NES/Famicom Appreciation Thread - Playing With Power, Then and Now


#1

Welcome to RGB’s OT for arguably the most iconic and important piece of hardware in videogame history: the Famicom/NES. First released in Japan as the Family Computer (or Famicom for short) in July 1983, the console was launched in the United States in October 1985 and in Europe and Australia in 1987. The system is credited with reviving the home home console market in North America and setting the stage for industry growth worldwide. It turned Nintendo into a juggernaut. And it is home to a library of unparalleled classics that still influence the medium today, both directly and indirectly. In short, if you’re on this board then you need to be on board with the NES.

Because the NES is so well known, I’m posting links to lots of great background info below and will focus the OT instead on the most useful info for today’s retro AV enthusiasts and the latest developments in the NES hardware scene which, it turns out, is more robust today than ever.

USEFUL LINKS:

Famicom/NES 101 - My 2009 article for Racketboy.com gives all the basics, including hardware variants and major contemporary accessories.

NESguide.com - The easiest way to look up a game by publisher, developer or year. Comprehensive yet superficial; info on each game is lacking depth.

NES Wikipedia entry - Duh.

HELPFUL HARDWARE & A/V INFO:

Two great places to pick up general info are the My Life in Gaming RGB 202 NES video and RetroRGB’s NES page.

If you’re new to all this and don’t want to go through those links, here’s the thumbnail sketch. The iconic, front-loading NES is easy to find and although it has a reputation for being finicky, it’s actually quite easy to get to work reliably if you know what you’re doing. Cleaning inside the deck and feeding it only properly cleaned carts is a start. A refurbished OEM 72-pin connector (my recommendation) or aftermarket connector (or a Blinking Light Win) also helps. The single best thing you can do is disable the 10NES chip, which is very simple even for non-modder types like me. The top-loader NES is more reliable, and more expensive, and is RF only by default; so you’ll really only want this if you’re going to mod it.

For many, basic composite output works pretty well if you’re using a CRT. The NES doesn’t have the greatest composite output, but it’s not the worst, either. You’ll have to deal with some blurriness and dot crawl. Avoid RF output if at all possible.

Unlike many retro consoles, the NES and Famicom are not natively capable of outputting an RGB signal. So if you’re entering the rabbit hole then you’ll need to mod the system, secure the right cables, and of course, have a display capable of making the most of your investment. NES games in RGB on a CRT look killer. If you’re using a Framemeister or other upscaler with a modern TV, you’ll want to feed it the best possible signal, and that means RGB. Refer back to the links at the top of this section for the full scoop. Component mods are also possible, but less popular.

A WORD ON THE FAMICOM:

If you’re truly into the NES or 8-bit games in general, the Famicom is a must-own platform. It has a number of great games that didn’t come to the US or EU, and a not-insignificant number of games that did come West actually saw better versions on the Famicom. The Famicom has expanded audio channels not found in the NES and also works with the Famicom Disk System, opening up hundreds more titles to play. Some people love the iconic look of the original Famicom, but the biggest downsides are hard-wired controllers and RF-only output. I personally use an RGB-modded AV Famicom with an NES converter. It plays games from all three libraries and accepts controllers and peripherals from all models and territories. As forum user D.Lo has put it: It’s the “best NES.”

THE NES TODAY:

The last few years have brought a ton of new hardware options for playing NES. It’s actually quite insane how robust this scene is, from controllers and adaptors to new console hardware – including an option from Nintendo itself (if you can find it).

NESRGB - For many years, the only way to get RGB from an NES was to harvest a picture processing unit from a Nintendo PlayChoice arcade machine. Not a great option for people who really care about preservation. Then along came modder etim working with people on the NESdev forum with a board that could extract sweet, sweet RGB goodness from the console. Thus the rabbit hole was opened.

Hi-Def NES - Outputs a hi-def signal to your HDTV via HDMI. Haven’t used it myself, but it has lots of features and works well, according to RetroRGB and many who have used it.

AVS - An FPGA clone from RetroUSB, which has received good marks from the community. Plays FC and NES games at 720p output for less than $200.

Analog NT Mini - The luxury choice for those living the Lifestyle of the Rich and Retro. It’s a $450 FPGA device that outputs both analog RGB signal at 240p and HD outputs up to 5x 1080p, all lag free and encased in a solid-body aluminum shell. Plays NES and FC games and works with the FDS. Bonus: compatible with cores for more than a dozen other 8-bit-era systems.

NES Classic - Nintendo re-released a mini version of the NES in 2016 with 30 classic games. Excellent quality emulation with real-deal controllers (on a really short cord) that you can easily play on modern TVs. Good luck finding one for now. It will supposedly be re-issued in 2018.

FDSstick - The FDS is super cool if you’re into retro tech: proprietary 3-inch diskettes that are loaded into a RAM adapter via an oh-so-80s style disk drive. But the magnetic media and moving parts means you’ll likely to get lots of those error codes if you’re playing today. Thankfully the FDSstick can emulate the disk drive and store tons of your ROMs, and it’s the size of a thumb drive, really cheap, and simple to use. You’ll need the RAM adaptor to use it.

8bitdo Famicom/NES wireless controllers - Wireless bluetooth controllers that can be paired with an adapter for use on original hardware. They kinda look the part but they have four face buttons and two shoulder buttons, so it’s not exactly like the real McCoy.

Wireless gamepad from RetroUSB - It’s not much to look at on first glance, but this controller from the makers of the AVS has received good marks from users. Despite having a different form factor, the button layout exactly matches the original controllers. Also features a micro-switched d-pad (rather than rubber membrane) for “clicky” feel/action.

THE GAMES:

What to say? I’ve been playing NES since 1987 and collecting since the late 1990s and I am STILL finding hidden gems. The library is massive, and great fun. The biggest downside is price. Since 2012 prices have skyrocketed for many desirable and rare games, and have more than tripled on average. Many popular, plentiful games are more expensive due to demand, too. And you won’t find many at yard sales or thrift stores any more. Ebay is, unfortunately, the simplest way to score games these days. Some useful links:

NES library at Ranker.com - All 700+ games ranked by 11,000 voters. Wisdom of the crowd, although the crowd says there are 150 games worse than Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Hmmm…

Chrontendo - If you really want to deep dive into the Famicom library, you can watch dozens and dozens of hours of Dr. Sparkle’s chronological walkthrough of the FC library.

NES Works - A much more comprehensive, insightful, and entertaining chronological video walkthrough series by Jeremy Parish of Retronauts, this time focusing on the U.S. NES library only. Very much worth your time.

Satoshimatrix’s Top 100 Fami/NES games - I just think this a darn good list, even if I disagree with several top placements.

A 2005 NES Guide GAF post - One poster’s insanely thorough list of every NES game sorted by genre and quality tiers. Good at-a-glance reference if you’re looking for new games to play in specific genres.


RGB OT's Mega Thead
#2

I never make OTs, so any edits or advice is helpful. I’m sure I missed something. Tried to keep it to the basics but it’s still pretty long…


#3

This was the 1st console I ever played games on and got me into gaming!=O


#4

When push comes to shove, it’s still my #1 system of all time.


#5

It’s a great post except the “reviving the worldwide home videogame market” part is kind of misleading. It brought console games back into fashion and to greater popularity than before in North America but video games in general were doing fine worldwide throughout the '80s, often on computer formats.

The NES is an amazing system, one of my all-time favourites.


#6

A common complaint from PAL territories, and I agree the US-centric view is too far.

But ‘doing fine’ is relative if looking at the numbers IMO. Home computer platforms, while there were a lot of them, had mostly miniscule sales compared to the NES and subsequent NES-alikes like the Master System, even in Europe. The C64 (really an NES contemporary, it was released only one year before the Famicom) is by far the highest selling and sold 1/5 the NES worldwide (at ~13 million), more than half of which was in the US where the NES crushed it. All Spectum computer models combined sold around 5 million total. Europe was the NES’s weakest major territory but over 8 million PAL models were sold (which does include Australia/NZ) and it’s likely the SMS sold even more.

And the games were 95%+ hobbyist coder projects, sold very cheap or pirated on tapes and later disks, compared to the expensive but typically more professional presentation of NES game releases (though the games could still be bad of course). Top developers (eg Ultimate/Rare) actually jumped in on the NES/Master System bandwagon ASAP.

In essence, it was a much less mature market overall, so while the Famicom/NES didn’t ‘save’ anything in Europe, it was definitely the start of a wave that grew it away from the more niche hobbyist, fragmented home PC space into a larger, more mature, professional console (and also IBM PC) market.

The same pattern happened in Japan, but earlier and faster. It was mostly home PC formats, but after the Famicom they quickly became niches. Some PC vendors even repurposed to become console companies - Sega dropped the SC3000, NEC, even Commodore had two failed attempts at home consoles.


#7

Yay, NES/FC thread! My first console, and still my favorite.

One thing I like about its library, other than all the usual classics, is the fact that it was very much an experimental era in gaming. People were still figuring out what makes a good game, and even what a game was supposed to be, especially during the early days of the system. So there’s a lot of quirky games and games with interesting ideas that were then never really used again. Often because they didn’t work that well. That also means that there are a quite a few games that have aged poorly of course, but it’s just an interesting era overall. I mean how many games like Bird Week did you see on the SNES? It’s a bit like with the PS1/N64 era of early 3D gaming, and also the Wii and early motion control gaming.

The same is true for other contemporary consoles as well but not to the same extent. Since the NES was such a runaway success companies were also more willing to take risks on that system, and there are of course overall more games available for the NES/FC than say the Master System.

Also @D.Lo, that’s an interesting viewpoint that I never really thought about, but it’s absolutely true. Even if the NES didn’t really save anything outside of the US, it set the stardard for games going forward worldwide and started a new era in gaming.


#8

Great OT. I would add the NESRGB in with the hidefNES that’s about it!

https://etim.net.au/nesrgb/

I put the NESRGB in my twin famicom turbo and it’s glorious!! I think the twin famicom is by far the best looking famicom console


#9

I was wondering when a Famicom thread was going to pop up!


#10

My bad on the US-centric bias. Would “credited with reviving the home video game market in the US, and setting the stage for future industry growth” be more acceptable and accurate? Keep the suggestions coming. I’ll edit later tonight.

And @KRS, I totally agree about the weird and wonderful library. Nothing else quite like it in that regard, even though some others were similar. I think the PS1 library also carries this quality.


#11

It’s true. There’s no doubt the NES shaped the future direction of the industry. I just think there’s a lot of people on the internet that have been lead to believe the Atari crash wiped out gaming or have some notion of Nintendo as a saviour which, while romantic, isn’t accurate.

I don’t even live in a PAL territory and I remember gaming being alive back then in the North American market. There were plenty of new popular arcade games (Dragon’s Lair, Paperboy, Gauntlet, Punch Out, Ghosts 'n Goblins, etc.) and plenty of store carrying computer games, especially Commodore 64.

The first time I encountered anyone making a big deal about the console crash was in the book Phoenix in 1994. It was a pioneering book in the age before the internet was big but it was also written by someone with a very Atari-centric view of gaming. He doesn’t consider computer games to be video games so this book may have helped skew perceptions.


#12

I think it would be better to replace “home video game market” with “console game market”, and “US” with “North America”.


#13

Awesome OT for one of the greatest systems ever made.


#14

I feel so goofy now for getting another copy of Lagrange Point and having it translated to English, now that it works perfectly on the Everdrive. Amazed at the flexibility that the Everdrive offers with mappers.


#15

It’s great for a technical viewpoint for sure, but after playing the game for a few hours, I simply could not get past the endless slog through random encounters every 2 steps.


#16

I still haven’t played Lagrange Point yet, though I do love the fact that it works with sound on the Everdrive now. And the FM Emulation is pretty spot on! Even though I haven’t played much, I have the vinyl soundtrack release, and the translated version running through Everdrive on my AV Famicom sounds very very similar to the vinyl.


#17

I won’t deny that :slight_smile: It could certainly benefit from some improvements in the encounter rate.


#18

Edits made. Thanks for keeping this USAian honest, folks. I think I might use that second post as place for game recommendations and lists over time.


#19

I read this recently about the pre-Famicom to post Famicom world change:

Nintendo understood (albeit unconsciously) that the biggest change was that of “posture”. People weren’t playing standing behind an arcade cabinet and didn’t seek emulation of other forms of gaming (y’a know, tabletop, etc). People were at home sitting comfortably in the living room and as such need more “meaty” games such as, ya know, Mario and Zelda.

Pretty good summary of the paradigm change that was the Fami/NES.


#20

As I mentioned in the what are you playing thread just wrapped up Metroid. Going to give Rogue Dawn a play next. I’ve heard it is real good so I’ve been waiting for the NT mini to come in to check it out. Seems like it will have maximum impact coming directly off Metroid. Not that it makes any sense to compare them, I realize, made under very different circumstances. All the same should be interesting to see what an 8-bit Metroid looks like with 30 years of video game ideas seperated between them.