Super Famicom Nintendo Power cart

Beginning in the mid-80’s, Nintendo was constantly looking for ways to distribute it’s games to the growing legion of fans it had amassed in Japan, while at the same time keeping the prices for it’s software as low as possible. Born of this was the Famicom Disk System, a device that when used in addition to the Famicom console allowed games to be played from proprietary  2.8″ × 3″” floppy disks. This was advantageous over cartridges as the disks were cheaper to produce, could be overwritten with new games at special kiosks, and allowed for saving progress in games-  a feature that at the time was too expensive to add to the carts themselves.

The main problem with the Famicom Disk System was that the rewritable disks could easily be pirated, and certain brands of floppy disks could be modified to play on the system. It was because of this rampant piracy that Nintendo of Japan elected not to develop the Disk System peripheral for sale outside of Japan, even though Nintendo had added a port on the bottom of every single NES sold worldwide that would’ve allowed a disk drive to communicate with the console without the need for the RAM adapter required for the Disk System.

Forgoing the need for expensive hardware and easily pirated storage medium Nintendo of Japan utilized the relatively new technology of Flash memory while working these similar principals in to the Nintendo Disk Card’s spiritual successor, the Nintendo Power cart. For use with the Super Famicom in Japan, the Nintendo Power cart (no relation to the magazine) was essentially a blank Super Famicom cart that could be purchased and then taken to retailers, malls, and even convenience stores and be loaded with games at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new game. By cutting out the cartridge, which is easily the most expensive part of a Super Famicom game, Nintendo was able to lower the prices significantly, even for newer titles.

Each Nintendo Power cartridge came with 8 blocks of memory with 1 block of the 8 reserved for the menu system on each cart. If a game was loaded on to a cart that required all 8 blocks than the menu system would simply be over-written, as if would not be required anyway. The total amount of actual memory available was 32 megabits in total, which was 4 megabits/memory block, with 8 blocks total. As many games that would fit in the remaining memory could be put on the cart via these game station kiosks.

The carts also contained 256 kilobits of SRAM that was reserved specifically for Save files that any games would happen to require.

The 2 carts pictured above each have one game on them. One contains Ganbare Goemon 3: Shichijuurokubei no Karakuri Manji Gatame, which is the third part in the Ganbare Goemon series released for the Super Famicom. We only got part 1 as The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. The other cart contains Derby Stallion ’98, which is a Nintendo Power cart exclusive entry in the long running Japanese horse racing / business simulation series.

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