These days, if you want to record direct video footage of a video game, all you need to do is press a button. But back in the 1980s, this was a complex and expensive process!


This piece originally appeared 10/28/15.

Magazines and video producers often needed custom, elaborate equipment to get images of games, which is one of the reasons so many older ads used actors, and why so many older games magazines featured such tiny screenshots.


There was a bizarre exception to this, though, and it came in the form of the Famicom Titler, a Nintendo console released in Japan (and only Japan) in 1989.

The console was actually manufactured by Sharp, just one in a series of wacky licensing deals the electronics company made with Nintendo in the 1980s.

In addition to playing Famicom games (duh), the Titler’s main job was to allow for the creation of custom videos made from recorded gameplay footage, courtesy of the console’s improved video output and built-in tools.

Instead of the standard RF output of the regular Famicom, the Titler had S-Video—very ahead of its time for 1989—as well as the ability to produce footage in RGB colour. This greatly improved the quality and clarity of the console’s visuals, and also meant it was easy to hook it up to recording devices so that gameplay footage could be captured. You can see an illustration of the console’s ports and setup above (image courtesy of nescenter).



That’s not all the Titler could do, though. In addition to the ability to simply output footage, the console also had some basic editing capabilities courtesy of a built-in keypad and touchscreen, which allowed for the creation of subtitles. There was also a microphone so that a video could be narrated. You could even superimpose gameplay footage over the top of existing video, and drop in clip art greetings and messages as well (you can see some examples of this in the clip below)

Selling for ¥43,000 (USD$360) at launch, the Titler was intended as a niche, specialist device, which explains why it was never released outside Japan (or is even very well-known today). It’s become a hot item with collectors in recent years though, not just for its rarity but also for its practicality: the Titler’s RGB video and S-video output mean that the console is a great way to enjoy original Famicom games on modern TV sets.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

(via Attract Mode)