Retro: Nintendo Entertainment System
Fragland exists already more than a decade and you can see that by the editors. Some of us were silent witnesses of games on cassettes and also the videogames crash of 1984. Luckily this recreated the market to the succesful and booming industry we know today and we get to regularly bring out fond memories, just like the inhabitants of the retirement home around the corner do during their daily coffee chat. From this point of view we decided to take a dive into history and write some retro articles. Were the games really as good as we remember and how playable are they on todays televisions? The first console to get started with is the well-known NES.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES in short, is without a doubt one of the most popular consoles ever created. It first saw the light of day in Japan where it was known as Famicom (Family Computer). Nintendo later on restyled the 8-bit machine for the West and sold millions of it thanks to the giant library of first class software.
The NES was the home base of the most respected franchises ever – just think of Super Mario, Metroid and Zelda – that got their victory by putting gameplay above graphics. When the NES started to become popular its 8-bit technology was already outdated by the competition; an example of this was the 16-bit Sega Megadrive. When the 90s started and newer 16-bit consoles tried to conquer the market Nintendo kept faithful to their 8-bit toaster. This resulted in the arrival of Super Mario Bros 3 which sold better than a bottle of wine in a rehab clinic. This all together made the console an icon in the history of the videogames industry.
Although the NES controller is the granddad of all current-day controllers Nintendo saw a hole in the market of accessories. Everything was easyly available thanks to the videogame crash, but only manufacturers with a Nintendo Quality Seal were allowed to create and distribute such products for Nintendo consoles. Despite the quality label, the market was still overwhelmed with worthless gimmicks like R.O.B., Rock ‘ Roller, U-Force, the “It’s so bad” Powerglove and the Konami laserscope. Still these controllers brought additional attention from the sceptical consumer. Games like Duck Hunt allowed non-gamers to experience the wonderful world of videogames, just like Wii Sports is doing nowadays.
After a long time being kept in the attic, I dusted my old NES console. It was still perfectly left behind where I put it back in the days and once safely having gone down the stairs I fell in my sofa and took a quick look at the necessary cables.
Back in the days the installation was always done through an RF modulator (radio frequency signal through the antenna entrance). My parents used to have a TV with a scart, but this was then occupied by a Betamax and to avoid constant messing around with that one port we chose for this easy alternativ connection. To respect the good old days also this time that method of connectivity was chosen. Power button on and there we go! No image? A quick zap as it can be on another channel but several hours of zapping later, pushing the reset and power button as much times as is necessary to win a spring match in Track&Field, the NES started to smell like burnt plastic. My old console had given up by my own doing! Rest in Peace, my old friend…
No worries though! Luckily there’s an abundance on second hand console to be found on second hand sites. After buying a beautiful “new” one I decided to reconnect it but this time through an AV cable. Little later I could finally get to work with the old cartridges.
Everything seemed to work perfectly, only the sprites looked a bit bigger on the flat screens that replaced that old tube, but this certainly didn’t spoil the fun. Also the good old Zapper appeared to no longer work on a flatscreen eventhough it did still work on an old tv. After some further investigation it appeared that the old technology of the lightgun doesn’t scan lines of the current LCD and plasma TVs. Those that want to try their Zapper again better save an old TV in their attic!
Of course there are also plenty of games that we’ll check out later on. These will come in the form of traditional reviews, where we dig into the gameplay of back in the days. The first Retro review will be coming shortly!