When 16-shot gamemaster power isn’t 16-shot gamemaster powerPosted on May 22nd, 2013 1 comment
Terrifying shockwaves are coursing across the Famicom world as we speak. Why? Because allegations are spreading across Twitter that Takahashi-meijin’s skills at pressing the “shoot” button 16 times per second were actually pretty useless, since most Famicom games’ programming couldn’t register more than 15 button presses anyway.
Takahashi himself explains the issue in a 5/17 blog post reported upon by Inside Games.
“Japanese TVs use the NTSC encoding standard, which updates the screen image 60 times per second. As a result, games tend to operate in slices of 1/60th of a second at a time, making it easier to sync its operations with the game screen. For modern consoles like the PS3 or Xbox 360, I imagine buttons would be polled 60 times a second as well, but with the Famicom of the time, there was no meaning behind doing that — there weren’t games that demanded that kind of precision.
As a result, most games cut the number of polls per second in half — in other words, 30 per second. Each poll returns whether or not a button is pressed, so there was no point in pressing the button more than 15 times because it wouldn’t work anyway.”
Shocking! Does this mean that the events of Game King, the famed 1986 home-video release that was the closest to real-life Video Armageddon we ever got, are as tainted as modern baseball records? Not so — Takahashi went on to explain that this was the case for most FC games, but once the whole “16-shot” thing became a huge deal among Japanese kids in 1985 or so, Hudson took action to make sure it was more than just an ad slogan:
“With Star Soldier, Hiroshi Kudo (vice-president of Hudson at the time) said “Kids are going crazy for Takahashi’s quick-shot skills right now, so why don’t we have them try their hand at the record, too?”. So Mr. Nozawa, the programmer, upped the number of button polls so they could. As a result, for Star Soldier at least, you have the Lazaro enemy which requires you to shoot it 16 times in 1 second to fully defeat it.”
By the way, whether or not the Famicom could recognize it is irrelevant, because Takahashi definitely could do 16 shots in a second. In fact, people have played the Game King video in slow motion and have made an astounding discovery — in parts of the video, Takahashi is actually achieving 17 shots per second. (Nowadays, in his comfortable retirement from the game-master throne, he averages around 12 or so.)
That’s not entirely true, the overwhelming majority of NES games do poll 60 times per second. Can’t think of any off the top of my head that don’t—they exist, but there aren’t many. So for most games, 30 would be the physical maximum. You can tell that it is very easily by looking at any TAS speedrun.
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