August 8, 2004

Disclaimer: I have tried my best to verify the information contained herein,
however I take no responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained
within this FAQ.

Should you find any errors or would like to make any comments regarding this FAQ
you may e-mail me at the address found at the end of this FAQ. Any new or
corrected information that is included in future updates will be credited to the
proper person.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. SNES Specs
3. Special Features
4. Accessories
6. References
7. Legal Info

1. Introduction

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (referred to as the SNES throughout
the rest of this FAQ) was Nintendo's follow-up system to their 8-bit Nintendo
Entertainment System. The SNES (called the Super Famicom in Japan) was
released in Japan on November 21, 1990. The SNES was released in the United
States on September 9, 1991. The European release date was mid-1992 (actual
date varied with location).

The SNES was a tremendous improvement over the original NES. The SNES
boasted higher quality graphics, brighter colors, bigger characters with more
detail and high quality stereo sound.

The original system came packaged with the console, two controllers and the
game Super Mario World along with the necessary cables to connect the system
to the television. Other games that were available at the system's release
included F-Zero (a futuristic racing game) and Pilotwings (a flight
simulation game).

The controllers differed from the NES controllers in the following ways.
They were more ergonomically correct (rounded edges for greater comfort).
They featured the addition of shoulder buttons and two additional fire
buttons (X & Y).

The original list price for the SNES in the United States was $199. The price
was subsequently lowered to $179 then $149. In 1997, towards the end of the
SNES' life span, Nintendo re-designed the SNES and released it with a price
tag of $99. Today the SNES can be found used at many online shops. The
price varies widely, however it usually hovers in the $50 range for a used
SNES console.

As of today, even though the system is almost 15 years old, the SNES maintains
its popularity due to the wide selection of high quality games that were
produced for the system during it's prime in the 1990's.

Some of these games were so popular (games such as Super Mario World 1 & 2,
Super Mario Kart, F-Zero and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to name
just a few) that Nintendo has ported the games (or variations of them) to the
Game Boy Advance so today's audience will have the opportunity to experience
these classics. Something has to be said about the quality of a game that
can still command a selling price of $30 almost 15 years after its release.

In addition, the SNES launched many series of games that still continue with
sequels on today's next-generation systems (F-Zero, Star Fox, Super Mario
Kart, etc.)

2. SNES Specs

Processor: Motorola 16-bit 65836

Processor Speed: 2.68 or 3.5h MHz (variable)

Maximum Available Colors: 32,768

Maximum Displayed Colors: 256

Maximum Resolution: 512 x 448 pixels

Maximum Sprite Size: 64 x 64 pixels

Maximum Sprites: 128

Cartridge Size Range: 2mb - 48mb

Sound Chip: Sony SP700

Sound Channels: 8

3. Special Features

The SNES had many special features located both inside the console and within
the individual game cartridges. These features allowed the SNES to run games
that were superior to the Nintendo's previous system, the NES. These features
gave many games innovative game play and outstanding graphical effects that
may otherwise had not been possible without them. These features are listed

--Mode 7--

The SNES incorporates a feature called Mode 7 that enabled features such as
Scaling and Rotation.

Scaling enables the background to be re-sized without consuming excessive
amounts of memory.

Rotation permits the background to be rotated around the screen without
consuming excessive amounts of memory.

One of the first games to utilize both of these features was the game
Pilotwings by Nintendo. For example, in the skydiving levels as the player
plummets towards the Earth, the ground is scaled to give the appearance the
player is falling. In addition, as the player moves the background is
rotated to give the effect of movement.

--DSP Chip--

Some games such as Pilotwings and Super Mario Kart also use a DSP chip. DSP
stands for Digital Signal Processor. The DSP chip is located in the game
cartridge. This chip permits the SNES to handle more advanced features of
Mode 7. Some of the processing is done on the DSP chip located in the
cartridge, which frees up the SNES's CPU to handle other tasks. A DSP 2 chip
was also developed.

--Super FX Chip--

This is another chip that was built into the some game cartridges. This chip
permitted the 3-D polygon graphics such as those used in games such as Star
Fox. This is a RISC chip (Reduced Instruction Set Computer). The Super FX
chip is a specialized chip designed to make calculations of a specific type
very quickly (as opposed to the CPU making those calculations). Games using
this chip have additional contacts on either side of the main contacts found
on the cartridge.


The SNES can create the effect of semi-transparent objects. For example,
when a character or object is underwater in a game, the SNES can use the
transparency effect to alter the color of the character or object to make it
appear that the player is actually looking "through" the water at the character
or object. This feature enhanced other graphics as well such as clouds & rain
which added the feel of depth to games that used this feature.

--3-D Scrolling--

The SNES can scroll several "layers" of the background at different speeds
(i.e. the clouds in the sky scroll at a different speed than the mountains in
the background which scrolls at a different speed than the ground the player
is walking on). This also adds a graphical effect of depth within the game.
The SNES was limited to 3 different background "layers."

--C4 Chip--

This is a chip that was created by Capcom. This chip improved the
transparency effects of the SNES. This chip was used in Mega Man X2 and Mega
Man X3. The C4 chip is found in the cartridge and games utilizing this chip
have additional contacts on either side of the main contacts found on the
cartridge (the same type as those found with the Super FX chip).

4. Accessories

There were several accessories that were released for the SNES. Many of them
were released by Nintendo however some were released by third-party companies
(and some weren't even authorized by Nintendo). The following is a list of
some of the most common accessories released for the SNES.

--Super Scope 6--

This was the light gun (more similar to a bazooka, actually) accessory for the
SNES. The Super Scope 6 originally came packaged with a cartridge containing
6 games that were designed to be used with the gun. The Super Scope 6 used a
sensor that was plugged into controller port number 2 and placed near the
television screen to detect where the gun was being aimed. Only a few games
were released for the Super Scope 6 (about 5 games, if you count the 6-in-1
pack-in cartridge as one game).

--SNES Mouse--

This was a two-button mouse created for games such as Mario Paint. The mouse
and the mouse pad came packaged with the game Mario Paint.

--Super Game Boy--

This was a cartridge that fit in the SNES console that allowed GameBoy games
to be played on the SNES in color. The Game Boy cartridge would slide into
the top of the Super Game Boy cartridge which was the size of a tall SNES
cartridge. The Super Game Boy cartridge was then inserted into the SNES
console just like a SNES game cartridge.

--Multi Tap--

Nintendo released a 4-player adapter for the NES, however since they didn't
release one for the SNES Hudson Soft released the Multi Tap. This accessory
allowed 4 controllers to be used simultaneously on the SNES. This allowed
4 players to play certain games (many sports games) simultaneously.


Released in Japan in 1995 for the Super Famicom, the Satellaview was a modem
adapter for the SNES that allowed players to download games and updates to
games for play on their consoles. Games had to be downloaded while they were
being transmitted at a certain time. Data was saved on a special cartridge
that was inserted into the cartridge slot on the Super Famicom (the cartridge
looked like a Super Game Boy).

--Miscellaneous Cheating Devices--

The usual suspects were released for the SNES that included the Game Genie
and the Pro Action Replay. These devices permit the user to alter certain
aspects of games to allow features such as infinite lives, infinite health,
etc. To use these devices, the player slides the SNES cartridge over the
top of the device. The entire component is then inserted into the SNES
console. When the SNES' power is turned on the cheating device loads it's
own "power-up" screen that allows the player to enter certain codes (which
were found either in the product documentation or in numerous video gaming
magazines) which would alter certain aspects of the game. These devices
would only temporarily alter game characteristics. Once the power is
removed from the SNES, the player can disconnect the game cartridge from
the cheating device and insert the game normally and play without any
altered characteristics. None of the cheating devices were authorized by
Nintendo as they felt the devices diminished the quality and overall
experience of the game.

--Miscellaneous Controllers & Joysticks--

Numerous third-party companies manufactured controller & joystick
accessories for the SNES. Common features included on these were turbo and
auto-fire buttons/switches that let the player fire multiple shots while
holding down the button. "Slow Motion" features were included on some
controllers as well. However the slow motion feature was really just an
"auto" selection switch for the start button. The slow motion "effect" was
created by simply continuously pausing and un-pausing the game. This
feature worked well on some games and poorly on others (particularly games
which brought up a sub-menu when paused).

--SNES Cleaning Kit--

This was a cartridge released by Nintendo (there were many third-party
products available as well) that was used to clean the contacts located
within the SNES console itself. The cartridge contained a cleaning insert
in place of the usual contacts found on a normal game. By inserting and
removing this cartridge the user would keep the contacts on the SNES clean
keeping the system in top working order.

The cleaning kit also came with the tools necessary to clean the contacts
found on the game cartridges.


Nintendo had originally planned to release a CD-ROM drive for the SNES
however it was never released. Nintendo worked on developing the SNES CD
in the early 1990's. Nintendo initially worked with Phillips on the SNES
CD development. Nintendo then switched partners to Sony for a short
period of time prior to once again partnering with Philips.

During Nintendo's development phase, Sega released their Sega CD for the
Sega Genesis.

The basic design of the SNES CD was similar to that of the Sega CD. The
SNES console was designed to sit on top of the CD unit.

Nintendo featured its CD technology in its January 1993 issue of Nintendo
Power. In this issue, Nintendo discussed how the "Nintendo CD-ROM is
designed...to provide a platform for a new generation of games for your
Super NES." Nintendo went on to bas the Sega Genesis and the Sega CD by
saying "If a video game system can only display 16 colors at a time, which
is the case of some 16-bits systems, hooking up a CD-ROM will not will not
result in superior graphics. On the other hand, if a system such as the
Super NES already has excellent graphics capabilities, the CD-ROM may allow
programmers to use graphics in some interesting new ways."

Nintendo had promised a early 1994 release date for the SNES CD and an
unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago in late 1993.
Nintendo had no hardware to display at the show and in late 1993 Nintendo
abandoned their plans to develop a CD drive for the SNES.

Sony went on to create the Playstation. Nintendo stuck with the
cartridge-based format for the remainder of the SNES' life span and through
their next generation system, the Nintendo 64. Nintendo did not introduce a
CD based system until the release of the Gamecube in 2001.

6. References

I used the following books & magazines during my research for this FAQ:

Sheff, David, "Game Over" (New York: Random House, 1993)

Kent, Steven, "The Ultimate History of Video Games" (New York: Three Rivers
Press, 2001)

"Future Technologies, Future Games," Nintendo Power, January 1993: Super
Power Club Pages 12-15

I recommend reading both of these books for anyone who is interested in
the history of the video game industry in general ("The Ultimate History
of Video Games") and the history of Nintendo ("Game Over").

7. Legal

This FAQ is Copyright (c) 2004 Jason Williams. This FAQ may be not be
reproduced under any circumstances except for personal or private use. It
may not be placed on any web site (except GameFAQs) or otherwise distributed
publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other
web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a
violation of copyright.

Suggestions? E-mail me at Grimley141@Yahoo.com