Nintendo Game Boy Advance Video (2004 – 2007)

Game Boy Advance Video was a means of watching video on the Nintendo Game Boy Advance handheld game console and was first introduced in 2004. The video came on ROM cartridges that looked similar to standard Game Paks, except they were always light grey and had a film perforation design on the label.

The Video Paks offered digital video with a resolution of 240 x 160 and full colour, but due to the low capacity of the cartridges the video was very compressed and of poor quality. The cartridges could also be used in the Game Boy Advance SP, Game Boy Micro, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo DS Lite systems. They could not be played on the Game Boy Player add-on for the Nintendo Game Cube (the low resolution would have become even more apparent on a television screen) because the Game Boy Player could be attached to a VCR or DVD recorder, so the ability to play video was disabled to prevent illegal copying of Game Boy Video material.

Content was mostly in the form of cartoons from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney, and also by Nintendo themselves with the Pokemon cartoons. Some full-length animated feature films were released by DreamWorks Animation, namely Shark Tale, Shrek, and Shrek 2. Around 25 cartridges were released, with the last ones released in 2007.

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Nintendo Wii U Optical Disc (2012 -2017)

The Wii U was a video game console introduced by Nintendo in 2012 as the successor to the Nintendo Wii. On release, it was the first eighth-generation video game console, and supported high-definition graphics.  It later competed with other eighth-generation consoles such as the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One.

The controller contained its own screen and could either supplement the main display, or in some games could be used independently of the television.

The Wii U could play discs from the previous Wii system, but no longer supported Nintendo GameCube discs. Games for the Wii U could be downloaded from the Nintendo eShop or bought on the proprietary Wii U Optical Disc. The discs themselves stored up to 25GB (only single-layer discs were used) and were similar to Blu-ray discs having been developed for Nintendo by Panasonic. However, the Wii U could not play Blu-ray discs.

Like the previous Nintendo Wii Optical Disc, the discs for the Wii U have rounded edges both on the outside of the disc and inside the spindle hole.

By the end of 2016, over 13 million Wii U consoles had been sold, but the Wii U was discontinued in January 2017.

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Nintendo 3DS (2011 – )

The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld game console launched in 2011 as a successor to the Nintendo DS. Its main feature was the ability to display stereoscopic 3D effects on the upper screen without the need for special glasses. Nintendo’s previous attempt at a 3D handheld game console (the Nintendo Virtual Boy) was a commercial failure, and required a special headset to view monochrome 3D effects.

The Nintendo 3DS competes with Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld console.

Several versions of the 3DS have been introduced since its launch, including the 3DS XL with a much larger screen, an entry level 2DS (without the clamshell form factor or 3D facility), and the ‘new’ 3DS and 3DS XL with a faster processor and other upgrades.

It is backward compatible with the Nintendo DS and DSi, and Game Cards for these consoles will fit into the 3DS. Games for the 3DS are prevented from being inserted into the older DS/DSi by a small lug on the card. 3DS Game Cards can hold between 1 and 4 GB of game data (compared to the DS card which held between 8 and 512 MB).

As well as loading games from ROM cards, the 3DS can connect to the Nintendo eShop to download games. Games, audio and picture files can be stored on a Secure Digital or SDHC card (or microSD on the new 3DS/DS XL)

Despite disappointing early sales, the 3DS family become very successful and as of September 2016 had sold over 61 million units.

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Pokémon mini (2002)

The Pokémon mini was a handheld game console, and the smallest game system to use cartridges weighing in at just 70g. It was introduced by Nintendo in 2001 (reaching Europe in 2002).

Only 10 cartridges (up to 512 KB in capacity, and a similar size to a Nintendo DS card) were released for the console, each themed around the Pokémon brand, with the last being released in Japan in December 2002 (Pokémon Breeder). It was sold in toy shops, and was seen as a children’s toy rather than a serious game system.

The Pokémon mini offered features such as force feedback, a shock detector and an infrared port for multiplayer gaming but had a small monochrome screen and monophonic sound. It was available in three colours, Wooper Blue, Smoochum Purple and Chikorita Green.

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Nintendo Game Boy dual-mode cartridge (1998 – 2003)

When the Game Boy Color was launched by Nintendo in 1998, it had the ability to use cartridges (‘Game Paks’) from the original Game Boy, albeit in monochrome. Its own cartridges, usually translucent, were not backward compatible with the Game Boy but there was a third type of cartridge introduced at the same time as the Game Boy Color, and this was compatible with both models.

These ‘dual mode’ (also known as class B) Game Paks were usually black, and were the same shape as the original Game Boy cartridges (that were usually grey) including the notch that allowed the power switch to be moved across. They were programmed to play in colour when used on the Game Boy Color.

The dual mode Game Paks were compatible with all Game Boy models, except for the Game Boy Micro.

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Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995 – 1996)

The Virtual Boy was a 32-bit video game console released by Ninteno in 1995 to the Japanese and US markets (it was never released in Europe).

Although advertised as a portable system, the console was a table top model requiring a flat surface to rest on, with the player looking into a headset. It was promoted as the first portable game console to  provide an immersive 3D experience.

The display used red LEDs for cost reasons, but the console was still initially expensive.

The 3D effects were a result of two linear arrays, each one directed to an eye that are presented to the player through oscillating mirrors that cause the Virtual Boy to emit a murmur. The 3D effect could cause eye strain, and there was an option to pause the game every fifteen or thirty minutes.

Nintendo initially showcased three games for the Virtual Boy, and planned to release two or three each month. By the time is was discontinued, 22 titles had been released.

The cartridges (‘Game Paks’) themselves were not compatible with any other Nintendo system, and unlike other Nintendo Game Paks, had a small removable cover for the pins.

The Virtual Boy proved to be a commercial failure and was discontinued in 1996.  Nintendo did not release another 3D console until 2011 with the Nintendo 3DS.

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Nintendo Game Boy Color (1998 – 2003)

The Game Boy Color was a handheld video game console released by Nintendo in 1998 as a successor to the original monochrome Game Boy.

The Game Boy Color had double the processor speed, three times as much memory, and an infrared communications port as well as a colour display. Its main competitors were the SNK Neo Geo Pocket and the Bandai WonderSwan, but the Game Boy Color had much greater commercial success. The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined sold nearly 119 million units worldwide.

Cartridges (called ‘Game Paks’ by Nintendo) for the original Game Boy could be used in the Game Boy Color, which was a major selling point.

There were also cartridges that could be used in either console (class B or dual mode). These are the same shape as the original Game Boy cartridges, but are usually black instead of grey. Cartridges that are designed specifically for the Game Boy Color (class C) are clear-coloured and are shaped slightly differently from the original Game Boy cartridges. They lack the notch that allows the original Game Boy power switch to be moved across, to ensure they could not be used in the original Game Boy by mistake.

The Game Boy Color was eventually discontinued in 2003, when the Game Boy Advance SP was launched (it had sold alongside the first version of the Game Boy Advance that was launched in 2001).

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Nintendo 64 Controller Pak (1997 – 2003)

The Nintendo 64 Controller Pak was a memory card for the Nintendo 64 game console. Like the PlayStation Memory Card, it was used to save game data and this could be shared with other Nintendo 64 owners.

The Controller Pak plugged into the controller rather than the console itself, and held 256 KB, split into 123 pages with a limitation of 16 save files. Data was not saved on flash memory, but on battery backed SRAM. Bigger memory cards were made by third parties and ranged from around 1-4 MB in size.

Many first-party games typically used on-cartridge storage to store game data. It was mostly third-party games that used the Controller Pak, to save the expense of including memory in the Game Pak itself.

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Super Nintendo Entertainment System (North American version) (1991- 1999)

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES, also known as the Super Famicom in Japan) was a fourth-generation 16-bit video game console introduced by Nintendo in 1990 (1991 in North America). It was Nintendo’s second home console, following the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities compared with other consoles at the time.

The North American version of the SNES has different shaped cartridges to those for other regions, to act as a form of regional lockout. North American cartridges have a rectangular base with inset grooves matching protruding tabs in the console, while other regions’ cartridges are narrower with a smooth curve on the front and no grooves. Internally, a regional lockout chip (CIC) within the console and in each cartridge prevents PAL region games from being played on Japanese or North American consoles and vice versa.

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Nintendo GameCube Memory Card (2002 – 2007)

The Nintendo GameCube was a sixth-generation video game console introduced in 2001 in Japan and the US (it became available in Europe in 2002) and was the successor to the Nintendo 64.

It featured two memory card ports for saving game data and Nintendo released three official memory cards: Memory Card 59, which was grey and had a capacity of 512 KB (59 save blocks), Memory Card 251, which was black and had a capacity 2 MB (251 save blocks) and Memory Card 1019, which was white and had a capacity of 8 MB (1019 save blocks).

A few games were known to have compatibility issues with the 8 MB memory card, and at least two games have save issues with any size.

Reception of the GameCube was mixed, but it sold approximately 22 million units and more than 600 games were released for the GameCube before it was discontinued in 2007.

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