Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Unrivaled Champion of the Fourth Generation

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is known by many names. In North America, Europe, Brazil, and Australia it has been known under the names Super Nintendo, Super NES, and SNES. In much of Asia, it is the Super Famicom and in South Korea it is the Super Comboy. All of these names point to the same console, the console that battled Sega in the most gruesome console war to date, and the console that won that war to become the best selling console of its generation.

The Thought Process
Nintendo was enjoying a great amount of success for quite some time after the NES. The thought that they may need a second console to continue that amazing success hadn’t even entered the head’s of Nintendo’s executives. It took a kick in the butt in the form of NEC’s and Sega’s respective consoles taking control of the market from Nintendo to put them into action.

Masayuki Uemura, the designer of NES was brought back into the fold to create the next generation Nintendo console. The first shipment was sold and gone within mere hours of it being released – that’s 300,000 consoles within hours! The console’s unparalleled popularity (For the time, although now 300,000 is a small marketing number) supposedly attracted the attention of the Yakuza, a large crime organization in Japan. Fearing robbery, Nintendo was forced to actually ship their consoles under cover of the night.

While the SNES may have dominated in Japan from the beginning, in North America and other countries Sega’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, had become increasingly popular. Sega had also become increasingly aggressive in their advertisements, such as the “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t”. However, it was only a matter of time until the SNES reached an equal market share with the Genesis, and then taking over even more of the market, making it the best selling console of the fourth generation. The SNES continued to enjoy success all the up to, and somewhat beyond, the time production ceased. Let me assure you, this was no small, inconsequential amount of time. Production did not cease in North America until 1999, and did not cease in Japan until 2003
Completely Awesome Extras? Totally!
There have been a large number of peripherals available for the SNES. One of the most popular of these was the SNES SuperScope. It functioned a lot like the Zapper for the NES, but was wireless and much larger, being shaped somewhat like a rifle of sorts complete with scope! Hence the name.

Another of the most successful peripherals is the Super Game Boy. This awesome peripheral allowed you to play Game Boy games on your SNES! Sadly, the only Game Boy Color games that were compatible with the Super Game Boy were the ones that were also compatible with the Game Boy and they would be displayed in monochrome. One little feature of the Super Game Boy was the ability to swap out the four shades of grey used in the Game Boy games for four shades of another color. Later on, some Game Boy games were optimized to be used with the Super Game Boy and included extra features. Some of these games would even display a border and additional colors. There were even a few extra ‘effects’ that could be obtained through use of the SNES hardware. Some games would read a second SNES controller as player 2, allowing you to play multiplayer without needing a second Game Boy. Space Invaders allowed the player to play a full 16-bit version, and the game took up the entire screen!

There was also a mouse released by Nintendo. The most popular game to take advantage of it was Nintendo’s own Mario Paint. This game even had a few sequels on the Nintendo 64DD, but they were exclusive to Japan due to the commercial failure of the Nintendo 64DD, as such it was never released elsewhere.

Enhancement Chips
Nintendo had a very smart idea for the SNES’s processor. They knew that in a few years the processor would become obsolete, even if that processor was a very expensive top of the line model. So, instead of putting one of these processors in the SNES they instead opted to put a less expensive CPU in and they made it simple for a company to add enhancement chips to the cartridges themselves.

One of the most mentionable enhancement chips was the Super FX. The Super FX is a supplemental CPU; mainly used to create 3D game worlds. The best known, and first, game to use the chip was undoubtedly Star Fox (known as Star Wing in Europe). Another game that used the chip is Super Mario World 2, using the chip to improve its 2D graphics instead of utilizing 3D graphics. The Super FX GSU-2, an improved version of the Super FX, was released, but many of the games that were planning to take advantage of the tweaked version, were never released. The most mentionable game among them is Star Fox 2.

Another notable enhancement chip, the MegaChips MX15001TFC, allowed user’s to actually copy games to the cartridge after you have paid a certain fee. This is because the chips were equipped with flash ROMs, instead of mask ROMs. You could even write several games to the cartridge and simply select the one you wanted to play from a menu.

The Games Still Live On
The SNES is still alive, in a sense. While it may no longer be in production, many of its games may still be played. Nintendo’s current console, the Wii, features the Virtual Console, a video game download service. Players are able to download and play a variety of video games, including NES, SNES, N64 and MegaDrive titles. These games can be purchased through the use of Wii points. 100 Wii points is currently around £0.75 and £0.70 when bought online. Soon, Nintendo plans to allow Star Points to be converted to Wii points.

Another way that SNES games live on is through the use of emulation. Currently, SNES games can be played on PCs and Macs under most operating systems, Sony’s PSP, the Nintendo DS, the Gizmondo, and the GP2X. A few games, such as Final Fantasy V, were even translated into English! Nintendo does oppose the use of emulation, however, which is likely one of the reasons that the Wii Virtual Console was developed.

The SNES is surely not dead, and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it will continue to live on as the biggest fourth-generation console for a long, long time.

  • NES - 15 April 2007
  • SNES - 15 April 2007
  • 3DO - 15 April 2007
  • Xbox - 15 April 2007

Popular Tags