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Top 5 Differences Between NES and Famicom Carts

Ahh the video game cartridge. The medium of choice for home video games, almost since the dawn of home video gaming itself. Everything from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo 64 used the game cartridge, with many handhelds like the Nintendo DS and 3DS continuing the tradition. Sure, they are more expensive to produce and have less storage capacity than optical media, but dammit, they just look and feel great. Can you say that about your latest digital download?

Some of the most iconic video game carts came out of the 8-bit era, and more specifically, from Nintendo. Both the NES and the Famicom have great cart designs, each with their very own pros and cons. But if you know anything about me, you know that I am partial the Famicom versions of this 8-bit classic. So I’ve decided to list them up; the top 5 differences between NES and Famicom carts.

1. Crazy Colour Scheme.

Grey. Grey. Grey. That describes a wall of the NES carts. Sure, there is the occasional black Tengen cart, and who can forget the classic gold Legend of Zelda carts? Those are the exception though and not the rule. At the end of the day, all you see is grey.

Lots of Nintendo Games - Field Focus

Compare that to the Famicom’s vibrant library of multicoloured carts, with all the shades and hues of the rainbow. Bright yellows, fresh whites, punchy oranges, and even juicy purples make a wall of Famicom carts a work of art. The translucent blue of Konami's Salamander (Life Force in North America) has got to be one of my top picks. Who doesn’t need a bit of colour in their life?

Lots of Nintendo Games - Field Focus

2. Cart Size

Ahh, the American dream; work hard, buy much, and live big. Just like they like their cars, North Americans like their NES carts large. Nearly double the size of a Famicom cart, I assume this was done intentionally to allow the cartridges to stand out on the shelf next to some VHS tapes, and feel like a substantial piece of technology. The Japanese, hindered instead with an obsession over all things small and cute, found their Famicom carts to be compact, pocket sized, and easily portable.

Nintendo Famicom Cart Size

3. Cart Shape

Just as the NES cart colour is standardized, so too is the shape of the cart; same ridges, same angles, and same thumb grip at the top. The label is the only way to tell one game from another in a NES library. In Japan, almost every different publisher had its own unique and distinguishable cart shape. Jaleco had big ugly bulbous carts, Taito had very boxy and rigid cart shapes with their name stamped on it, and Konami had one that even incorporated end labels(!!). A lot of times, you can tell who published a game simply by looking at the shape of the cart.

Nintendo Famicom Taito Namcot Carts

4. Ease of Storage

You may have seen my previous post about storing loose Famicom carts, where I showed how incredibly easy it is to store your collection away from pets and small children for only a couple bucks using cassette cabinets from your local thrift store. Simple, elegant, classy.

Nintendo Famicom Game Case

5. Label Art

Don’t get me wrong, NES label art isn’t bad. But looking at them side by side, I would have to say that the Famicom definitely comes out on top. Vivid colours, wild characters and that crazy anime style that can only be described as “Japanese” all combine to create some great art. Just check out a comparison of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Kung Fu; so much to look at, so much to see…

Nintendo Famicom Label Art - Super Mario Bros 3

And a negative: the lack of top labels

Seriously, how am I supposed to know which game I’m about to play? With so many great looking carts it’s easy to get captivated, but when you are ready for some classic 8-bit action, how will you know which one to pick? By picking each one up one by one and looking at the front of the label. I feel like this wasn’t very well thought out on Nintendo’s part. I guess that’s why kids would scrawl illegible katakana on them in Sharpie. Thanks, Tomohiro-kun; your illegible handwriting has been immortalized on my copy of Excitebike forever.

Famicom Kids Handwriting - Excitebike

What do you prefer? The North American NES cart or the Japanese Famicom cart?

Check out some more NES Carts and Famicom Carts on eBay.

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Top 6 Differences Between Famicom and NES Controllers

They are like long lost brothers. So similar, yet so different. Raised in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, the Japanese Nintendo Famicom controller sure has a unique character to it. But is it better than it’s North American NES counterpart? In my opinion, yes. Here’s 6 reasons why (plus a bonus reason on why they suck).

1. Round corners

Seriously, my hands are finely tuned pieces of art – they can’t be compromised by jabby, sharp controllers. The rounded corners of the Famicom pad fit into the contours of my palm like a %100 all-beef frank into a Wonderbread bun.

Famicom Round Edges

2. Crazy color scheme

Burgundy and gold? I haven’t seen colour schemes that fly since Dennis Rodman’s hair. Gold fronts beat out that grey and black monotone get-up any day.

Famicom vs. NES

3. Built in microphone

Some might call this a gimmick, but just you wait. The next indie wonder band is going to emerge with a full album recorded through the microphone built in the player 2 Famicom controller. Pols Voice, I think they are called…

Famicom NES Microphone

4. Lack of Start/Select on P2 – gives you control

Sure, in games like Contra and Life Force it’s called two player co-op. I think that’s more wishful thinking, because it is definitely uncooperative when player two pauses the game right when I’m mid air over a mega-canyon jump. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I’m simply dead after the unpause. The Japanese understood that Player one has the authority – and thus only they have control over the Start and Select buttons. The way it should be.

Nintendo Famicom Start Button

5. Hard-wired cords

I love playing two player, but I honestly don’t have enough friends that can keep up. So when the P2 controller is not in use, it gets coiled up and tucked away. Unfortunately, the few times a year someone joins me for a round of Ikari Warriors, that controller is either nowhere to be found, or tangled up in some black spaghetti cord bullshit under the bed. Hard wire it to the system, and that bad boy ain’t going anywhere!

Nintendo Famicom Controllers

6. Controller holder slot on system

This builds upon the previous point of controller convenience; the Famicom has built in slots to hold the controllers when not in use. What more needs to be said? That’s the coolest thing in a video game system, and hasn’t been seen in a console ever since. Sure, the Colecovision had controller holders but… Colecovision was a lot less fun. Sorry, Coleco fans.

Nintendo Famicom Controller Holder Slot


And a negative;
Short Cords
Japanese houses are small, for sure, but seriously. 18 inches worth of cord is a joke. You know how your mom always said “don’t sit so close to the TV!”? She would have straight kicked your ass if she saw you playing this thing. Unless you pull the system across the room towards you, your maximum range from the TV is microscopic at best.

Nintendo Famicom Cord Length

What side would you pick? What’s your favourite controller?

Grab your own Famicom on eBay and Amazon today, and see for yourself!

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