Super Famicom: July 1989

The Second SFC Demonstration

Here are some more big pics that show some early demonstrations of the Super Famicom's power. These pictures appeared in the September 1, 1989 issue of Famicom Tsushin. These images come from a press meeting on July 28, 1989, a mere 16 months before the Super Famicom went on sale.

These are quite amazing for their history! Some quick info from the pictures:
The headline of the article says "Super Famicom will not be released for at least another year!" The second image shows an older SFC design, with A,B,Y,X buttons, but in a different arrangement. Start and Select are also in a different orientation. The right side of the page shows the "mode 7" demo, scroll demo, sprite demo, colour, mosaic demo, and "sound" as the captions say.
The next pages have some great images of an early Super Mario World, and what turned into Pilotwings. I don't know about you, but I think a game where you play a dragonfly with guns and missiles would have been much more fun than a straight flight simulator...

And now, for those of you following at home, here is a timeline of the Super Famicom's progress as followed (rumoured?) by the Japanese press:

Kyoto Shinbun
Nintendo President Yamauchi: "16-bit Super Famicom. Compatible with the Famicom"
Yomiuri Shinbun
"Software/Games are already under development. Price set at under ¥20,000."
B-Young Age
"Old Family Computer is taken as a trade-in."
Nikkei Computer
"The CPU will be 65C816. Improved graphics & sound."
Jan. 1988
A Club (Hong Kong)
"The system will accept 2 types of disks, cartridges." (This seems to be pure conjecture.)
Jun. 1988
Sendenkaigi (Advertisement meeting)
"Development is going smoothly."
Famicom Tsushin
"Super Famicom will come out within the year!?"
TOUCH Magazine
Yamauchi: "Demonstration set for Nov. 11.  Super Mario 4 and Dragon Quest 5 are planned for the SFC."
Famicom Tsushin
"Super Famicom is finally demonstrated. Release planned for July 1989."
Nintendo trade meeting
"Super Famicom will not be released for at least another year!"
Super Famicom is -- finally -- released!

Here are some variations of the early Super Famicom Hardware.

(Click on the left pic for a larger version)
These pics were taken from "Family Computer Magazine", the main rival to Famitsu, in their August 18, 1989 issue. The pics are from the same show that Famitsu attended, obviously, but they have much larger pictures and close-ups of the SFC hardware. Even though the SFC would go through a few cosmetic changes, it is clear to me now that the hardware was basically finished by mid-1989, and that Nintendo sat on the SFC for over a year. They probably did this to let other software developers finish their games, but another reason was that the 8-bit Famicom was still selling like wildfire, and so they feared releasing the SFC too early would have killed hardware sales of a still-successful system. (Bah, at the very least, they could have spent that year upgrading the CPU speed!)

(Click on image for a close-up)

Here are the technical specs of the prototype SFC, circa mid-1989...

1. CPU (16-bit CPU)
memory space 14 Mbyte maximum addressable
system clock 1.79Mhz, 2.68Mhz, 3.58Mhz automatically switchable
work RAM 256Kbit (32Kbyte) standard PROTOTYPE SPECS!
2. PPU (Super Famicom TV interface LSI)
BG layer

modes: 8 modes
layers: maximum 4 layers
resolution: noninterlace: 256(512)x448
interlace: 512x448
colour capability: max 256 colours (8bit/dot)
character size: 8x8, 16x16
palette: 2,048 colours out of 32,768 colour maximum. (depending on BG mode)
additional functions: rotation, enlarging, shrinking, column and line partial scrolling

animation layer sprites: max. 128 on-screen, 280 pixels (35 8x8 sprites) per scanline
character size: 8x8, 16x16, 32x32, 64x64 in 4 arrangements, individually selectable
palette: 128 colours out of 32,768 colour maximum, 16 colours per character
additional V-RAM: 64Kbyte standard
special effects: window, mosaic, screen addition/subtraction (transparency), fixed colour addition/subtraction, brightness adjustment
3. APU (Super Famicom Sampler Stereo Audio Chip)
audio source waveform operation (ADSR?), PCM, noise, etc. in 8 individual channels
additional effects (digital echo) available
•I/O (input-output):
cassette connector 62-pin (CPU address bus, data bus, PPU address bus, etc.)
expansion connector 20-pin (programmable I/O, external latch, sound input, etc.)
controller 1,2 5-pin
A/V output 12-pin (R,G,B, video, Y,C, sync, sound L/R, etc.)
AC adaptor same type as Famicom
RF output TV channel 1 or 2
•System Dimensions: W 200mm x D 242mm x H 72mm
•Weight: 1160 grams
•Optional Parts:
AC adaptor same as the Famicom's
RF switch same as the Famicom's
controller Super Famicom-specific (sold separately)
stereo cable Super Famicom-specific (sold separately)
S-Video cable Super Famicom-specific (sold separately)
RGB cable Super Famicom-specific (sold separately)

So it looks like the SFC was pretty much shippable then. The only big differences I can see between these specs and that of the released version is much less main RAM. The release SFC has 128Kbytes of RAM, a very large increase. Most games don't use such a whopping amount of RAM, except for SlowROM games to run their code in at 3.58Mhz. So, perhaps Nintendo added the RAM in to get that speed boost.

Hmm... 2048 colours at once in the BG???!?!? (A technically-savvy friend has pointed out that this is the SFC's "direct colour mode" which displays 256-colour tiles, but with a lower single bit of colour selectable from the palette memory (256x8) for each tile. In other words, a mostly useless colour mode.)

Software Screenshots:

This is the first time I've ever seen the old title screen to Super Mario World! Well, it's good that they changed it, since this seriously lacks colours... I can count maybe just 10 colours or so. It does have a nice Japanese "parchment" feel to it. It's interesting to note that the island in the title screen is the same as the "world" that you walk on in the map. It's an interesting mushroom-shaped world, though it's disappointingly small for a world if you ask me.

Below are some more pics of an early Super Mario World. It looked very much like a 16-bit version of SMB3 back then, what with the note blocks, coins, square question blocks, and raccoon-Mario power-up. No sign of Yoshi whatsoever.

These pics, and the ones that appeared in other magazines, are usually identical. That means that Nintendo probably distributed slides or photographs to various magazines at the time. Only some of the images taken by magazines at the SFC show were from live video (or more likely videotape, given their blurriness.)

Here's an early title screen (?) of Dragonfly, what would become Pilotwings. Pretty boring, but I like the look of that '0' in the title... a level select, perhaps?

What the hell is this??? A hoax!