In the ’80s, multiplayer video games required you and your friends to crowd around a single TV and fight over who got to use one of two controllers. Modern consoles let you compete against gamers all around the world, but a new cartridge is bringing that same online functionality to the NES, 40 years later.
While most kids who grew up with the NES wouldn’t learn about the internet until the ‘90s, the Japanese version of the console, the Famicom, actually offered limited internet connectivity through the Family Computer Network System that debuted in Japan in 1988. A chunky modem that connected to the Famicom console’s cartridge slot connected to a dial-up information service to access random things like weather reports, stock info, and even game cheats. It was not a commercial success, and it’s definitely not how Super Tilt Bro. handles its online connectivity.
Given Nintendo doesn’t produce cartridges for the NES anymore, the Super Tilt Bro. cart is a custom creation with a board that’s been upgraded with an ESP8266 wifi chip, a wifi antenna, and an FPGA that allows an unmodified NES console to interface with the wireless hardware. The platform fighter game, which looks like a streamlined recreation of Super Smash Bros. featuring Chibi-style characters, includes all of the wifi configuration within the game’s own menu system (given the NES has no front-end of its own) as well as match settings, allowing players to compete for fun, for rank, or to set up their own tournaments by creating and sharing private passwords with friends.
Local play is offered too, for those who like to compete against (and trash talk) players in the same room, and if you’re lacking wireless internet, there’s even a single-player story mode — although why bother buying an NES cart with wifi if you’re not going to take advantage of that innovative upgrade?
Although the development and testing of the Super Tilt Bro. game and cartridge are complete, its creators, Broke Studio, are looking to raise funds through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help cover the manufacturing costs of the hardware. The cheapest way to get your hands on one of the cartridges, when they’re expected to ship out in April of 2024, is with a pledge of about $US61 ($85) to the campaign, which also gets you a proper box and manual, as well as access to a digital comic book and a copy of the game’s soundtrack. With a pledge of $US89 ($124), you can instead opt for the Collector version of the game, which features a cartridge with a translucent shell showing off the added wifi hardware.
It’s important to remember that even with polished working prototypes, there’s always a risk when it comes to backing a crowdfunded product. Unexpected delays moving into hardware production are almost entirely expected these days, and while an April 2024 delivery does give Broke Studio lots of time to handle any unforeseen issues, it’s a good idea to have as much patience as possible. Also, keep in mind that any crowdfunded product could be completely cancelled — which has happened time and time again.
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