Video Games

On Peripherals That Never Made It Over (Part 1).

If I haven’t mentioned it, it bears mentioning. The reason I study what I do (engineering, computers, Japanese) — it’s all due to video games. When I was growing up Japan was the country that was the mecca of all video gamedom. Almost all the bests and classics came from Japan, not to mention the god to which I prayed, Nintendo, was a Japanese corporation. So, in tandem my interests in both computers and the Japanese culture grew into the obsessions they are are today. They sometimes manifest them in ways as we see today, where I am going to gush about an experience I never got to have (really, as you will learn, not many did.)

That brings us to the Satellaview.

Now what in the world is a Satellaview. Well, it’s an add-on for the Super Famicom (SNES) that was released only in the land of the rising sun. Great! It was basically a satellite driven modem that was stuck on the bottom of the Super Famicom. Who cares?? Well, let me do some name dropping, Zelda, Mario, Excitebike. Excited? If you are not than maybe this article isn’t for you (please, don’t stop reading). Here is a little photo just so you can stop wondering what the danged thing looks like.

Check out that chunky thing! Sexy, thy name is Satellaview. This system used a broadcast technology already in place in Japan aptly named “Broadcast Satellite.” This was one of the many precursors to the modern day Xbox Live or PSN. It offered games, tournaments, news, and magazines to subscribers. It’s nearest cousin was the Sega Channel (another sweet add-on I missed out on). Come to think of it, there were basically the antithesis of each other — Sega Channel was on Sega Genesis (Mega Drive for everyone else), only in the USA, and through cable; Satellaview on the other hand was on Super Famicom (SNES), only in Japan, and was received through satellites. Weird revelations! Anyway, the Satellaview was released in 1995 and ran all the way until 2000 which is longer than I expected. It had specific times in which you had to play due to the other broadcasting that happened on the satellite system. It’s claim to fame was in the fact that it had versions of games that were only available on the Satalliview such as BS Zelda no Densetsu, and Excitebike Buzz Mario Battle Stadium (What a translation!). These were exclusive to the platform and drove sales and interest in the system years later.

BS Zelda no Densetsu was a subsection of games for the system called SoundLink. In addition to this being a 16-bit remake of the original Zelda title because it was a SoundLink game it would broadcast full audio which would often consist of narration for hints and clues.

Now why did this not get widespread adoption?

Well, partly due to this tangle of rediculosity. The above image is a diagram of the item’s need and wires need to play the Satellaview. Yowza! Let’s do some quick math, because we all love math.

(all costs are estimates)

BS Tuner: $330.00

Satellaview: $140.00

6-Month Subscription: $50.00

BS Dish: $75.00


Total Upfront Cost: $600.00

That quite a large upfront cost. I can tell you that there is NO WAY that I would have been a happy subscriber even if I was in Japan in ’95.

Luckily, some of the experience has been preserved thanks to the emulation community. Many roms are available for satellaview games with minor hitches. For example, any SoundLink game does not contain the broadcasted audio because that was a direct feed and was not embedded in the remaining memory packs.

I will leave you with some videos of the Satellaview and gameplay. I hope this was even a little bit enjoyable. I enjoy gaming history thoroughly and passing it on is the best way to keep it alive.

All images were taken from Wikipedia and are sole copyright of those owners.

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