Despite their ingenious nature and futuristic feel, light guns have been part of the video game landscape since the industry began - in fact, crude examples of the tech can be found as far back as the 1930s. In the 8-bit era both Nintendo and Sega produced their own pistol-like light guns in the form of the NES Zapper and Master System Light Phaser respectively, and both were deemed to be near-essential peripherals for any self-respecting gamer. When the 16-bit era rolled around it was understandable that both companies would look to improve on what had gone before, and - as was the trend for the time - bigger was considered to be better. The result was the Super Scope (released in Europe and Australia as the Nintendo Scope), a bazooka-shaped device which has since passed into the realms of gaming lore, despite a crippling lack of software support and unfortunate reliance on battery power.
Compared to the elegant simplicity of the NES Zapper, the Super Scope is a complex and unwieldy beast. It measures just shy of two feet in length and is powered by six AA batteries. The lack of a wire connecting the Scope to the SNES is a blessing on one hand, but the need for such a large volume of batteries was something of a pain at the time of launch - even though stamina was actually very good. The bundled sensor box - which plugs directly into the SNES console - creates the wireless communication link between the Scope and the console. Because of its size, the back of the peripheral had to be rested on your shoulder, just like a bazooka. This meant that very young players experienced some difficulty using the gun, as their arms weren't long enough to rest the Super Scope on their shoulder and aim properly.
The Scope operates in the same way light guns from the dawn of gaming history have done, and relies entirely on the technology behind the cathode ray tube television sets which were commonplace in the early '90s. CRT TVs do not display a constant image, but instead use an electron beam which travels horizontally across each line of the screen from top to bottom to create the picture. This scanning process is undetectable to the human eye, but not to the sensor inside the Super Scope. The Scope outputs a '0' signal when it sees the television scan and a '1' signal when it doesn't. The system notes which screen pixel it is outputting at the moment the signal changes from 1 to 0, allowing the console to determine where the Scope has been aimed on-screen. Because of this, the Super Scope will not work with modern LCD TV sets, as the pixels are always lit and no scanning takes place. The Scope also comes with a viewfinder which can be fitted to either side of the barrel, accommodating both left and right-handed players. Included with the gun is a cartridge which contains 6 games, which in reality are actually spread across three main titles: Mole Patrol, Blastris and LazerBlazer. The latter two offer two and three variation modes respectively. For increased accuracy players have to calibrate the gun before starting any Super Scope game - this also allows the system to accommodate for any latency or electronic delay.
Dedicated software for the Super Scope is rather thin on the ground. Only a handful of exclusive titles were produced for the peripheral, while some other games came with bonus modes where the Scope could be used as an optional controller. Intelligent Systems contributed Battle Clash and its sequel Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge, while Nintendo R&D1 delivered Yoshi's Safari, perhaps the most convincing Super Scope game. Operation Thunderbolt and T2: The Arcade Game took their respective coin-op siblings and turned them into Super Scope-compatible releases, while the cult classic Tin Star allowed the gun to be used as an optional peripheral, along with the SNES Mouse. Kemco's X-Zone and Tose's Bazooka Blitzkrieg were the only third-party titles which were exclusive to the Super Scope. Bizarrely, 1993's Lamborghini American Challenge features a mode where the Scope can be used to blow up your rival.
Predictably, Sega released its own light gun to compete with the Super Scope in the shape of the Menacer. As with Nintendo's offering, the idea was to make the gun as intimidating as possible, but the hook was that the Menacer was modular and could be customised. The main gun body could be augmented by with a shoulder stock and sights, or used on its own. While Sega's gun was still dwarfed by the immense size of the Super Scope, it was bulkier than the Master System Light Phaser. Despite claims that it was more accurate, the Menacer is remembered as more of a disappointment than the Super Scope, and also suffered from a dismal lack of exclusive and compelling software.
Like the Virtual Boy, the Super Scope has nevertheless been resurrected by Nintendo in some of its recent games, most notably Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, where it is available as a pick-up weapon. The gun was also featured in the Hollywood flop Super Mario Bros., albeit with a different name ("Devo Gun") and colour scheme. The iconic look of the peripheral has ensured that it remains a firm favourite with fans, even if it wasn't an essential purchase back in the early '90s. Because the Super Scope isn't compatible with modern TV sets, finding one second hand today is fairly easy - although it's little more than an ornament these days. Although the Nintendo Wii seemed to herald a revival for light gun titles thanks to its Wii Remote - and was blessed with excellent titles such as Ghost Squad, House of the Dead 1 & 2 and Dead Space: Extraction - the genre seems to have fallen out of favour once more, with only a few Virtual Console games truly keeping it alive on Wii U. While the Super Scope didn't really live up to its potential or match the impressiveness of its imposing design, we miss the days when gigantic, gun-sized controllers were all the rage.