The NES Zapper, also known as The Gun or Beam Gun in Japan, is an electronic light gun accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Japanese Famicom. It was released in Japan for the Famicom on February 18, 1984 (1984-02-18) and alongside the launch of the NES in North America in October 1985.
The Zapper allows players to aim at the television set display and "shoot" various objects that appear on the screen such as ducks, clay pigeons, targets, cowboys, criminals or other objectives. The Zapper is used on supported NES games, such as Duck Hunt and Wild Gunman. The Zapper could also be used on the title screens of games to move the cursor—done by pointing the device away from the screen and pulling the trigger—or starting the game (pointing at the screen and pulling the trigger).
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The re-released NES Zapper in orange
It was released in Japan for the Famicom on February 18, 1984 (1984-02-18), made for the game Wild Gunman. The Famicom version of the NES Zapper resembled a revolver-style handgun.
The Zapper was first released in North America in October 1985 as a launch title with the NES. The North American version of the NES Zapper resembled a futuristic science fiction ray gun with a color scheme matching the NES, rather than a revolver like the Famicom version. Early versions of the Zapper were a dark gray, but later it was changed to orange.
In North America, it was included in the Nintendo Action Set, a bundle that contained the NES console, the NES Zapper, and two games—Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. as a multicart. The Zapper was also available for purchase separately.
There are three light gun accessories that were officially licensed by Nintendo.
In North America, Bondwell released the Deluxe Sighting Scope, an accessory for the NES Zapper, under the brand name QuickShot. The scope snapped onto the top of the NES Zapper to give players a more precise view of where they would be firing.
In 1990, Konami released the LaserScope, a headset variation of the NES Zapper, in both Japan and the United States. It is voice-activated, firing a shot whenever the wearer says "fire" (although some reviewers criticized its ability to do so). The headset also functions as headphones for the NES. The headset also includes an eyepiece with a crosshair that sits in front of the wearer's right eye. It was designed for the game Laser Invasion, but works with any game compatible with the NES Zapper. In the United States, Laser Invasion came with a coupon for a $5 discount for the LaserScope.
Nexoft released The Dominator ProBeam, a wireless version of the NES Zapper. It has a built-in scope with crosshairs, uses infrared and is heavier than the NES Zapper.
When the trigger on the Zapper is pressed, the game causes the entire screen to become black for one frame. Then, on the next frame, the target area is drawn in all white as the rest of the screen remains black. The Zapper detects this change from low light to bright light, as well as the duration of the "flash", as the different targets on screen (if multiple targets are on screen) will flash for different durations. This is how the game knows which target has been hit. After all target areas have been illuminated, the game returns to drawing graphics as usual. The whole process is almost imperceptible to the human eye, although one can notice a slight "flashing" of the image. Although the Zapper just detects light, it can only be used on CRT displays. It will not work on LCDs, plasma displays or other flat panel displays due to display lag. This darkness/brightness sequence prevents the possible issue caused by pointing the Zapper right next to or into a light bulb. Older light guns did not use this method, making it possible to cheat and get a perfect hit score in a way not possible using the NES Zapper.
^ abcdDeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, John (2003), High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2 ed.), McGraw-Hill Professional, p. 379, ISBN978-0-07-223172-4
^ abBurnham, Van (2001), Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age, 1971–1984, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 375, ISBN0-262-52420-1
^NES Zapper Instruction Manual, Nintendo, 1985, US-2, Point the Zapper away from the screen and shoot. The arrow will move from one game to another. When the arrow points to the game you want, shoot directly at the screen. The game will start.
^Kent, Steven (2001) , "The Seeds of Competition", The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokémon and Beyond- The Story That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World (First ed.), Roseville, California: Prima Publishing, p. 305, ISBN0-7615-3643-4, The Nintendo Action Set, which included everything in the Control Deck packaging plus the "Zapper" light gun and the game Duck Hunt, sold for US$149, as did the Master System and gun set, which included the "Light Phaser" and the game Safari Hunt.
^Kohler, Chris (2005), Retro Gaming Hacks, O'Reilly Publishing, p. 19, ISBN978-0-596-00917-5, ...the Zapper light gun was included with most NES packages.