Super Nintendo
SNES
  Nintendo's response to the Sega Genesis was a new 16-bit system of their own: The Super Nintendo. The SNES would prove to render the word "Super" fairly annoying in modern gaming, as there were about 50-100 titles with the word "Super" in them. Nintendo continues to refer to Mario games as "Super Mario," since this series has been using "Super" since before the SNES.

  The hardware exceled above the Genesis in nearly every way. The graphics had more colors and lots of visual effects (a prime example is scaling). The Sound Processing Chip (SPC) by Sony introduced the capability to make MIDI music using custom PCM waveform instruments, thus producing some of the best sounding music and sound effects to date. It was possible, though uncommon, for voices and recorded real-life sounds to appear in games.

  The SNES controller has four face buttons: B, A, Y, and X. It also has L and R buttons on top, a D-pad, Start and Select. There were many more third-party controllers for the SNES, and some were of surprisingly good quality. The controller's introduction of more buttons was a good move, and since the SNES it has been fairly standard to have at least four face buttons and at least two trigger buttons on top on controllers since then. The only company that is moving in the direction of violating this trend and moving to fewer buttons is, ironically, Nintendo.

  There were also many other great accessories for the SNES. The SNES Mouse debuted with Mario Paint, and saw little use beyond that, but Mario Paint has proven to be a hit and one of the more often requested do-overs for new Nintendo systems. (Apart from the Nintendo DS and Pictochat, nothing similar has appeared.) There was a multitap, which allowed four players to connect controllers to one controller port, at the time popular for Bomberman games.

  The Super Scope was a big, heavy cannon thing that vaguely resembled a light gun. Its precision was unrivaled, since it matched the screen's scanning frequency to mark a hit, instead of flashing white squares like the NES used. It had a sight on one side with a tiny circle that would serve as a one-pixel target. It did not plug in to the system, but instead transmitted to an infrared receiver and ran off of 6 AA batteries (which, if you forgot to turn off the gun, would be dead by the next day. Ouch). It came with a cartridge that had six mini-games on it, variants of "Blastris" and "LazerBlazer." The Super Scope was very uncomfortable to use, and caused neck and back pain after just a few minutes of play.

  Apparently Sega made a remarkably similar peripheral after seeing the Super Scope. It was called the Menacer, used 6 AAA batteries, had a sight with a one-pixel targeting circle, was big and uncomfortable, transmitted using infrared, and came with a six-in-one cartridge. You make the call. Unfortunately for Sega, the Super Scope was a spectacular failure due to its poor design and lack of games, and the Menacer faced an equally dismal fate.

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PC Adapters
SNES adapters
A home-built PSXPad adapter and
the Super SmartJoy.
  The SNES controller can be adapted for use with a PC, although there is no solution for the mouse or the Super Scope. There are two ways to do it. The first, and obviously easiest and cleanest, way to connect a Super Nintendo controller is with the Super SmartJoy. It does not require any special driver, and connects to the USB port. The Super SmartJoy is the only commercially produced adapter, and for that I am glad. However, it has two significant flaws that will hopefully be addressed in later revisions: First of all, the connector is much too snug. It takes an unreasonable amount of force to insert, or remove, your SNES controller from the adapter. Those with weaker constitutions might prefer to plug in and leave plugged in an SNES extension cable, especially if their USB ports are in the back. The other complaint I have about the Super SmartJoy is that one button press registers as two or three button presses in the system. Why it does this, I don't know, and it is a bad design since it confuses many games that map button assignments by pressing that button. The problem is not so severe, though, that I cannot use it, it just requires a certain level of patience (and in the rare case, hacking a program's INI file to insert the button assignments).

  The alternative is a custom-built adapter to the parallel port. I like this method because, with the USB port modification I came up with, it can be used for NES controllers. Several third-party controllers, like my beloved SN ProPad, also require the USB port mod. I just wired a USB plug into the power leads to guarantee a solid 5V, which the parallel port on my system does not reliably provide. Otherwise I followed the instructions on the PSXPad site, using the method for the multitap, since it also works with a single controller, and I have a multitap. Then I installed the PSXPad driver, and it works great. Unlike the Super SmartJoy, one button is assigned to one button, and all buttons and axes can be reconfigured as desired. Some parts of the driver are only in Japanese, though, so it can be hard to understand in places.

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Neat Tricks
  The SNES does have one particularly Neat Trick: An accessory Nintendo sold for it, well after the Game Boy took off in popularity, was the Super Game Boy. It plugged into the cartridge slot and took a Game Boy game. It did not simply play the game, however, it also had built-in color palettes you could use, several choices of borders, and some games contained Super Game Boy enhancements that changed the border and colors to game-specific settings. In some games this produced an almost Game Boy Color feel, although the effects were still limited. One Game Boy title, Space Invaders, actually contained a full dump of the SNES version of Space Invaders, and upon loading it in a Super Game Boy, you could play the enhanced Game Boy game, or load the SNES game into memory! Surprisingly, a number of Game Boy Color games even contain Super Game Boy enhancements, although they will play as if they were regualar Game Boy games, not in true color.

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