I just finished my big dumb project for this weekend: Photographing a crate full of complete Famicom games on loan for me to create the backup feature for the inevitable Good Nintentions 1985 book: A gallery of all Famicom releases from 1983 and ’84. Well, I still need to get ahold of a copy of Robot Gyro, aka Gyromite, but otherwise, mission complete.
Like the NES lineup of 1985-86, the Famicom games of 1983-84 came almost entirely from Nintendo as first-party releases, and as such have fairly consistent packaging. It’s more colorful than the Black Box games we saw in America (your clue is in the term “Black Box”), but still very clearly part of a set. Once third parties began publishing, though, box sizes began to vary and break from Nintendo’s first-party design. Hudson broke the third-party barrier, and their boxes were great — oversized, but rich in color and design. What I really love, though, is that after Nuts & Milk (their first title for Famicom), Hudson began sneaking in tiny little bits of artwork into the boxes where they can’t be seen until after purchase: On one of the small interior box flaps.
Lode Runner has the titular hero grimacing all comic-book style, which is fine. I find the panel illustration on the box for Door Door to be far more remarkable, though:
It threw me for a second — why a mahjong tile on a game that had nothing to do with mahjong? But then I realized, with my incredibly limited Japanese reading skills, that the symbol on the tile can be read as “naka.” Door Door, of course, was the breakthrough creation by a young designer name Koichi Nakamura, and the little be-capped puffball you can see out of focus on the box spine there is named Chun, from which the name of Nakamura’s company Chun Soft derived. In kanji, with his family name first, Nakamura’s name is written 中村 光一… so the 中 on the hidden mahjong tile is a tiny tribute to him. That’s pretty rad.
In other news, I’ve photographed nearly 100 games and two consoles over the past two weekends and I’m very tired of taking pictures.