Ten years ago on this day, November 21, 1990 in Japan, Nintendo's highly-anticipated 16-bit system went on sale in stores. Within hours they were all gone off the shelves, fanatic players having waited for hours in queue, skipping school, even mugging other purchasers to get their hands on this system. Although its time has come and gone, thousands of people around the world today still get enjoyment from this super system. This short article will celebrate the good times in the SFC's life, with a few pictures of the SFC's most memorable games. After the article is my regular personal opinion and analysis of this system in its American counterpart, the Super Nintendo.
When I finally found out more news about the Super Famicom in the Summer of 1990, I was awakening more and more to the mystique of Japanese video games; and the SF's impending arrival in Japan (November 1990, and eventually in the U.S., I hoped) had me dreaming of all the possibilities of an awesome new system. The screenshots of the first batch of games -- Super Mario 4, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Actraiser, Gradius III, and others -- made me really wish that I were in Japan. I could see the graphics of the games, but I wanted to play them, to see them moving, to hear the spectacular music that the magazines raved about. Well, I was kept in this state until the Fall of 1991, when the SNES was officially released in North America. 1991 had been a year of waiting, and finally to see the games, finally to touch the system, was pure delight.
And then... what? Where were all the great, souped-up versions of the NES games that we so dearly loved? Where were the Bionic Commandos, the Mega Mans, the Contras, the Duck Tales, the Little Nemos, the Striders, the Batmans, the Blaster Masters, the Ninja Gaidens of the 16-bit era? The conversions and updates trickled out, but it was not what we had expected, was it? We had to be happy with the different type of games that the SNES had. We were no longer playing a 16-bit NES system; it was something different.
The SNES did rack up its selection of great games, but clearly it was no longer the phenom that the NES was. The Genesis had drawn too many people over to its camp, and then Street Fighter 2 came out and changed the course of videogames forever. What did SFII do? To games in general: it made the beat-em-up genre replace the traditional side-scrolling platform game genre as the most popular game type, both in the arcades and on home systems. Every company and their dog began filling the market with SFII derivatives, while development of the more traditional (American) genres slowed down: platformers & shooters. To Capcom: SFII made them filthy stinking rich, then nearly bankrupted them. For years afterwards, SFII became their #1 franchise, displacing all others. Capcom themselves made so many SFII derivatives that the quality of their other games suffered. People eventually got sick of anything with the words SFII in it. Capcom nearly went out of business because they put almost all their eggs in one basket. To wit: Nintendo had to release Mega Man 6 for the NES themselves because Capcom (I surmise) couldn't afford to take the risk.
What did SFII do to the SNES? Simply, SFII and Mortal Kombat became the talk of the system for a couple of years afterwards. During those years, the focus of attention was taken off the genres of games that made the NES popular: platformers, action games, action adventures. I know it's a narrow view of games, but it's the bread-and-butter of my videogame world, at least. One thing that the SNES was well-stocked in was RPGs, and that really now is what the SNES is to people. The majority of the ROMs traded on the Internet are RPGs like the Final Fantasy series, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest, etc. Platformers are still very popular, too. But there is a palpable sense that (now that the SNES is largely dead) people are rediscovering all the good games that were ignored during the "great beat-em-up battle" of the 1990s. The SNES had a shorter life than the NES, and became less relevant much sooner than anticipated. Street Fighter II contributed significantly to this premature death.