After Sega lit a fire under Nintendo in the form of the Sega Genesis, they who created the Famicom decided it was time to take things to the next level. November 1990 saw the release of the Super Famicom (and two launch titles, Super Mario World and F-Zero), a 16-bit edition of the machine that made gaming fun again. The cost: ¥32,000, but that included the console, two controllers, Super Mario World, and the cables needed to make it all work; the initial run of 300,000 units sold out within hours of release. The Japanese unit was a rousing success and eventually captured 80% of the video game market. A year later Nintendo took the system overseas as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to take on Sega with mixed results, but in Japan the system reigned supreme. The Super Famicom was graced with dozens of unique and amazing games that did not see the light of day overseas, along with a number of innovative add-ons (such as the Satellaview and the Super Game Boy 2).

The Super Famicom differs slightly from its American cousin. It's buttons are multicolored: the A button is red, the B button is yellow, the X button is blue, and the Y button is green. Further more the X & Y buttons are not concave as they are on the Super NES. The physical shape of the console is also different; the Super Famicom features a flat top that, if released in America, American gamers would set their drinks on, leading to the eventual spill. The European version remains unchanged from the Japanese design. In 1997 the console underwent a redesign and became a smaller, sleeker unit that lacked an RF output and an expansion port.

I could go on and on about the technical specifications and all-star game line-up of the Super Famicom, but these things are practically identical to those of the Super NES. Instead I'd like to discuss a few of the stellar games that did not make their way out of Japan. The Final Fantasy series is notorious for not being released overseas intact, as are other Square RPGs (such as Seiken Densetsu 3) and the Fire Emblem series. The Super Famicom was also graced with a number of unique puzzle games that the rest of the world was not, such as Mario & Wario (a mouse-driven action puzzler), Mario's Super Picross (a 16-bit update of the Game Boy title Mario's Picross which was released in America), and Panel de Pon (Tetris Attack without the Yoshis). Several years after the Nintendo 64 had set up camp in America Capcom released Rockman and Forte for the Super Famicom, a stellar platformer featuring the blue bomber that did not make an official appearance outside of Japan until 2003 when it was ported to the Game Boy Advance worldwide under the name Mega Man and Bass. The Japanese don't always get the good stuff, however. The following memorable Super NES games were not released for the Super Famicom: Uniracers, Illusion of Gaia, Killer Instinct, Kirby's Avalanche, Super Punch-Out!!, and Wario's Woods.

Even after other game systems eclipsed its popularity Nintendo continued to manufacture Super Famicoms until 2003 when, on the 20th anniversary of the original Famicom, they shut down production on the two classic consoles. Despite its official retirement the spirit of the Super Famicom lives on in the Game Boy Advance, the portable platform that has brought 16-bit gaming into a new golden age.


Of special note are the rather limited import prevention measures on the Super Famicom and its games. With respect to the US and Japan, it is possible to play an SNES game on a Super Famicom, save for the fact that the blocky SNES cartridges won't fit into the SFC's cartridge slot. All that is needed in this case is a converter with a male SFC connector on one side and a female SNES connector on the other. It's also possible to cut out chunks of the case itself, but in this case it would probably be easier to get a converter or a US SNES. This is true for all versions of the SFC.

Playing SFC games on an SNES is much simpler, as the only import prevention device is a pair of small plastic tabs on the inside of the SNES's cartridge slot. There are cartridge converters to spare you the trouble of performing minor surgery (an SNES Game Genie will also serve well in this regard), but all that is required is a small pair of clippers. Simply push over the dust doors on the cartidge slot, and cut out the small grey tabs near either end of the cartridge connector. This is true for both versions of the SNES.

Importing/exporting games in or out of Europe is much less common, as Japan and the US both use NTSC graphical encoding, but Europe uses PAL encoding. For those who have dual-mode television sets, European games and systems can be treated exactly as Japanese games and systems insofar as connectors are concerned.

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