Nintendo Research & Development 1

From WE Computers Museum
Nintendo rd1 logo.png
Nintendo Research & Development 1
Type Division of Nintendo
Founded 1970 (Nintendo Research & Development)
1972 (Nintendo Research & Development 1)
Headquarters Kyoto, Japan
Key people Gunpei Yokoi, manager (1970 - 1996)
Takehiro Izushi, manager (1996 - 2003)
Industry Video games
Products Video game consoles, hardware, games
Number of people

Nintendo Research & Development 1 (任天堂開発第一部, Nintendō Kaihatsu Daiichi Bu, R&D1) was the original video game development group within Nintendo. It was originally known simply as Nintendo Research & Development until Nintendo Research & Development 2 was formed in 1972.

It was managed by Gunpei Yokoi from its creation in 1970 until 1996, and by Takehiro Izushi from 1996 until Nintendo's internal development groups were restructured by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in 2003.

Formation of Nintendo Research & Development

In 1970, the Nintendo Research & Development division of Nintendo was formed to develop the Beam Gun series of toys, utilizing a light gun designed by Masayuki Uemura, in which the light gun fired at physical targets. Then, in 1971, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi wanted to expand their lightgun toys into a shooting range simulation. He asked Gunpei Yokoi, who had created several successful toys for Nintendo, to create a simulation based on clay pigeon shooting.

Hiroshi Yamauchi intended for these shooting range simulations to be installed in vacant bowling alleys. After Americans brought bowling to Japan after they continued to live there after World War II, bowling became a popular Japanese pastime. The Japanese bowling fad was short-lived, however, as by the 1970s, many bowling alleys were sitting abandoned. Nintendo purchased several of these bowling alleys with the intention to convert them into electronic shooting ranges. Gunpei Yokoi and Masayuki Uemura, together with Genyo Takeda, created a shooting gallery game to use in Nintendo's converted bowling alleys.

The result was the Laser Clay Shooting System, which consisted of a screen, with a film of clay pigeons broadcast on it over an overhead projector. In front was the lightgun, which when fired, a network of reflective surfaces would register whether the shot was a hit or a miss. The game was unveiled in 1973, however, its first demonstration didn't work properly. Yokoi had to stand behind the screen, adding the score to the system manually. After its unveiling, the bug in the program was fixed, and the game worked perfectly for the rest of the time it was in operation.

Simulation System

After the 1973 Oil Crisis, Nintendo had to abandon its grand plans to use Japan's bowling alleys as electronic shooting ranges. They reduced the size of the system so that it could be sold as an arcade game. The Laser Clay Shooting System was adapted for the smaller setup and was sold to arcades as Mini Laser Clay. Sales for Nintendo's Simulation System started off slowly, but they gradually increased in volume, which led to Nintendo adapting the system for use with other 16-mm films. The additional games were Wild Gunman in 1974, Shooting Trainer and Sky Hawk in 1976, Battle Shark and Test Driver in 1977, and New Shooting Trainer in 1978.

There were also two arcade games produced using EVR film on a cathode ray tube display. In these games, up to six players would watch a film of various sports and they would bet on which one would be the winner. The first of the two games was EVR Race, released in 1975, which had a video of either horses or cars racing. The second was EVR Baseball, released in 1976, which had a video of a baseball game.

Early arcade games utilizing computer graphics

In 1978, Nintendo began developing arcade games with graphics that were produced using computer graphics. The earliest arcade games used discrete circuitry, where the logic was programmed into the system chips, rather than the later games that contained a central processing unit. The first of these games was Computer Othello, released in June 1978. This was followed, in November 1978, by Block Fever. These games would later be released for home use as Computer TV-Game and Color TV-Game Block Breaker, respectively.

Nintendo began developing arcade games using the Intel 8080 CPU in 1979. These games included Space Fever, SF-HiSplitter, Space Launcher, and Sheriff and Sheriff 2 in 1979, and Heli Fire in 1980.

In 1980, Sega/Gremlin published a game developed by Nintendo R&D1, which used a Zilog Z80 CPU. It was titled Space Firebird. Another space shooter was developed using the same hardware in 1981, titled Space Demon.

Game & Watch

Gunpei Yokoi got the idea for simple handheld games using a liquid crystal display after watching a man on a bullet train push buttons on an LCD calculator. The result was the Game & Watch handheld video game consoles, which became a hit in Japan and North America. The success of the consoles led to Game & Watch games being released over the course of eleven years.

Game & Watch consoles were released in a few variations:

Silver: The original five Game & Watch games were released in 1980. They had a silver case and a standard, single, LCD screen. These included Ball, Flagman, Vermin, Fire, and Judge.

Gold: The games that were released with the standard, single, LCD screen in 1981 had a gold case to differentiate them from the original games. These games included Manhole, Helmet, and Lion.

Wide Screen: After the first two iterations, games began being produced with a single, wide-screen LCD. These included a wide screen re-release of Fire, as well as Parachute, Octopus, Popeye, Chef, Mickey Mouse, and Egg in 1981, and Turtle Bridge, Fire Attack, and Snoopy Tennis in 1982.

Multi Screen: More complex games were designed using a multi-screen system, consisting of a clamshell design, with gameplay that takes place simultaneously on two LCD screens. These games included Oil Panic, Donkey Kong, Mickey & Donald, and Green House in 1982, Donkey Kong II, Mario Bros., Rain Shower, Lifeboat, and Pinball in 1983, Black Jack in 1985, Squish in 1986, Bomb Sweeper in 1987, Safebuster and Gold Cliff in 1988, and Zelda in 1989.

New Wide Screen: The wide-screen releases that followed were branded as "New Wide Screen", to differentiate them from the original wide-screen games. These included Donkey Kong Jr. in 1982, Mario's Cement Factory and a wide screen re-release of Manhole in 1983, Tropical Fish in 1985, Super Mario Bros., Climber, and Balloon Fight in 1988, and Mario the Juggler in 1991.

Table Top: Four tabletop consoles branded as Game & Watch systems were released in 1983 that resembled miniature arcade machines. These used a color LCD that required a bright light, which would shine through a window at the top of the unit in order to illuminate the screen. These games included tabletop versions of Donkey Kong Jr., Mario's Cement Factory, and Popeye, as well as a new game titled Snoopy.

Panorama: The panorama games were handheld devices that used a color LCD and contained a mirror that allowed the screen to be visible in bright light. The games released in this format included panorama versions of Snoopy, Popeye, Donkey Kong Jr., and a new game titled Mario's Bombs Away in 1983, and Mickey Mouse (unrelated to the earlier wide screen game of the same name) and Donkey Kong Circus in 1984.

Super Color: In 1984, the "Super Color" line was released. These games had different colored LCD panels to represent the characters on the screen. The two games released under this line were Spitball Sparky and Crab Grab.

Micro Vs.: The Micro Vs. games were released in 1984. These games had two tiny controllers attached to the unit to allow for two-player gaming. The three games released in this line were Boxing, Donkey Kong 3, and Donkey Kong Hockey.

Crystal Screen: The "Crystal Screen" series was released in 1986. They had a translucent shell, which allowed viewing through the play area. The three games released in this line were Super Mario Bros., Climber, and Balloon Fight.

Radar Scope, Donkey Kong, and success in the arcade market

In 1980, Nintendo R&D1 developed a game that used a Z80 CPU, titled Radar Scope. As it was popular for a short time in Japan, the president of Nintendo of America, Minoru Arakawa, put in a large order for the game. However, it did not achieve the success in the United States that it had in Japan. Left with thousands of unsold Radar Scope cabinets, Arakawa asked Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi to provide him with a game that could be installed in existing Radar Scope cabinets.

Yamauchi asked Nintendo employees to submit ideas for a new game. Shigeru Miyamoto's idea was chosen, and he worked with other members of Nintendo R&D1 to produce Donkey Kong. Conversion kits were sent to Nintendo of America, and Arakawa, his wife, and a small team performed the conversions. Donkey Kong was released on July 1, 1981. It was a huge success in both Japan and North America, propelling Nintendo to a position as an industry leader.

Following the success of Donkey Kong, more arcade games were released on Z80 hardware, including Sky Skipper in 1981, Popeye and Donkey Kong Junior in 1982, and Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong 3 in 1983.

Development for the Nintendo Entertainment System

In 1983, due to the success of his arcade games, Shigeru Miyamoto was promoted to chief producer at the newly formed Nintendo Research & Development 4. Development at Nintendo R&D1 shifted to the Family Computer, which was released in Japan on July 15, 1983.

After the Video game crash of 1983, interest in the video game market was tepid. Nintendo looked for ways to alleviate retail fears for the new system, which was renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System outside of Japan. Yokoi developed R.O.B., the Robotic Operating Buddy (titled the Family Computer Robot in Japan). It was marketed as a novel toy, and was sold in the "Deluxe Set", which included the NES console, R.O.B., and a pack-in game supported by R.O.B. titled Gyromite. Only one other game was developed for R.O.B., Stack-Up. Both the Deluxe Set and Stack-Up were released at the NES console launch in North America on October 18, 1985.

Other games Nintendo R&D1 developed for this system include 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye in 1983, Clu Clu Land, Devil World, Duck Hunt, Donkey Kong 3, Excitebike, Hogan's Alley, Pinball, Tennis, Wild Gunman, and Wrecking Crew in 1984, Ice Climber, Urban Champion and Balloon Fight in 1985, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Gumshoe, and Volleyball in 1986, Miho Nakayama's Heartthrob High School and Three of the Galaxies (port of The Earth Fighter Rayieza by Enix) in 1987, and Famicom Wars in 1988, Tetris in 1989, Barker Bill's Trick Shooting, Dr. Mario, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, and Hello Kitty World (port of Balloon Kid by Pax Softnica) in 1990, Yoshi's Cookie in 1992, Tetris 2 in 1993, and Wario's Woods in 1994.

Development for the Famicom Disk System

When the Family Computer Disk System was released on February 21, 1986, Nintendo R&D1 began developing games for this Famicom disk add-on. The games released for this system include Kid Icarus and Metroid in 1986, Famicom Grand Prix: F1 Race in 1987, Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally and Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir in 1988, and Famicom Detective Club Part II: The Girl In The Back in 1989.

Nintendo R&D1 also developed an arcade version of Ice Climber on Nintendo's NES-based Nintendo VS. System, titled VS. Ice Climber in 1985. This game was improved over the original, as it contained more mountains and had effects not present in the NES version, such as blizzards. Nintendo R&D1 ported VS. Ice Climber to the Famicom Disk System in 1988.

Game Boy

Gunpei Yokoi developed a portable gaming system in 1989, the Game Boy, which would achieve more success than his previous Game & Watch series. The Game Boy used a Z80 CPU and had a greyscale LCD on a green background, which resulted in a green-tinted image. The system proved immensely popular worldwide, due to its long battery life. Sales were also helped by the fact that Yokoi was able to secure the rights to include Tetris as a pack-in launch title outside of Japan.

Other games Nintendo R&D1 developed for this system include Alleyway, Super Mario Land and Dr. Mario in 1989, Balloon Kid, F-1 Race, Radar Mission, Solar Striker and Qix (port of the Taito arcade game) in 1990, Game Boy Wars and Metroid 2: Return of Samus in 1991, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, The Frog for Whom the Bell Tolls, Yoshi's Cookie, and Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins in 1992, Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land and Kirby's Block Ball in 1994, and Game Boy Gallery in 1995.

Super Scope, Super NES Mouse, and Super NES development

In 1990, Nintendo released the Super Famicom (known as Super NES outside of Japan). Nintendo R&D1 developed a unique light gun peripheral for this system, in the shape of a bazooka, named the Super Scope. It was released in 1992, along with the pack-in title, Super Scope 6. Nintendo R&D also developed two other games that were compatible with the Super Scope, Battle Clash in 1992, and Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge in 1993.

In 1992, Nintendo R&D1 developed another Super NES peripheral, the Super NES mouse, as well as Mario Paint, the game that was packaged with the mouse.

Other games developed by Nintendo R&D1 for this system include Super Play Action Football in 1992, Yoshi's Safari in 1993, Super Metroid in 1994, Panel de Pon in 1995, and Wrecking Crew '98 in 1998.

Virtual Boy

In 1985, a red LED eyepiece display technology called Scanned Linear Array was developed by the Massachusetts-based Reflection Technology, Inc. They marketed it to several large companies in the electronics industry, including Mattel, Hasbro, and Sega. The device was turned down, due to its red-tinted monochrome display and worries about motion sickness.

Gunpei Yokoi liked the device and sought to create a game device using it. In the mid-1990s, while Nintendo Research & Development 3 was developing for the upcoming Nintendo 64, the other divisions were free to come up with new product ideas. The result was the Virtual Boy, which was in development at Nintendo for four years before release. Other LCD devices were tested, but Nintendo went with the original red display, because it was the cheapest, and because color displays caused players to not see depth, but rather they just saw double images.

The Virtual Boy was released in Japan on July 21, 1995, and in North America on August 16, 1995. It sold poorly, due to concerns over the red-tinted monochrome display, the uncomfortable headset, and reports of motion sickness. It was discontinued in 1996.

Nintendo R&D1 released four games for this system in 1995. These games were Mario's Tennis, TeleroBoxer, Mario Clash, and Virtual Boy Wario Land.

Resignation of Gunpei Yokoi and promotion of Takehiro Izushi

After the failure of the Virtual Boy, Gunpei Yokoi resigned from Nintendo on August 15, 1996. Prior to his sudden death due to a traffic accident on October 4, 1997, he formed a new company, Koto, and designed the Bandai WonderSwan handheld video game console. After Yokoi's resignation, Takehiro Izushi was promoted to lead Nintendo R&D1.

The games produced under Izushi's tenure include Game & Watch Gallery and Wario Land II for the Game Boy in 1997, Game & Watch Gallery 2 for the Game Boy Color and BS Detective: Club Lost Memories in the Snow for the Super Famicom Satellaview in 1998, Game & Watch Gallery 3 for the Game Boy Color in 1999, Wario Land 3 and Trade & Battle: Card Hero for the Game Boy Color and Sin and Punishment for the Nintendo 64 in 2000, Wario Land 4 for the Game Boy Advance and Dr. Mario 64 for the GameCube in 2001, Metroid Fusion and Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade for the Game Boy Advance in 2002, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo Puzzle Collection for the GameCube in 2003.

Nintendo also published two games developed by Research & Development 1, Metroid: Zero Mission for the Game Boy Advance and WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Games! for the GameCube in 2004, after Nintendo's development divisions were restructured.

Restructuring of the Nintendo Research & Development Teams

In 2003, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata disbanded Nintendo Research & Development 1 during a restructure of Nintendo's internal development groups. Staff members of Nintendo R&D1 were reassigned to Nintendo Software Planning & Development and Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development. After the restructuring, Takehiro Izushi left his game development role to take a supervisory role in general affairs at Nintendo.

Video games by Nintendo R&D1 Owned By WEC Museum

Title Released Systems Notes
10-Yard Fight 1985 NES North American and European NES launch title.
Air Hockey-e 2002 GBA e-Reader
Ball 1980 Game & Watch First Game & Watch game.
Balloon Fight 1985 NES
Balloon Fight 1986 Game & Watch Forty-second Game & Watch game.
Baseball 1983 NES North American NES launch title.
Black Jack 1985 Game & Watch Thirty-seventh Game & Watch game.
Bomb Sweeper 1987 Game & Watch Forty-third Game & Watch game.
Boxing 1984 Game & Watch Thirty-third Game & Watch game.
Chef 1981 Game & Watch Twelfth Game & Watch game.
Climber 1986 Game & Watch Forty-first Game & Watch game.
Clu Clu Land 1984 NES North American NES launch title.
Crab Grab 1984 Game & Watch Thirty-second Game & Watch game.
Donkey Kong 1981 Arcade Japanese Famicom launch title.
Donkey Kong 1982 Game & Watch Ninteenth Game & Watch game.
Donkey Kong II 1983 Game & Watch Twenty-third Game & Watch game.
Donkey Kong Junior 1982 Arcade Japanese Famicom launch title.
Donkey Kong Jr. 1982 Game & Watch Twentieth Game & Watch game.
Donkey Kong 3 1983 Arcade
Donkey Kong 3 1984 Game & Watch Thirty-fourth Game & Watch game.
Dr. Mario 1990 Game Boy Handheld version.
Dr. Mario 1990 NES Home console version.
Dr. Mario 64 2001 Nintendo 64
Duck Hunt 1983 NES North American NES launch title.
Egg 1981 Game & Watch Fourteenth Game & Watch game.
Excitebike 1984 NES North American and European NES launch title.
Fire 1980 Game & Watch Fourth Game & Watch game.
Fire Attack 1982 Game & Watch Sixteenth Game & Watch game.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light 1990 NES
Flagman 1980 Game & Watch Second Game & Watch game.
Game & Watch Gallery 1997 Game Boy Ports and remakes of Fire, Manhole, Octopus, and Oil Panic.
Game & Watch Gallery 2 1998 Game Boy Color Ports and remakes of Ball, Chef, Donkey Kong, Helmet, Parachute, and Vermin.
Game & Watch Gallery 3 1998 Game Boy Color Ports and remakes of Donkey Kong Jr., Egg, Green House, Mario Bros., and Turtle Bridge. Unlockable ports of Donkey Kong II, Flagman, Judge, Lion, Spitball Sparky, and a mirrored version of Fire.
Game & Watch Gallery 4 2002 Game Boy Advance Ports and remakes of Boxing, Chef, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Fire, Fire Attack, Mario's Cement Factory, Octopus, and Rain Shower. It also included unlockable ports of Bomb Sweeper, Climber, Lifeboat, Manhole, Mario's Bombs Away, Parachute, Safebuster, Tropical Fish, and Zelda.
Gold Cliff 1988 Game & Watch Forty-fifth Game & Watch game.
Golf 1984 NES North American NES launch title.
Green House 1982 Game & Watch Twenty-second Game & Watch game.
Gyromite 1985 NES North American and European NES launch title.
Helmet 1981 Game & Watch Seventh Game & Watch game.
Hogan's Alley 1984 NES North American NES launch title.
Ice Climber 1985 NES North American and European NES launch title.
Judge 1980 Game & Watch Fifth Game & Watch game.
Kid Icarus 1986 NES CE Released on disk in 1986 and cartridge in 1987.
Lifeboat 1983 Game & Watch Twenty-eighth Game & Watch game.
Lion 1981 Game & Watch Eighth Game & Watch game.
Manhole 1981 Game & Watch Sixth Game & Watch game.
Mario Bros. 1983 Arcade European NES launch title.
Mario Bros. 1983 Game & Watch Twenty-fourth Game & Watch game.
Mario's Bombs Away 1983 Game & Watch Twenty-ninth Game & Watch game.
Mario's Cement Factory 1983 Game & Watch Twenty-fifth Game & Watch game.
Mario the Juggler 1991 Game & Watch Forty-seventh Game & Watch game.
Metroid 1986 NES
Mickey & Donald 1982 Game & Watch Twenty-first Game & Watch game.
Mickey Mouse 1981 Game & Watch Thirteenth Game & Watch game.
Mickey Mouse 1984 Game & Watch Thirty-fourth Game & Watch game.
Donkey Kong's Circus 1984 Game & Watch Thirty-fifth Game & Watch game.
Donkey Kong Hockey 1984 Game & Watch Thirty-sixth Game & Watch game.
Nintendo Puzzle Collection 2003 GameCube Compilation with Dr. Mario 64, Panel de Pon, and Yoshi's Cookie.
Octopus 1981 Game & Watch Tenth Game & Watch game.
Oil Panic 1982 Game & Watch Eighteenth Game & Watch game.
Panel de Pon 1995 Super Famicom
Parachute 1981 Game & Watch Ninth Game & Watch game.
Pinball 1983 Game & Watch Thirtieth Game & Watch game.
Pinball 1984 NES North American and European NES launch title.
Popeye 1982 Arcade Japanese Famicom and European NES launch title.
Popeye 1983 Game & Watch Eleventh Game & Watch game.
Rain Shower 1983 Game & Watch Twenty-seventh Game & Watch game.
Safebuster 1988 Game & Watch Forty-fourth Game & Watch game.
Sky Skipper 1981 Arcade
Snoopy 1983 Game & Watch Twenty-sixth Game & Watch game.
Snoopy Tennis 1982 Game & Watch Seventeenth Game & Watch game.
Spitball Sparky 1984 Game & Watch Thirty-first Game & Watch game.
Stack-Up 1985 NES North American and European NES launch title.
Super Mario Bros. 1986 Game & Watch Fortieth Game & Watch game.
Super Mario Land 1989 Game Boy
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins 1992 Game Boy
Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land 1994 Game Boy
Super Metroid 1994 SNES
Squish 1986 Game & Watch Thirty-ninth Game & Watch game.
Tennis 1984 NES North American and European NES launch title.
Tropical Fish 1985 Game & Watch Thirty-eighth Game & Watch game.
Turtle Bridge 1982 Game & Watch Fifteenth Game & Watch game.
Urban Champion 1984 NES
Vermin 1980 Game & Watch Third Game & Watch game.
VS. Balloon Fight 1984 VS. System
VS. Baseball 1984 VS. System
VS. Clu Clu Land 1984 VS. System
VS. Excitebike 1985 VS. System
VS. Golf 1984 VS. System
VS. Ice Climber 1985 VS. System
VS. Mahjong 1984 VS. System
VS. Pinball 1984 VS. System
VS. Tennis 1984 VS. System
VS. Urban Champion 1984 VS. System
VS. Wrecking Crew 1984 VS. System
Wario's Woods 1994 NES
Wario Land II 1997 Game Boy
Wario Land 3 2000 Game Boy Color
Wario Land 4 2000 Game Boy Advance
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! 2003 Game Boy Advance
Wild Gunman 1984 NES North American NES launch title.
Wrecking Crew 1984 NES North American NES launch title.
Zelda 1989 Game & Watch Forty-sixth Game & Watch game.