Saturday, June 7, 2014

Nintendo board games - part 4 - 101 Dalmatians Game

After some delay, we pick up the series on Nintendo's board games where we left it a few months ago, with a tour around the Disney themed games.

Today's post features two games from the early 1960s, that are both based on the Disney animated film 101 Dalmatians.

101 Dalmatians Game

The first of these games is simply called 101 Dalmatians Game, as is written in English on the side of the box.

Nintendo 101 Dalmatians Game

The Japanese name of this game is '101-biki wan-chan dai kōshin gēmu' (101匹わんちゃん大行進ゲーム), which translates to 'March of the 101 Dalmatians Game'.

'March of the 101 Dalmatians' was the name under which the movie was originally released in Japan, in 1962, one year after its premiere in the US.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A closer look at Nintendo's 2014 company guide

A few weeks ago, in the post about the beautiful 2013 Nintendo company guide for recruits and new employees, I promised to also show the 2014 edition in more detail. Well, here it is.

The 2014 edition is a hardcover book with 64 pages, printed on high quality paper. It measures about 18 by 28 centimeters.

This edition is designed like a pack of Nintendo hanafuda cards. Hanafuda are the traditional Japanese playing cards that use images representing nature in various stages across the twelve months.

The first section of the guide has a lovely pictorial of some of Nintendo's major products from its long history. It is clearly important to Nintendo that all of its staff are aware of this heritage.

The first product are the hanafuda (花札) cards, or 'flower' cards, which started the company in 1889. The one card shown is the full moon card from the August suit. Like all Hanafuda cards, it includes a flower or plant, and this one depicts Susuki grass (薄), waving in a nightly breeze.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gunpei Yokoi's final two games

Gunpei Yokoi (横井軍平), Nintendo's legendary inventor and yearslong head of its R&D department, suffered a tragic death in a roadside accident on the 4th of October 1997, aged only 56.

One month earlier, two products designed by his just established company Koto Laboratory were released. These would turn out to be Yokoi's final two games.

Keychain games designed by Yokoi's Koto Laboratory

Yokoi worked at Nintendo for over thirty years, and played a pivotal role in the company's evolution from a relatively small manufacturer of playing cards to a global player in the world of electronic entertainment. The list of inventions that bear his name is beyond impressive and includes the Ultra Hand, Ultra Machine, Love Tester, Kousenjuu SP light gun series, Ultra Scope, Light Telephone, Eleconga, Ten Billion, Game & Watch, Game Boy, Virtual Boy and more.

As a result of Nintendo's prosperity, to which Yokoi himself had greatly contributed, the company's staff size had grown considerably and Yokoi's role had gradually become more managerial. He increasingly longed for the early days when most of his time was spent working hands-on on new ideas and inventions, and started dreaming about forming his own small ideas company that would allow him to do just that.

In August of 1996 Yokoi retired from Nintendo, after completing the design of the GameBoy Pocket, and founded Koto Laboratory in September of the same year. Like Nintendo, it was based in Yokoi's hometown Kyoto.

Inside Koto Laboratory in 1999
(Photos taken from The WonderSwan magazine vol 1, copyright Soft Bank)

The small team that Yokoi assembled at Koto started working on a number of projects, including an assignment from toy giant Bandai. Bandai had asked Koto to develop a competitor to the Game Boy, one of Yokoi's most successful creations during his time at Nintendo.

The Koto team also returned to another area were Yokoi had put a big stamp in the past: LCD games. The heydays of the Game & Watch games were long over in 1996, but there was still a market for affordable, portable electronic games.

Koto's first products, a couple of keychain LCD games, were released in Japan by Hiro Company in September of 1997, one year after Koto had started.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Another beautiful Nintendo company guide

Last month I showed some pictures of the 2014 edition of the Nintendo company guide. This guide is provided to new and prospective employees. It shows the company's history and basic corporate information, and also gives a flavor of what it is like to work for Nintendo.

Nintendo company guides from 2013 and 2014

Each year, the guide is not only brought up to date, but also completely redesigned, usually around a theme. Over the years, the design has become more and more elaborate. These guides are little pieces of art, that contain behind the scenes material you do not see very often.

Recently, the edition of last year fell into my lap. This 2013 version is once again so nicely made, that I will show quite a bit of it in this post. I am sure you will enjoy this little peak behind the curtain of the wizards from Kyoto.

The somewhat surprising theme of the 2013 guide is vegetables. The front of the booklet is designed to look like the side of a cardboard box that can hold various sorts of produce. There is even a cutout in the shape of a handle.

The four kanji on the front (京都特産) stand for 'Kyoto speciality', referring to Nintendo's output as a regionally grown delicacy. Quite fitting, actually.

The booklet is 64 pages long. It starts with some pictures of vegetables and agricultural landscapes mixed with Nintendo characters and products.