No matter how many years go by, the legacy of the Super Nintendo is still alive 30 years later. The exquisitely pixelated look -and color- of its games, its way of bringing gameplay forward through the brilliant use of its hardware, and those chips that gave extra wings to its cartridges and six-button controllers laid -with mass- the foundations of the video game industry. And at the same time, they represent a time as fascinating as it is intense for players.
Because, to be fair, Nintendo’s second console was more an evolution of the NES than a revolution. Or rather, the beginning of a new stage with a view to more demanding players and more restless creative. Giving concrete and palpable form to what we know today as nintendera magic, both in its most experimental stages -which it had- and during its own decline.
A success that did not equal the number of consoles sold by its predecessor (to be fair, the NES did not have such powerful rivals to face) but whose great successes, as with those of Mega Drive, continue to be played today. Not only because of their deserved consideration as classics of their time; but because of their universal experiences of a timeless nature.
A legacy that started in his successful early years, was cemented during the Console War against the emerging -and daring- SEGA and was perpetuated in the way he stood up to 32-bit systems with forced quotes and essential jewels.
Enough so that, decades later, games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid or Chrono Trigger continue to have a very special weight and presence among the creative and passionate about video games. And while nostalgia has its own weight, it is also fair to assess how these games today manage to captivate new players. Whether it’s riding Yoshi or traveling through time with Chrono and his troupe.
In part, this is due to how the hardware of the affectionately nicknamed Brain of the Beast managed to blow our heads off. Not only because of the technical leap in front of the NES, but also because of his way of taking advantage of his aces up the sleeve, such as the mythical Mode 7 or the possibility of incorporating the SuperFX chip into his cartridges. Even allowing us to play Game Boy games through a simple adapter.
Making their hardware do the impossible, even in those two long years when it coincided with PlayStation and Saturn on the shelves.
And, despite everything, the SNES is a console whose catalog skillfully avoids the problem of retrorotura in both the visual and playable. Falling in love decades later with new generations of players. And the Big N is fully aware of it.
The Brain of the Beast of Nintendo
The NES gave Nintendo a deservedly privileged position in the video game industry, and this was due to multiple factors: after the historic Atari bump, the Big N turned the little machines with interchangeable cartridges into a phenomenon. Controlling the quality of each game, studying the best commercial opportunities and making sure that the most powerful licenses converged in their system. First in Japan and then in the rest of the world,
Nintendo did not have a monopoly on desktop games, but almost: its NES was far above any other alternative. And that meant that in a way it controlled the industry and, by extension, that software developers had to accept its conditions in order to publish five games a year (maximum) on the 8-bit console.
Between 1987 and 1988 the industry itself began to evolve: while Super Mario Bros. 3 was sweeping Japan, the reality is that there were already other systems much more advanced and capable of offering better game experiences. And not only that: the Mega Drive of SEGA allowed to play its successes of the recreational ones in house. The time had come to shape the successor to the NES.
The known as Super Famicom System (remember that the analog of the NES in Japan is the Famicom) was officially announced to the world in 1987 and presented a year later. That was a look to the future: the amount of sprites and colors on screen (its palette was 32.768 colors) was thundering and its DSP (Digital Signal Processor) promised infinite possibilities: now it was possible to rotate and fold in three dimensions big shapes in 2D.
That takeover was rounded off with big announcements: in addition to the visual demos, it was anticipated that four games would be released (including Super Mario Bros. 4 and Zelda 3) and that it would be on sale in Japan in 1989. The reality is that we had to wait a little longer for all those promises to come true in Japan and three eternal years for it to reach Europe.
On November 21, 1990 would see the light the new console of Nintendo: the Super Famicom. At first sight, the first thing that stood out was its controls of six buttons (four frontal and two superior) and its finished much more modern and elegant than the one of a Famicom whose forms revealed that it had been launched at the beginning of the 80’s.
But its true evolution was shown in the televisions: Nintendo had surpassed itself with a Super Mario World in which the mustached superstar surpassed any expectation. And that was just the beginning of what was to come.