Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Super-FX Chip

[Have the noticed the markings on the PCB pictured in the header for this blog? The circuit board features the ‘MARIO CHIP 1’ which whilst sharing the same name as Nintendo’s famous mascot, is the name of the Super FX chip which was introduced into certain Super Nintendo games to offer improved graphics, render polygons and stretch and scale sprites which wasn’t previously possible.

The ‘MARIO CHIP 1’ is an acronym for ‘Mathematical, Argonaut, Rotation & I/O’ and was a joint project between Nintendo and Argonaut Games. The first game to utilise this new circuit board chip was Star Fox. Although the graphics may look bad by today’s standards, the 3D polygon graphics were a big step up from flat 2D based games. Further games to utilise its power include Yoshi’s Island and Donkey Kong Country, with developers finding different ways to get the most out of the chip for their games.

The way the Super FX chip worked was that the chip was included on the circuit boards in the actual game cartridges and had additional connectors at the bottom which connected to extra slots in the SNES console itself. These slots were included because Nintendo wanted to keep the original cost of the SNES down so chose to include a less powerful CPU with the intention of being able to easily interface with additional chips.

This method of being able to add additional power to games when necessary proved a winning solution and the Super Nintendo and its games are still very popular with gamers today.

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