Cover Story: Retronauts Looks Back 30 Years to the NES Launch

Jeremy hits the mean streets of Portland to talk to expert game historians about Nintendo's "hail Mary" attempt to bring its Famicom console west.

Column by Jeremy Parish, .

Back when Bob (and Ray) and I first relaunched Retronauts back in 2013, we kicked off by looking back at the Nintendo Famicom, which had just celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Japanese launch. Now, we're revisiting a closely related topic from a different angle: The Famicom's transformation into the Nintendo Entertainment System.

While we skirt around some previously covered ground in this episode, this is by no means a rehash of the older show. Besides focusing entirely on the NES's launch rather than the Japanese side of the business, Episode 51 also brings into the fold two experts on the system's early days in America: Former Retronauts cohost Frank Cifaldi, and avid game historian and collector Steve Lin. (Rounding out the cast are NES fans Gary Butterfield of Watch Out for Fireballs and, of course, Bob.) We all happened to be in Portland last weekend for the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, and it also happened to be the actual 30th anniversary of the NES's test launch in New York (October 18, 1985). So we turned coincidence into serendipity and chatted at length about the early days of the NES, touching on both hard-to-come-by facts and personal anecdotes alike.

As with the Tokyo Game Show episode from a month back, I recorded this episode on the fly as a series of one-on-one conversations. There's a small amount of overlap on points, as was bound to happen when chatting about the same topic with four different people, but every conversation stands on its own while also supplementing the others. I hope you'll agree that it's a pretty interesting look back at the launch of a landmark system, even if the episode format's a bit unconventional.

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Episode Description

Live at Portland Retro Gaming Expo, Jeremy speaks one-on-one with podcast friends Frank Cifaldi, Gary Butterfield, Steve Lin, and of course our own Bob Mackey about the weekend's big commemorative event: The NES's 30th anniversary.

Music in this episode comes from various NES games. Can you spot them all?

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Comments 7

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  • Avatar for DoYouHas? #1 DoYouHas? 3 years ago
    30 years later and, against the will of God, the cart loader on mine still works. Happy birthday NES.
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  • Avatar for jgoreham #2 jgoreham 3 years ago
    Bob's story of the NES being this common ground where he and his step father could bond was very sweet. I have always thought that playing games together brings people together. Happy birthday NES!
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  • Avatar for manny_c44 #3 manny_c44 3 years ago
    Bob: "It's like you were buying seeds or something" I laughed out loud at that one.

    Thanks again guys, I backed you on Patreon!
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #4 kidgorilla 3 years ago
    Man, after hearing this, it sounds like just about every kid's first exposure to the NES was Kung Fu. I know mine was, and the taunting digital laugh still haunts my nightmares
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #5 Kadrom 3 years ago
    Really enjoyed this episode. Waxing nostalgic for an hour is sometimes more enjoyable than dissecting a researched topic. More self indulgent personal stories in the future please. Jetpack Goonies Micro episode?
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  • Avatar for pertusaria #6 pertusaria 3 years ago
    Brilliant episode, thank you.

    My first experience of the NES wasn't until about 1994, at a friend's house. At least it was Super Mario Bros 3, which was an amazing experience regardless of the age of the system. My other close friend had a SNES and, not long after, an N64, and was much cooler, although if anything her parents were less well off - they were just more receptive to having their kids play video games. I have a clear memory of having played one of the Sonic games, probably Sonic 2, in Best Buy, but I don't think I had much console envy until I had friends who had them - I don't remember any TV ads for games and I wouldn't have known to want it any other way. I think my parents deliberately shifted away from sending me to a particular primary school because those kids' parents were all buying them consoles (in the late '80s) and they didn't want to be under pressure to keep up with that, but I didn't know at the time, so their ploy, if it was one, worked.
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  • Avatar for trevorwelch25 #7 trevorwelch25 3 years ago
    Great Episode! I hope you guys have Frank and Steven back on the podcast soon.
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