A look back at the debut of legendary developer Rare

Slalom? I barely know 'em!

Nintendo's so-called Black Box NES packaging—which gets its colloquial name from the fact that the boxes are, in fact, uniformly black—has become something of a icon in video gaming. I couldn't even begin to guess how many times people have riffed on this design for things related and unrelated to video games. Certainly I have a few Helvetica Oblique skeletons in my publishing closet.

Well, as of today, we won't be seeing Black Boxes on NES Works anymore. Slalom would be the last game to wear this distinctive branding (though the layout format, often with faux pixel art, won't disappear just yet). And it's fitting that as one era of NES gaming ends, another should begin: Slalom may be the end of Black Boxes, but it's the beginning of games by Rare, the single most prolific western developer on NES. Also, the first western developer on NES.

Everything we've seen on NES Works so far has had its roots in Japan, but Rare is based in the U.K. They got a head-start on NES development, so nearly all of 1987's games will still hail from Japan... but the door is open here for the NES to become a truly international concern in a way that no other console before it had accomplished. The video game business had been almost entirely insular and tribal throughout the early ’80s, and that's not going to change immediately. However, Rare precipitates change here. This is the future.

Oh, and Slalom is pretty fun, too. Albeit exactly as unforgiving as you'd expect from vintage Rare...