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Thread: Why did SNES change the main action buttons to Y and B?

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    Pear (Level 6) Gentlegamer's Avatar
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    Default Why did SNES change the main action buttons to Y and B?

    I was just browsing through the excellent archives at Retro Mags, and found EGM Issue 6. I remember it from when it was new, it was the first time the Super Famicom was shown in a US magazine. Nintendo was also adamant at that time that it was not coming to USA. I remember my resentment at this turned me to the Sega camp, pumping my fist at "Genesis Does!," and scheming how to acquire a Genesis. Of course, Nintendo did bring the Super NES to USA, and I was there day one. But I digress.

    Here is the first image of the Super Famicom:



    You can see that the original design had all the final elements, but included the B and A button in the thumb position that Y and B would occupy in the final product, and become the primary action buttons. Does anyone know why this change was made? I always thought the change of the angle of the buttons was bad, and I had forgotten the original images, so Nintendo did it deliberately. Why?

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    Key (Level 9) Satoshi_Matrix's Avatar
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    In the early stages, the Super Famicom was designed to be backwards compatible with the Famicom (NES). The Y and B configuration was encoded to match the B and A configuration of the original controller, and as pictured, originally the Y and B buttons were the B and A buttons. It's likely Nintendo didn't end up going with this for marketing reasons; the new main button is the Y button, something not present on their NES or other consoles. Only on the Super Famiocm/SNES.

    It's just a label though, so if you like to think of the Y as B and B as A, then go right ahead.
    check out my classic gaming review site: http://satoshimatrix.wordpress.com/

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    Kirby (Level 13) Leo_A's Avatar
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    It's unfortunate since it would've solved a lot of issues that have cropped up since then when Nintendo has adapted two button classics to the ABXY format. I wish they'd of kept those designations arranged in that manner.
    Last edited by Leo_A; 07-01-2014 at 07:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Satoshi_Matrix View Post
    In the early stages, the Super Famicom was designed to be backwards compatible with the Famicom (NES).
    From what I read that "backward compatibility" was a switch that enabled video from another console (an unreleased matching Famicom AV console known as the Famicom Adapter) to pass through the SFC to share one video cable to the TV (though you could already do that with RF, but Nintendo probably wanted to promote composite. Maybe the Japanese started AV as a standard long before America did).

    If a company didn't change the button format when they ported a game (I'm looking at you Ninja Gaiden Trilogy), then its the programmers fault, not Nintendo's. :P

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    Strawberry (Level 2) ccovell's Avatar
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    Actually, here's the first Super Famicom proto:


    It did have that compatibility "switch" that merely passed through the video from a redesigned Famicom:


    And the controller's buttons were marked A B C D at the time:


    This change from the horizontal Famicom's button layout did present an ambiguity and probably some players inside Nintendo preferred using the rightmost buttons for the main action buttons (B,A)... take a look at the button options in the Super GameBoy for proof.

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    It's hard to tell if the OP is asking about the angle of the buttons or the button labels, or a bit of both.

    The names of the buttons don't really bother me; I was young enough when the SNES came out that I could adapt. By the time the Dreamcast rolled around, I was pretty much set in my ways and always got the buttons confused. Anyway, the SNES Y and B angle is my preferred configuration. I grip a controller much like one would grip a steering wheel. My thumbs naturally rise from this position upward at a 45 degree angle. The Y and B buttons (or A and B in these prototype photos) lay directly under my thumb.

    The angle of the A and B buttons on the SNES controller ironically are similar to the angle of the dogbone NES controller and the Gameboy, which I find to be ergonomically uncomfortable. It's hard to, for example, keep the tip of your thumb on the B button and use your joint to hit the A button for running jumps in Super Mario Bros.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ccovell View Post
    Actually, here's the first Super Famicom proto:


    It did have that compatibility "switch" that merely passed through the video from a redesigned Famicom:


    And the controller's buttons were marked A B C D at the time:


    This change from the horizontal Famicom's button layout did present an ambiguity and probably some players inside Nintendo preferred using the rightmost buttons for the main action buttons (B,A)... take a look at the button options in the Super GameBoy for proof.
    Shit, did Nintendo over-tought that a little?, Sega did have the Power Adapter, but all it did was to allow the carts and cards to being read on Genesis, yet the Genesis still included the actual SMS hardware on Genesis, that clunky way of connecting the Famicom AV was like when Genesis v2 had the redesigned Sega CD at his side.

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    Kirby (Level 13) Leo_A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheChristoph View Post
    The angle of the A and B buttons on the SNES controller ironically are similar to the angle of the dogbone NES controller and the Gameboy, which I find to be ergonomically uncomfortable.
    Actually, the angle is significantly different.

    SuperNes gamepad:



    NES gamepad:



    I don't know why they felt the need to raise A though on their two button devices since I think it only detracts from it. But it's low enough where I'm still able to enjoy a game like Super Mario Brothers with it where as if I had to use A & B on Nintendo's XBYX layout to play such a game (Such as if I play the NES Classic GBA cartridge for SMB on my DS), I also can't comfortably run and jump simultaneously.

    Seems such a shame that they did this when their original button designations for their 16 bit system could've saved so much hassle later on like the Virtual Console on the 3DS that forces A & B on a ABXY layout to be used instead of Y & B.
    Last edited by Leo_A; 01-20-2015 at 08:20 PM.

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    I always found this subject a little awkward too. They had just gotten everyone used to B & A, horizontal, and then they decided to make everything B & Y, vertical. Really weird going from something like Mike Tysosn's Punch-Out! to Super Punch-Out! Thankfully the latter does allow you to change the controls.

    Especially when the Master System and TurboGrafx-16, not to mention the handhelds, followed the same control scheme of the NES.

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