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,
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
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.
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).
A home-built PSXPad adapter and
the Super SmartJoy.
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.
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.