Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nintendo Museum exhibition, Osaka - part 2

Yesterday I posted an interview with Isao Yamazaki regarding the Nintendo Museum that was held in Osaka in the spring of 2007.

This short exhibition (eleven days only) was conducted as part of the celebrations around the 100th birthday of the Hankyu department store. On display were a broad selection of items from Nintendo's past, showing the full history from early Hanafuda cards up to the Wii and everything in between.


Here are some more pictures from this great event, kindly provided by Florent Gorges. They give a behind-the-scenes view on how the exhibition was put together.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nintendo Museum exhibition, Osaka (2007)

As frequent readers of this blog will know, Nintendo has a history that is over 120 years long. A past that deserves to be shown.

There are a number of museums around the world that depict the history of video games in general, including Nintendo's role in this. But there is no place where the public is presented the full history of Nintendo, including their days as maker of cards and toys. The only permanent exhibition that I am aware of, is the one on the second floor of Nintendo World in New York. This includes some nice items, but it is quite small and does not really do the rich history justice.

Nintendo World, New York

These showcases at Nintendo's American flagship store, though modest in scale, are even an exception for this company, as they usually do not dwell too much on their (pre video game) past. They rather focus on the future and the latest, newest game systems and games.

Modest Nintendo history exhibit at Nintendo World, New York

The company history page on Nintendo's US website even starts in 1985, with the NES! Completely skipping the first hundred year since the company started in 1889. A period, admittedly, when the focus was primarily on the Japanese home market. For that matter, the Japanese site shows the full history, but with very short statements only and without any illustrations.

According to nintendo.com nothing of note happened before 1985...

In recent years, the Iwata Asks series of interviewes have given glimpses into Nintendo's past. But overall, Nintendo provides the general public very limited options to see all the great toys and games that they produced over the course of their long history.

Up until now there has only been a single event in the world that presented Nintendo's past in its full breadth. This was a temporary exhibition that was held in 2007, in a department store in Osaka, close to Nintendo's Kyoto homebase.

The event was called "Nintendo Museum" (ニンテンドー ミュージアム), and Isao Yamazaki, who was featured on this blog in a recent Meet the Collectors episode, was involved in its inception. The items on display also stemmed for a large part from his collection.

The 2007 Nintendo Museum exhibition in Osaka lasted only eleven days

In the interview below, Isao relates how this unique one-off event came about. Hearing his tale and seeing the pictures from this exhibition, I really hope a simliar event will happen again sometime in the future.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meet the collectors - #4 - Isao Yamazaki

It is a great joy for me to introduce today's participant in beforemario's Meet the Collectors series: Isao Yamazaki (山崎功).

A serious collector of vintage Nintendo toys and games for many years, Isao also has been actively involved in documenting and spreading information about Nintendo's illustrious past. One of the highlights of this was the unique one-off exhibition in Osaka in 2007, titled 'Nintendo Museum', for which Isao acted as curator.

Isao supported Florent Gorges with The History of Nintendo volume 1 and 2

In recent years, Isao teamed up with Florent Gorges for the first two volumes of the bible of Nintendo archaeology: 'The History of Nintendo'.

Colophon of The History of Nintendo volume 1

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

beforemario on Facebook

If you like things "beforemario", then please join our new Facebook page. It has regular updates that complement the posts on this blog.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Nintendo Copilas - part 2 (コピラス, 1971)

The Nintendo Copilas (コピラス) was a revolutionary budget-price photocopy machine, released by Nintendo in 1971. After the introduction in a previous post, it is now time to take a look at how this wonderful machine actually works.

Nintendo Copilas (1971)

The Copilas runs on mains power, which is 100 volts in Japan.

top view

But before we watch it in action, let's first take a closer look.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nintendo N&B Block Leisure House (レジャーハウス, 1968)

I just completed my collection of Nintendo N&B Block sets. The first one I got - many years ago - was a Leisure House set. Fittingly, the last one was the other Leisure House set.

Nintendo N&B Block Leisure House (1968)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nintendo Copilas (コピラス, 1971)

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Nintendo's explosion of ideas in the early 1970s. Besides an array of toys and games (like the Light Telephone and Ultra Scope), there were attempt to make it in the world of kitchen appliances (Candy Machine candy floss maker), baby products (Mamaberica stroller and Twins seesaw) and musical instruments (Ele-conga electronic bongo).


Yet another product category which Nintendo entered during this period (and soon would leave again) was that of office machines.

Like many of Nintendo's other endeavours from around this time, it only led to a single product. In this case it was a photo copier (複写機), called the Nintendo Copilas (コピラス), which was released in 1971.


Still, it seems that Nintendo had great plans for this market, or at least wanted to give the impression that they meant serious business, as the product was provided by the Nintendo Office Equipement Division (任天堂 事務機事業部).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nintendo Mamaberica magazine picture

While Googling I found a picture that I hadn't seen before. It is from a 1970 magazine and shows the Nintendo baby stroller called Mamaberica.

Nintendo Mamaberica (1970)

The full story about this interesting Nintendo product can be found here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nintendo N&B Block Universe Set (任天堂 N&B ブロック 宇宙セット, 1968)

The Nintendo N&B Block sets were a successful attempt by Nintendo to step into the block-building market-segment created by LEGO. Thanks to good product design and clever marketing, Nintendo even managed to upstage the Danish company for a while in Japan in the late 1960s.

Nintendo N&B Block Universe Set(1968)

The N&B Block Universe Set is the largest, most luxurious set in the Nintendo N&B Block series.


It was released in 1968 and cost ¥2,800, which also makes it the most expensive of all N&B Block sets.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ever heard of the Nippon Game company?

Some time ago, I posted a story about the various logos used by Nintendo over its long history.

I forgot to mentioned one interesting piece of information, though. When Nintendo branched out from playing cards to board games, they decided to do this under the name Nippon Game. This name was only used for a brief time, but if it had stuck we would be waiting for the Nippon Game Wii U right now!

In the early 1960s, Nintendo released games under the name Nippon Game

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Meet the collectors - #3 - Tomoyuki

Today we continue our meet the collectors series. After tours around the great collections of Simon from Australia and Fabrice from France, we now travel to Japan.

Maybe this episode should be called meet the seller, as all the stuff you see below is for sale. But as we will find out, Tomoyuki is a collector as well. Let's go and meet him.



"Hi there, everyone! My name is Tomoyuki. I live in Osaka, Japan. But I grew up in Saitama, which is close to Tokyo. I work at the e-commerce section of One company, selling old vintage Nintendo items on Ebay and other platforms. But I personally collect Nintendo items as well.

So far I sold a lot of Nintendo items, but none from my private collection. I am not going to sell mine though.

I want to thank Erik for his awesome work. This blog is really something. It is neatly classified according to history, and I am always looking forward to reading it. I can't remember when and how I found this blog, but anyway, I just happened to find it last year, and have been checking it out almost everyday, because I like these before mario toys. Funny, as I did not grow up with most of them. Actually, I was an after mario age boy."

Tomoyuki with his favorite Nintendo toy: the Ultrascope

"When I was seven years old, I really wanted a Nintendo Family Computer. Most of my classmates had it, but my parents were old fashioned and we (me, my brother and sister) did not get one at that time. Instead, they gave us Shogi (Japanese Chess), playing cards, and Karuta. I now totally understand this was good for us.

So when I was young I did no play the Family Computer. I loved to go to the forest to find insects such as stag beetles."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nintendo Kôsenjû Duck Hunt - How it works

In a previous post, we saw what Nintendo's Kôsenjû Duck Hunt (光線銃 ダックハント) is capable of: it projects life-like flying ducks, that crash down when hit by the light-beam shotgun.

Today we will take a peek inside this wonderful machine, to try and understand how it actually works.

Nintendo Kôsenjû Duck Hunt (1976)

Duck Hunt is an electro-mechanical toy from 1976. It combines various technologies Nintendo developed for the Laser Clay Shooting System as well as for Kôsenjû SP and Kôsenjû Custom light-beam guns and targets.


Nintendo's engineers managed to pack all this technology into a small, relatively affordable device, fit for home use.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nintendo / Namco Bomb Bee-N (ボムビーN, 1979)

From the early 1970s, Nintendo was active in the arcade market, with electro-mechanical games and games using new video technology like EVR Race.

The Japanese arcade scene famously exploded in 1978 when Space Invaders became a nation phenomenon, allegedly leading to a temporary shortage of ¥100 coins.

Seeing the success these new micro-computer based systems had, Nintendo also started releasing a string of arcade video games, with many different titles appearing in 1978 and 1979.

Nintendo produced these games mostly in-house, but also distributed licensed games from other game makers, like Sega and Namco.

Nintendo / Namco Bomb Bee-N (1979)

The game shown here is one of the earliest examples (if not the first) of a third-party game released on a Nintendo system.


Bomb Bee was designed by Namco. A version of this game - called Bomb Bee-N (ボムビーN) - was designed to run on Nintendo arcade cabinets. The 'N' in this name indicated it was the Nintendo version.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nintendo Kôsenjû Duck Hunt (光線銃 ダックハント, 1976)

Duck Hunt is one of the classic Nintendo 8-bit video games. It was released in Japan in 1984, about one year after the introduction of the Family Computer.


Duck Hunt (ダックハント) was part of the Family Computer Video Shooting Series (光線銃シリーズ), together with Hogan's Alley (ホーガンズアレイ) and Wild Gunman (ワイルドガンマン).

These games were played with a pistol-style light Gun (ガン), which could be bought loose or in a set together with the Wild Gunman game.

Nintendo Family Computer Gun and Duck Hunt (1984)

In Europe and the US, Duck Hunt was probably even more well known than in Japan. Included as pack-in game with, amongst others, the popular Action Set version of the Nintendo Entertainment System, it reached millions and millions of homes. The Western version of the game was identical to the Japanese, but was played with a different, more futuristically looking light gun, called the Zapper.

The Famicom/NES Duck Hunt isn't the first one, however. Eight years before, Nintendo already introduced a duck hunt simulation under the same name.

Nintendo Duck Hunt (1976) and Nintendo Duck Hunt (1984)

This original Nintendo Duck Hunt saw the light of day already in 1976.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nintendo Custom Lever Action Rifle poster

A few posts ago, we already saw that Nintendo wasn't afraid to show some flesh in the 1970s (case in point: Nintendo pin-up playing cards).

Today we look at a promotional poster from that era, featuring a scantly clad cowgirl.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nintendo Wild Gunman Game (荒野のガンマン ゲーム, 1972)

The Wild West was a popular topic in the 1970s, and the subject of many movies and television series. Not surprising, Nintendo used it for a number of their games and toys at the time.

Some examples are Nintendo's Kousenjuu light gun games (1971) and Sheriff arcade game (1979).


Another of these Western games is the one shown here: Wild Gunman (荒野のガンマン ゲーム).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Meet the collectors - #2 - Fabrice Heilig

After starting Meet the collectors in Australia, we now move swiftly to France, where we meet the second collector in our series: Fabrice Heilig.

Fabrice will introduce himself, and share his wonderful collection of vintage Nintendo toys and games with us, which he has on display in a real museum-style room.

Fabrice's collection room

"Hello. My name is Fabrice. I am 36 years old and live in France, in the beautiful Alsace region. I have been working for 15 years now at a company that manufactures industrial water meters."

"Twelve years ago I started collecting video games and after three years I started focussing on the Nintendo universe."

Fabrice during his trip to Japan, in front of an old Nintendo building in Kyoto

Monday, September 3, 2012

Meet the collectors - #1 - Simon Sharratt

Today we are starting a new series of posts here on beforemario. There is a growing number of fellow collectors of Nintendo toys and games out there, and I thought it would be cool to get to know some of them, and to take a look at their collections.

Part of Simon's Nintendo collection

We kick-off by travelling down-under, where we meet Australian collector Simon Sharratt. He will introduce himself, and guide us through his quite impressive collection.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nintendo Pin-up Playing Cards (ca 1970)

Following the previous post on Nintendo's playing cards, here's a somewhat surprising item.

Nintendo Pin-up Playing Cards (ca 1970)

"Nintendo" and "Pin-up" are two words you don't expect to see close together on a product. At least, not in today's world. But in the past this was different, as this pack of Nintendo Pin-up Playing Cards shows.


Not sure about the date, but the packaging is similar to Nintendo's 1972 Miracle Trump, so I'd place it around that time.

In the 1960s and (early) 70s, Nintendo was still very much a standard playing card manufacturer. And pin-ups have long been a popular theme for playing cards, so it is not really a surprise to find this in their then product portfolio.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Nintendo Playing Cards (early 1960s)

Today we will take a look at what for a long time has been Nintendo's core business: playing cards. With over a hundred years of company history in this area, there is a lot to show and tell.

We will start with the playing cards sets below, that are some of my favourite packs. I really like these because of their graphic design.

Nintendo Playing Cards No 22, 160 and 50 (ca 1960)

Nintendo used numbers to label the many variations of cards in their portfolio, and these numbers are displayed prominently on the packaging. The playing cards shown here are numbers 22, 160 and 50.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nintendo N&B Block set 500-14 (N&B ブロック, 1968)

My collection of Nintendo N&B Block sets is nearing completion.


This nice little set, simply called NB 500-14, is a recent addition.

Nintendo SF-Hisplitter (SF-ハイスプリッター, 1979)

Here is another one of these great arcade flyers from yesteryear.

Nintendo SF-Hisplitter (1979)

This one is for the Nintendo arcade game SF-Hisplitter (SF-ハイスプリッター).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nintendo Monkey Magic (モンキーマジック, 1979)

In previous posts, we looked at early Nintendo arcade games like EVR Race (1975), Computer Othello (1978), Space Launcher (1979) and Sheriff (1979).

Over the next couple of days, we will take a look at some more of Nintendo's arcade releases from the year 1979.

Around this time Nintendo moved away from creating straight copies of other companies' successful computer arcade games (like Block Fever and Space Fever) and started developing original ideas within established formats.

Nintendo Monkey Magic (1979)

Nintendo's Monkey Magic is a game within the block breaking mould set by Atari's Breakout in 1976. Although clearly based on it, enough new ideas are added to call it a game in its own right, not a clone.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beforemario in Retro Gamer magazine

Retro Gamer is one of my favourite magazines. This UK publication has been going strong for years now. It continues to deliver informative and entertaining stories on classic games, including interviews with their makers.

Retro Gamer (issue 106)

In this month issue (#106), there is a feature on 20 Nintendo games you've never played. By it's very nature this is a subjective list, but an interesting list nonetheless.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What happened next

Strictly speaking, the images in this post are completely out of place on a blog about Nintendo's history up to the launch of the Family Computer.

Nintendo's toy and game era - roughly from 1965 to 1983 - is a fascinating topic in its own right, with many stories to be told. About inventions, creative design and bold innovation. About original as well as copied ideas. About entrepreneurship, risk taking and trying the market to see what works. It is really Nintendo's coming-of-age period.

It cannot be denied, however, that the interest in Nintendo's past is created to a large extend by the events that followed since. If Nintendo had somehow retired or gone out of business in the early 1980s, or ventured in a completely different and less successful direction than it did, this blog would most likely not have happened.

And venture in the right direction they did. The picture below is testament to that. Just seeing all these gaming devices together makes my heart sing.

Nintendo 1983-2011

All platforms are present here. The home consoles: Family Computer, Super Famicom, Nintendo 64, Game Cube and Wii. And the handhelds: Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, DS and 3DS.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nintendo Power Lift (パワーリフト, 1973)

In the early 1970s, Nintendo released a number of battery powered toys. Most of them where racing themed like Lefty RX and Mach Rider, both from 1972.

These toys answered the market demand for more sophisticated, and increasingly expensive, high quality gifts.


Nintendo Power Lift - a remote controlled forklift - is another example of this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nintendo Monster Copy (怪獣コピー, 1971)

Ever since Ultraman first aired on Japanese television in 1966, he has been a popular license figure, appearing on a multitude of products.

Nintendo also released a fair amount of Ultraman based toys, including multiple boardgames, playing cards and even a clock.


The set shown here is called Monster Copy (怪獣コピー).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nintendo N&B Block promotion (1970)

At the start of the 1970s, Nintendo ran a campaign in order to push sales of the N&B Block series. This campaign must have started sometime in 1970, judging by the end date (January 31st 1971) listed on the promotional poster. The poster also mentions television adverts supporting the campaign.

Nintendo N&B Block promotion poster (1970)

With each N& B Block set purchased (N&Bブロックで) a free pack of cards was gifted (任天堂絵本トランプをプレゼント).



At this point in time, Nintendo's N&B Block construction sets had been out in the Japanese market for two years and had been quite successful. This give-away must have been devised to bolster sales even further.


As one of the largest cards manufacturers in the country, using cards as gift item was an obvious choice for Nintendo. In fact, even today cards are offerred as one of the gifts to choose from in exchange for Club Nintendo points collected by buying Wii and DS games.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nintendo EVR Race (EVRレース, 1975)

Recording, watching and sharing video has become so much part of our daily life, that it is hard to image a world without easy access to a 'rec' button. Of course, this has not always been so.

The first video recording and playing machines for professional use appeared in the 1950s. Since the late 1960s, electronic firms together with broadcasting companies have worked on equipement for home use.

In the mid 1970s, Betamax and VHS emerged as widely adopted competing standards, of which the latter became the ultimate victor. VHS was extremely successful, before sinking into obsolescence after the introduction of the DVD and digital video recorders around the turn of the millenium.

EVR video tape used in Nintendo arcade machines

But before the world settled on VHS, a plethora of different formats was developed. One of these was called 'Electronic Video Recording' or EVR for short.

Nintendo used this system in a number of its arcade cabinets.

Nintendo EVR Race arcade (1975)

Two different lines were created based on the EVR technology: EVR Race and EVR Baseball.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nintendo Electro Poker (エレクトロ ポーカー, 1971)

In a previous post, we looked at the Jumping Bottle light gun target. Now that made perfect sense: shooting at bottles, be it in a safe electronic toy format.

Today it is the turn of a slightly less obvious shooting target: Electro Poker.


The idea here is to combine playing a variant of poker with light gun shooting. A bit like an indoors biathlon.


Each time you hit the target, the five wheels holding pictures of various playing cards will start turning individually. After some time they stop and show a certain combination of cards, which then determines your score. Much like throwing dice in dice poker.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nintendo Ultra Machine - instructions

The 1967 Nintendo baseball pitching toy Ultra Machine came with a large instruction sheet. This sheet was a fraction smaller than the box, and placed on top of the plastic tray that holds the various parts of the Ultra Machine.

There are (at least) two different versions of this sheet. The oldest one has a nice full-color picture of the Ultra Machine on the front.

Nintendo Ultra Machine instruction sheet - first release (front)

The Japanese katakana name for Ultra Machine is ウルトラ マシン. On the packaging this is writing in a stylized way: somewhat slanted to give the impression of speed and the three short strokes in last two characters (シン) are made to look like flying balls.


The Ultra Machine runs on a single D (UM-1) cell, and the instructions claims that one battery is good for 3200 pitches (「乾電池1本で3200投球」).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Nintendo Color TV Game Racing 112 - Leaflet

I recently found a leaflet for Nintendo's Color TV Game Racing 112. The leaflet is a bit stained on the back, but still a nice relic from the late 1970s. It is dated June 26 1978.

Nintendo Racing 112 leaflet (1978)

During these early video game days, game play was portrayed as something for the whole family. With only a single tv set in most houses, it would usually take place in the middle of the living room.

Racing 112 in double player mode, using the paddles