Features: Celebrating Super Famicom's 20th Anniversary

Nintendo's Mode-7 machine turns 20

For those who aren't aware, the Super Famicom console is celebrating its 20th birthday today. On this day in 1990, Nintendo released the much-anticipated follow-up to its immensely popular Famicom system onto the eager Japanese gaming world. The Super Famicom became an instant hit in Japan and a North American release, labelled the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, followed nine months later.

To celebrate the launch of this incredible gaming session, Corbie Dillard tells his own, very personal Super Famicom story.

Did you know? Nintendo continued to manufacture the Super Famicom console well into 2000.

There was just no way I could wait nine months to get my hands on Super Mario World, thus kicking off my first foray into importing a video game console.

It all began a couple of months before the Super Famicom was released in Japan. I was in the middle of my first year of college and had just recently moved into my first apartment on my own. I already owned the Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 consoles, but my excitement for the Super Nintendo system was becoming more overwhelming as video game magazines began showing pictures of the Super Famicom and its collection of launch titles. Once it was announced that there would be a rather lengthy wait for the console to hit North American shores, not to mention a rather drool-inducing preview of Super Mario World in the November issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine, I began toying with the idea of actually importing a Super Famicom system.

Import game retailers were already becoming quite prevalent in the various video game magazines of the time, so finding one that was selling the upcoming Super Famicom was quite easy. I'd seen Steve Harris, the Editor-in-Chief of EGM, talk about The Game Train, so I decided to give them a try first. Having never imported a video game console before left me with a lot of unknowns, so I knew I'd need a retailer that could answer all of my questions before I tossed that kind of money down. Luckily, the sweet girl I spoke to on the telephone was not only extremely nice, but very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of import gaming, especially the Super Famicom.

After asking an abundance of questions as to what I would need in order to use the Japanese Super Famicom system here in the US, I was told that I would need a television with A/V inputs and then informed that they only had two available consoles left to sell from their initial allocation, and wouldn't likely get any more systems until well after the New Year. Now whether or not that was something of a marketing ploy or the actual truth I had no way of knowing, but I wasn't about to take any chances.

Did you know? - Nintendo changed the Super Famicom cosmetically for its North American launch due to worries over American gamers sitting their drinks on the flat surface of the Super Famicom and spilling them into the console.

I quickly ordered the console and Super Mario World, not to mention the fastest shipping service I could possibly afford, totaling nearly $400 of my (semi) hard-earned cash. As soon as I got off of the phone with Game Train I immediately went to my 19" television in my bedroom to see if it did, in fact, have any A/V inputs on it. Unfortunately, there were none to be found so I knew then that I'd have to connect the system to the 27" console television in my living room that my grandparents had kindly donated to me when I moved into my apartment. I had my NES connected to it via the A/V inputs so I knew they worked. I disconnected my NES console and began the gruelling wait for the Super Famicom system to arrive.

The next week and a half seemed to crawl by, but thankfully the Thanksgiving holiday was coming up so I knew I'd at least be busy during that time. I had approximated when my Super Famicom should arrive based upon what I was told on the phone about the unit shipping out the day after Thanksgiving, so if everything went according to plan, it would arrive that following Monday. The timing was perfect since I had just finished up final exams at college and had nothing but free time on my hands in the evenings.

Did you know? - Nintendo was afraid the multi-coloured buttons on the Super Famicom controller would make the system look too much like a "toy" among American consumers, thus they were changed to two shades of purple for the North American release of the console.

I'll never forget that Monday evening when the UPS guy delivered the system. I can remember it now, like it happened five minutes ago. The first thing I did was order a pizza so I wouldn't have to cook anything and then I hooked everything up and prepared for the moment of truth. I just knew that something was going to go wrong or something wasn't going to work – I even caught myself pausing just before I turned the power switch on for the first time. Thankfully, the system fired right up and I spent the next nine hours glued to the TV playing Super Mario World until 3:00am. My legs were so numb from sitting on the floor that I almost fell flat on my face while I was trying to get up from in front of the television to take a much-needed bathroom break.

I spent pretty much the entire holiday season with that Super Famicom controller in my hands. I bet I played through Super Mario World three times before I finally decided to bite the bullet and import a new game. I picked up F-Zero shortly after the new year and a few months later bought Final Fight. Those would end up being the only three Super Famicom games I'd import before the Super Nintendo system was released in the US the following August.

I still remember going to Kay Bee Toy store when the Super Nintendo was released in order to buy PilotWings in the hope that it would work with my Super Famicom and I wouldn't have to buy a Super Nintendo system. Sadly, the cartridge wouldn't fit down into the slot on my Super Famicom so I ended up purchasing a Super Nintendo the following month and boxing the old Super Famicom up. In all honesty, it had earned the well-deserved break.

Did you know? - Super Punch Out! and Uniracers were never released for the Super Famicom.

It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since the Super Famicom system was released, but I've still got my original system that I recently took out of storage and put back into service after nearly 19 years of being boxed up. There's just something magical about the console for me and it brings back so many great memories of that time period. With the Internet, it's quite common now for people to import game consoles, but it was quite a bit more challenging and less heard of back in 1990 when I first took the plunge.

One thing is for certain: the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo console went on to become a mammoth hit for Nintendo and has become one of the most respected and beloved game consoles ever created. So here's to the Super Famicom on its 20th Anniversary, and here's to 20 more wonderful years of Mode 7 gaming goodness.