Google got April Fool’s Day festivities off to an early start on Saturday, unveiling the new and improved 8-bit version of Google Maps as well as a promotional video announcing that the service would be coming to what Product Management Director Ken Tokusei calls “one of the most popular computer systems ever sold” — the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
To try out this new-and-improved old-school style version of the web application, look for the “Quest” feature on the right side of the screen. One a user clicks it, he or she will see the traditional political map ordinarily displayed be magically transformed into something out of a 1980s video game. It even comes complete with a little adventurer icon on the zoom-in/zoom-out bar and a classic gaming “d-pad” that is used to pan up, down, left or right.
Furthermore, Mashable’s Kate Freeman reported Saturday afternoon that Reddit users found some interesting little features hidden in the system. Among the Easter Eggs spotted by those users are an 8-bit rendition of the Parthenon in Greece and Area 51, complete with a UFO abducting a cow. Similar searches conducted by RedOrbit reporters returned a pixilated White House with two children in beanie hats nearby, a suitably tilted Leaning Tower of Pisa; the Kremlin, and other global landmarks.
Be careful before starting up this new version of Google Maps, though. According to David Murphy of PCMag.com, the company issues a firmly tongue-in-cheek warning that, “Your system may not meet the requirements for 8-bit computations.”
Converting the online app is one thing, but the company took it one step further, “announcing” plans to release a Google Maps cartridge for the long-obsolete NES home video game console system.
In a March 31 blog entry Google Maps Software Engineer Tatsuo Nomura wrote, “In our pursuit of new digital frontiers, we realized that we may have left behind a large number of users who couldn’t access Google Maps on their classic hardware. Surprisingly, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was unsupported, despite its tremendous popularity with over 60 million units sold worldwide.”
“Our engineering team in Japan understood the importance of maps on retro game systems. With the power of Google´s immense data centers, and support from Nintendo and Square Enix, we were able to overcome the technical and design hurdles of developing 8-bit maps,” he added. “Today, we´re excited to announce the result: a version of Google Maps for NES, with beautiful low-res graphics, simple and intuitive controls, and a timeless soundtrack.”
The NES (or as it is known in Japan and throughout Asia, the Family Computer or Famicom) was launched in Japan in 1983, North America in 1985, Europe in 1986 and Australia in 1987. More than 60 million units were sold worldwide during the system’s heyday, and the NES launched such hit video games as the Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, and Metroid, and Square Enix’s own Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series. However, no mass-market software has been released for the system in years, and unless everyone is overestimating Google’s sense of humor, odds are that Google Maps won’t actually be changing that.
Just in case this should, by some wild and crazy twist, turn out to be real, CNET‘s Chris Matyszczyk reports that Google is also said to be planning a mobile version for the Game Boy.