Sunday, October 24, 2010

Everyone's Gonna Tap That!

Hudson Soft and NEC pioneered the "multitap" N-way controller adaptor out of necessity -- the small size of the PC Engine console meant there was only room for a single controller port, so even two-player games required an adaptor.  With the multitap accessory added, the system was able to support up to 5 controllers, paving the way for multiplayer classics like Bomberman and Moto Roader.  The MultiTap was quite popular in Japan, and many PC Engine games support multiple players.

When the Super Famicom came along to push the PC Engine into obsolescence, it already had two controller ports built-in.  But Hudson Soft still anted up with an SNES-compatible multitap, primarily for use with the company's classic 16-bit version of Bomberman.  The product image in the ad isn't to scale, I presume -- its sheer size here gives the Super Multitap an unsettling take-over-the-world vibe:

One might imagine that this peripheral had limited market appeal -- an investment in the multitap virtually guaranteed spending money on additional controllers to use with it.  And there weren't many worthwhile 3, 4 or 5-player games on the SNES, with Squaresoft's RPG Secret of Mana being a notable exception.  The multitap was a niche product for the hardcore and casually well-off gamer.

None of this prevented Henk Rogers' team at Bullet-Proof Software from releasing their own, more compact version of the same product -- judging from the ad, demand for the Super Link was driven by Midway's goofy arcade basketball hit, NBA Jam.  I assume the product had to be taken out of the box for actual use, but the ad design ensures you'll know what to look for at Electronics Boutique:

Several more of these products came to market for the SNES, a few of which supported up to 6 players. None of them was successful enough to be common today, but thanks to a few classic games these devices still fetch a reasonable price in the used peripheral market.

Some niches, apparently, are easier to tap roomier than others.

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