The NES That Never Was… [ ARTICLE ]

What if the NES could unleash its full color palette unconditionally? Would that have changed its longevity? Would it have staved off the 16-bit generation? We’ll never definitively know, but it’s an interesting idea to ponder.

So, do you know what this is?

NES Color Palette

NES Color Palette

This is the color palette for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. It technically had 64 colors in it, but nine of them are black and there are also two shades of gray that look almost identical to some other colors…So let’s play it safe and say that it had a palette of 54 colors.

Now 54 definitely doesn’t seem like a lot. Especially when you compare it to the 32,768 different colors available on the Super NES or even the 512 different colors available for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive. But the color palette wasn’t the main hindrance for how the sprites look on the NES. It’s real limitation is not being able to utilize it’s full color palette at the same time.

The NES had 4-color sprites and one of those colors always had to be transparent. So unless you were using the background to bleed another color through or layered sprites on top of each other, like they did with Mega Man’s face, you were limited to three colors. But what if you weren’t?

That’s what I want to demonstrate with the examples below. Note that all the colors used in these examples are available on the NES and I tried not to alter the intention of the original sprites, where applicable, just give the sprites additional colors and/or shading.

Super Mario Bros. 3 sprites
Super Mario Bros. 3 – Mario
Mega Man NES Sprites
Mega Man 1-6 – Mega Man
Legend of Zelda - Link NES Sprites
Legend of Zelda – Link
Metroid - Samus Aran NES Sprites
Metroid – Samus Aran
Castlevania - Simon Belmont Spites NES
Castlevania – Simon Belmont

Now I’m not saying that what was released on the NES wasn’t impressive. I’m just suggesting that it could have been even more impressive if the developers would have able to play with the entire box of crayons at anytime.

NES Sprites Standard and Full Colors

Standard and Full Color