Nintendo Entertainment System Oddities
Twenty-five years ago, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States. The iconic console broke sales records, revived the video game industry from the brink of death, and influenced a generation of US kids. It also gave us classic franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid.
You may have read plaudits and platitudes from other publications on this notable anniversary, but we here at Technologizer have decided to forgo dry historical analysis in favor of a look at all things odd in the world of NES. So without further ado, let's pull back the curtain on our gallery of NES oddities.
Online Gaming … For the NES?
In 1992, an ad for this mysterious NES modem, the Teleplay, began appearing in US video game magazines. A small start-up company, Baton, had developed three models of the 2400-bps device for the three main consoles of the day: NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis.
Baton promised the ability to play your friends head-to-head over telephone lines - even between different platforms (i.e. a Genesis Teleplay owner could play with a NES Teleplay owner). Unfortunately, the innovative modem never made it onto the market.
Homework First? Ha!
This bizarre accessory acted like a "The Club" for your NES. Equipped with a combination lock, the Homework First allowed parents to lock down Nintendo's popular console so little Timmy couldn't play it.
Considering the fact that it latched onto the relatively flimsy plastic door of the NES, it looks easy to defeat - that is, if Timmy were desperate and hungry enough for a NES fix to break his favorite console. Let's just hope it never came to that.
Now You’re Sleeping with Power
Earlier this year, Instructables user rpaxton and her mother decided to make a new bedding set for her brother as a birthday gift. The result makes a standard full-sized bed look like a NES to great effect. The NES bed: where you are the cartridge. You can find more photos of this clever creation on its Instructables page.
Aladdin Deck Enhancer
Camerica's Aladdin Deck Enhancer, released in 1992, was an unlicensed attempt to lower the cost of NES game production by placing a game cartridge's redundant parts into an adapter device that consumers only had to buy once. In turn, they would buy smaller cartridges to plug into the main adapter to play games.
About seven games were released for the Aladdin, but Camerica folded soon after the the launch and few of the devices made it onto the market. Once thought to be obscenely rare, these devices have recently been found, unopened, by the pallet-full in warehouses (try eBay).
Zeus’ Control Pad
A creative fellow named Kyle Downes created an enormous, functioning NES Control Pad (seen here) that doubles as a coffee table. Since its debut in 2008, many console craftsmen have created similar giant functional pads - some of which end up at gaming trade shows. To see more photos of the controller and to find out how Kyle made it, check out his blog.
Photo: Kyle Downes
NES + TV = Sharp 19SV111
In 1989, Sharp released the first of only two licensed TV sets to include built-in NES game consoles in the US, the 19SV111 (seen here). It shipped with custom black control pads and a high price tag that kept it out of the hands of many. As such, the unit (and its slightly revised cousin, the 19SC111) is extremely rare today.
I recall seeing one of these mythical beasts in K-Mart circa 1989 playing Top Gun: The Second Mission. Apparently many 19SV111s were used as store displays more than anything else.
NES in a Cartridge
People have crammed fully functional NES consoles into all kinds of things in the last decade, including shoes, a NES controller, and even a toaster. One of the more amazing feats of compression is the Fami-Card, which is a Famicom clone (the Japanese NES) squeezed into a Super Mario Bros. cartridge. Even better: it works!
Nintendo Hands-Free Controller
Sometimes Nintendo makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Released in 1989, the Nintendo Hands Free Controller (right) allowed physically disabled children to play NES games without the use of their hands. Players would sip and puff into a straw to control the A and B buttons, while a chin-controlled joystick worked in lieu of a directional pad. Nintendo sold this item only through a consumer hotline, and as such, it is very rare today. The black item to the left is an earlier prototype of the Hands Free Controller (dashing Swede not included).
Photos: Nintendo Power
NES DVD Player
Have you ever wanted to fit a DVD player into a NES? No? Well, I have to admit that I did in 2006 - back when putting strange things into NES console cases was all the rage. After about 12 hours of work, I ended up with the not-so-humbly named "Ultimate NES DVD Player Hack." It included automatically opening and closing NES cartridge door (controlled via the Reset button), a functional Power button, and audio/video out camouflaged in NES's native connector locations. And best of all, it actually played DVDs.
Ultimately, I sold the player on eBay, but many talented NES modders since then have created their own. To read more about how I made it, check out this slideshow from 2006.
Photo: Benj Edwards
Shout to Fire
The very uncommon Konami LaserScope was essentially a head-mounted NES Zapper light gun. It also incorporated headphones that plugged into the NES's audio out jack.
According to Konami, if a player wearing the LaserScope shouted "Fire!" into the unit's built-in microphone, the device would fire a shot on screen. In reality, one could make any loud noise to operate the device, including a cough or a sneeze. As a former owner of the LaserScope, I can tell you first-hand that it was bulky, uncomfortable, and annoying to use; it's no surprise that few people have heard of it.
“NES Paul” Guitar
This unnatural amalgam of NES and guitar - playfully dubbed the "NES Paul" by its creator - showed up on the Internet back in 2006. It combines a Mini Les Paul guitar and a NES case into the ultimate working nerd guitar.
..Well, then again, there is that amazing Famicom guitar. But let's save that for the Famicom Oddities slideshow.
Speed at Your Fingertips
Behold the world's most useless video game peripheral: the Pressman Speedboard (1991). It was supposed the let you "capture the speed," presumably by allowing you to more quickly tap a Control Pad's buttons with your index fingers rather than your thumbs. Consumers immediately realized the product was useless and didn't buy it; the Speedboard is very rare today.
Photos: Gaming Wikia
Merry Christmas, 8-Bit Style
NES revivalist company RetroZone, run by Brian Parker, has created quite a crop of NES oddities, including the amazing Power Pak (a cartridge that reads NES games off of a Compact Flash card). Above all else, though, it's his 8-Bit Xmas 2008 and 2009 cartridges that stand out as most odd. Each was a limited edition Christmas-themed NES cartridge (released for Christmas 2008 and 2009 respectively) that included mini-games and flashing multi-colored LEDs that would shine through the cartridge's translucent shell. What's more, for an extra charge, Brian would bake-in a custom Xmas message in the cart's software, turning the game into a fancy electronic greeting card. Brian apparently plans a 2010 edition, so keep your eyes (and your wallets) peeled for the world's freshest NES oddity this holiday season.
Photos: Brian Parker (RetroZone)