Though in the planning stages for years, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), was immediately stepped up for production when sales for the 8-bit NES had begun to decline in early 1991.
The head of the design team for the original NES, Masayuki Uemura was again commissioned as the architect for the new console. President of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi asked Uemura that he explore the option of making the new 16-bit system compatible with the millions of cartridges they had sold for the 8-bit NES. He knew that cross-compatibility was a major factor in the success of a second-generation system.
As before, Uemera's primary goal in designing the SNES was to keep production costs down as much as possible. He found that in order to make the new system compatible with NES cartridges, a minimum $75 would have to be tacked on to the cost of each unit. Instead of opting for this, Yamauchi decided to make an NES cartridge adapter available at a later date; though none was ever introduced (note: the unlicensed Super Eight converter from Innovation for $59.95 does allow NES cartridges to be played on the SNES).
Uemera added several impressive features to the SNES. It is capable of producing 32,768 total colors. It also has the capability of dividing backgrounds into multiple layers, as could Nintendo's main competitor Sega's Genesis. This opened up a new three-dimensional realm for game designers.
On the bottom of the SNES, Uemera designed a special expansion port. It allows a CD-ROM player to be plugged in. Nintendo intended to introduce this component when they had more fully developed the technology. They spent years designing a CD-ROM peripheral with both Sony and Phillips. In 1994 Nintendo announced the termination of the project. They announced that they would instead be focusing their attention to a new cartridge based 64-bit system that later became the Nintendo 64.
Close to 4 million Super Famicons (the Japanese name for the SNES) had been sold in Japan by the time it had been introduced in the United States. Nintendo was having difficulty keeping the product in stock in Japanese stores. In America sales figures turned out to be a different story. The SNES retailed for a reasonable $199.99 but 16-bit systems like the Sega Genesis and NEC's TurboGrafx-16 had already made an impact on the US market. Upon its introduction to the United States SNES had only a few cartridges available, at the same time, the Sega Genesis had one hundred. Somehow Nintendo had to catch up to its 16-bit competitors.
In order to immediately increase the number of titles for the SNES, Nintendo decided to alter its policy for outside game manufacturers. Nintendo would not restrict companies to design games only for their system. They would allow their licensees to produce three games a year, but to encourage a standard of quality; they instituted their own rating system. If a third party game was impressive enough to receive a rating of thirty or more points, Nintendo would not count it as one of the three.
Nintendo would still receive a twenty percent royalty for every third party game manufactured. Eventually many superior games were made for the SNES and though it gained in popularity up until 1996 with the introduction of the Nintendo 64, there was never a clear-cut winner in its battle with Sega's Genesis system.
In early 1992, Nintendo made a major move to attract gamers to its system by releasing the Super Scope. Obviously inspired by the NES Zapper light gun, but much different in design, this wireless bazooka includes a receiver that plugs into the controller port. Sporting a gun sight, a shoulder mount and hand grip, it runs on 6 AA batteries and retailed for $49.95. It was packaged with the Super Scope 6 cartridge that contained six shooting games. Other software titles that are compatible with the Super Scope are: Terminator 2: The Arcade Game, Tin Star, X-Zone, Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge, Battle Clash, Bazooka Blitzkrieg, Lamborghini American Challenge and Yoshi's Safari
Keeping potential future sales in mind, one of Nintendo's main interests became attracting young children to the SNES. Later, in the fall of 1992, Nintendo introduced the Mario Paint program giving users the opportunity to interactively paint pictures and create cartoon animation. Homemade cartoons can be set to music by using a selection of automated instruments. The SNES Mouse was introduced with the release of Mario Paint, and though the mouse was undoubtedly intended for other gaming purposes, it was not utilized often. Games compatible with the SNES mouse include: Jurassic Park, Civilization, Lemmings 2: The Tribes, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Eye of the Beholder and Shien's Revenge.
Like the NES console, there is a multiplayer adapter available for the SNES, however it is not manufactured by Nintendo. The Super MultiTap allows up to five players on the system at one time. When it was introduced, the MultiTap sold for $59 and came packaged with the Super Bomberman game. Other SNES multi-player games include: Madden '97, NHL '97, NBA Live '97, Lord of the Rings and Firestriker.
Over 600 games have been released for American SNES systems. The most popular games have been: Super Mario All-Stars, Donkey Kong Country, F-Zero, Super Metroid, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Mario Kart. ~ Dave Beuscher, All Game Guide