Nintendo Power (cartridge)
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The Nintendo Power (Japanese: ニンテンドーパワー Hepburn: Nintendō Pawā?) flash RAM cartridge is a Japan-only peripheral which was produced by Nintendo for the Super Famicom and the Game Boy, which allowed owners to download Super Famicom and Game Boy games onto a special flash memory cartridge for a lower price than that of the full cartridge.
A similar system of distribution had previously been used with the Famicom Disk Writer kiosks and was later used by Nintendo for the iQue Player in China. A similar dynamic flash storage system is provided via satellite for a unique set of Super Famicom games on the Satellaview system.
During the days of the Family Computer, Nintendo developed the Disk System, a disk drive expansion for the Famicom with expanded RAM which allows 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 due to the popularity of the Disk System. The NP cartridges address the issue of potential copyright infringement 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 required chip is not present.
A user would first purchase the RAM cartridge itself, then bring it to a store which had an Nintendo Power copier. The player would select games to be copied to the cartridge. 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 Nintendo Power exclusives being more expensive.
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)
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)