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NESESSARY

There’s a new album that you can only listen to on a 1980s Nintendo console sold in Japan

Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Indie artists love obsolete media. Vinyl record sales are at their highest level in years, hipsters are buying cassette tapes again, and people still seem to buy reel-to-reel players. Now, a new album from a Japanese company is on an even rarer medium: a Nintendo Famicom cartridge.

The Famicom, short for “Family Computer,” was Nintendo’s first video game console, released in Japan in 1983. It was eventually re-jigged and adapted for the rest of the world as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The NES introduced a generation of kids to game series like Super Mario, Zelda and Tetris, and the distinctive music that went along with them. The music tended to be simple, as the game cartridge’s memory was small, but its style has since evolved into a nostalgia-filled genre called chiptune.

Today, many chiptune artists use NES-style programs to make their music, and video games accessory company Columbus Circle plans to release a full collection of contemporary chiptunes on a Famicon cartridge in Japan, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The album, 8-Bit Music Power, will be released in Japan in January for ¥3,800 (roughly $30), but if you’re planning on dusting off the old NES to give it a listen, you’re going to be disappointed. The album will only fit in a Japanese Famicom, rather than the more ubiquitous NESes, meaning you’ll have to buy an adapter before you can listen. (Although they’re essentially the same console, the Famicom and NES cartridges were not exactly the same size.)

Nintendo discontinued the NES in 1995—its replacement, the Super NES, skyrocketed in popularity—but continued building the Famicom for Japan until 2003. According to the Journal, 8-Bit Music Power will be the first new cartridge built for the system in 21 years.

“This was just a project among old Nintendo fans around us,” a Columbus Circle spokesman told the Journal. “We were surprised at the overwhelming reaction we’ve received. Fans and major retailers in the US asked us to make the product available there.”

Who knows—perhaps 2016 could be the year that a videogame cartridge makes it into the Billboard charts. Maybe instead of a gold record we’d then see a gold cartridge—something that hasn’t been done in a while.

Image by Antonio Tajuelo on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-2.0.

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