The recent release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition around the world has reignited an age-old discussion about which design for the console is superior: The sleek, rounded grays of the European and Japanese release, or the multiple contours of the off-white of the North American version.
Generally, a lot of people tend to favor the international design — even those which grew up with the North American version. But why are there two designs to begin with?
Volume 25 of Nintendo Power magazine featured an interview with Nintendo of America’s Lance Barr, who designed the shape of the console and the NES before it (and now currently serves as Product Design Director for the company). It is there that he revealed the primary directive given to him by the NOA brass, that being that much like its predecessor, it could not look like a toy.
The reasoning for the more rounded top was twofold: Not only would it appear more inviting to the touch, but players would also be less inclined to place items such as drinks or cereal bowls atop it, a recurring problem the company encountered when servicing the 8-bit hardware. Barr would later explain further to Nintendojo (as archived by ASSEMblergames) that he felt the Super Famicom’s look was “maybe okay for the market in Japan,” but that the U.S. version should have more of an edge. What’s more, his design process had an eye towards attachments that would stack beneath the console, such as the eventually cancelled Super NES Play Station CD ROM expansion.
“I though[t] the Super Famicom didn’t look good when stacked and even by itself, had a kind of ‘bag of bread’ look.”
Along the way, Barr had also considered other designs, some of which utilized crank handles to eject the games or would have required a significantly different printed circuit board and cartridge shapes. But in the end, he explained, “we wanted something that was simple to use.”