News that a gamer has made freely and publicly available a comprehensive collection of Super Nintendo game manuals has opened the door to a wave of ’90s gamer nostalgia. The hundreds of manuals collected by Kerry Hays—known as “Peebs” on Twitch—showcase a special period in gaming history, when each game cartridge came with a full-color brochure containing the game’s backstory, controller instructions, and a guide to the first stages of play. A modern video game offers tutorials through the game itself—but in the early 1990s, that wasn’t an option memory-wise.
The manual collection offers just a taste of why the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was so innovative. SNES was Nintendo’s response to lagging sales of its older Nintendo system and market encroachment by Sega. With some key decisions—namely, forgoing backwards compatibility in favor of graphics advances—Nintendo developed an iconic product. In Japan, where SNES was called “Super Famicom” (a portmanteau of “family” and “computer”), the system’s November 1990 release created such frenzy that the government directed Nintendo to release new consoles henceforth only on the weekend. Systems also had to be shipped secretly at night for fear of interference by the organized crime ring Yakuza.
Unique SNES features included a chipset designed to maximize audiovisual performance, giving SNES a color palette of 32,000 shades compared with Sega’s 512. The ergonomic SNES controller could be held for hours at a time, and two of its six face buttons were on the controller’s shoulders. In the U.S., the SNES was designed specifically to discourage gamers from using it as a table for milk-filled cereal bowls—a downfall of the original Nintendo design.
The initial Japanese SNES release offered only two games: F-Zero and Super Mario World. Flight simulator Pilotwings was added for the U.S. debut. In total, more than 700 games were released in the U.S., and thanks to Hays/Peebs, you can still work on beating them all.
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