Nintendo Entertainment System

From Video Game Music Preservation Foundation Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Platform - NES.png
Nintendo Entertainment System
NES.jpg
Released: 1983-07-15
Discontinued: 2003-09-??
Developer: Nintendo
Type: Hardware

The Nintendo Entertainment System, often shortened to NES, is a third generation 8-bit video game console developed by Nintendo. In its native Japan the system was called ファミリーコンピュータ (Family Computer) and often shortened to ファミコン (Famicom). The console was the most popular of the third generation consoles in both Japan and the USA. The console used a Ricoh RP2A03 for a CPU which contained a modified MOS Technology 6502 processor. The RP2A03 also contained the console's audio processing unit (APU). There are special versions of the CPU for NTSC and PAL regions.

Games

Models

Famicom

A complete boxed Famicom unit.

Nintendo released the console as the Famicom (family computer) in Japan on July 15, 1983. It uses the Ricoh RP2A03 chip for both its CPU and audio capabilities. The platform was officially discontinued in September 2003.

Family Computer Disk System

The Disk System add on.
Main article, Famicom Disk System.

On February 21, 1986, Nintendo released the Family Computer Disk System (FDS) add-on which used diskettes instead of cartridges. This unit has slightly enhanced graphics and an extra sound channel. Players can also save their data on the disks. The FDS uses an RP2C33 for an additional audio channel. It was discontinued in 2003.

Nintendo Entertainment System

The NES Action Set.

The United States released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) on October 18, 1985. Minor hardware changes were added to prevent pirating, but a full cosmetic overhaul was made, giving the USA system a very different look. This style of the console became the standard design for later regions like Canada (released in February of 1986), Europe (September 1, 1986), Australia (1987), Brazil and South Korea. On October 15, 1993, Nintendo produced a second generation version of the NES with a redesigned console and controllers. NTSC consoles use an RP2A03 processor as the main CPU and default audio chip, while PAL consoles use the RP2A07. It was discontinued on August 14, 1995.

Sharp C1 Nintendo Television

Nintendo partnered with Sharp to produce a television with a built-in NES. In Japan, models with 14" and 19" televisions were made, each in exterior colors of red or black, and the units featured improved video display capable of true RGB color. The US models used the NESs original display capabilities and only came in black.

PlayChoice-10

The PlayChoice-10 arcade cabinet.

The PlayChoice-10 is a dual-screen arcade system that ran hardware nearly identical to the NES. It was released in 1986 to market the more popular NES games in arcades and advertise them to potential buyers. Each machine had ten slots, each slot could have a special PlayChoice-10 game cartridge inserted into it. Instead of buying lives, players bought play time, and could switch between the ten games and play until their time ran out. For the most part, the PlayChoice-10 games are identical to the home game, but occasionally the developers would make modifications to the game, sometimes even the music. The PlayChoice-10 used the RP2A03 processor for sound.

Vs. System

A Vs. System arcade cabinet.

The Vs. System is similar to the PlayChoice-10 system, in that it allowed slightly-altered NES games to be to be played as arcade games. The Vs. System differed by allowing two players to play head-to-head in some of the more popular games. Also, the system took a more traditional approach so players bought lives, not time. Because of this, Vs. System games had to be altered a bit more than the PlayChoice-10 games. The Vs. System used the RP2A03 processor for sound.

M82

The M82 is an NES reworked to function as a store display unit where merchants could let customers test games. The system featured 12 slots for cartridges and included a built-in play timer. The player would select a game from the 12 slots and play for the allotted time (customizable between 30 seconds and 2 hours) and then the system would reset. The Japanese version had 15 built-in games rather than 12 interchangeable slots.

Family BASIC

The Family BASIC was a development kit for the Famicom which was developed by Nintendo in association with Hudson Soft and Sharp. Potential users could develop their own games and put it on the cartridge the development system came with.

Music and Sound

Every version of the NES used the RP2A03 for its main CPU which had an integrated programmable sound generator (PSG) designed by Yukio Kaneoka. The PAL versions of the NES used the RR2A07 which was the same chip only with a PAL clock rate. The PSG in the RP2A03 contains two pulse wave channels with four different waveforms, a triangle channel use mostly for bass and percussion, a noise channel usually used for percussion, and a DPCM channel which would play digital samples at a low bitrate. The use of the DPCM channel was limited in early games because samples took so much cartridge space. Several expansion chips were made for the NES. These were added to the game boards of the NES cartridges. Below is a complete list of all the audio chips found in the various NES consoles and game cartridges.

Chip Manufacturer Description
228 Active Enterprises The chip had a 16-bit channel so it would sound like SNES music. The chip wasn't endorsed or licensed by Nintendo. This was the only expansion chip used in America.
5B Sunsoft Features three extra square channels. It was only used in Gimmick! (FC).
MMC5 Nintendo The Memory Management Controller 5 added two extra square channels.
NAMCO163 Namco Contains 8 wavetable synthesis channels. Most players do not properly emulate the chip, raising the notes an octave higher.
RP2A03 (NTSC)
RP2A07 (PAL)
Ricoh This is the original built-in audio chip for the NES. It has 2 pulse waves, a triangle wave, a noise channel, and a DPCM channel. The only difference between the two chips is that the NTSC version ran at 60 Hz while the PAL version ran at 50 Hz.
RP2C33 Ricoh Included on the Famicom Disk System. It adds a 32-volume wavetable synthesis sound.
VRC VI Konami Virtual ROM Controller VI adds two additional pulse waves and a sawtooth wave. It was only used in Akumajou Densetsu (FC), Madara, and Esper Dream II.
VRC VII Konami Virtual ROM Controller VII adds 6 channels of FM synthesis due to a modified Yamaha YM2413 integrated into the chip. Unfortunately, only one game utilized the audio capabilities of this chip, Langrage Point (NES).

Composition

In the earliest days of the NES, most composers were either expected to learn 6502 assembly and write their own audio driver for the RP2A03 or use an audio driver developed by a programmer and feed audio input in a custom Music Macro Language. Because of this, many of the first composers were also competent computer programmers. In the later years, developers had written utilities that converted MIDI music into instructions the audio chip could process. This conversion method was especially popular for US and European development companies. Many low-budget game companies either couldn't afford to hire professional musicians or couldn't find anyone capable of composing in such a limited medium. Because of this, a lot of sub-standard music was made by programmers.

Recently, special audio trackers have been created that either emulate the sound of the NES, or properly function on the original audio hardware. For example, Nerdtracker and Famitracker are designed to be compatible with the specific chips found in the NES, and music composed in them can be put directly into an NES ROM.

Links