Today Nintendo introduced a brand new way to play games on the Famicom in the form of a disk drive. The Family Computer Disk System sits beneath the Famicom console and a RAM Adapter plugs into the top of the Famicom’s cartridge slot. This adapter contains a whopping 32 KB of RAM for temporary program storage as well as an extra 8 KB of RAM for sprite storage. In addition it contains additional sound hardware to allow for more detailed music and sound effects.
Games are sold on rewritable disks. Full retail games can be sold cheaper than their cartridge counterparts because of cheaper parts. For example, right now in the U.S. we’re paying anywhere from $20 to $35 for NES Game Paks. The launch lineup of games for the Disk System run about 2600 yen, which by today’s exchange rate puts them at around $15 each. But, where it gets even more economical is for a paltry 500 yen (about $3) gamers can take a disk to a participating retailer and replace the existing game on it with a new one! Not every game will take part in this exchange program, but Nintendo anticipates the library to grow quickly.
In addition, Nintendo is planning on running leaderboard contests on certain games where gamers can bring in their disks, which saves high scores right to them, and a store employee can put the disk in a special machine that transmits the high score data directly to Nintendo. Imagine winning prizes just for doing what you love – playing games!
Launch titles for the Disk System include a bunch of games already released on the NES in America: Baseball, Golf, Soccer, Super Mario Bros., and Tennis. These will be among the games that will retail for 2600 yen. In addition to these titles, Mahjong, which was previously released in cartridge form way back on August 27, 1983, is also a disk option.
Launching alongside the Disk System today is a brand new exclusive game called Zeruda no Densetsu: The Hyrule Fantasy (The Legend of Zelda: The Hyrule Fantasy). It is from the masterminds behind Super Mario Bros. and promises to be an epic adventure game. You play as a young kid named Link on a quest to rescue the princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. To do so you must grab your sword and do battle with a wide variety of enemies roaming the countryside trying to keep you from finding the mysterious Tri Force pieces. Only by exploring eight dark dungeons and vanquishing the evil that lurks inside will you be victorious! Although in Japanese, take a look at the Zelda Manual for some insight into the characters, locales, and awesome enemy monsters that await!
Because of the game’s long quest, you will be able to write your progress right to the game disk. This way you won’t have to start your adventure from scratch every time you turn off the system. I’ve missed this functionality since many Commodore 64 games would let me save data, so it’s nice to see Nintendo has a solution for Japan, and hopefully America as well.
Another game has been announced for the Disk System. Scheduled to come out sometime in April, Nazo no Murasame Jo (Mysterious Murasame Castle), this game stars a samurai apprentice named Takamaru. His task is to infiltrate an ominous castle while avoiding traps and taking care of the hordes of enemies. A preview video was shown in shops prior to the Disk System’s release that showed game play from both Zelda: Hyrule Fantasy and this title. I’ve embedded it below and you can see they both share a similar graphic style. The video had a glitch where some sound effects go silent for a minute, but don’t worry, they come back for the remainder of the clip. Be sure to watch the entire thing as it shows off the Disk System and how it operates, plus it’s awesome to see both games in motion.
So, with the NES barely launched in the U.S., it’s probably too early to be expecting this Disk System to release over here. It does appear that Nintendo was prepared for its inevitable launch though. If you take a close look at the bottom of the NES Control Deck, you’ll see there’s a port that can be accessed. We anticipate this is where the Disk System will attach to the NES when Nintendo deems it fit to release it stateside. Keep in mind that it took three years after the Famicom launched for the Disk System to release in Japan, so it’s possible we might not see it release over here until 1988. As far as price goes, it retails in Japan for 15,000 yen, or about $82 given the current exchange rate. The rate could bounce around before it’s announced here, but if I had to guess it would probably be no more than $99 for the device.
I am interested to see what else releases for the Disk System in Japan. It could end up being a huge success over there, especially when the games can be bought for such a discounted rate. We’ll update future titles as they get announced, and we’ll pester Nintendo of America to see if they plan on bringing the device to the U.S. anytime soon.