Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023
Even if you still have an old Zapper, good luck getting it to work with your HDTV.
Enlarge / Even if you still have an old Zapper, good luck getting it to work with your HDTV.

Andrew Cunningham

According to Engadget, Nintendo is going to release Duck hunting on Christmas Day to the Wii U’s Virtual Console. While Nintendo is notorious for re-releasing (and re-releasing and re-releasing) its old games for new consoles, this is actually the first time Duck hunting has appeared on every console except the NES. Let’s call it one Super Smash Bros. tie-in – it wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo has dusted off a long-dormant franchise after one of its characters is included crush.

I was first exposed to Duck hunting when my parents bought the NES Action Set. I never knew it by that name as I used to play games when I could barely read but I know now because the Action Set came with an NES, two gamepads, the obligatory Super Mario Bros., and a copy of Duck hunting with an NES Zapper light gun. I still have that NES, and I’ve kept it in pretty good shape, but the last few years when I took it out, Duck hunting is one of the few games that doesn’t actually work. You can fire it up and plug in the Zapper, but your “shots” never actually hit anything.

This isn’t because your Zapper is broken, but because of your shiny new HDTV. The Zapper is a simple piece of hardware, but to work it depended on technical tricks that were exclusive to older CRT TVs.

Every time you pulled the trigger on the Zapper in a game Duck hunting, the screen flashes briefly. This was more than just a graphical effect to accompany the simulated 8-bit gunshot noise – it’s actually a few quick flashes. First, the whole screen goes black when the Zapper’s photodiode is activated. Then the target areas (the parts of the screen with ducks or clay pigeons in them) briefly flashed white – if there were multiple targets on the screen, those white squares would show at different times.

If the diode sees black, sorry, you missed. When white light bounces back, the NES knows you’ve hit something and that pesky dog ​​pops out of the grass, pinning down your prey. The initial black flash will keep you from scoring any “hits” by aiming the light gun at a light bulb or other constant light source. Senior gaming editor Kyle Orland tried the lightbulb and “white sheet of paper” tricks with his retro NES setup, neither of which worked – and the system draws targets one at a time so it knows which duck you hit based on when the Zapper has detected light.

All this blinking happens so fast it’s invisible to the human eye, and the precise timing is what newer plasma and LCD TVs stumble over. The Zapper and Duck hunting worked with CRT televisions because those TVs all had a consistent amount of input lag, the time between when you press a button and when the result of that button press appears on the screen. As many console and PC gamers know, the move from CRT TVs and monitors to LCD and plasma versions has come with an increased amount of input lag, the amount of which varies from screen to screen.

This is a major concern for competitive PC gamers – entire databases exist devoted to comparing input lag in different monitors – and even more casual gamers may have run into it if you’ve ever had to calibrate your TV for a timing-sensitive like game Guitar Hero or rock band. In games like Duck hunting that predated the need for such calibration, things just won’t work anymore.

To get around all this, the Virtual Console release of Duck hunting apparently changed. An on-screen visor will reportedly track the movement of your Wii Remote instead of bouncing light off an additional accessory. A similar effect was used with the improvised “Wii Zapper” included Link’s crossbow training. It won’t quite capture the feel of the original, but it’s better than having to buy a whole new Zapper to throw on your ever-growing pile of different Wii controllers.

By akfire1

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