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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2016 2:04 pm 
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When describing the history of home video game consoles, several sources have adopted numbers for these generations: discrete logic or hardwired ASIC consoles first, pre-Famicom microprocessor consoles second, and then one generation for each flagship Nintendo console from the NES through the Wii U. (I remember reading somewhere that Wikipedia editors invented this numbering, and Talk:History of video games appears to corroborate this.) But in what ways can the entire NES library or a particular publisher's games be usefully broken down into discrete generations within a single console's lifetime?

In a post to a previous topic about 6502 processor status, koitsu claimed that Metroid is a "first-generation" NES game from back when Nintendo didn't know quite as much about the 6502 as it did by the time Super Mario Bros. 3 was being developed. But he said the exact delineation is in the eye of the beholder (no relation). So as not to derail things further there, I'm restarting the discussion here.

Perhaps Metroid is "first-generation" in the sense that it and fellow FDS ports Pro Wrestling and Kid Icarus are among the last games to use the black box template. Other things that make Metroid look like an early game include the lack of outlining (as with Ice Climber and several others), the lack of the layering technique used for face detail in Mega Man and Super Mario Bros. 2: Mario Madness, and the lack of substantial raster effects.

But in another way, FDS games are at least third-generation, as NROM-128 and NROM-256 games preceded them. FDS came out at roughly the same time as CNROM, and UNROM was developed in part as a way to port FDS games such as Pro Wrestling to cartridge.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2016 2:26 pm 
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The .txt file I made for this is below. All this is a matter of opinion, as I kind of sum up in the last paragraph.

It ("generation") seems to mean something different to everyone. To me, Metroid is a "first-gen" title because I'm thinking about it purely from the North American standpoint -- it came out "soon-ish" (22 months) after the console's release in North America. Actually, come to think of it, I guess that might make it a "second-gen" title, but whatever. Dates:

Famicom release date: July 1983
NES (North America) release date: October 1985
Famicom Disk System release date: February 1986
Metroid (FDS) release date: August 1986
Metroid (cart) release date: August 1987

If we review release dates of Famicom games, I would classify everything up to the release of 1942 to be "first-gen". (That list, BTW, is a bit suspect -- for example Akumajou Dracula (Castlevania) is listed as being released in 1993 -- uh, what? The FDS release came out in 1986, and the cartridge release was only outside of Japan. I bet you they got that year/date from the X68000 release, which really has no relevancy)

For me, what makes a "generation" of games is more about their overall feel, design, visuals, and complexity when compounded with release date. For example, I wouldn't put Clu Clu Land in the same boat as, say, Zanac or Blaster Master, but I would put Metroid in the same boat as Zelda 1 or Dragon Warrior (actually, hrm, I might have to say Dragon Warrior falls into a subsequent generation, since its graphical style doesn't have the same feel as Metroid). (So yes, if someone was to have made a game like Bird Week or Pinball and released it in 1992, I would say it falls into the "first-gen" category with the oddity that it came out substantially late in the NES/Famicom's lifetime). Again, for me, it's not based on ROM size or PCB model/release or mapper.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:30 am 
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Quote:
and the cartridge release was only outside of Japan

No, Castlevania was re-released on cartridge in Japan in 1993 which is the date you're seeing here. I agree it's misleading (because it's more a re-release date rather than a release date), but technically speaking it's correct.

I guess "first-gen" would be games without sprite outlines and with some parts or even all levels with only a black background, often with only one graphical character set and very repetitive levels. On the other hand, later gen games have more detailed graphics with sprite outlines, with full background and all levles looks completely different. Of course it's not a black and white issue and many games falls somewhere inbetween.

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But in another way, FDS games are at least third-generation, as NROM-128 and NROM-256 games preceded them. FDS came out at roughly the same time as CNROM

It is silly to call every specific hardware a "generation", typically the only difference between NROM-128 and NROM-256 is the amount of ROM available, that didn't change games all that much.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 2:48 am 
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Also, generations were remembered very differently depending on the country.

For example, Sunsoft's golden age in Japan seems to end right around the release of Meta Fight / Blaster Master, going by Japanese nostalgia standards; whereas the Sunsoft games prior to Blaster Master (eg: Route-16, Arabian, Atlantis no Nazo) might be considered by Westerners as crap best forgotten compared to works of gold like BM, Batman, Super Spy Hunter...

1988 and 1989 were pretty much the pinnacle of Famicom development, artistically and popularly, if not technically; after which a little slump came in '89 where gamers were getting bored of their crusty old Famicoms. This has been documented in a few places by the Japanese news media.

Conversely in '88, Mario Mania and Nintendomania were just warming up in North America.

I hope this post isn't apropos of nothing, anyway.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:09 am 
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IMHO...

First gen...were like Pacman, Donkey Kong, Popeye, Mario Bros(not super), Galaga games with little or no scrolling, flat background (usually black), Short repetative music.

Second gen...Super Mario Bros, and so many games in 1986, changed everything. You had detailed story lines, multi-directional scrolling (Metroid), passwords...song lists of 10+ songs.
1987 games also...Castlevania, Megaman, Zelda, Kid Icarus, etc.

Third gen...when they start pushing past the original intent with advanced music mappers, MMC3-5 scanline counting tricks, large layered sprites, good art direction, overworlds vs game vs story (multiple layers of gameplay), parallax scrolling.

I'd say 1990-93. Castlevania 3. Crystalis. Star tropics. SMB3. Battletoads. Ninja Gaiden 3. Bucky O'Hare. Kirby's adventure. Etc.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 11:20 am 
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dougeff wrote:
First gen...were like Pacman, Donkey Kong, Popeye, Mario Bros(not super), Galaga games with little or no scrolling, flat background (usually black), Short repetative music.

Basically what the Atari 2600 offered, but with better sound and better resolution graphics.

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Second gen...Super Mario Bros, and so many games in 1986, changed everything. You had detailed story lines, multi-directional scrolling (Metroid), passwords...song lists of 10+ songs.
1987 games also...Castlevania, Megaman, Zelda, Kid Icarus, etc.

Graphics were still very similar to what was seen in first gen games though. There still wasn't much effort put into making the games look *good*, they often stuck to drawing recognizable "symbols".

Mega Man and Castlevania showed nice graphical improvements though, so I definitely wouldn't put them in the same bag as SMB or Metroid. Metroid in particular had pretty lame graphics for an adventure of that magnitude, IMO.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:05 pm 
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I'd have thought "generation" would be defined by the graphics, like tokumaru said. I feel like you could put Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Metroid, and those sort of games into a transition period. Yeah though, I've never been too fond of the original Metroid either. The music becomes ear grating in less than 5 minutes, and everything looks so similar (at least in each world) that I have no clue where I even am (and it doesn't help that you're only either going straight up/down or left/right). I played Super Metroid first though, which would explain why I don't like the original Metroid that much. I did end up beating the original Metroid because I like to beat all the games I buy, but I didn't like it nearly as much.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 2:56 pm 
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I'd like to add the disorienting monotony of metroid is mostly a product of a very heavy reuse of the same few screens throughout the map; sometimes repeating the same screen in direct sequence to itself. I feel this is more connected to memory budgeting than a certain stylistic choice. There was room for a few more unique tiles, though, but i think the tileset was sufficient on its own

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:04 pm 
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I never actually knew that... (That explains a lot.) I ended up drawing a map on graph paper to know where I was going. There are several online, but I didn't want to "cheat". :lol:


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:54 pm 
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Tepples, please don't ever use the word "ASIC" to describe arcade games like Space Invaders or Pong ever again. Discrete logic chips. Okay?
Especially since ASIC = Application Specific Integrated Circuit = One chip. Like NES on a chip.


My opinion is that I don't like the idea of a NES software "generation" because it can never be clear cut.
It also isn't fair to always focus on when something was released, because the real question is: when did the project start?

When you start the project, your reference is the existing body of work around you (movies, arcade games, art and music fashions, current events). So let's say a project started in early to mid 1985, what reference would you have? What about the beginning of 1986? What a difference 6 months would make. (Talking about Super Mario Bros.)

Game Y developed as a competitive response to earlier Game X would be a better phrase. As an innovative programmer/artist/developer you'd want to stand out and in general be bigger/faster/better (push the limits). Even as a "just get things done" type programmer/artist/developer you'd just copy what you'd see existing to at least not be going backwards. You'd also be a fool to believe that programmers didn't decompile and examine how the latest game worked, just because company policy and the general business world forbids it.

So what I'm saying is what makes their classification difficult is how long the project takes. Because it varies. One could be 6 months, the next could be 3 years plus release delays. For example, for the reason so many games looked like Mario 3 in the USA at about the same time is because it was delayed, so Japanese developer reactions to Mario 3 ended up coming out in the USA at out nearly the same time as Mario 3 did.

Because we're picking on it, I read that Metroid NES development started as SMB1 was finishing up, took ten months then a mad dash for 3 months to finish the majority of it.

metroid-developer-interview wrote:
Kiyotake: As a simple example, you know how Mario slides a little before stopping?
Kiyotake: So we tried to make a dead halt.

Sakamoto: Super Mario Bros. is about avoiding enemies.
Interviewer: If you touch one, you lose a turn.
Sakamoto: In response to that, Kiyotake was complaining, saying, "Why do we have to avoid them?!" (laughs)
http://www.nintendo.com/nes-classic/met ... -interview


Because Metroid became an (internal) competitive response to SMB1, is it really first gen? No, it wasn't. It reacted to the Super Mario fad.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 1:28 pm 
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whicker wrote:
tepples wrote:
discrete logic or hardwired ASIC consoles first

Tepples, please don't ever use the word "ASIC" to describe arcade games like Space Invaders or Pong ever again. Discrete logic chips. Okay?
Especially since ASIC = Application Specific Integrated Circuit = One chip. Like NES on a chip.

I was referring to the Pong-on-a-chip consoles that appeared near the end of the first generation. Space Invaders is second-gen.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 1:29 pm 
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The wiki has a listing of notable hardware introductions during the NES's commercial life.

It's hard to really say anything universal, but there are a few interesting specific points:
* Everyone came up with the idea to do a cost-reduced version of m87 at the same time, releasing CNROM more or less simultaneously.
* Sunsoft (sunsoft-1 IC) seems to have gone for more features (4+4 CHR banking) for the same price (one IC package) instead of same features for less price (1 COtS IC instead of 2)
* Everyone almost immediately followed up CNROM with a variety of slightly-more-complicated mappers at almost the same time (GNROM, UNROM, N108, and VRC1 all came out within a month of each other)
* Konami must have either had advance information (plausible) or came up with 4+4 banking (in their VRC1) independently of Sunsoft. (Three months is ... not quite plausible to do ASIC design and write a game and get everything manufactured and in stores)
* MMC1 seems like a reaction to VRC1
* VRC2 seems like a reaction to N108

None of this covers graphical or musical style, which clearly has the same sort of 'cascade of reactions' dynamic going on.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 3:10 pm 
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tepples wrote:
whicker wrote:
tepples wrote:
discrete logic or hardwired ASIC consoles first

Tepples, please don't ever use the word "ASIC" to describe arcade games like Space Invaders or Pong ever again. Discrete logic chips. Okay?
Especially since ASIC = Application Specific Integrated Circuit = One chip. Like NES on a chip.

I was referring to the Pong-on-a-chip consoles that appeared near the end of the first generation. Space Invaders is second-gen.

I mean, you're technically right. in a way. I've... just never seen or read anyone make that kind of conclusion. :)
Back then they'd have called the pong chip an LSI or VLSI chip... But, you're still right.

As an industry term, the ASIC was a marketed product in the early 80's using gate arrays. It was for where if you didn't have a VLSI chip fab, and didn't want to pay for or could not afford an entirely new kind of chip, you could get what is essentially a rom mask layer to put over their ASIC and lock in the circuit logic at the factory, most often used for address decoders and such*. Later ASICs would put black-box type circuits (CPU core, memory) glued together with custom logic into a medium to high quantity chip production run.

http://chipdesignmag.com/display.php?articleId=386

*the earliest gate array ASIC idea evolved into GALs/PALs and then into PLD's and then CPLD's and FPGA's.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 5:15 pm 
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It's very hard to define Famicom games' generations - but I'd say there are four:

1- Games from 1983 and 1984
2- Games from 1985 and 1986
3- Games from 1987 to 1989
4- Games from 1990 to 1994


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 5:33 pm 
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I'd say that's actually pretty solid. 1987-1989 and 1990-1994 are really similar, but I guess one thing that sets it apart is NES games really seemed to have started to decline in quality during that last generation, due to not being the primary console being sold/played anymore. (Basically what happens to every console generation when newer ones come around.)


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