The Satellaview connected to a Super Famicom with a BS-X cartridge and memory pak.
|Type||Video game console add-on|
|Media||ROM cartridge, Flash memory|
|Storage||Game Pak, 8M Memory Pak|
The Satellaview (サテラビュー Saterabyū?) is a satellite modem add-on for Nintendo's Super Famicom system that was released in Japan in 1995. Available for pre-release orders as early as February 13, 1995, the Satellaview retailed for between ¥14,000 and 18,000 (then between USD$141 and 182) and came bundled with the BS-X Game Pak and an 8M Memory Pak.
The Satellaview system was developed and released by Nintendo to receive signals broadcast from satellite TV station WOWOW's satellite radio subsidiary, St.GIGA. St.GIGA was responsible for file server management, maintenance, and vocalization for "SoundLink games." Nintendo data broadcasts were given a fixed time-slot known as the Super Famicom Hour (スーパーファミコンアワー?) during which scrambled Satellaview-related data was streamed via radio waves to be unscrambled by St.GIGA's "BS digital hi-vision TV" (ＢＳデジタルハイビジョンテレビ BS Dejitaru HaiBijon Terebi?). As a subscription-based station for ambient and New Age music, St.GIGA listeners were already equipped with "BS tuners" prior to St.GIGA's contract with Nintendo. Satellaview owners who lacked a "BS tuner" had to purchase one separately from St.GIGA (at a price of ¥33,000) as well as sign up for Nintendo's and St.GIGA's monthly joint membership fees. Alternatively, users could rent "BS tuners" from St.GIGA for a 6-month period at a price of ¥5,400. Despite the price, St.GIGA subscriptions peaked at 116,378 households by March 1997, and had dropped to around 46,000 by June 2001.
Because the Satellaview was only released in Japan, there has been some confusion among English-speaking enthusiasts as to what the "BS" prefix means. As a result, a number of mistranslations have been introduced into common use today and are prevalent on English-speaking fan sites, most commonly either "Bandai Satellaview" or "Broadcast Satellaview". Another common mistake that can be found on English-speaking fan sites is the application of the "BS" prefix to all Satellaview titles. While it is true that a number of Satellaview titles do employ the "BS" prefix, the majority of them do not. The most standard method used to title Satellaview games used three formats for three different purposes:
- The "BS" prefix was only used for the Satellaview's SoundLink Games (e.g. BS Zelda no Densetsu). All "BS-" titles are SoundLink games, but not all SoundLink games bear the "BS" prefix.
- The "BS version" (「BS版」 "BS-ban"?) suffix was used solely for non-SoundLink Satellaview-original releases (e.g. Dezaemon BS Version (デザエモンBS版 Dezaemon BS-ban?)). Although all "BS Version" games are Satellaview originals, not all Satellaview originals bore the "BS Version" suffix.
- The original title was used for Satellaview ports and conversions (e.g. Zelda no Densetsu Kamigami no Triforce).
- A fourth variety of title using the "Satella-" (「サテラ」?) prefix was also common for the Satellaview (e.g. SatellaWalker (サテラウォーカー?)). These games were Satellaview originals that often took the form of Satellaview-themed quiz games or that related to the world of the BS-X BIOS, BS-X: The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen.
As the Broadcast Satellite (BS) system was in use in Japan prior to the release of the Satellaview; the term "BS" may refer to programming prior to the Satellaview.
The basic Satellaview system comprises:
- Satellaview adapter (SHVC-029), attached to the bottom of Super Famicom and plugged into the (previously unused) expansion port.
- L-shaped bracket (SHVC-033), supplied power to the Satellaview via the Super Famicom.
- AC Adapter (SHVC-032), an AC power cord.
- AV Selector (SHVC-030), the Audio-visual Selector.
- Application cartridge, BS-X : The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen (BS-X それは名前を盗まれた街の物語 BS-X: Sore wa Namae o Nusumareta Machi no Monogatari?) (SHVC-028), plugged into the cartridge slot on top of the Super Famicom to provide the menu system for the downloading of broadcasts and the playing of games. (See below).
- 8M Memory Pak (SHVC-031), plugged into the BS-X application cartridge allowing players to save game data and other data. Memory paks were rewritable and could be used in conjunction with a handful of other compatible application cartridges. The basic Satellaview set came with a number of rewritable blank labels which could be applied to 8M Memory Paks to allow players to record the name of the data files they had recorded.
The deluxe system contained all the above as well as a rewritable 8-Megabit Memory Pak. The Satellaview base unit contained around 512 KB of memory of its own; however, the deluxe Memory Pak was required for larger games and to allow the player to have multiple saved games. Memory Paks were sold separately as well, and today these Memory Paks serve as a primary source of data retrieval for members of the subculture of collectors and enthusiasts devoted to the restoration of these games via emulation.
BS-X: Sore wa Namae o Nusumareta Machi no Monogatari
Bundled with the Satellaview came a slotted application cartridge with the title BS-X : The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen (BS-X それは名前を盗まれた街の物語 BS-X: Sore wa Namae o Nusumareta Machi no Monogatari?). The application on this cartridge took the form of a game, however its actual purpose was to serve as an interactive menu system for the console subunit. On start-up the player would enter a name, selected either a male or female character avatar, and then move the avatar around a virtual town. Houses and shops in the town served as download locations where the player could directly download games, particular game data, or digital magazines. The download would write game data into temporary memory locations which would remain until the player downloaded a new game to take its place.
Apart from downloads, players could also travel to in-game locations such as the Wall Newspaper Co. (かべ新聞社 kabe shinbunsha?) to read brief text-only postcard-like messages from St.GIGA and Nintendo that announced contest winners, revealed future games and future programming schedule details, and served to raise awareness for celebrity events relating to SoundLink Magazine performers' off-Satellaview activities. Furthermore, the avatar was equipped with an inventory and game currency which could be spent on various in-game items such as telephone cards, vehicle tickets, fish bait, and shoes that would enable the player to dash rather than walk everywhere. While the BS-X application cartridge had none of the challenges typically associated with games, it featured a plot of sorts and thus can be considered a video game in a narratalogical sense.
A series of downloadable games including Dezaemon (BS Version): BS-X Shooting (デザエモンＢＳ版 ＢＳ－Ｘシューティング?) (April 22, 1996), SatellaWalker (サテラウォーカー?) (June 29, 1997), and SatellaWalker 2 (サテラウォーカー２?) (Feb. 15, 1998) were also released featuring plotlines set in the Town Whose Name Has Been Stolen. The SatellaWalker SoundLink game series notably involved extended RPG-like adventures with the avatar as the main character and the two Satellaview mascots, Satebô (サテぼう?) (an anthropomorphic satellite) and Parabô (パラぼう?) (an anthropomorphic parabolic satellite dish) providing the main supporting roles. Designed by Noriko Kitamura (北村典子?) with help from Masaru Nishida (西田 勝?), these two characters featured heavily in all materials relating to the Satellaview appearing not only on the BS-X cassette, but also in the Satellaview manual and brochures, various print ads and magazines, and on certificates of achievement awarded with prizes for various events (see below for an example of a prize certificate bearing the likeness of Parabô).
St.GIGA Satellite broadcasts
Every day between April 23, 1995 and June 30, 2000, St.GIGA servers broadcast material via the BS network to be received and unscrambled by subscribers to Nintendo's Satellaview service. Although St.GIGA and Nintendo worked as partners between April 1995 and April 1999, tensions between them caused a rift in April 1999 which led to Nintendo's splitting from St.GIGA as well as the end of Nintendo's support for the Satellaview system. Despite this, St.GIGA continued broadcasting alone from between April 1999 and June 2000 when it ceased support for the system as well.
Broadcast material consisted of three types of data:
- Games - Original Satellaview titles as well as software versions of regular NES and SNES games were broadcast every day throughout the lifetime of St.GIGA's support for the Satellaview. Games included SoundLink as well as regular titles, and also included beta versions for upcoming titles and student works. A number of the games were additionally the basis of larger National Events in which players would compete for prizes awarded by St.GIGA.
- Magazines - Digital magazines could be read on-screen, and contained information on a variety of topics such as upcoming video games, music, comedic performances, and the lives of pop idols. Like the games, broadcast magazines came in both SoundLink as well as silent formats. SoundLink magazines were performed by members of various comedic troupes such as All Night Nippon, Bakushō Mondai, Hikaru Ijūin, etc., and often featured special guests. Regular magazines included SatellaGuide (サテラガイド?), publications by Nintendo Power, comics by Lily Franky (リリー・フランキー?), etc.
- Data - A smaller number of Satellaview titles were released as special application cartridges (see below) that possessed the basic gameplay data of the series to which they belonged, and required no downloads to play. These cartridges, however, could be swapped for the BS-X application cartridge to download specific scenarios relating to the series. As such, these cartridges functioned similarly to game-specific Nintendo Power cartridges, where the basic game was purchased separately and then expansion pack material could be downloaded via Satellaview.
Broadcast material followed a regular schedule that allowed Satellaview owners to plan their daily schedules in order to catch the games they wished to play. This regular schedule was changed, however, a number of times throughout the lifetime of the Satellaview to make allowances for such things as increased or decreased SoundLink voice actor availability, customer demands for SatellaGuide support, and reduced support in the later years. Below is a table displaying these changes. (Please see the note below the table)
|11:00-12:00||St.GIGA Radio||St.GIGA Radio||St.GIGA Radio||St.GIGA Radio||SatellaGuide broadcast||SatellaGuide broadcast||St.GIGA Radio||St.GIGA Radio|
|12:00-13:00||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||SatellaGuide broadcast|
|17:00-18:00||SoundLink broadcast||Regular broadcast|
|18:00-19:00||SoundLink broadcast||SoundLink broadcast||SoundLink broadcast||SoundLink broadcast||SoundLink broadcast|
|19:00-20:00||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||Regular broadcast||SatellaGuide broadcast|
NOTE: This table displays times when new — formerly unbroadcast — content was transmitted. Rebroadcasts of "Regular broadcast" games were transmitted throughout the lifetime of the Satellaview. As such, non-SoundLink reruns were available for players at some times simultaneously with new SatellaGuide broadcasts between 1998 and 2000.
Satellaview Games were broadcast episodically in weekly or sometimes daily installments, usually with a total of four parts. As new episodes were added, players would either be confronted with new levels and maps or their original gameworld would become further unlocked allowing exploration of new areas in-game. Game items and points often carried over from one week to the next either automatically (requiring that the player use the same data cartridge) or through the use of passwords and codes.
Games could be downloaded from within the BS-X BIOS, a game city known as BS-X The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen that was used as an interface. After turning the Satellaview on with the BS-X BIOS cartridge inserted, a player could roam the city and could visit a number of BS-X buildings. Visiting these buildings would allow the player to download and play the game or episode that the building contained. The contents of the buildings changed from hour to hour, making it helpful for players who wished to play a specific game to look up the correct time and location in various Super Famicom Hour (スーパーファミコンアワー?) tables published online by Nintendo and in hard copy by magazines such as Satellaview Communications Magazine (サテラビュー通信 Saterabyu Tsuushin?).
Broadcast Game Data fell into four distinct categories:
- Best Selection Games (ゲームベストセレクション?) — Satellaview versions of top-selling and popular titles for the Famicom and Super Famicom were re-released as "Best Selection" games (the equivalent of the SNES's Player's Choice games). These games ranged from direct ports and exact replicas of the earlier games to remakes and remixes of the games with improved graphics and increased functions.
- Monthly Event Games (マンスリーイベント?) — Events were held monthly to allow players to compete against other Satellaview users in a national rankings. Event games were often heavily advertised in the Magazine Data Broadcasts, and at the Nintendo website. The winner(s) and/or a few of the highest ranking players in these events would be awarded prizes (see below).
- BS Original Games (BSオリジナルゲーム?) — Games that were released for the first time via Satellaview and new entries in established series available only via Satellaview were released exclusively as BS Original games. These games were often designed to make use of the peculiar episodic structure of the Data Broadcasts, and in almost every case these games remain exclusive to the Satellaview as almost none of them have been re-released on more modern systems.
- SoundLink Games (サウンドリンクゲーム?) — Immersive audio experiences, SoundLink games provided narrated voice-acting gameplay to Nintendo fans for the first time. SoundLink games were often broadcast on strict timing schedules requiring players across the nation to begin at the same time and end at the same time. For this reason, competition events were quite common among SoundLink games, and prizes were often awarded for contest winners.
Events and prizes
The system required a subscription to the St.GIGA satellite radio station, and during a limited time (between 11:00AM and 2:00AM), users could download games and receive news about the gaming world (as well as see some ads), and save it on a memory card that plugged into the Satellaview. It was also possible to play quizzes, and also at the end of each game users receive a score readout. By submitting their game or quiz high scores, their score would be recorded, and if they scored high enough they might get a free gift, such as a telephone card or flash-cart.
A number of games featured streaming voice data known as "SoundLink" (サウンドリンク?) (this term came into use in 1996. Prior to this such voice data was referred to as "Voice Link" (音声連動 Onsei Rendou?)). In games featuring SoundLink data, one or more voice-actors would be used to guide players through the game and give helpful hints and advice. More complex games made use of multiple voice-actors to provide an audio drama narrating the plot and exhorting the player to hurry from goal to goal before the timer ran out. Because of the inclusion of a SoundLink soundtrack, the clock, and other live elements, these games could not be played at any time like some of the other Satellaview games, but only during the set hours, much like a radio play. SoundLink broadcasts also included SoundLink Magazines that acted more like traditional radio broadcasts rather than games. Vocal SoundLink data was broadcast to Satellaview owners in a scrambled format that could be unscrambled by the BS Tuner unit for a monthly 600 yen fee.
On August 6, 1995, as a Nintendo-console first, BS Zelda no Densetsu became the first SoundLink game as all cutscenes were fully voice acted. The last SoundLink game to be broadcast via the Satellaview was BS Zelda no Densetsu: Inishie no Sekiban on May 30, 1999.
Apart from full games and magazine broadcasts, Satellaview players were also given access to a number of data downloads that could be used in conjunction with various memory-pak-compatible application cartridges (also known as slotted cartridges). These cartridges were structurally identical to the BS-X cartridge - featuring a slot in the top into which could be inserted an 8M memory pak of the kind that the Satellaview employed. Their function was similar to the Nintendo Power cartridge but instead of holding entire games, they held game data.
To download a data packet via the Satellaview, players would start with the BS-X cartridge inserted and would walk in the BIOS overworld (The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen) to the appropriate download location. The data packet would be downloaded to the 8M memory pak inserted into the BS-X cartridge and when the download had finished, the player would shut the system down. The BS-X cartridge would then be removed and swapped for one of the special application cartridges. Finally the 8M memory pak would be detached from the BS-X cartridge and inserted into the application cartridge's memory slot. A list of slotted application cartridges compatible with the Satellaview can be seen here.
The data downloaded typically took the form of additional content such as new playable characters, new levels, or other new perks that could be accessed in-game. As such, data downloads functioned as patches and expansions. Examples included additional horses and racetracks for Derby Stallion '96, additional maps and characters for RPG Tsukūru 2, and an additional magazine accessible in game in Itoi Shigesato no Bass Tsuri No. 1. Occasionally data downloads would also be available that were not intended for use with application cartridges but instead could be accessed from the BS-X cartridge. An example of this is the Chrono Trigger Music Library data broadcast.
In March 1996, three different separately-sold 8M memory paks were produced already containing prerecorded data of this sort. These special 8M paks bore all new decals and contained EPROMs that could not be overwritten by new download data from the Satellaview.
All downloadable broadcasts that were neither Games nor Data files fell into the category of Digital Magazines (デジタルマガジン?). The Satellaview's digital magazine broadcasts could also be further subdivided into three distinct styles of magazine:
- Magazine Data (マガジンデータ?) — Text data associated intimately with the game with which they were downloaded. Magazine Data files were broadcast exactly 10 minutes prior to their associated games and were used by players to fill time while the game download completed. Included in this subcategory were both "Magazine Manuals" (取説マガジン Torisetsu magajin?) describing how to play the games and "Strategy Magazines" (紹介マガジン Shoukai magajin?) describing basic strategy for the game. Despite the frequency with which they were originally broadcast (commonly once every half-hour), these magazine files rank among the rarest of download data still retained by collectors today.
- Periodic Magazines — Electronic versions of several different popular hard-copy video game magazines (e.g. Famitsu, Nintendo Power, or Tokuma Shoten's Goods Press) comic strips (e.g. Lily Franky Theater (リリー・フランキー劇場 Riri Furanki Gekijou?)), cooking magazines, etc. These magazines were specially formatted for viewing on the television screen and as such the reader was required to scan through the pages of the electronic magazine using the SNES' control pad.
- SoundLink Magazines (サウンドリンクマガジン?) — The magazine version of the SoundLink Games, SoundLink Magazines functioned as variety shows bringing celebrities and pop idols into the homes of Satellaview owners. Comedic troupes such as All Night Nippon, Bakushō Mondai, and Hikaru Ijūin featured prominently in most SoundLink Magazine broadcasts and in some cases participated in certain SoundLink Games as well (notably Bakushō Mondai no Totsugeki StarPirates (爆笑問題の突撃スターパイレーツ?) and Wario no Mori Bakushō Bājon (ワリオの森 爆笑バージョン?)). The longest-running and perhaps best-known SoundLink Magazine series was Game Tora no Ooana (ゲーム虎の大穴?, lit. Lair of the Game Tiger) which was broadcast between April 24, 1995 and April 3, 1999.
In addition to downloadable magazine files, the BS-X cartridge also featured a constantly updated portion of the BIOS named the Kabe Shinbunsha (かべ新聞社?) that was devoted to receiving brief text-only messages from St.GIGA and Nintendo regarding future plans, upcoming contests and games, and for announcing contest winners' names. Although this material was not specifically selected by the player for download and was not included on "Super Famicom Hour" schedules, it has been described as a digital postcard or fax in the same vein as the Magazines.
Compatible memory paks
|Title||Release Date||Release Price|
|8M Memory Pak (8Mメモリーパック?) (blank 8M pak)||February 13, 1995||¥5,000 (also bundled with the Satellaview system for ¥18,000)|
|Character Cassette (キャラカセット?)||March 1, 1996||¥8,980 (Bundled with SameGame application cartridge)|
|Character Data Collection: Beyond the Heavens Compilation (キャラデータ集 天外編?)||May 24, 1996||)¥2,680 (also bundled with SameGame application cartridge as a contest prize|
|SD Gundam G-NEXT Unit & Map Collection (SDガンダム GNEXT ユニット&マップコレクション?)||March 29, 1996||¥3,800 individually (also bundled with the SD Gundam G-NEXT application cartridge for ¥16,600)|
Compatible application cartridges
|Title||Release Date||Release Price|
|BS-X The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen (ＢＳ－Ｘ それは名前を盗まれた街の物語 BS-X Sore wa Namae o Nusumareta Machi no Monogatari?)||February 13, 1995||¥18,000 (Bundled with the Satellaview system)|
|Derby Stallion '96 (ダービースタリオン９６?)||March 15, 1996||¥12,800|
|Joushou Mahjong Tenpai (常勝麻雀 天牌?)||September 29, 1995||¥8,900|
|Ongaku Tsukūru: Kanadeeru (音楽ツクール かなでーる?)||April 12, 1996||¥7,800-¥9,980|
|RPG Tsukūru 2 (ＲＰＧツクール２?)||January 31, 1996||¥12,800|
|SameGame (鮫亀?)||March 1, 1996||)¥8,980 (Bundled with the Character Cassette 8M memory pak; also bundled with the Character Data: Tengai Makyo 8M memory pak as a contest prize|
|SD Gundam G-Next (ＳＤガンダム ＧＮＥＸＴ?)||December 22, 1995||¥12,800 individually (also bundled with the Unit & Map Collections 8M memory pak after March 29, 1996 for ¥16,600)|
|Shigesato Itoi's No. 1 Bass Fishing (糸井重里のバス釣りＮｏ．１?)||February 21, 1997||¥6,800-¥7,800|
|Sound-Novel Tsukūru (サウンドノベルツクール?)||May 31, 1996||¥8,200|
- Intellivision's PlayCable (1981)
- Atari 2600's GameLine (early 1980s)
- Sega Mega Drive's Sega Meganet (1991) and Sega Channel (1994)
- Nintendo Entertainment System's Famicom Modem and Teleplay Modem (1992)
- Nintendo 64DD's RANDnetDD (1999)
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- Satellaview General Information, Software Downloads
- N-sider.com - NintendOnline - Page 2 article about Nintendo's online history