Famicom Disk System
The Famicom Disk System (HVC-022), or FDS, was released in on February 21, 1986, by Nintendo Co., Ltd., and Mitsumi Electronics Co., Ltd. Though 212 Disk
System games were officially licensed by Nintendo over the years, some argue the Disk System isn’t really its own console but instead a Famicom accessory.
Gamers have to plug the Disk System into the Famicom to get it to work.
The Disk System connects to the Famicom via the RAM adaptor (HVC-023).
It can be powered with C batteries or a power adaptor. Disks (officially called “disk cards”) were inserted in front, like the standard ’80s floppy drive,
and were removed using a yellow eject button.
Nintendo created the Disk System for various reasons, in part because Famicom gamers were begging for a way to save their progress in games, but Nintendo also wanted to increase the size of games. Cartridges had failed to provide the luxuries disks could provide.
Another awesome feature provided by the use of disks was that they could be easily rewritten with new and different games. Nintendo placed Disk Writer
machines in stores around Japan. Gamers would push a blank disk, or disk with a blank Side B, into the machine and write one of nine available games from
any particular Disk Writer onto the disk. Over 100 of the games licensed for the Disk System were, at one time or another, available in Disk Writers.
Many popular Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) titles were released for the Disk System. Zelda? Check. Zelda 2? Check. Castlevania (under the name
Akumajou Dracula)? Check. Super Mario Bros. 2 (originally Yume Kojo: Doki! Doki! Panic in Japan)? Check. Many games that were never released for the NES,
however, also were released for the Disk System. Ever heard of Yume Kojo: Doki! Doki! Panic, the prequel, if you will, to NES Super Mario Bros. 2? It was
only released in the disk format. Interestingly, Castlevania was much easier in disk form because it had save states, and I bet you didn’t know that it
has different music and gameplay, too! The music is fantastic! Japanese games by the same title as their NES counterparts often have gameplay and graphic
At the height of the Disk System’s few years of reign, Nintendo exploited the system’s save feature by hosting nationwide tournaments, where gamers could
purchase one of the blue disk versions of a game, such as Famicom Grand Prix: F1 Race, and compete to get the highest score. A gamer could play at home
as many times as he wanted, then save his score and later “fax” it into Nintendo of Japan’s headquarters using a Disk Fax machine placed around Japan.
Prizes were given to high scorers.
The Disk System also led to the creation of Nintendo’s only official mascot, if Mario is seen as a mascot by default only. This mascot, Disk-kun
(or Mr. Disk), was used widely on Disk System advertising during the mid- to late-80s.
Why did the Disk System fail? Well, it had its faults. Having not been built sturdy enough, many gamers were plagued by the infamous disk error messages
on their TV screens. Sometimes it was the game; other times it was the disk drive; and most times it was the delicate drive belt inside the Disk System,
which would break or turn to mush. Even more painful, sometimes it was the ability to save that caused a problem, which on occasion could erase a gamer’s
hard-earned save state.
Gamers also complained about the slow loading times for games. With cartridges, the loading time always was instant. With the Disk System, the initial
loading of the game could take 10 or more seconds, and during gameplay, the game would sometimes stop to load the next scene or stage, almost comically,
like in Relics: Ankoku Yousai. Plus, many games utilized both Side A and Side B of the disk, so gamers would have to eject and switch back and forth
between sides, most often for saving their progress. Japanese gamers got really impatient, nevermind that today’s Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 have
just as slow loading times, if not slower.
Another reason for the fall of the Disk System were the ease with which rouge companies could make pirated disks. Those disk usually came out of Hong
Kong and saturated the Asian market.
The Disk System’s swift and sad end came by around 1989, though some games were released after that date and Disk Writers were still in stores through
the turn of the century. Because the Disk System failed to catch on, some of the disk games that had been made exclusively for the Disk System, such as
Konami’s Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, were later re-released in cartridge form.
Famicom Disk System Error Codes:
00-and-10-Codes: These are drive start-up problems.
Err.01: The disk card is not fully seated. Your card-carrier tray may not be entirely engaging, and may be missing sprigs, or require cleaning, etc..
Err.02: Power not coming through; battery box not wired, or Power Board board not energized, or drive mech not properly connected to Power Board.
Err.03: Disk is write-protected.
Err.04: (Anti-piracy) Wrong gamemaker ID.
Err.05: (Anti-piracy) Wrong game name.
Err.06: (Anti-piracy) Wrong version name.
Err.07: You have inserted a disk that is either blank, or is the B, C or D side of a multi-disk game. Eject it and flip it over. For multi-disk games, check to see what side you should be using. if the other side of your disk is a single-sided game, such as ‘Super Mario bros.’, then its reverse (giving the Err.07) is blank.
Err.08: Similar to Err.01. No disk in drive, but insertion switch is engaging; possibly also disk not fully seated. Switch may be damaged.
Err.09: Not disk No.2
Err.10: Not disk No.3
Err.11: Not disk No.4
Err.12-19: I don’t think these exist, but it is possible.
20-Codes: These have to do with properly reading data from disks.
Err.20: Screen data differs.
Err.21: Drive cannot read initial disk header file.
Err.22: Flow of data is not correct, or is simply not happening*. Data may be garbled, or out of sequence, etc.. This can be caused by:
Improper Index Spindle & Motor calibration A bad (or dirty, or not connected) Read Head The Analogue Board switches not engaging, or not engaging correctly.
A mis-seated Disk Card
A blank A-Side disk, or a blank disk in general.
A dead disk…or a Game Doctor Disk!**
A disk with MIDI sequences on it, or word processor files.
The belt slipping off the motor pulley; or a bad, worn or improper belt or band.
Possibly other things…
Err.23: Similar to Err.22 in terms of index spindle-alignment. This is a problem with the index-spindle & motor calibrations and occasionally means you are closer to proper alignment, although this is not always the case.
Err.24: Disk media is damaged. (This is the only way I have ever seen this!)
Err.25: Disk media problems?
Err.26: Disk media is probably damaged. I see this almost entirely when reading from or writing to disks with a dimple or bend in the Mylar. It is also an error when writing to a disk using a 3206 drive, or with a PWR-03 or later) Power Board; essentially, the drive throws an error due to the copy protection. If you have a later drive with the write-protection circuitry, you will likely see this error quite often if you try copying disks.
Err.27: Index Spindle<–>Motor and other calibrations off. Drive cannot read initial disk header file.
Err.28: Similar to Err.22 and Err.28 calibration problems. Usually, this means you are closer to proper alignment, but this is not always the case.
Err.29: Spindle-alignment problems?
30-Codes: These are regarding disk file problems, reading and writing.
Err.30: Disk is full; cannot save.
Err.31: The number of files on the disk does not match the declared (expected*) number of files.
Err.32-39: I don’t think these exist, but it is possible. I may check a dis-assembly of the FDS BIOS for them sometime.
40-Codes: I think these are software errors and register/addressing conflicts. .
Err.40: I don’t recall off-hand, but it may be noted in my book. I think it is ‘Disk data still in memory.’, or something along that line.
Err.41-49: I don’t know if these exist, but it is possible. I may check a dis-assembly of the FDS BIOS for them sometime, although I think I may have seen Err.41 at some point.
1- Super Mario Bros. 2 ( 1986 )
Super Mario Bros. was the single biggest game of its era, so the expectations for the sequel couldn’t have been higher. Unbeknownst to most American
gamers, Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in Japan for the Famicom Disk System less than nine months after its legendary predecessor.
2- Ai Senshi Nicol ( 1987 )
Ai Senshi Nicol translates to “Love Warrior Nicol.” Appropriately, the game follows Nicol as he battles invading aliens in order to rescue his kidnapped
girlfriend. The game is an adventure game played from an overhead perspective. Comparisons to Zelda are unavoidable, but Nicol plays more like a cross
between The Guardian Legend and StarTropics.
3- Vs. Excitebike ( 1988 )
In Excitebike, players either race against the clock or against other motocross riders through tracks loaded with obstacles and killer jumps. Even though
the gameplay is incredibly simple, there are also several strategic elements in play.
4- The Mysterious Murasame Castle ( 1986 )
One of the first titles developed for the Famicom Disk System, The Mysterious Murasame Castle follows a samurai apprentice named Takamaru on his mission
to infiltrate a secret castle in Edo period Japan. The graphics, characters, and soundtrack all borrow heavily from existing Japanese culture, which helps\
explain why the game was confined to Japanese shores until it hit the 3DS Virtual Console in 2014.
5- Esper Dream (1987 )
Esper Dream is an RPG that follows the adventures of a young boy who is transported into his favorite storybook. RPGs were common in the 1980s, but Konami
tried to do things a little bit differently with Esper Dream.