It Came From Japan

Famicom vs NES

Afternoon everyone! Figured today I would do something I probably should have done from the get go, I’m going to look at the Famicom system itself and what makes it different than the grey Nintendo Entertainment System we are all familiar with. For today I’m going to focus on some of the differences between the two. Don’t want to bore you so I’ll try to make it more of a condensed version.


First off when you look at the NES you see a box that is rectangular shaped and that is grey in color. Looking at the Famicom you would never know they are different versions of the same thing, it looks totally different! Instead of the grey you have a white/cream colored body with dark red. The controllers are red and gold and attached right to the system unlike the NES where you could easily unplug and switch out the controllers for other peripherals. So hopefully you like being close to your friends when you are playing games on the Famicom cause those cords are short!  So instead the Famicom has an extra controller slot on the front right hand side so you would still be able to use peripherals like the zapper or ROB the Robot. The great thing about this is it also allows you to plug in another controller. This way you could use your Hori Turbo controller to help you out in the level or, if you were playing a compatible game, you would be able to play with 3 players instead of only 2! I first discovered this feature while playing Bomberman 2 but other games like Twin Bee, some of the Downtown Nekketsu Koushinkyoku games and sports games are capable of 3 person play.

As we all know the original NES was made so you load the games into the front of the system and push down to get the game into place. The problem with this method is the springs could wear out and once your games and system got dirty it was really hard to make a good connection, so that’s when you would get the constant blinking screen. To remedy this you have to take the system apart to get to the connector if you want to clean it. The Famicom is a little different. It is top loading for games and has a nice red flip up cover that protects the pin connector from dust when the system is not in use. Since it is out in the open it’s a lot easier to clean the system and easier to make a good connection between the pins and the cart and in my experience seems like there are less issues with screen blinking. Having the connector on the top of the machine also means that they were able to use it with the Famicom Disk System power pack.

The other main difference that I notice between the two is the difference in sound. A lot of the games on the Famicom sound a lot nicer than their NES counterparts. The Famicom had 2 pins in the system that were originally put in to work with the Famicom Disk System sound system (which I will get into later), but it could also be used by companies to use their own sound chips in regular games to provide enhancements to the sound. When the NES was being designed they decided to move these to the bottom expansion port and because of this the NES cartridges can’t take advantage of this. Namco and Konami are two companies that really took advantage of this and included their own sound chips in their games. As a result you can really hear the difference between the Famicom and NES versions of the same game. One of the ones where I really noticed the difference was in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Check out this video which compares the two intro songs, judge for yourself but I prefer the Famicom version.

One advantage of the NES over the Famicom system was the inclusion of AV Outputs to hook up to your TV instead of just using an RF switch. This allowed for improved image and sound quality. But it is possible to find a Famicom that has been modded to include this (like the one that I have), this way you don’t have to worry about changing your TV to channel 95 or 97 just to get the Famicom to work properly, just switch over to AV and you are good to go!

So if you pick up a Famicom and are super excited to get it hooked up please please make sure you have the correct power source. You can’t just plug in your NES power source to it and expect it to work fine, it won’t, trust me. To make it worse you will fry your Famicom because of the difference between AC and DC power. So be sure to get a converter for your system that will work with your outlets!

Now the only difference between the systems isn’t just the system itself, it’s the games.  The nes games are all the same grey color with end label, whereas the famicom games are all different colors, creating a rainbow when you stack them together.  Unfortunately the Famicom games do not have end labels making it a little harder to find the game you want really quickly.  The cartridge size is also a lot different the cartridges for the Famicom measure in at 5.3 × 3 inches, compared with 4.1 × 5.5 inches for its North American redesign.