Sunsoft Famicom and NES

Started by dragon1952, June 11, 2014, 08:50:01 am

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You are correct, it was before my time and after J. Moon's tenure as well when there was no PD Director in the US.

That game, "Dynamite Batman" started off as a "tech demo" for the new Sun FME-7 chip, which enabled larger characters made from more and better sprite manipulation. An upgrade so to speak from the then standard "Castlevania" type/sized character which was most common in that era for serious action games. Apparently the dev-team in Nagoya, Konan City more specifically, built a demo with a larger character with some action techniques and some horizontal flying capabilities. The US marketing people of course wanted to tie-in a license and since Sunsoft was already in the Warner Bros. fold, it got finished off as a Neo-Batman games with Dark Knight tendencies.

Yes, Sunsoft had some extremely good composers since that was also a mainstay of the hardware division. They certainly rivaled Capcom and Konami's sound composers at that time.

there was a new third generation stable of famicom/NES games that would have been killer if they would have seen the light of day. Unfortunately, the Genesis and later the SNES killed that development. It always seems that once developers get a good handle on producing greater software, the hardware changes and it's an all new ball game.
Success is where preparation meets opportunity!


June 12, 2014, 06:45:36 pm #16 Last Edit: June 12, 2014, 07:13:45 pm by Voultar
That's very interesting, thank you for that tidbit of "in-house" knowledge. I found it remarkable that Sunsoft fell short on Batman: Return of the Joker. Both the NES and Sega Genesis / Mega-Drive port were just disappointing.

And yes, Sunsoft really pulled some beautiful tunes out of the NES. I believe Aero the Acrobat was the last redeeming game that company made. It was such a shame to see it fall south, it was quite a contender during the branding wars of the late 80's / early 90's.


Thank you for your answer.

I am curious, what do gaming companies do with games that don't sell? Do they take them back and put in a storage somewhere...?  :)
Selling  Japanese games in Sweden since 2011 (as "japanspel").


Hello, I would love to hear stories about your time with SunSoft. Any weird/fun things happen in development? Also, what was your first impression on Mr. Gimmick/Gimmick! ?
Lastly, what game had the most lasting impression on you?
- Collecting should be about owning the games as much as playing them!


Quote from: fredJ on June 11, 2014, 11:52:11 am
I read that Blaster Master was a surprise hit in the US.
It didn't sell in Japan at all, even if the developers thought it was a great game.
Do you have an idea why it became so popular in the US? Better marketing?

Also, I have the impression that SunSoft's best selling games were their earliest games, at least in Japan. I think their first game Ikki was the one that sold the most, but it also is arguably the worst game. Thoughts?
And was there any particular reason why many SunSoft games were released in such small numbers? (in Japan at least) Such as Wing of Madoola, Hebereke, Gimmick, Dynamite Batman, Gremlins 2, Ripple Island, Maharajah and some others.

Games like Gimmick and Hebereke weren't popular back then. In Scandinavia (where I live) you could buy it for 10$ after a while. It wasn't a cult hit until later.
Bad marketing? Not enough kid-oriented? Too advanced?

Also, I am curious about why the quality of games declined....  Or am I wrong? Did SunSoft try every genre without knowing how to? Such as the fighting game Waku Waku 7, some pointless Hebereke puzzle game, a few generic RPGs, some Pachinko games...  Thoughts?

Thank you.

I am a fan of Ikki. I don't know why it's "arguably the worst game", what's so bad about it?


I did not state that.

"Ikki" or "Farmer's Rebellion" reminded me somewhat of Namco's "Rally X" utilizing a radar map to locate and track enemies. I remember that it was a game about revolting against an evil overlord and fighting ninjas. Kind of like Kurosawa's Seven Samurai film.

I did not get to play it extensively enough and it was also an earlier arcade game, but will probably revisit it again soon.
Success is where preparation meets opportunity!


Most stories of how it is to develop for the Famicom or NES I heard is from all-western developers like Software Creations that made Solstice. They often say that they got badly translated development manuals that was still mostly in Japanese and they had to figure out the rest themselves of how to develop for the NES. Rare apparently successfully reverse-engineered the NES and was able to develop technically advanced games for it.

How was developing for you? Did you get more complete development manuals or tools from Sunsoft in Japan?


June 14, 2014, 10:50:29 am #22 Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 09:18:40 pm by dragon1952
fred J:
Most Japanese companies control production very carefully so that they do not have to play the "price protection" game that is or was prevalent during the Nintendo NES era. Even Nintendo Japan taught NOA this control game of essentially "shorting the market". Rarely did Japanese publishers have left-over stock, but when they did they would discount it to stores like Yodobashi Camera or hold on to it until it eventually sold through. Because the famicom and SFC era were cartridges with masked ROMs, they played a very careful game of inventory control. Masked ROMs required three months waiting time after an order was placed, therefore it was a risky business if your game did not find favor.

Nintendo initially wanted NO third parties, so they didn't make it easy for any of them even in Japan. As Western publishers sprung to life, documentation of the development was in Japanese. Even if you read the source code carefully, it was noted in Japanese, so the best developers were forced to reverse-engineer that code in order to make software.

In Japan, Nintendo. or NCL, lost out on the ability to limited publishers from making their own cartridges, so for the US market and essentially everywhere else, they invented the "security" chip that would prevent external cartridge production. Eventually, Tengen would break that mold with their own domestic cartridge product and forever alienated Nintendo. NOA argued in court that Tengen used proprietary knowledge from being a legitimate third party.

Lastly, I did not have NES/famicom development started in the US, as we worked with Sunsoft Japan on development. That was also because Sunsoft was now using a line of enhancement chips known as FME 5a, 5b and 7. They did not want to orientate us in the US regarding their tools. It was agreed that we would design and plan and then let Japan develop. The third generation of NES/famicom were going to be killers! I kid you not!

Post Merge: June 14, 2014, 11:25:11 am


"Aero the Acrobat" was originally created to be a NES/famicom game! We in the US product development studio office were helping to plan a whole new third generation of product for that console. Although many believe that "Aero" was a Sonic clone, nothing could be further from the truth. Aero game-play was totally different!

When I created the concept for Aero, my thought is that he was similar to Mickey Mouse in his character body structure. I wanted to take the trampoline technique found in "Mappy" and create a whole new type of action game where a cartoon bat could jump and bounce himself into the air and eventually have limited flight. He would find platforms to assist this type of technique. It was possible to accomplish those original goals on the 8bit Nintendo, but by that time Sega had just released the Genesis and Nintendo would eventually follow that lead or suffer Sega's aggressive marketing of superior power and performance. The President of Sunsoft of America had been shown my designs for Aero by the Marketing Director Rita Zimmerer. She loved this concept that I had been working on long before joining Sunsoft. President Robbins, who was a great gentlemen and believer in my contributions then sent the GDD to the Chairmen of Sega, Mr, Nakayama. He thought that Sega would want it as a sequel to the then new hit "Sonic the Hedgehog". Nakayama also liked it, but suggested that Sunsoft develop and market it as a companion product to Sonic so that Sega could deliver a one - two punch to the game war! President Robbins then approved the licensing of Aero from me in addition to my employment as Director of Product Development. I then hired Punk Development to work with me on this game. They soon after changed their name to Iguana Entertainment and did a great job on these games. Nigel Cook at Iguana became the designer that managed the transformation from high concept to detailed plan and eventual fruition. In fact the entire Iguana team contributed design aspects to the finished product.

Aero never did make it to a Nintendo platform until I redeveloped it years later with Atomic Planet for the Gameboy Advance system.

Too bad Nintendo did not desire to have Aero join them in the console wars, as subsequent designs were killer. Universal did want Aero and bought the game from me when I went there, but soon thereafter, Universal was sold by Matsushita Electric the Seagrams and everything changed there. When I finally left Universal I bought the property back. When I joined Capcom, Bill Gardner was was President of Capcom Entertainment  and he wanted this property, but Japan said "No!". My agreement with Capcom was that I could develop independently any existing property if they passed on it. That is why Metro 3D then licensed that game from me while I was Director of R&D for Capcom Digital Studio.
Success is where preparation meets opportunity!


June 14, 2014, 07:46:48 pm #23 Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 10:25:29 pm by macbee
Quote from: dragon1952 on June 12, 2014, 03:26:27 pm
there was a new third generation stable of famicom/NES games that would have been killer if they would have seen the light of day.

I always suspected that 8-bit NES could have games even more impressive than Batman 2 (but didn't due to the release of SNES).
And it's sad to confirm it from a reliable source.

I really would like to see what sort of crazy new chips would be created to improve the (already) old NES in the mid-1990s.
Thank you very much for posting all this information here dragon1952! :)


June 14, 2014, 08:29:06 pm #24 Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 05:49:47 am by nerdynebraskan
How expensive were some of these newer chips like the FME-7? I've seen things that suggested the MMC5 (Nintendo's most powerful chip for the NES) was unpopular with game developers because they were too expensive. I would love to have more high-end games like Kirby's Adventure and Little Samson for my beloved NES, but doesn't there come a point where it becomes more cost-effective to migrate to the newer console and not have to pack so many enhancement chips into every cart?
Can Nintendo Age Beat Every NES Game in 2015?


Yes, the Nintendo MMC3 and eventually the MMC5 their most advanced chip, were a bit more expensive than the Sunsoft-FME series, but that's how NOA made more money. They totally exploited the third parties. The clever ones, like Sunsoft and Konami could accelerate development and have greater enhancement in their newer games using their own R&D efforts, but that did not add to Nintendo's bottom line. It was all about $$$ MONEY $$$ to Nintendo and if they could control everything they did!

It's too bad that hardware always became a marketed factor, since it's easier to sell the idea of technology supremacy over pure and clever creativity!

I am tempted to further convince you and everyone by revealing just one of those projected third-generation NES/famicom game titles and conceptual planning, but I should not due to contractual obligations.
Success is where preparation meets opportunity!


Quote from: dragon1952 on June 14, 2014, 09:30:57 pm
I am tempted to further convince you and everyone by revealing just one of those projected third-generation NES/famicom game titles and conceptual planning, but I should not due to contractual obligations.

I perfectly understand. But if you ever get authorization from SunSoft (to reveal these cancelled games) *PLEASE* post it here.  :'(

The evolution of Famicom's games/graphics is (IMHO) one of the most interesting subjects on video game history.
I'm sure that some overpowered 8-bit games would still call the attention of the press from all over the world.

And I personally would love to see how "16-bitish" these games look.


Thank you for your answers! It's nice to hear these things from a first hand source for once. :)
It's interesting that Sunsoft had that kind of structure where you planned and they developed in Japan.

Many late games on consoles like Gimmick! or Just Breed are often incredible and I suspect they would have sold in big numbers if they had been released earlier. But people like new things and it would be bad for business if Nintendo did not push the new consoles when SEGA and Hudson/NEC is doing the same. It's really unfortunate.


I agree, but Nintendo could have introduced the Super Famicom and continued to promote the original Famicom as an entry-level console never giving up on it as there was quite an installed base of customers.
Success is where preparation meets opportunity!


June 17, 2014, 05:06:16 pm #29 Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 05:21:15 pm by macbee
Quote from: dragon1952 on June 17, 2014, 09:56:47 am
I agree, but Nintendo could have introduced the Super Famicom and continued to promote the original Famicom as an entry-level console never giving up on it as there was quite an installed base of customers.

I agree. Here in Brazil Sega always gave equal attention to their 8-bit and 16-bit consoles (both Master System and Mega Drive coexisted in perfect harmony in my country).
There was no need to "kill" the Famicom like Nintendo did.