The register Bregalad is referring to is bit 2 of SETINI ($2133)
, where 0 = 224 vertical lines, 1 = 239 vertical lines, barring use of interlace mode (which is its own beast in itself).
No where in any of the developers manual documentations that I have does Nintendo state you should avoid using certain ranges of columns (vertical) or lines (horizontals) of pixels to deal with visual areas which may be hidden by the physical border of certain television sets. This information is considered one of those "tribal knowledge" things when working with either NTSC or PAL.
Furthermore, the SNES/SFC offers a high-resolution interlaced mode (controlled via bit 0 of INISET
). The way this works depends on what video mode you're using; video modes 0-4 and 7 behave differently than modes 5 and 6 when using interlaced mode. There's too much to discuss about this mode in a post, so I'm not going to (if you want to read more about it, drop me a PM and I can give you a link to a PDF that you can enjoy sifting through). There are games which use this, usually as a "high resolution" title screen with little to no animation (example title: Yuu Yuu Hakusho Tokubetsu Hen's
first couple screens when powering on the system).
Finally, there is what's called "H-Pseudo 512" mode (controlled via bit 3 of INISET
), where in modes 0-4 and 7 you get visually 512 horizontal pixels of resolution, with the console itself doing a form of blending/averaging between two pixels (i.e. if normally two pixels of red (rgb 255,0,0) and black (rgb 0,0,0)) were next to one another, this mode would result visually in 3 pixels: rgb 255,0,0 / rgb 128,0,0 / rgb 0,0,0. You cannot use add/sub screen capabilities when using H-Pseudo 512. I've never seen this used, but there are probably some games that I've never played which do.
So no, the SNES/SFC does have generally higher resolution modes than the NES, but they are not commonly/consistently used throughout lots of games. They're less common given their limitations and higher complexities. Most people use 256x240 or 256x224. NTSC vs. PAL plays a role here, obviously.
Bottom line: games on the SNES/SFC tended to use all the available pixels, and DO NOT avoid use of certain areas (columns or lines) just because "someone's TV might cut it off". If someone's TV cut off some of the visual area, the owner/user was expected to adjust the H-size or V-size of their TV. Meaning: there was less concern over the "title safe" and "action safe" areas (see wikipedia
for what those terms mean), and people were simply expected to adjust their TV sets.
For example on my Sony Trinitron CRT/TV, with many NES and SNES games I have difficulty seeing the top and bottom 4-5 scanlines given how the actual TV operates/behaves. The solution is for me to adjust (decrease) V-size slightly.
The thing the NES did with PPUMASK ($2011)
bits 1 an 2 (show/hide the left 8 most pixels of the screen for BG and sprites, respectively) was just silly. There is nothing like that on the SNES/SFC.
P.S. -- 256x240 mode does not "show extra black" at the bottom of the screen compared to 256x224. Instead, what ends up happening is that in 256x224 VBlank lasts a bit longer (meaning with NTSC you have less VBlank time). The same applies on the NES
P.P.S. -- I'll drop byuu a PM on here and let him know of this thread (since it's in the NESdev section not SNESdev, not sure if he visits the non-SNES sections), as he can probably add some clarification to some of what I've said.