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NES/Famicom differences: Was it worth it?


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#1 Csonicgo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jun 3, 2012 2:06 AM

I've always been interested in the various differences between the NES and Famicom, and most of the reasons for NOA doing this never satisfy me. I've heard everything from Piracy to "keeping ET away", obviously in reference to the cart that "caused the 1983 crash" (but that is debatable too).

In the long run, I've read that a lot of titles weren't released for the NES - or retooled completely, simply because of the NES redesign, and part of it was the loss of "extension pins" - they were moved to the bottom of the unit. As a result, any games using special chips had to be butchered or recoded for US markets. This seems really silly in retrospect, economically. Plus, I would hate to know that my magnum opus for the Famicom, if I had programmed a game for it, would have to be butchered to work on a console which design changes were, in hindsight, really really silly to do, in my opinion.

Then again I look at Wolfenstein 3D and then Doom for the SNES and wonder what went wrong.

I've always enjoyed Akumajou Densetsu for the Famicom. I had never played the NES version, and have ordered it online this week. From what I've played in an emulator... Dracula's Curse feels hollow. It's weird to describe it that way, as the gameplay seems to be fine (it's not really changed much other than some monster behavior and the jumping isn't quite right) but everything else seems to be diluted.

Does anyone think Nintendo's idea of radically changing their hardware through the different regions was a good idea at the time? For a collector like me, it makes some titles impossible to get. Luckily, I was able to get a Famicom/NES converter cart that let me play US games. my friends had no such luxury.

(Was I just spoiled for having a Famicom as a child while everyone else had a grey VCR? :-D )

Is there anything else I'm missing? And if you were NOA: would you have authorized this?

#2 BillyHW OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jun 3, 2012 2:15 AM

To me it seems like it just added needless costs and needless delays in bringing games over to other markets.

#3 Csonicgo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jun 3, 2012 12:09 PM

To me it seems like it just added needless costs and needless delays in bringing games over to other markets.


That's exactly what I felt about it. I suppose Nintendo were getting paranoid about selling games in the west, since Atari had left a bad taste in the public's mouth. I can understand that, but not the butchering/redoing the hardware to keep third-party developers out of the game (unless they talked with NOA first)

#4 low_budget OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 6, 2012 6:39 PM

Some changes made to the North American NES were beneficial, like composite video out. That's the only good change from a gamer's view though.
The rest of the changes only helped Nintendo.
The addition of the NES10 lockout chip is what really made Nintendo successful during this period, combined with their third party licensing agreement meant they had exclusive rights on many games. It's why Atari and Sega never had a chance in the 8 bit generation.
Maybe Nintendo never meant for the audio input pin to be used in games, just the Disc System. But leaving that pin unconnected while adding 10 pins that go to a unused expansion connector was just dumb.
The ZIF socket was a really bad design choice, but that allowed Nintendo to "fix" the problem and sell cleaning kits.
I guess 1985 was a better time to release a gray VCR with light gun and robot than just another video game system.

Edited by low_budget, Wed Jun 6, 2012 6:41 PM.


#5 Arkhan OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:38 PM

The front-loader design was stupid. It was cool at the time, and noone knew any better. Now, it's just dumb. Terrible idea. The colors were nice, but the design. It's just stupid.

When you look back now and see what the Famicom looks like, it's like "damn. wtf".

I read somewhere that they did this to make it not-similar to the Atari 2600 and other things responsible for "the crash". I find that to be a load of crap.

They should have just kept the thing exactly as it was, with English text in the games. They also should have put AV out on the NES2. It isn't like it's hard to do.


Contra for Famicom is awesome. There's snow, and little dialog scenes. We got hosed.

#6 FujiSkunk OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:52 PM

In a word: Yes.

Nintendo was trying to introduce a video game product to a market that had had enough of video games, or so it thought. They were also trying to make sure they didn't make the same mistakes Atari made, and lose control of their own hardware. The internal and external redesigns were due to those challenges. Obviously the company succeeded. Whether you think they should have made these redesigns of course is debatable, especially with those lock-out chips being the bane of every would-be pirate cart and Famicom cart collector, but at the time they were exactly the right course of action for Nintendo to both reinvigorate and then dominate the American video game market.

#7 gdement OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 1, 2012 10:40 PM

I'd have made at least some changes, maybe not all the same ones though.
The lockout chip definitely made sense. That made them a lot of money.
Detachable controllers make sense.
I'm also glad that they added all the buttons to the 2nd controller in exchange for losing the microphone, but that's not real important.

I would want to avoid changing the cartridge connector, except they need some accommodation for the lockout chip to work. Maybe it could repurpose an existing pin for lockout without breaking compatibility with anything important. Keep the audio pin though, I agree it sucks that they broke that.
An alternative to the lockout chip, and the connector pinout changes that may require, would be to instead use a boot ROM which checks a digital signature key like the 7800 used. That may have legal issues though, I know Atari wasn't able to export that system, not sure what would happen with Nintendo trying to bring it in.

I'd probably keep the cart shells the same as the jap ones, not much reason for them to be different. Except - having a larger shell allows room for an adapter when supply problems require it. As long as the lockout chip is used, the boards will never directly interchange.
The expansion connector might make some sense, even though obviously it didn't get used. They usually don't.

At minimum I would have definitely added the lockout chip, and detachable controllers. The rest I'm not sure about, it would depend on more investigation.
I think digital signature would have been a cleaner way to add a lockout with a minimum of redesign and electrical incompatibility.

#8 frankodragon OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 2, 2012 12:06 AM

NOA had strict guidelines. I think that's why games like "Devil World" didn't even come to the North American shores.

NOA's Guidelines

#9 cparsley OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 2, 2012 5:33 PM

No religious content on the N. American NES, heck even the Konami's Noah's Ark failed to get by NOA to be released here, and that was from KONAMI!!! (not color dreams (Wisdom Tree)) etc!

#10 NE146 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 2, 2012 6:44 PM

I always preferred the US titles, and why not? They were in english! :lol: Where I come from, we had the Famicom (although I eventually learned what I had was a bootleg) so while I knew the games were more advanced than my Atari stuff, it was frustrating they were all in Jap. So when I went to college and the US based NES came out, I JUMPED to get it and never really looked back at my Famicom for the most part.

'Course now, all the differences for each game are spelled out on the internet for all to see...and we see we had the inferior Contra and the inferior Lifeforce amongst others. But in 1988/89 that was a little harder to flesh out unless you yourself happened to pay money for both games. I did however make sure I got titles that weren't available in the US whenever I went home for the summer.. stuff like Gradius 2, the real SMB2, and a bunch of other stuff.

I guess it was worth it.. to them. The stuff they pulled wouldn't fly now since information is fast and free and people would complain. :lol: Back then though, it was a lot harder for the average joe gamer to know anything about it.

#11 thegamezmaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 4, 2012 9:57 AM

The only thing I don't like is the stupid 72 pin connector. What were they thinking? I went through a Nintendo training class and even Nintendo admitted it was bad!

#12 Austin OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 4, 2012 9:53 PM

The only change I disliked was the 72-pin connection debacle. I like the tray loading, and it's nice and easy to get carts in and out. It's the games not working that sucks donkey nuts. The rest of it, I like. The controllers are awesome, the look and feel of the system is solid, etc. Granted though, the NES was my own first videogame system (I was too young to be extremely attached to my parents' VCS), so I might be biased.

Now, as far as some of our games being "butchered", I was too young to know at the time, and as an adult today, I don't really care. The US versions of games like Contra and Life Force rocked regardless (and still do today), and the differences that we are now aware of in the Japanese versions is partially what makes import gaming on this platform so interesting. In a way, I see that as a good thing, fueling this hobby of mine further.




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