as Nintendo president in 2002 by Satoru Iwata. He remained the company’s largest individual shareholder until his death, at the age of 85.  While he may have ruled Nintendo with an iron fist, the company he drove from Japanese playing card manufacturer to globally dominating video game giant is now mourning his loss.

You can read the history of two great products with Yamauchi’s stamp on them here at The Dot Eaters:

The History of Donkey Kong

The History of the Famicom

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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Title for The Wizard, a video game movie by Universal 1989

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – The Wizard

As part of our celebration of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Famicom, the Japanese video game system by Nintendo that was later adapted for the North American market as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), I’m posting my review of The Wizard. It’s a 1989 Fred Savage vehicle that many consider as simply a 100 minute commercial for Nintendo. I made this initially for Ten Point Review, where we rate a movie according to four criteria, and then add and/or subtract points as we see fit in order to come up with a numerical rating between 0 – 10. Time to watch people play games!

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Masthead for Nintendo Power, a video game magazine published by Nintendo 1988

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – Nintendo Power

The 30th anniversary of the Famicom is nigh! TDE is celebrating with Updates posts concerning various aspects of Nintendo’s hugely important and influential game console. We’ll also cover details of the NES, the North American version of the Famicom, released two years later in 1985. These posts will lead up to the full Famicom and NES Bitstory articles that will be published here in mid July.  As had happened before with the Atari VCS, a console that helped create the video game market in the first place, the NES becomes a cottage industry for peripherals and other products associated with the console.  Today, we’re looking at an integral part of the immense and long-lived success of the NES.  Today, we’re playing with Power!

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Monday Meme: Skyrim on NES

If it’s Monday, it must be another video game retomeme:

Yesterday we posted an image of the massive open-world RPG Skyrim as an Intellivision cart.  That was pretty silly, heck a standard Intellivision cartridge only holds 4K of memory.  No, such an old system could never have run a Skyrim game.  Now, the NES on the other hand, there was an advanced console…

source: dangerousPyro via Cheez Burger