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Nintendo Loves To Add It On!

Throughout history, Nintendo has always seemed to have something up their sleeves. Though a lot of these tricks and treats did not work out for the company, they still live on in their hearts. In this week's...whatever we're calling these...I’d like to take a look at the interesting peripherals and add-ons to their consoles Nintendo has bestowed upon us over the years. This will be a 4 part article. This week, we will focus on the NES. Look for the SNES and N64 coming in around two weeks.

Japan got some pretty interesting stuff for their Famicoms (the Japanese Name for the NES). The FDS or Family Computer Disk System (ファミリーコンピュータ ディスクシステム) was released in 1986. It connected to the main system by plugging in a modified cartridge (called the RAM Adapter). It used “Disk Cards” (floppy disks) for data storage. The disks were appealing for two reasons. First, the sported a (for its time) large 112 KB of storage. The 2nd was the disks were rewriteable and thus could use on-disk saving. This is much more easier/reliable then the cartridges passwords or battery-save options. Games released on Disk Cards like The Legend of Zelda, were later released in cartridge form in the US (and re-released in cartridge form in Japan later).

Seven years before the very ill-fated Virtual Boy came out, Nintendo released the Famicom 3D System. The system was a pair of liquid crystal shutter glasses that gave the illusion of 3D depth. This was also never released in America. It did not sell well for a couple reasons. For one, you had to have the Family Computer Disk System to use the 3D system. Also, only seven games were released (the majority of these made by Square before the release of Final Fantasy).

The Famicom also got its very own modem in 1998. It could not provide online play, yet it offered other content. Users could access the server for jokes, weather, game cheats and a small amount of downloadable content. Its most interesting feature was it could be used to make live stock trades. It would not come stateside. However, a 3rd party modem for the NES (it also worked on the Genesis and later the Super Nintendo) was unveiled in 1992 yet never was sold in stores. This is due to both Nintendo and Sega refusing to licenses and in the end the company was unable to fulfill its first order.

In 1984 the Famicom Data Recorder, a compact cassette data interface for the Famicom came out (again, only in Japan). It was able to save data from the BASIC program that the Famicom was able to run thanks to the Family BASIC Keyboard (also available only in Japan). It could also save tracks and stages for games like Excitebike, Wrecking Crew and Castle Excellent.

Speaking of Family BASIC, that was released on June 21st 1984 but was not released in America because it “was not suitable for the US primary marketing demographic”(which was children).
Most of this so far has been a bit of “look what Japan got, but you didn’t”. Let's take a look at what America and PAL regions did receive for their NES systems.

The Power Pad was released as the Family Trainer in 1986 and was developed by Bandai. It was released in Europe and the US as “Family Fun Fitness”. Nintendo bought the rights to it, and renamed it the much more awesome sounding “Power Pad” shortly after. It was a mat with pressure-sensors in between two layers of plastic. It was flexible and was easy to roll up for storage. It came with the game World Class Track Meet. I had issues with the power pad as a young girl though. It did not seem to be able to feel the pressure of my running (my brother’s solution to this was to secretly have me too far up on the map then slam his hands behind me on the actual buttons).  Nonetheless it was a pretty popular addition to the NES.

R.O.B (Robotic Operating Buddy) was a robotic attachment that was released in Japan and America in 1985, and 1986 In Europe. R.O.B was meant to be a cute robot who played video games with, yet only had 2 games released in the “Robot Series”. It the game Gyromite, R.O.B drops spinning “Gyros” onto buttons to open gates when the player presses the “Start” button. This works because R.O.B has sensors in his eyes, so when the player presses “Start” the screen flashes, instructing R.O.B to to open the gates. The second game was “Stack-up”. It came with 5 “blocks” that centered around R.O.B. Players used the game to control R.O.B and move the colored “blocks” to match those shown on the screen. R.O.B had a short retail life. He was later made a playable character in  Mario Kart DS and Super Smash Brothers Brawl.

In 1989 Mattel released the Power Glove. It was an officially licensed product however Nintendo was not involved in the design or release. It was made by PAX(not to be confused with the Penny Arcade Expo) in Japan. The Power Glove is strapped to the players hand and forearm. It has flex sensors that read the player's hand movements, as well as all the NES’s controllers buttons on its control pad. It also has programming buttons labeled 0-9 for inputting commands. Like R.O.B, the Power Glove only saw two games releases. One was Super Glove Ball, a 3D puzzle-maze game. The other was a beat ‘em up called Bad Street Brawler. No “Power Glove Gaming Series” games were released in Japan, so it was only sold as an alternate controller. On December 15th, 1989, the Nintendo produced movie “The Wizard” was released in US theaters. It featured the Power Glove in excess. The movie however was poorly rated, seen as nothing more then a long long commercial for Nintendo. The Power Glove itself was also poor reviewed, due to its imprecise and difficult to use controls. It is, however, pretty awesome looking.

Yes, there are a lot more I did not cover, but these ones are the coolest, and besides, there are more systems to look at! Check back next week for our upcoming article "Untitled Pokemon Thing". We will have our next part of this 4 part Nintendo attachment series in two weeks. 

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