Friday, December 30, 2011

Shinjuku through the years, from 1969 to 2004

We are getting a little off-topic today, but I came across a video that is too nice not to share. It illustrates the extraordinary development Japan went trough from the 60s to the 80s of the last century; the period that coincides with Nintendo's 'toy period', which is the focus of this blog.

The video shows how Shinjuku - one of Tokyo's wards or neighborhoods - changed from an area of predominantly low-rise buildings to the current center of high-rise offices.

Demonstrated clearly is the huge increase in whealth and economic power, from a country recovering from the aftermath of the second world war, to its status as second economy in the world. At the same time, these images provide some context for the toys featured on this blog, showing the time period in which they were created.

For thirty-five years, from 1969 to 2004, some photographers regularly took photos from the same viewpoint looking at the west-side of Shinjuku.


The first picture is taken in July of 1969. In Nintendo terms, this is the time of N&B Block and the Love Tester.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nintendo Color TV Game 15 - Service Manual (カラー テレビゲーム 15 サービス マニュアル)

In my experience, the consoles in the Nintendo Color TV-Game series (カラー テレビゲーム シリーズ) are pretty much unbreakable. Even though they are well over thirty years old by now, I have never had a problem with any of them.

But as they were produced and sold in the hundreds of thousands, of course every now and then one would break down. And this is were the Service Manual (サービス マニュアル) of the Color TV-Game 15 (カラー テレビゲーム 15) comes in.


This manual covers all you (don't) want to know about Color TV-Game 15; it shows what makes it tick. The model covered is the more common second generation (CTG-15V). Differences with the first generation (CTG-15S) are minor, though.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Nintendo N&B Block Gallery (1968-'72)

I really like the box art of the Nintendo N&B Block construction sets from the late 60s. They are great to look at, colorful and bright.

Presented below for your viewing enjoyment, a gallery of N&B Block box fronts. For more information on Nintendo N&B Blocks, check out this previous post, or this overview of all sets.




Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nintendo Key Figures - Takehiro Izushi (出石武宏), inventor of Custom Gunman

Over the lasts months, many posts on this blog covered the creations and innovations by Nintendo master engineer and inventor Gunpei Yokoi. And rightly so, as his imagination has been a key force in shaping Nintendo to what it is today. But it has never been a complete solo effort by Yokoi. Great designers work in great teams, with people who help shape, hone, extend and execute ideas.

In future posts, I will also spotlight some of Yokoi's collaboraters and colleagues from Nintendo's Research and Development department.


We will start with the inventor of two of my personal all-time Nintendo favorites: Custom Gunman and Custom Lion (カステム ガンマン, カステム ライオン). These light gun targets were the last toys in the successful Kousenjuu Custom (光線銃 カスツム) series.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nintendo Block Crater (任天堂ブロック クレーター, 1969)

In 1969, the American space program Apollo reached its climax, when mankind set foot on the moon for the first time. The whole world went space crazy, and the moon landing became the television broadcast with the largest global audience up until then. In Japan it was broadcasted by NHK, using a satellite link with the United States.


In that same year, Nintendo released a space themed toy called Nintendo Block Crater (任天堂ブロック クレーター).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nintendo Lefty RX G.T. Sport and Proto-Type (レフティRX G.T. スポーツ, レフティRX プロトタイプ, 1972)

In a previous post on this blog, Nintendo's remote controlled racing car Lefty RX was introduced. These toy cars have the surprising feature that they can only steer to the left (hence the name). Unlikely as that may sound, it was actually a good tradeoff between play fun and affordability - and still allowed for great races to be staged between multiple cars.

All four Lefty RX car types

The original Lefty RX series, introduced in 1972, featured a slick sports coupe car (in two slightly different body versions). When this became a commercial success, Nintendo quickly released a follow-up later that same year.

Lefty RX, Lefty RX G.T. Sport and Lefty RX Proto-Type

Two new Lefty RX models were introduced, which replaced the original series: Lefty RX G.T. Sport and Lefty RX Proto-Type.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nintendo Lefty RX (レフティ RX, 1972)

An important attribute of the Nintendo design philosophy - established in large part by chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi and engineer Gunpei Yokoi - is to ride the waves of new technology in a way that creates new play opportunities that are affordable (for the customer) and profitable (for the company).

The orginal Gameboy and the Wii are prime examples of this: not the most advanced in their time in terms of technology, but great fun nonetheless. And because of their relatively friendly price point, well positioned to achieve mass success.


Nintendo's racing car series Lefty RX (レフティ RX) is an early example of this approach.


In the 70's, wireless remote controlled cars were still in the early stages of their development, very much cutting edge and highly desirable toys. And usually also very expensive, because of the advanced electronics and mechanical parts involved.