Start Here!

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.

The full name of this earlier version is Kôsenjû Duck Hunt (光線銃ダックハント), or 'light ray gun duck hunt', although the English name on the box simply says Duck Hunt.

Duck Hunt was one of the last electro-mechanical toys created by Nintendo, together with Custom Gunman and Custom Lion released in the same year.

This game's design is the culmination of over ten years of increasingly sophisticated engineering by Gunpei Yokoi's research and development team, and one of the most impressive electro-mechanical toys I have seen.

Duck Hunt cost ¥9,500. This was around the same price that Color TV Game 6 would cost one year later.

Nintendo Kôsenjû Duck Hunt (1976)

The game comes in a sturdy cardboard box, which measures 41 x 25 x 11 centimeters.

Included with the set are a projector, a shotgun, a spare light bulb and instructions.

The shotgun (ショットガン) is made from heavy brown plastic, with a black barrel.

It consists of two parts, that easily click together.

Once assembled, the shotgun measurers 60 centimeters in length.

A Nintendo copyright message is embossed on the barrel.

The shotgun is powered by two C-cell batteries.

It is 'loaded' by cocking the hammer on top. When the trigger is pulled, the gun will emit a short burst of light.

Two so-called sights on top of the barrel help aiming the gun.

Duck Hunt only works with this shotgun. It is not compatible with the guns and riffles from the Kôsenjû SP and Kôsenjû Custom series.

A message on the box warns that Duck Hunt cannot be played
with older Nintendo light guns and riffles

The magical part of Duck Hunt is the projector (プロジェクター), which projects the image of a flying duck on a wall and detects a hit by the shotgun.

The battery compartment of the projector takes four chunky D-cells.

These batteries power the light, electronics and motor inside the projector.

The light source is a standard small light bulb.

A smart mechanism inside the projector creates the image of a flapping duck...

... and a moving mirror on top of the projector makes the duck "fly" on the wall.

The objective of the game, obviously, is to shoot this duck with the shotgun.

The projector needs to be placed around 60 centimeters from a wall or a screen to get a sharp image.

Note that the mountains and shrubbery shown in the picture above are not part of the projected image. You will need to draw these yourself, if you want to go for the full experience. But the game also works without the added scenery, of course. [And oh yeah, there is also no dog.]

In order to make the game a bit challenging, the player needs to stand around four meters from the wall.

When the projector is switched on, the motor will start making an impressive humming sound, while it produces the bird animation sequence and moves the mirror. After a couple of seconds, the light switches on and a flapping duck (ダック飛行中) will appear on the wall, flying in a nice curved pattern.

The player now has to aim at the moving bird, and fire the light gun.

When the target is hit (命中), the flying duck will tragically plummet down to earth, making a loud quacking sound.

After the wounded bird has crash-landed on the ground, the next duck appears (次のダックが飛び出す). And so on.

When and where the new duck appears, as well as the route it will fly, is seemingly random, so it requires a skilled marksman to hit a number of birds in succession.

Seeing this game in action is really something special. The projected image of the flapping bird is nicely done and it is quite mind-boggling to witness how the projector displays the dropping duck at just the right moment. How does it "know" when the projection of the bird on the wall is hit by the light coming from the shotgun?

To try and understand how this incredibly clever piece of engineering actually works, in part two of our coverage of this toy we will take a peek under the hood.


  1. This is awesome! I love your website <3<3<3

    1. That's nice to hear. Thanks for the feedback.
      This is also one of my favorite Nintendo toys.

  2. Where I can buy one of these? It is hard to find? I'll have to go to japan?

  3. This is not too hard to find, but will require some searching and patience to track down. No need to go to Japan. Your best bet is Japanese auction site Yahoo Auctions. They also appear on eBay every now and then (like this one, a few month ago: Good luck with the hunt!

  4. One thing that's quite interesting is the packaging: you wouldn't know it was a video game really.