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Features: Celebrating Super Famicom's 20th Anniversary

Posted by Corbie Dillard

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.

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User Comments (41)



Ogy said:

I love my Super Famicon (BTW which was called the Super NES in Australia). Other then classics like Mario and Zelda, secret of mana and secrect of evermore rocked my world. The SNES built my love of games

Happy Birthday Super Famicon / SNES



Deviant_Mugen said:

Happy 20th Anniversary, Super Famicom!

Great write-up, by the way, Corbie. Always nice to hear about people's walks down memory lane...



Shiryu said:

20 years later and it's still me favorite console ever. Ok, so the Wii does play SNES (among others) but it's not quite the same thing. Good times. =)

PS: Best joypad ever!



DiggerandIndy said:

Ahh...The Super Famicom, Japanese counterpart to the SNES, my favorite system. Since this is the 20th anniversary, I wonder if Nintendo's doing something special? 8-)



Dazza said:

Wow 20 years already! I remember my best mate at school ordering a Japanese import from one of the ads in the back of Mean Machines mag for about £400 when we should have been revising for our exams!

Great times, I remember playing early games such as Final Fight and Caveman Ninja and marvelling at how close they were to the arcades.

Thanks for the article Corbie, it was great to read your SFC experience.

Happy 20th birthday Super Famicom!!



Majora said:

Great, Corbie, thanks. I'm still have my Super Nintendo too, my favourite console of all time.



astarisborn94 said:

I consider the SNES to be the best console ever made. So many fantastic game came out for the system.



SuperMarioFan96 said:

While I wasn't living yet to see this all happen, the GBA version/VC version of Super Mario World have been enough to convince me it's one of the greatest games of all time.

Happy 20th aniversary Super Famicom!



StarBoy91 said:

Great story, Corbie.
Happy 20th anniversary, SuperFamiCom!!!!! And happy 20th anniversary to you, too, Super Mario World, Pilotwings, F-Zero, and ActRaiser!!!



TKOWL said:

Happy 20th Birthday! Can't wait 'till your American cousin shares the same momentous occasion!



The_Fox said:

Man, $400 in 1990? That's pretty serious cash. Anyway, nice story Corbie!



Starwolf_UK said:

@shinesprite. Or any of the modern consoles for that matter...looks like a retro setup to me.

Its always nice to hear how someones first import went. Sadly, mine was sort of ruined by me telling a friend and him being, oh, I've had it for a week already and I paid less than you (which is always annoying considering how expensive these imports used to be).



nintendo87 said:

1000% one of the best years of gaming ever had the best games on it i hope one day there will be a game system that could be this good!



Token_Girl said:

Wow, so many anniversaries! Great story, btw. Luckily things are released close enough between Japan and the US most of the time that importing's not really as necessary (and is much easier if you do decide to do it, thanks to the intertubez). Interesting to hear how it used to be.



Slapshot said:

Great article Corbie, what a great read. I love the "Did You Know" inserts as well.

I was playing the Genesis during the SNES days and was young and couldn't afford multiple systems at the time. Oh the fanboys fights I had with friends, "Sonic is better than Mario" , N64 and Mario 64/Waverace brought me running back to Nintendo so fast I never looked back to SEGA again

Please click ">"> here and comment as this article is posted on n4g and support Corbie and the site!



Sneaker13 said:

Today I put DKC back in the console. Great game, great console and fun games.

I don't understand the line in the article about that Super Punch Out!, Illusion of Gaia, and Uniracers were never released for the Super Famicom.



Corbs said:

Yeah I should have checked that trivia before I put it in there. I thought Gaia was released in Japan. But I knew Super Punch Out!! wasn't. Fix'd.



Chunky_Droid said:

Nintendo should seriously do something to celebrate this as well. I know the Mario 25th is going on, but maybe some more VC releases, or SOMETHING would be nice



Tasuki said:

I have that same Chrono Trigger poster hanging on my wall .

I remember getting my SNES on Christmas morning 1991. I also got Final Fight too along with the system and Super Mario World. I still had it up untill 10 years ago when my ex roommate stole it from me . At times I wish I still had it. One of the best if not the best systems ever. I wonder if Nintendo is going to do anything special for it like they did with Marios and the NES anniversary.



RantingThespian said:

I never actually owned a SNES. They were too expensive for me at the time, and my parents wouldn't buy one. However, I still had my NES and Gameboy til me and my bro saved up money to get an N64 when it was launched.

However, I remember going over to so many friend's houses with my only intent was to play Mario Kart (or such) on their SNES, and as much as possible.



WWW said:

Hey everyone! Since this is the twentieth anniversary of the controller, why isn't it here yet in the club nintendo of North America.



Steamboat_Willie said:

Aww, man. I used to have that Super Mario Bros. 3 strategy guide back then. I used to take it with me to school, and read it all the time. Great story, Corbie.



blink83 said:

The always go changing thing for america when the japan console and controller looked better. But americas to cool and drink to much for that O.o



JustanotherGamer said:

Twenty years of the greatest Nintendo console ever. In those 20 years I've bought 6 Snes systems. I always regret selling them and despite having moved on to more advanced videogaming systems from both Nintendo and other videogaming companies. I just had to get another SNES. So I'm on my sixth Super Nintendo. Even Birthday SuperFamicom/SNES.



StarBoy91 said:

Hi, JustanotherGamer, welcome to NintendoLife.

I'm sorry to hear about your SNES console being stolen, Tasuki.



MeloMan said:

Man... I hate that my SNES broke. It would still get the air time my NES gets every once in a while.



HapsNinFan said:

Touching Story! How Old Were You? In Your Late Teens? A Little Like Me. Ill Be Writing About This When Im Your Age. Cuz Im Only 11 So The Wii Will Be Like The SNES But The SNES Is Much Different (And Better) From Writing About The Wii, Becuase It Has Evolved So Much! I Would Of Got Pretty Pissed Off At The NES For Not Saving. Im Glad They Remade It
Got Super Mario Bros.3 On The VC To Celebrate 20th Anniversary And Was Whacking The Remote About For Not Saving Mm Couldnt Of Survived With No Memory In Gaming. Is It Weird Im An 11 Year Old Girl Who Loves Gaming (Old School And New)?



Wolfenstein83 said:

I know this is late, but Happy Birthday Famicom!
I really wish some of those Japan-only games would have made their way to the states.
I am looking at you Bahamut Lagoon.

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