Why buy a USA Super Nintendo Entertainment System?

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The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) is one of the most successful consoles of all time and is personally my favourite Nintendo console.The system has a vast range of games, covering all genres to suit everybody’s taste.

When the SNES first came out I purchased the UK system. Most of the games I played had only small borders (top and bottom of the screen), but some games like Street Fighter 2 had massive borders - resulting in a very 'squashed' screen. At first I didn't understand why the games had borders. A magazine at the time - Super Play - published an article showing the differences between USA and Japanese (JAP) SNES consoles to the UK SNES console. The article showed that the majority of the games on the USA/JAP SNES had no borders, while games like Street Fighter 2 had smaller borders compared to the UK SNES.

Why are UK SNES consoles different to USA/Japanese SNES consoles?

To answer this question I will need to define a few terms first:

  • A UK television (and some parts of Europe, Australia and other parts of the world) is PAL. PAL refers to the refresh rate. Basically a PAL television runs at 50HZ, but most modern TVs can support 50HZ to 100HZ.
  • A USA & JAP television is NTSC. NTSC refers to the refresh rate. Basically an NTSC television runs at 60HZ.

I am not an expert on 'refresh rates' and '60HZ/50HZ' terms, but from reading articles I know the basic principles of them. Basically, the PAL SNES runs games at 50HZ while a USA/JAP SNES runs games at 60HZ. This difference means that games on a UK SNES run approximately 17% slower than games on a USA/JAP SNES. This difference in speed causes UK consoles to display the games with borders and to run slower. Back in the 90's, a lot of televisions did not support 60HZ and so Nintendo did not include the option on the UK SNES to allow games to run at 60HZ, but left the games to run at 50HZ.

The appearance of the USA SNES is considerable different to the UK SNES. Game cartridges (carts) are also different in shape. The JAP SNES - called Super Famicom (SFC) has the same design as the UK SNES but the internal machine is different and is exactly the same as the USA machine. JAP carts and UK carts have the same shape but you cannot use a UK cart on a JAP console and vice versa (this is due to region protection through lockout chips).

Although the JAP and USA consoles are identical, USA games cannot be used on a JAP console, as the carts are too big to fit into the cart slot. The JAP carts cannot be used on an unmodified USA console as the USA console has two tabs either side of the cart slot that prevent the carts from entering the cart slot.

Why buy a USA SNES?

  • USA SNES consoles run games at 60HZ - meaning games run faster than UK SNES games with no borders/smaller borders.
  • USA SNES games can be bought very cheaply on eBay.
  • You can modify a USA SNES by removing the two tabs in the console's cart slot - which will allow you to play all the Japanese games as well (this can be done very easily).
  • USA SNES consoles support RGB (please note that the smaller USA SNES - usually referred to as SNES 2 or SNES Junior does not support RGB).
  • RGB is generally considered to provide the best picture on a standard TV. You can use an Official Nintendo Gamecube RGB scart lead - I find this provides the best picture.
  • A UK SNES does not support RGB and so the picture is inferior to the USA/JAP SNES.
  • Therefore - the USA SNES provides the greatest SNES experience - through providing the best quality picture and the entire catalogue of SNES games!!

What you will need!

  • USA SNES console - the original larger one.
  • Power supply - you will also need a step down converter/transformer (USA SNES - and other USA electrical appliances use a different voltage to UK electrical appliances).
  • SNES controller.
  • Official Nintendo Gamecube RGB Scart lead.
  • USA/JAP SNES games.


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