Review by Macintosh User

"16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System Analysis & In-Depth Review"

Nintendo has always been a big-time player in the world of video games, ever since the horrible video game depression of 1984, the Big N has played its part in successfully reviving the market by providing some of the best home consoles to ever hit store shelves. The original 8-bit NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) launched in the mid-80's and quickly established Nintendo as the premier video game company. The 8-niy NES still remains as one of the most beloved video game consoles in history. The system single-handedly wiped out the Sega Master System and won the crown as the elite 8-bit system. When NEC launched the 16-bit Turbo-Grafx 16 in 1988, Nintendo began to feel some pressure as gamers began to opt for a 16-bit experience rather than sticking with the older, less advanced NES. Sega eventually released their own 16-bitter, the Sega Genesis, a system that became extremely popular and severely cut into Nintendo's market share. There was only one thing Nintendo could do. Launch their own 16-bit machine. It had to be great, as the the successor of the NES, it had some very large shoes to fill. So Nintendo went to the drawing board and built the ultimate 16-bit machine, one that would place Nintendo at the forefront of the market. They built a 16-bit system that launched in Japan under the name Super Famicom, and later it was released in Europe and America as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1991 the SNES came to America, boasting some of the most impressive specs ever seen on a console. The Super Nintendo used cartridges to store games on, and special chips were inserted in certain cartridges to enhance the graphics and speed of some of the games (more on this later). Built-in features such as Mode 7 allowed the system to perform sophisticated rotation and scaling effects that had never been possible before. The Super Nintendo had a lot of ground to cover if they were to catch up with the Sega Genesis, but Nintendo knew that and designed the system with that in mind. Ultimately the Super Nintendo Entertainment System became the flagship 16-bit console and won the war of the 16-bit machines by overtaking Sega and smashing the Turbo-Grafx 16 in terms of sales, graphics capabilities, and quality games. Let's take a look at the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the king of the 16-bit era, and one of the greatest systems in video game history.

(Super Nintendo Entertainment System Technical Specifications)
The system featured a white case with purple buttons for turning on the power and resetting the game. It also featured a very cool 'Eject' button in between the purple buttons that ejected cartridges when you were finished playing them. The original system was pretty square, and had some curvatures to make the system look sleeker. Eventually the system was re-designed in a smaller, cheaper case, that had more rounded edges and retained the white case with purple power/reset buttons. The eject button was removed from the system to help keep the cost down on the new model. Inside of the system resided a custom 16-bit 65C816 CPU chip that operated at a frequency of 3.58 megahertz. The CPU came under fire later on when Sega capitalized on the sluggish speed of the chip, and boasted that the Genesis processor was much faster. Indeed, the Genesis processor was clocked at a higher speed, but they were two entirely different chips, and when you have two completely different processor and system architectures, then sometimes chips clocked at lower speeds can actually be as fast as, if not faster than the other chip. This was not the case here, as the Genesis clearly sported a faster chip, but a special chip that could be inserted in game paks actually allowed the system to operate at a higher frequency. This was one of the many special cartridge chips that was released and used in SNES games. The system also featured 128Kb of RAM, plus 64Kb of Video RAM. One of the more impressive features of the system was its color palette, which consisted of 32,678 colors, of which 256 could be displayed on-screen at any given time. The Sega Genesis color count was much smaller, at 64 colors on-screen at once. This meant that the SNES boasted games that were more lush and colorful, games that were released for both systems often times looked much better on the SNES. Compare Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers on both systems, the difference is astounding. The SNES looks much more colorful, much clearer and crisper, while the Genesis version looks a bit washed-out. The SNES could actually render polygons with the help of a cartridge chip, called the SuperFX chip. Games such as Starfox utilized the chip and harnessed its polygon-making power to create an entire universe made completely of polygonal shapes. The system could produce 128 sprites on-screen max, and each catridge could hold between 2Mbit and 48Mbit of RAM. The sound processor was an 8-bit Sony SPC700 which was a very impressive chip. It featured 8 sound channels, and featured 512Kbit of Audio RAM. The sound chip was much more advanced than the Sega Genesis and Turbo-Grafx 16 chips, and as a result the sound effects and music on SNES games sounded much clearer and cleaner than their counterparts on the other systems. The voices in Street Fighter 2 are much clearer on the SNES than they are on the Genesis or TG-16, and the music just sounds richer and deeper. Overall the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was the elite 16-bit console, and easily overpowered its competitors and outmatched them in almost every way possible.

(Controllers)
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System featured some of the best controllers ever seen on a home console. They had round curves on both ends to make it comfortable to hold in your hand. The controller featured a directional pad, Select and Start buttons, plus six action buttons. Four of the action buttons resided on the right side of the controller, while two of them were placed on top, and were called shoulder buttons. The end result was a very comfortable, user-friendly controller that had enough buttons to handle any game with ease. The controller was revolutionary in that it featured six action buttons, instead of the 3-button and 2-button controllers found elsewhere on the Genesis and Turbo-Grafx 16 systems. There was no need to buy a special 6-button controller to play Street Fighter 2, unlike the Genesis and TG-16 which both had to scramble to release 6-button controllers so that gamers could play Street Fighter 2 the right way. Many other controllers were released for the system, like heavy-duty, very-sturdy joysticks, like the SNES Advantage and the Capcom Fighter Stick. I own both joysticks and they are some of the best joysticks I have ever used, next to the Neo-Geo joysticks which are still the best. A light gun called the Super Scope 6 was released for the SNES, and it looked like a bazooka. It was long and featured a tube-like design, with a shoulder mount, handgrip, and a gunsight to help you aim and lock on to your targets. The Super Scope 6 came with a pack-in game that held six games, plus a few other titles were released for it. Besides the Scope, there was an SNES mouse released for the system, which was used for some RPG games and Mario Paint which came with the mouse. Several other gamepads were developed by third-party supporters, some featured turbo fire buttons, some were clear so you could see the insides of the controller, and others could memorize certain motions on the directional pad so that when playing a game like Street Fighter 2 you could program special moves such as fireballs, or sonic booms, so that you could execute them with a touch of a button.

(Super Nintendo Entertainment System Cartridge Enhancement Chips)
Several chips were developed by companies to enhance the cartridges they were inserted into. Some of them are very well-known while a few of them are rather obscure. Here is a quick list of the chips and their primary functions.

(SuperFX Chip)
The SuperFX chip uses RISC architecture and contains a mathematical processor and houses its own CPU. This chip was used in some 2D games like Donkey Kong Country to create special effects like lighting and to create the mist seen in some of the levels. Mainly it was built to create 3D environments made completely of polygons that used texture mapping and light source shading. Some of the games that use the SuperFX chip are Starfox, Stunt Race FX, and Dirt Trax FX.

(SA-1 Chip)
This was an 8/16-bit processor that operated at 10Mhz. It included some other special features like fast RAM, memory-mapping capabilities, and a region lock-out chip. Super Mario RPG and Kirby Superstars are two examples of games that used this chip.

(DSP-1 Chip)
This chip was developed to complement the Mode 7 engine, and simply enhanced its capabilities and improved scaling and rotation techniques. A floating-point processor unit was packaged in this chip. Pilotwings and Super Mario Kart are two games that used the DSP-1 chip.

(DSP-2 Chip)
This is a very complex chip that increases the SNES CPU speed all the way from 3.58 megahertz to 8 megahertz. Top Gear 3000 and F1 Race of Champions used this chip.

(C4 Chip)
Capcom developed this chip to allow for enhanced transparency effects. Elements like water and weather effects like rain were greatly imrpoved due to the use of this chip. Both Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3 used this chip.

(SDD1 Chip)
This chip allowed for memory compression. Extra large games that required massive amounts of RAM used this chip to lower the megabyte count and shrink the game to fit on a SNES cartridge instead of having to cut out animations to lessen the meg count. This chip basically kept everything intact while simply compressing the data to a more manageable number. Stret Fighter Alpha 2 is one example of a game that used the SDD1 chip.

(Games)
Some of the best games of all time were released for the Super Nintendo, such classics as Super Mario World, Starfox, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Kart, and Street Fighter 2 are all examples of excellent SNES games. Several Final Fantasy games were also released for the system was well as arcade hits like Final Fight, T2: Judgement Day, and Samurai Shodown were all present in the game library. The SNES has a vast library of games and nearly all of them are excellent.

(Recommendations)
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is a must-own console. It is simply outstanding and easily surpassed the original NES as the greatest Nintendo system ever created. This system features games of every genre and the graphics and sound are top-notch. It is a 16-bit machine that can render polygons, produce incredible rotation and scaling effects, and features some of the best controllers ever built. This is one system that is worth every penny. The games are simply phenomenal and some of the most cherished and honored games are available for it. It carried Nintendo on its back to the top of the video game mountain and still sits perched there, simply waiting for another system to prove itself as a more complete entertainment package. The SNES has so many features and so many great games that it can compete with any system ever built. This console is one that should, could, and will go down as the king of its era. Take it from the Super NES, its good to be king.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/04


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