It would be one of many prominent titles that, initially at least, were only available via floppy disk in Japan. Metroid, Castlevania 2, Super Mario Bros. 2, Doki Doki Panic, and even the original release of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link were all only originally available for the Famicom disk system. And, sure, some of them required disk swapping and load times due to the nature of the software, but this came with the benefit of most of them having built-in save systems and music that could take advantage of an additional sound channel!
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the FDS, though, is the Disk Writer Kiosk. This is the one thing Nintendo did for this system that both made it a hit with consumers and a pain to collect for nowadays.
Floppy disks, by nature, are rewritable. And, for the equivalent of $3.50 a pop, you could take your disks to a Nintendo Disk Writer kiosk and choose from a variety of new titles to write onto your existing disks. Or, if you didn’t feel like writing over your old games, you could buy some blank blue disks to pop in there as well! Though some larger games could take up both sides of a disk, most were small, meaning that you could fit one game on each side of your floppy!
This came with some flaws, though. Nowadays, you may buy an FDS game off eBay thinking you’re getting All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. when, in reality, your disk is filled with Mahjong and Othello. Plus, despite Nintendo’s best efforts, pirated disks still managed to gain some popularity. Nintendo’s form of disk protection involved having their company named carved into the bottom of every FDS disk. However, bootleggers soon found that they could make compatible disks just by carving out a rectangle in a similar spot on their own disks.
Also, one of the most prominent brands of unofficial FDS disks was called Turbo Dick. You can’t make this stuff up.
Despite all its initial perks and early success, the FDS became obsolete tech within a couple of years. The same year the FDS saw release, Capcom released a port of their arcade game Ghosts and Goblins for the Famicom. A cartridge-based port.
In fact, this was the largest cartridge seen on the Famicom up to that point, clocking in at a whopping 128kb in storage size! On top of that, though the FDS was at one point planned for a North American release, Nintendo of America ultimately opted to bring over games such as The Legend of Zelda and Metroid on cartridges that feature fancy new save battery technology or that just relied on old fashioned password save systems.
Floppy disks just weren’t the way forward for Nintendo. In 1990, the same year the Famicom Disk System was continued, the 16-bit Super Famicom would be released – better known as the Super Nintendo in the West. And, like the original Famicom, its games would come on cartridges.
Nintendo would try their hands with floppy disk-based games again in 1999 with the release of the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive for the Nintendo 64. However, after years of development hell, this would only be available via mail order in Japan and would be one of the least successful pieces of hardware Nintendo ever released.
Besides, by that point, floppy disks were on their way out everywhere. Nintendo had already earned flack for sticking with cartridges on the Nintendo 64, as it was clear by then that CD and DVD-based games were the way of the future.
The FDS is an odd piece of Nintendo history. And, though it never saw widespread success, it definitely wasn’t a failure. Several classic series got their start via FDS games and the system itself is a symbol of a time when Nintendo wanted to provide hardware that was cheap, accessible, and high quality. This is a type of thinking that I just think isn’t nearly as common from major game companies nowadays.
I’d argue there’s no reason to collect for the FDS, either. These systems have belt-driven floppy drives that are prone to failure, and many of the great FDS games later got cartridge-based re-releases. Even The Legend of Zelda – the game that helped propel the Famicom Disk System to massive early success – would get a cartridge-based Famicom release in 1994.
The FDS is a relic of the past. It’s weird and retro and something that fits the criteria of being put in a mystery game file. But it’s also worth remembering. Even if the Famicom Disk System didn’t take the world by storm, it still shows what can happen when the worlds of console gaming and PC gaming collide.