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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 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 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 the color was quickly changed to bright orange for safety reasons, as it was believed that a child playing outside with a grey zapper could be mistaken for handling a real firearm. 
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.
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, all valid targets that are on screen are drawn all white as the rest of the screen remains black. The Zapper detects this change from low light to bright light, and determines if any of the targets are in the zapper's hit zone. If a target is hit, the game determines which one was hit based on the duration of the flash, as each target flashes for a different duration. 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 but this was easily misconstrued as a simulated muzzle flash. 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.
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Games compatible with the NES Zapper:
- The Adventures of Bayou Billy (gun optional)
- Barker Bill's Trick Shooting
- Day Dreamin' Davey (gun optional)
- Duck Hunt
- Freedom Force
- Gotcha! The Sport! (requires gun and controller)
- Hogan's Alley
- Laser Invasion (requires gun and controller)
- The Lone Ranger (gun optional)
- Mechanized Attack (gun optional)
- Operation Wolf (gun optional)
- Shooting Range (requires gun and controller)
- To the Earth
- Track & Field II (gun compatible)
- Wild Gunman
- 3-in-1 Supergun
- Baby Boomer (gun optional)
- Chiller (gun optional)
- Super Russian Roulette (requires gun and controller; compatible with CRT and HDTV)
In the Wii U game Splatoon as well as its Nintendo Switch sequel Splatoon 2, a weapon known as the N-ZAP was released. It is heavily based on the NES Zapper's design; two variants of it, the N-ZAP '85 and N-ZAP '89, use the gray and orange colors of the NES Zapper respectively. Furthermore, the N-ZAP '83 was made available as part of additional DLC. However, it does not resemble the Japanese design; it has the same NES Zapper design, but uses colors from the original Famicom controller.
In the Nintendo 3DS port of the sandbox-style game Terraria, the NES Zapper made an appearance as a weapon called the Zapinator. It can be obtained as a rare drop from Plantera, a powerful late-game boss. The Zapinator was initially used by developers to keep enemies away while they were testing the game on PC. However, it was accidentally left in the files of the PC version of Terraria when it launched, and was removed entirely in the game's next update.
- DeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, John (2003), High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2 ed.), McGraw-Hill Professional, p. 379, ISBN 978-0-07-223172-4
- Burnham, Van (2001), Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age, 1971–1984, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 375, ISBN 0-262-52420-1
- 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.
- Diskin, Patrick (August 2004), Nintendo Entertainment System Documentation (PDF), p. 32, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-06-27
- 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, ISBN 0-7615-3643-4,
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, ISBN 978-0-596-00917-5,
...the Zapper light gun was included with most NES packages.
- Deluxe Sighting Scope box
- Link (August 7, 2009). "NES Nintendo Konami Laserscope Headset". gameSniped. Rare Video Game Auctions. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "Laserscope". NES Player. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
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- -RoG-. "The Konami LaserScope!". I-Mockery. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
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- "The Dominator ProBeam Infrared Remote Control Gun". NES Repair Shop. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "Zapper Guide Part 1". The Warp Zone. Angelfire. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- The Straight Dope: In Nintendo's "Duck Hunt," how does the TV know when you've hit a duck?, 11 May 2001
- HowStuffWorks: "How does the light gun for a video game work?", 1 April 2000
- US 4813682, Okada, Satoru, "Video target control and sensing circuit for photosensitive gun", issued 21 March 1989
- The Way Games Work – NES Zapper, retrieved 5 January 2014
- NES Zapper Strobe Light Trick, retrieved 5 January 2014
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