Mode 7 Graphics & the Super FX Chip
Nintendo have long had a fascination with making the jump to 3D. The ill-fated Virtual Boy was a particularly bold foray into this venture, while the far superior Nintendo 3DS rendered 3D graphics without the need of a cumbersome headset or eyes made of literal cast iron. Rumor has it the red graphics of the Virtual Boy were actually caused by internal bleeding.
Before all this, there was mode 7. By rotating and scaling graphical elements, the Super Nintendo was capable of creating environments that appeared to be broaching the third dimension. Children around the nation were gob smacked – racing games like Super Mario Kart and F-Zero looked cutting edge as you tore about the courses, while Super Castlevania IV used this feature to chaotically spin the whole stage around the player, adding another layer of danger to Count Dracula’s castle of OH&S hazards.
In addition to the spectacle of mode 7, Nintendo was also dazzling us with the Super FX chip, most famously implemented in that wild little title known as Star Fox. A flurry of polygons darting and whizzing about the screen in ways we had never seen before thanks to the extra oomph provided by that dandy little chip. We felt like we were really in the cockpit of the Arwing, fending off Andross’ army and saving Corneria from the brink of destruction. Playing it now seems more like a matter of ‘grey object launching yellow projectiles at bigger grey object’, but for its time, it was something to behold.
NOTE: Originally, we erroneously claimed that the graphics in Star Fox were powered by Mode 7, as opposed to the Super FX chip. Thank you to Nick London for pointing out this mistake. He uses bombs wisely, you know.