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Satellaview

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Satellaview
Satellaview with Super Famicom

The Satellaview connected to the Super Famicom.
Manufacturer Nintendo
Released JP April 1995
Generation Fourth generation
Media BS-X Application Cartridge + optional 8-megabit Memory Pak
Controller input Super Famicom controller
Online service St.GIGA (satellite radio station)
Price JP ¥18,000

The Satellaview was a retail satellite modem that was made specifically for the Super Famicom. It was never released in America or Europe, and was quite pricey at ¥18,000, which was then nearly $200. The Satellaview, a Nintendo developed and sold device, used the St. GIGA satellite radio service, through which game data was broadcast during a special segment called Super Famicom Hour. During the broadcast time people could download games to the Satellaview's internal memory or an optional Memory Pak.

Unlike competing services, the Satellaview did not have online multiplayer due to the one-way nature of satellite radio. However, limited amounts of data could be sent back through the radio connection; quizzes and other competitions which allowed players to submit answers were common.

Until 1999 the Satellaview service was controlled by both St. GIGA and Nintendo. After 1999 St. GIGA was the sole controller of the service, as Nintendo broke its partnership with the radio station due to a dispute. However, the service was only turned off in 2000.

Name

The word Satellaview is a portmanteau of the words "satellite", the way which the device receives broadcasts, and "view", for the audiovisual content received through the device. The full name of the device is Broadcast Satellaview X, or BS-X for short. The meaning of the X at the end of the name has been a source of debate. Many think it stands for "transfer", when others think it means "unknown" or something similar. Because the term BS-X is widely used, many people didn't or still don't know what it stands for. Some falsely claim that the acronym means "Bandai Satellaview X". Bandai, however, did not had anything to do with the console.

Hardware

The Satellaview is plugged into the bottom of the Super Famicom. A bracket that comes packaged with the device provides power to it once it is plugged into the Super Famicom. An Application Cartridge (called The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen), required to boot the Satellaview hardware and connect to St. GIGA, is inserted into the Super Famicom's cartridge slot. The Application Cartridge uses an unconventional menu in the form of an explorable small town (the titular nameless town), where different buildings represent different functions of the Satellaview. In deluxe bundles the Satellaview came packaged with an 8-megabit Memory Pak. Most downloaded software can fit within the Satellaview's 512 kilobits of storage, but some games require the 8 megabits of storage.

Games

Games that were offered through the service were mostly handled by Nintendo. Other companies delivered some titles, though in the long run Nintendo did most of the work when it came to publishing and developing. Many third parties would develop a video game and have Nintendo publish it for them, though some, such as Squaresoft, would do it themselves. The games themselves were free, though the player had to pay a monthly subscription fee for the St. GIGA service not to mention purchasing the system in the first place.

The games would be made available for download during a certain time and date set by St. GIGA. During that time, players could connect to the St. GIGA service to download the game and play it. SoundLink data was also broadcast during this time. Most games, once downloaded, could be played without connecting to St. GIGA, but games using SoundLink required SoundLink data to be streaming. Games were offered for download several times each, with some games recieving only one download opportunity. Satellaview games were broadcast from April 23, 1995 to June 30, 2000.

The main menu to select downloading options among other things was in the form of a game, where you could name your own character and select from a male or female avatar. There were also two mascots for the game, who were named Parabô and Satebô, who were an anthropomorphic satellite dish and a anthropomorphic satellite respectively. The overall "Game" used as the menu was known as "The Town Whose Name Was Stolen".

Other Content

The Satellaview service also offered content such as magazines and, most notably, game add-ons. Similar to modern downloadable content (DLC), BS-X add-on content added new characters and levels to games. Game patches were also distributed in this way. However, only some games, reprinted on special cartridges containing a slot for a Memory Pak, were compatible with the add-ons. Add-on software was downloaded to the memory card using the BS-X Application Cartridge, then the Memory Pak was transferred the slotted game cartridge. The slotted cartridge could then be played as a normal Super Famicom game. Three packs of add-on software were made available for purchase in physical form on nonrewritable Memory Paks.

Magazines available through Satellaview consisted of three types: game strategy guides downloaded along with games, standard electronic periodicals, and SoundLink-enhanced periodicals. Many popular magazines, such as Famitsu and Nintendo Power, were available on the service.

Advertising and news were also served through the system.

SoundLink

Some games, such as the three BS Zelda games , feature the SoundLink service, through which CD-quality sound was streamed through the St. GIGA satellite connection. SoundLink also allowed streaming of voice acting - the BS Zelda games included a fully-voiced "narrator" who would guide and give helpful hints and advice to the players throughout the game. Because SoundLink required a currently broadcasting music and/or voice track, some games such as the three BS Zeldas could not be played at any time but only during broadcast of the sound data. These games were also time-limited; the broadcast would end after a set time, so the games had to be completed before then. After the last broadcast of the SoundLink data for a game, that game could not be played ever again. Some time-sensitive games were split into parts or "days", whereby one could play one part in one day, then play the next part tomorrow, and so on. There were also SoundLink-enhanced magazines, which functioned as radio dramas. Unlike all other Satellaview content, SoundLink content was only accessible with an additional monthly ¥600 fee.

Trivia

  • It is likely that the device was not released outside of Japan as there was no equivalent service for the device to work with and St.GIGA is a Japan-only service. The unpopularity of audio dramas in the US probably played a part as well, as well as the difficulty and required scale of voice acting translation and recording for SoundLink content.

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