Before the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) hit the states, Nintendo had a console in Japan that would start a revolution of gaming. It was called the Famicom, or the full name, Family Computer. In 1983, the console hit the homes of gamers in Japan and test the waters of this new generation of console gaming.  With Japanese design and colors, this console was a smashing hit with top titles and great graphics.This console, unlike the NES has the two controllers attached to the system. It can also be stored in a slot on the side.One of the controllers has a microphone on it for voice activating games. The cartridges for the system are small in size compared to the U.S. NES version which came out in 1985. The popularity of the Famicom inspired a number of other companies to jump in and try their own hand at creating a console. It was indeed a pioneer of home consoles following the crash of the Atari 2600.

Unlike the cornered shaped controller of the NES, the Famicom has round edges for a smooth feeling. The color of the controller was a unique shade of red with black buttons.  I can’t think of any other controller with that shade of red.The buttons are identical to the NES which has the plus sign control pad with the A, B buttons on the right.  Controller 1 (or I) has the standard Select and Start buttons Nintendo is famous for. As mentioned earlier, controller 2 (or II) has a built-in microphone which never really took off but was a profound idea.One big difference in the Japanese’s and US version is the length of the cord of the controllers. The Famicom used a very short cord (18 inches to be exact) and the NES controller had three times that length.  For me personally that is a negative selling point for the Famicom.

Dragon Ball Z Kyoushuu! Saiyajin is a Japanese game created only for the Famicom system, later would be translated into the NES version of Dragon Ball Z.This is a role-playing game developed by Bandai There was a special gold cartridge produced for this game as well. Throughout the game, you are given a set of 5 cards, which are shown at the bottom of the screen. These cards are used for 3 things: moving, training, and fighting.This game features a tournament mode for more serious action. The basic movements are done for this game, to move the display on the one you want you would use the D-Pad.The A button would select your move and B would cancel your selection.This is not really a fast-paced game, but more of a strategy game for the die-hard table top gamers.

Famista ’93 from Namco was released that later was named R.B.I. Baseball in North America.  There are 2 modes of play, you can play against the compute or play against a human opponent. This was the most realistic looking and playing baseball so far at that time.  It was very detailed on all aspects of the players, field and music. It would also keep statistics which was a new thing to console gaming. There are many different ways to control the game with the Famicom controller.The direction pad and buttons would depend on the situation, whether its offense or defense. The D-Pad controls the fielders on defense and the A button will throw the ball to the selected base. When pitching you can control the ball to the batter based on the direction and speed as well as choose 3 different pitches, fastball, knuckleball, or screwball. On offense, the direction pad can help the runner get to the next base or direct where the ball is going to go when hit. This game became a hit in the U.S.A. and was the top sporting game for the NES at that time.

Another game that made in mainstream after the Famicom release is Track and Field.  The Japanese port was call Hyper Olympic.This version only included four of the six events form the Olympics. Later on, the NES version would include all the events.   The exciting part of this console game was the competition.  You can compete against the computer and go for world records or play against a friend in a 2-player battle for the gold. The secret of this game and the controls depended on the event. The A and B buttons would be used to make your player run and the quicker the buttons were hit the faster the player would go.  The direction pad would put action to the player, like jumping and throwing, depending on the sport.  The arcade version of the game put players to the test and even had some special ways of hitting the buttons.The players would sometimes use a pen to quickly go back and forth to run faster.  I admit I am guilty of that as a child. It was harder to do that with the Famicom controller and sometimes would scratch the buttons too. This Japanese ported game was highly successful with hundreds of thousands of games sold in its first year. A definite top game for the system.

U.S. gamers tended to stick NES during the 80’s and now in 2020 there are collectors and gamers who look for and hunt down the Nintendo Famicom system.  It is a unique and ground-breaking system that started in Japan and changed the way the United States and the world played console gaming. Definitely worth the time and money to get one.


Todd Friedman Todd Friedman (396 Posts)

Todd Friedman is heavily involved in the retro gaming community and has co-promoted the Video Game Summit in Chicago, IL for the past 16 years. He also has published 2 books and written for various different gaming magazines including Old School Gamer.