An 8-bit Itch

On Friday my first non-game iOS application was approved for sale in the App Store—after only a week Waiting For Review and just 3 hours In Review. Noises Entertainment System (or NoiseES for short) is an NSF/NSFe player for iPhone and iPod touch. I was pleasantly surprised the App Review team was able to push the application through review before iTunes Connect shuts down for the holidays.


One of the last features added to Horror Vacui 2 was the Sound Test, a convenient way to listen to the four tracks included in the game. (The final addition was a Mimeoverse audio Easter Egg—there’s a hint on how to access it hidden somewhere in the Horror Vacui 2 mini-site.)

This Sound Test was the beginning of a simplified NSF player, something I had toyed with previously but abandoned because of the lack of individual track names in the NES Sound Format and the complexity of syncing your NSF collection (this was before iOS 3.2 which introduced iTunes File Sharing).

Super NSF

Then I stumbled across this post on which introduced me to NSFe. This Extended NES Sound Format includes track names and durations, and (when properly tagged) removes annoyingly short sound effects. Using what I had built for Mimeoverse and Horror Vacui 2 as a starting point and NSFe’s additions to the format I was able to create a dedicated NSF/NSFe player that was comparable in utility to (or on an iPhone).

Mega Drive

NoiseES had a very short development cycle, about a week total (not counting the initial experimentation months ago). Most of that was learning how to wrangle Core Data. I pushed through quickly because I really wanted a portable NSF player—and I wasn’t even sure Apple would approve it (Sid Player did give me hope though). Right before submitting the app for review I discovered a crashing bug in the Playlists and Likes features and rather than prolong development of an app that might never see the light of day I cut both features and submitted. (I’ve since ironed out those issues so both should be back in the 1.1 update.)

Eventually I would like to add support for other Nintendo sound formats like SPC but first I need to find an appropriately licensed library for unarchiving .zip and .7z archives (unRar4iOS looks promising for .rar files). Maybe in 1.2.


NoiseES unapologetically riffs on Apple’s and the original Nintendo Entertainment System’s product design. It mimics’s behavior and appearance (with minute, usually pixelated, differences) wherever similar functionality is found. I tried to strike a balance between the native iOS controls and the oversized pixels and limited NES palette that I’ve been so enamoured with lately. As I originally quipped on Dribbble, the overall aesthetic “is a tangled homage to two of my favorite companies (or rather the companies responsible for some of my favorite products).”

You can imagine my pleasure when Neven Mrgan said:

Awesome. Your blend of iOS and pixel aesthetics is impeccable. I cannot pec it at all.

So if you still can’t get enough of the soaring squares, galloping triangles and staccato noise of 25 year old NES soundtracks NoiseES might scratch your 8-bit itch.

The Box
NES Music on iPhone
Shaun Inman
December 20th, 2010 at 11:51 am