U.S. Patent No. 6,261,179:
Video Game System and Video Game Memory Medium
Issued Jul. 17, 2001, to Nintendo Co., Ltd., Kyoto (JP)


Remember StarFox? I do (I’m getting old). The ‘179 patent describes a number of gameplay aspects of a video game in the StarFox series. As the patent correctly professes, I always enjoyed the ability to select the level I played, instead of having to sequentially move through each level every time I started the game. Allowing the player to replay a level without resetting the game the player avoids being “burdened with unwanted labor, thereby losing his interest in the game or having a burdensome feeling….” In addition to being able to choose the level I start at, I also liked the fact that only my highest score from each level counted towards my final score.

While the ‘179 patent only claims the above concept, it nonetheless also describes detecting collisions to individual sections of the plane the player is flying, instead of processing a hit on any part of the plane in the same way. Let me restate that. The entire plane doesn’t blow up when it gets hit (a la Galaga), but instead, only the portion of the plane that got hit blows up. This allows, for example, for individual wings of the plane to be shot off, but the plane remains navigable (to some extent) by the player. Nice feature. I’ll have to check to see if they claim it in a related patent.

Another feature described (but not claimed) is that of automatic messages shown in the picture below. When it is possible to easily attack the enemy or avoid crises by performing an operation, instructions for performing that operation appear on the bottom of the screen. If multiple messages are possible at a given time, only one is chosen based on a pre-defined hierarchy of importance. This allows “the player, even if unskilled” to advance in the game. Was this perhaps an early patent directed towards in-game hints??? Again, I’ll have to check to see if they claim this feature in a related patent.

Exemplary Claim:

A video game system for playing a video game having a plurality of different courses through which a player can successively advance by successfully completing a current one of said plurality of courses, said video game comprising:

a course choosing screen which enables the player to select a course to play from said plurality of courses when starting said video game and upon finishing a current course;

a first score counter for determining a current course score that the player has achieved by finishing a current course of said plurality of courses;

a score controller for writing a current course score to a memory upon completion of each course, wherein said score controller resets said current course score for said current course to an initial value if said user chooses to replay said current course using said course choosing screen after finishing said current course; and

a second course counter for combining each course score in said memory to provide an overall score for said video game.

U.S. Patent No. 6,764,402: Image-Display Game System And Information Storage Medium Used Therefor
U.S. Patent. No. 6,752,718: Role Playing Video Game Using Cards