Creative Limitation And The Super Nintendo Sound Chips

The Super Nintendo recently experienced a surge in popularity, either from a combination of nostalgic 30-somethings recreating their childhoods, or because Nintendo released a “classic” version of this nearly-perfect video game system. Or a combination of both. But what made the system worthy of being remembered at all? With only 16 bits and graphics that look ancient by modern standards, gameplay is similarly limited. This video from [Nerdwriter1] goes into depth on a single part of the console – the sound chips – and uses them to illustrate a small part of what makes this console still worth playing even now.

The SNES processed sound with two chips, a processing core and a DSP. They only had a capacity of 64 kb, meaning that all of a game’s sounds and music had to fit in this tiny space. This might seem impossible if you’ve ever played enduring classics like Donkey Kong Country, a game known for its impressive musical score. This is where the concept of creative limitation comes in. The theory says that creativity can flourish if given a set of boundaries. In this case it was a small amount of memory, and within that tiny space the composer at Rare who made this game a work of art was able to develop a musical masterpiece within strict limitations.

Even though this video only discusses the sound abilities of the SNES, which are still being put to good use, it’s a good illustration of what made this system so much fun. Even though it was limited, game developers (and composers) were able to work within its limitations to create some amazingly fun games that seem to have withstood the test of time fairly well. Not all of the games were winners, but the ones that were still get some playtime from us even now.

Continue reading “Creative Limitation And The Super Nintendo Sound Chips”

Mechanical Donkey Kong Features Laser Cut Mario

[Martin] just sent in a project he’s been working on that takes Donkey Kong out of the realm of pixels and sprites and puts our hero Mario into a world made of laser cut plywood.

This mechanical version of Donkey Kong uses an Arduino stuffed into an old NES to control Mario jumping over ball bearing ‘barrels.’ The game starts with 12 of these barrels ready to be thrown by our favorite gorilla antagonist, which Mario carefully dodges with the help of a pair of servos.

This is only the first iteration of [Martin]’s mechanical version of Donkey Kong. The next version will keep the clever means of notifying the player if Mario is crushed by a barrel – a simple magnet glued to the back of the Mario piece – and will be shown at the UK Maker Faire next year.

Although [Martin]’s ideas for a mechanical version of Donkey Kong aren’t fully realized with this build, it’s already a build equal to electromechanical Pong.

Propeller Arcade

This arcade cabinet has been saved from a gruesome death. [Oldbitcollector] picked the broken rig up for $50 and is building a Parallax Propeller based arcade machine. This began back in October and he’s just dropped in a newly painted control panel to replace the NES controller seen above. He pulled the replacement screen out of an old 19″ TV and found it to be a perfect fit. We didn’t find a complete list of available games but we know he’s got a menu system to choose the game and have seen Donkey Kong, Frogger, Defender, and at least one other in the videos. There’s less choices than a MAME cabinet but who needs more than a handful of the old 8-bit gems anyway?

Continue reading “Propeller Arcade”