Nintendo Power (cartridge)

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Nintendo Power flash cartridges for Super Famicom and Game Boy

The Nintendo Power (ニンテンドーパワー Nintendō Pawā?) flash RAM cartridge was a Japan-only peripheral produced by Nintendo for the Super Famicom and the Game Boy, which allowed owners to download Super Famicom/Game Boy games onto a special flash memory cartridge for less than what the full cartridge would have cost. A similar system of distribution was later used by Nintendo for the iQue Player in China.

Design[edit]

During the days of the Family Computer, Nintendo developed the Disk System, a disk drive expansion for the Famicom with expanded RAM which allowed players to use rewritable disks. The system was relatively popular, but suffered from issues of limited capacity. However, Nintendo did see the market for a rewritable game device thanks to the popularity of the Disk System. The NP cartridges solve the piracy issue by the fact that they are solid-state, as opposed to being a rewritable medium like the FDS, making their use in duplication limited. The limited capacity issue was solved by maximizing the size of the flash memory in the cartridge to 4 megabytes (32 megabits), the largest amount used by the vast majority of Super Famicom games.

Each cartridge's flash RAM is divided internally into eight blocks. Unless an 8-block game is loaded onto the cartridge, however, one block is reserved for the game selection menu, leaving only seven blocks for games. In addition, each cartridge has a small amount of SRAM for game saves, which is divided into sixteen blocks. Games are rounded up in capacity - i.e. a 10 megabit Super Famicom game needs three flash RAM blocks (12 megabits), a Game Boy game that needs 100 kilobits of save space would need 2 SRAM blocks (128 kilobits). The system does have one limitation: games that utilize a special chip (such as the Super FX) cannot be placed on the NP cartridge, as the needed chip is not in it.

Usage[edit]

The flash writer at a Nintendo Power kiosk in a convenience store
The flash writer at a Nintendo Power kiosk for adding games to flash cartridges

A user would first purchase the RAM cartridge itself, then bring it to a store which had an NP copier. The player would select games to be placed on the cartridge, and then had them loaded on. In addition, the store would provide the purchaser with a printed copy of the manual for the game. Game prices varied, with older titles being relatively cheap, and newer titles and NP exclusives being more expensive.

Specifications[edit]

Super Famicom[edit]

MSRP - ¥3,980

  • Onboard flash RAM (for game data) - 32 megabits total (4 megabits/block x 8 blocks)
  • Onboard SRAM (for game saves) - 256 kilobits total (16 kilobits/block x 16 blocks)

Game Boy[edit]

MSRP - ¥2,500

  • Onboard flash RAM (for game data) - 8 megabits total (1 megabit/block x 8 blocks)
  • Onboard SRAM (for game saves) - 1024 kilobits total (64 kilobits/block x 16 blocks)

Related links[edit]