Okay! So! Fast forward to the Year of Our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Ninety. In this year Nintendo released the Super Famicom on the Japanese market. The following year the new console hit the US under the name Super Nintendo Entertainment System. According to some sources, Nintendo executives were quite comfortable with the success of the NES and didn’t feel a need to release a new machine. Fortunately, the market was evolving and Nintendo’s hand was forced. It seems strange to look back on a day when company’s felt that a system could stay on the market for a decade without a replacement compared to today’s market, in which manufacturers seem to release new systems on 5 year cycles.
So, the Super NES was released and it was really quite an impressive machine. Besides having the best graphics and audio available at the time, it featured MODE 7 capabilities. I don’t know what that name meant but it allowed for images and backgrounds to be spun around, angled, and enlarged/shrunk, creating new special effects and occasionally some 3D-ish effects. Many cartridges were released with additional circuitry inside that expanded on the capabilities of the Super NES. For example, StarFox was the first truly 3D game released on any home console.
The Super NES, in my All-American opinion, also enjoyed a library superior to the NES. Most of the big publishers released fewer games for the system but these games were generally of a higher quality than their NES equivalents. The NES was dominated by side-scrolling action games but the SNES enjoyed a greater diversity, with the rise of RPGs, action-adventures, fighters, etc.
The most annoying trend among SNES games was to add ‘Super’ to the beginning of game titles: Super Double Dragon, Super Castelvania IV, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Super Metroid, Super Punch-Out, etc.
Nintendo’s monopolistic practices continued but were slowly starting to wear down late in the console’s lifetime due to more successful competition. There was indeed a lawsuit and the rule that games released for NES or SNES could not be released for other systems was STRUCK DOWN, potentially opening the floodgates. However, publishers were slow to jump into the “release this game for every system possible” mentality until the next generation.
WHAT WERE THE COMPETITORS UP TO?!
This is probably the machine that spurred the development of the Super NES. Released in Japan in 1988, and the US in 1989, the Genesis (or Mega Drive, as it was known in Japan and Europe) was a big hit. The US market was now truly competitive thanks to SEGA’s aggressive marketing and much-improved game development. I believe that at this point they were almost at Nintendo’s level as far as being a quality publisher (Sonic, Shinobi, Wonder Boy, Comix Zone, Gunstar Heroes, etc.) .
What really set Genesis apart was its more mature (read: violent) identity. SEGA didn’t hold its partners to lame censorship rules. They let the blood and the religious imagery fly. The Genesis is definitely worth owning. Even if you own the SEGA Genesis Collection and Sonic Mega Collection compilations recently released for GameCube and PS2, there are still many other solid games only available on good ol’ Genesis.
TURBOGRAFX-16 by NEC
Designed by Hudson Soft and manufactured/distributed by NEC, this system debuted in Japan as the PC Engine in 1987 and hit the US a couple of years later. This machine has an okay library but probably not enough to warrant purchasing unless you really love scrolling arcade shooters. This machine was almost as successful as the Master System. The main problem with this system is it doesn’t really have an identity distinct from the SNES. Most of the good games are cutesy and bright. The Bonk games feel like Mario spin-offs. The Neutopia games are Zelda clones. Only when combined with the CD-ROM add-on does this system start to look like something worth owning but even then the library of great games isn’t overwhelming.
NEOGEO AES by SNK
This system is a bit of an oddity. It was actually identical to SNK’s arcade hardware of the time, making it very, very powerful and also very expensive. In that regard, it almost wasn’t a competitor for the SNES. In truth, there is almost no reason at all to buy this system, as it’s still quite expensive and the individual games are very expensive. There were several good games released for the system but most of these are available on PlayStation, Dreamcast, etc.