For me personally, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System is the King of 16-bit consoles. Don’t get me wrong, I love the SEGA Mega Drive, and I owned that system first. But once I got a SNES, I was amazed at the breadth of games available, and their quality. Hell, I still am.
But there’s so much to the awesome system, that even hardcore SNES fans might not know everything about Nintendo’s light grey box of tricks. So sit back, and enjoy five SNES facts that you probably didn’t know – You never know, you might learn something new.
Surround sound from your SNES?!
We live in an age where surround sound is even more affordable than ever, and owning a true home theatre setup is an achievable goal for many. You’ve got soundbars, 5.1 and 7.1 speaker configurations, and most modern consoles support them to ensure that games sound even better than ever before.
But did you know that the SNES supported surround sound? In fact, it supported Dolby Surround Sound, the earliest of Dolby’s multichannel setups. It used two sound channels to encode data for left, centre, right and rear speakers, giving an early form of home surround sound. Put simply, if you have a surround sound system that supports it, you can play certain SNES games in Dolby Surround. Some games like Jurassic Park and Super Turrican had the Dolby Surround logo on the box, indicating support – However, there are many more games out there that supported Dolby Surround unofficially, such as Super Castlevania and Secret of Mana.
You can still do this today, just plug your SNES or television into a Dolby-compatible home theatre system, and set it to output in Dolby Pro Logic or Dolby Pro Logic II. The results are seriously impressive and well worth trying out for yourself.
Downloading SNES Games, Legally?
We take the digital distribution of video games for granted. In about five minutes, I can turn on my Xbox One and purchase a new game, and then I just have to wait for it to download. That’s progress. We don’t have to leave our houses to buy games or rent movies, and it’s amazing.
But there was a time when Nintendo’s 16-bit system could do pretty much the same thing. If you had a Super Famicom, and of course, lived in Japan, you could purchase the Satellaview, a satellite modem add-on that attaches to the bottom of the console, and connects to a satellite broadcasting network. The purpose of this? Well, games of course, as video games could be broadcast live over the air, and there were a tonne of Satellaview-exclusive games that hit the service, from a handful of Zelda games, a visual novel spinoff of Chrono Trigger, and several F-Zero releases. Many of these games even included live broadcast dialogue.
While the UK’s British Telecom held talks with Nintendo to bring a similar service to the UK, with a trial being run between 1995 and 1996, the idea didn’t make it to the market. As it happens, one of these trial cartridges has been unearthed recently.
Many of the Japanese Satellaview games have made it out into the wild via ROMs that omit the broadcast audio that made them so unique, but very recently this functionality has begun to be brought back. There may well be a time when Western gamers can finally experience these games as originally intended, albeit in a fan-translated form.
Sony Chips In!
You all probably know that the SNES was due to have its own CD add-on, originally in partnership with Sony. That relationship was scuppered by a disagreement over licensing but did you know that Sony already had a big part in the Super Nintendo – Namely it’s impressive sound chip.
The S-SMP audio processing unit was a part of every single SNES console that made it out to market, with its main feature being that it was based around sampled instruments, rather than the synthesised sounds of its peers like the Mega Drive. It was created by Ken Kutaragi of Sony, who would later become the father of the PlayStation and eventually the chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment. It was his vision that got Sony this first step into the games industry, and no-one could have predicted them to one day dominate the industry in the same way Nintendo once did.
Much like any console sound chip, the quality of music relied entirely on the composer. While the SNES was capable of some incredible music such the soundtracks to Final Fantasy, Donkey Kong Country and Secret of Mana, it was also capable of some utter stinkers, like The Chessmaster’s awful cacophony of noise.
A SNES Inside Your Television?
When growing up, we probably all had a tiny television in our rooms to play our consoles on. But what if our consoles were built into our televisions? This has been a reality a handful of times, and the Japanese were privy to a SNES built into a television, courtesy of Sharp. The Super Famicom Naizou TV SF1 was released in 1990 and featured a cartridge slot on the top, and Super Famicom controller ports at the bottom. It was known for incredible image quality, the Super Famicom feature could be reset using the remote, and you could even record gameplay straight to a VCR using it. It even supported peripherals like the Satellaview. You won’t see many of these in the wild, but they’re pretty awesome to play on, so if you see one – Check it out immediately!
The SNES was a very impressive system in terms of technical power. While the Mega Drive has a faster processor, the SNES has more memory, was able to display more colours and more sprites, but could also output at many more resolutions. Most Super Nintendo games would display at a resolution of 256×224, but it was also possible for software to utilise a hi-resolution mode of 512 x 448. Only a handful of games utilised this resolution, and it was mainly used for menus – Here’s a small selection of known games that display in Hi-Res mode in this fashion:
* Secret of Mana used the Hi-Res mode to display menus.
* Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret of Mana, similarly used the Hi-Res mode in its menus.
* Power Drive was another game that displayed menus in Hi-Res, as well as a few logos.
* Dark Law was another game that displayed Hi-Res mode during menu screen.
As far as I can tell, only one game used the Hi-Res mode for actual gameplay, and that’s the awful-looking RPM Racing. In addition, there was even a pseudo-High-Res mode that ran in 512 x 224 that allowed for transparency effects, as demonstrated in the overlays during Jurassic Park.
So that was some facts that you hopefully didn’t know about the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. If you liked this video, why not share it with your friends, maybe comment and tell me what facts you didn’t know, or give me some of your own SNES facts!