Video of the Famicom
R2 - Japan - Enter Brain
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (10th January 2021).
The Film

"Video of the Famicom" (ファミコンのビデオ) (1986-2003)

It was during a visit of a relative's home in the mid-80s in Tokyo, Japan where I played "Super Mario Bros." on the Nintendo Famicom for the first time as a little kid. Fascinated by everything from the music, the movement, the powerups, the enemies, it was one of the most eye-opening moments of my life. After playing I was jumping around the house, making sound effects as I walked and ran around, pretending things above were blocks and slippers on the floor were enemies to stomp on. Fast forward to 2021, I am playing the recent battle royale online multiplayer game "Super Mario 35" on Nintendo Switch constantly for the last few months (and lamenting that the game will cease in a few months). I've put over 100 hours into the game and have a 27% rate of coming in first place, and even though the base game is basically the original "Super Mario Bros." with the gameplay, it never gets old and never bores. It is because of how the game was designed? Is it because of the great memories of playing it as a little kid all those years ago? Nintendo's very first home gaming console, the Famicom all made it possible.

Released in 1983 in Japan, the small red and white colored Nintendo Family Computer (or Famicom for short) followed the company's massive success with the Game & Watch series of handheld games. While the Game & Watch series held only one game per handheld, the Famicom made big changes by being a console without games being built in, but instead having proprietary game cartridges in full color and enhanced sound. While at the same time in America the video game crash due to oversaturation of game consoles and games from Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision, and others, the Japanese market was more focused on arcades rather than home consoles. Not to say there were no competition, as just in 1982 there were five game consoles released in Japan, from the Pyuta and DynaVision to name a few that have been forgotten, all for staggeringly high prices of between 35,000 to 60,000 per console. On July 31st, 1983, two competing home consoles hit the market. Sega's SG-1000 and Nintendo's Family Computer. Sega's first console barely made a dent in the Japanese market, but Nintendo's dominated the country, Both cost 15,000 at launch, with the SG1000 selling 400,000 units in Japan compared to the Famicom's sales of 20 million units in the country.

For me, my first video game console I remember playing was the Famicom and it was always a delight visiting friends and families that had one, where I played everything from Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and more. For the international market, the Famicom was redesigned and rebranded as the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES for short) with a gray boxy design in 1985. It was after I moved to the United States and went to a friend's house that had a "Nintendo" that I first played the NES and was perplexed. It says "Nintendo", it had the same games, but looked completely different. It was confusing for a kid to process why it was the same, yet different, but it was about the fun with the games rather than the whys or the hows. The original Famicom had an extremely long lifespan, debuting in 1983 and its final officially licensed game being released in 1994 with "Adventure Island 4" (more on Adventure Island later), and with a library of over 1200 games, it was the dominant console in the country for quite some time. It was to the point that the name "Famicom" became the term for a game console, whether it was a Famicom or not, similar to "Xerox" means photocopy or "Google" means search engine. Or for the English equivalent, how many people referred to any game console as a "Nintendo" back in the day.

For the console's twentieth anniversary in 2003, video game magazine Famitsu produced a DVD to commemorate the occasion, with ファミコンのビデオ, or "Video of the Famicom". The DVD, produced in cooperation with Nintendo and published by Enter Brain featured a short documentary on the console, a legendary short film, a countdown of the 100 best games (and more) for the Famicom, a featurette on various peripherals for the console, and vintage commercials from Nintendo."

"Documentary: Family Computer" 2003 documentary short (26:25)
Featuring interviews with historian Hisakazu Hirabayashi, game designers Toru Hashimoto, Toshihiro Nagoshi, Hideo Kojima, Keiji Inafune, Koichi Nakamura, Tatsuya Mizuguchi and many more who started their careers in the Famicom era, this documentary is not the most in depth documentary on the iconic console, but more filled with memories of the Famicom and some of the highlights of the console itself. Hirabayashi breaks it down the best with the historical timeframe and how it became such a seller, alongside the rise in popularity. The designers share their times playing the console and some of the games they associate with it and how other games influenced their own work. In addition, there are comments about how the "Dragon Quest" series made a huge impact culturally for RPGs, the "Game King" theatrical short, and more, but it does feel very incomplete. There are no comments about the internal hardware or tech specs, few notes on many flagship titles, nothing about the Disk System add-on, and nothing on the creation of the hardware itself. There are some funny stories to be heard, but it feels there could have been so much more added. As for how it looks, the uncredited director seemed to like shooting at very odd angles and sometimes use a strobing framerate that tries to be cool, but feels distracting.
in non-anamorphic 1.33:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Game King: Takahashi Meijin VS Mori Meijin - Duel! Battle!" 1986 short film (29:22)
Toshiyuki Takahashi, or "Master Takahashi" was an employee for Hudson Soft and was considered a video game master with his skills and knowledge of games, frequently appearing in articles for magazines and on television with tips and tricks. With a skill to press the b-button 16 times per second, he was a king of shooters and was a legendary figure in the 1980s. In addition, he became the face of Hudson Soft and became a video game character of his own through the "Adventure Island" series, as the main character (renamed Master Higgins in English). Kiminobu Mori or "Master Mori" was a university student who made a name for himself by setting record breaking gameplay of "Star Force" at a gaming competition in Sapporo, Japan. The two game masters went head to head in "GAME KING 高橋名人VS毛利名人 激突!大決戦", where the two played "Star Soldier" in a series of five rounds with the total score being added together. For the event, the two players sat inside a slowly rotating machine straight out of a science fiction movie and school children filling the audience surrounding them at 360 degrees. Directed by Shinichi Kamizawa, "Game King" was also known for its opening sequence, which mimicked the "Rocky" series, with the training montages of the two masters, from Takahashi using his finger jab to break open a watermelon to Mori with precision stacking a house of cards outdoors. As Takahashi was known for power and Mori known for precision, the montage was a way to introduce the two men and their abilities in a slightly comical way. The 27 year old Takahashi vs the 19 year old Mori went head to head (or rather back to back) for this competition which was released in cinemas on July 20th, 1986, playing as a double bill with "Running Boy: The Secret of Star Soldier", a 55-minute animated film based on the game which has at this time only received a home video release on VHS in Japan, and no release in the digital age. For western audiences, there was excitement with 1989's film "The Wizard" featuring a videogame competition on a movie screen. But that was fictional, and for people knowing the video games being played, there were inconsistencies to be said. (Warping doesn't give more points in Mario 3, for example.) But it was three years prior that a real competition was played and was on the big screen for very excited young audiences in Japan.
in non-anamorphic 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Famicom Software: Best 100" clips (61:21)
Famitsu magazine's list of the 100 best Famicom games are presented here with clips of almost every game, counting down from 100 to 1. In addition there are twenty bonus game clips of titles that didn't quite make the list but are still notable. Note that "almost" means some of the games don't have clips presented due to rights issues from the license holders. Of the 100, only 6 games are presented with a title card only. The top 100 and bonus 20 titles are also printed in the pamphlet included with the DVD for people who want to be spoiled. A lot of well known and obvious titles are to be found, from "the "Mario", The Legend of Zelda", "Mega Man", "Gradius", "Dragon Ball", "Dragon Quest", and "Final Fantasy" series seeing multiple entries on the list due to multiple titles, as well as some Japanese exclusives like "Hanjuku Hero", "Sweet Home", "Sanma no meitantei" and others, though don't expect too many hidden gems in the list of clips. There are 25 chapter stops for this extra which five games showcased per chapter.
in non-anamorphic 1.33:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Let's Play with Famicom Peripherals! Famicom House" featurette (19:49)
Featuring rapper BOSE of Scha Dara Parr and Famitsu writer Rolling Uchizawa, they interview "Famicom Professor" Kentaro Fujimoto who showcases many vintage Famicom peripherals released over the years. From 3D glasses for the 3D racing games to an unboxing of a sealed Power Glove, there are some incredible gems to be found in his collection. But there is little detail on the history or an order to the introduction to the accessories, and more like a YouTuber showing off goods. But keep in mind, this was three full years before YouTube even launched.
in non-anamorphic 1.33:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Vintage Nintendo Famicom Commercials (5:34)
A great series of vintage commercials are presented here. Included are Tennis/Pinball, Light Gun, Urban Champion/Clu Clu Land, Excitebike, Balloon Fight/Ice Climber, Wrecking Crew, two commercials for the Famicom Robot, and Super Mario Bros. All the commercials were mastered from the master tapes from Nintendo so they look incredibly good, rather than the quality of old VHS rips found on YouTube.
in non-anamorphic 1.33:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

With approximately 150 minutes of content on the disc, there is a lot to appreciate but at the same time a lot to be missed. The documentary is not as in-depth as one could be for example. YouTuber The Gaming Historian has made some excellent videos on peripherals such as the Power Glove and the Famicom Disk System in the past, and for people expecting something as in depth as those will be disappointed. But hearing the thoughts of the well respected game developers have some charm to the piece so it's not a dud at all. The "Game King" short is a true highlight, as it appeared on the VHS of u>"Running Boy: The Secret of Star Soldier" and only available on DVD in this set. For years this was a short I longed to see but could never find on disc and the VHS was too pricy and out of the question. It was only browsing in a used shop that I happened to come across this DVD and know of its existence. A truly lucky and unexpected find to say the least. The featurette is also not very in depth, but the commercials are absolute gems.

8-bit games have been on a path of resurgence over the years, with newly created games in a retro style like "Shovel Knight" or "Axiom Verge" receiving raves from modern and retro gamers. New modern games would have multiple references to the 8-bit era games and sometimes having levels or assets in an 8-bit fashion. If it weren't for the Famicom/NES from Nintendo, video games would not be where they are today with their creativity and fun, and yes, many of the games are still great to play today.

Note this DVD is region 2 NTSC

Video

"Documentary: Family Computer", "Famicom Software: Best 100", "Let's Play with Famicom Peripherals!" featurette, and Vintage Nintendo Famicom Commercials are in non-anamorphic 1.33:1 in the NTSC format. "Game King" is in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the NTSC format.

The documentary was shot on standard definition video so there is some flatness to it with colors and depth, though it is a clean and clear image throughout, made up almost entirely of talking heads. Strangely, one portion of the documentary featuring game masters Takahashi and Mori reminiscing is in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio taken from some completely different program. The "Best 100" clips are taken from direct gameplay and looks very good overall. The featurette is taken from multiple standard definition cameras from handheld to static and later edited together, and looks fairly good but nothing to make it stand out from the rest. The commercials are taken from the original masters and look excellent. Some of the gameplay footage look a little rough as they are taken from RF video input which was the norm at the time and the only way to receive a signal from the original Famicom. There are no videotape errors like tracking or static to speak of. A true highlight of the set.

"Game King" has an interesting transfer. The opening segments of montage was shot on film while the game competition was shot on standard definition video. For theatrical exhibition the 30fps video footage was cropped and converted to 24fps film and screened. For this transfer which seems to have been mastered for the video release, has the opening filmed segments transferred to NTSC while the competition segment is kept with the original video framerate. In a way, this is more ideal as the gameplay footage is in 30fps and shows every frame intended. The picture is non-anamorphic though, and the age is obvious with the film segments not looking too vibrant. But on the positive side there are no errors in the transfer, with no damage marks seen in the film segments and no videotape error to be found in the game competition.

"Documentary: Family Computer"










"Game King: Takahashi Meijin VS Mori Meijin - Duel! Battle!"












"Let's Play with Famicom Peripherals! Famicom House"






Vintage Nintendo Famicom Commercials






Audio

Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

The original stereo and mono tracks are presented. "Game King", the game clips and the commercials are presented in mono while all other content is in stereo. The mono tracks sound great, with the opening song "OZONE" by Shinobu Sakagami in the "Game King" short sounding great and well balanced against the narration and gameplay effects seen in the competition. The commercials are also well balanced and clean in dialogue and effects. The game clips, like the image, were taken directly from gameplay footage and sound excellent. The documentary's stereo track is fair with the interviews with some separation coming from the music and effects, but nothing too spread out. The featurette has some audio issues as their microphones don't always pick up the dialogue spoken, but still sounds fair.

There are no subtitles for any of the content.

Extras

Technically the commercials and the featurette are listed as "extras" on the packaging but the menus do not have any separation between extras and main content, so all have been listed above.

Packaging

A leaflet is included, with some information on the content on the disc, including a complete list of the top 100 games and the 20 bonus games.

Overall

"Video of the Famicom" celebrated the Famicom's 20th anniversary in 2003, and now the DVD is nearly another twenty years old. The nostalgia is still there for the 8-bit era's shining little red and white console, with younger generations always discovering its legacy and its fun to this day. This DVD has some great content though not as in depth as one would hope, and for non-Japanese speakers the content is fairly limited. But personally, a fun journey to the past.

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B+ Overall: B

 


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