More from: Games

These SNES-era Kirby games were considered lost until this week

I’m always happy when any forgotten media gets discovered and released.

 

From ARS

These four early Kirby games will now have their ROMs preserved, thanks to the efforts of a group of preservationists.

A group of dedicated game preservationists has obtained a set of obscure Japanese Kirby games from the Super Famicom era in order to archive them for future generations. But the uncertain fate of such early games presages a much bigger problem facing digital game preservation going forward.

Even die-hard Kirby fans would be forgiven for not knowing much about Kirby’s Toy Box, a collection of six mini games that was only available through Japan’s Satellaview, an early satellite-based distribution service for the Super Famicom (the Super NES in the West). That system only let you download one game at a time to a special 8-megabit cartridge, though, and you could only download when that specific game was being broadcast across the narrow satellite feed.

Thus, existing copies of most Satellaview games are available only if they happen to be the last game downloaded to individual cartridges (Satellaview broadcasts ended in the late ’90s). While some of these games have been publicly dumped and preserved as ROM files, many exist only in the hands of Japanese collectors. Sometimes, those individuals are reluctant to release the digital code widely.

That’s why gaming historians were so intrigued when a Japanese auction popped up listing four of the Kirby’s Toy Box mini games (Circular Ball, Cannon Ball, Pachinko, and Arrange Ball) for sale on four separate Satellaview cartridges. As Video Game History Foundation founder Frank Cifaldi put it on Twitter, “finding 3 different ones from 1 seller is a miracle.”

Preservationists including Cifaldi and Matthew Callis sought out donations to help win the auctions and preserve the game data for future generations. Yesterday morning, the group announced it had won all four cartridges for a total of ¥85,500 (about $813.08, as reported by Kotaku). “Still missing most of Nintendo’s Satelleview [sic] output, but at least we’ve got most of the Kirbys now,” as Cifaldi put it.

A growing digital preservation problem

The quest to save today’s gaming history from being lost forever

The shaky fate of these early digital downloads likely points to future issues we’ll face when it comes to longterm preservation of modern games distributed exclusively as downloads. Last year, Sony shut down PlayStation Mobile, cutting off access to plenty of great Vita titles from smaller indie publishers. Xbox Live’s Indie Games program will fully shut down in 2017, leaving quite a few hidden gems of its own without an online home. And Apple has begun the process of culling “problematic and abandoned” older games from the App Store, continuing a process of game removal already started by many iOS game publishers themselves.

When Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo eventually shut down their PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii servers for good, hundreds of digital download games will only exist as scattered copies on various console hard drives. That’s already happening with games like P.T., Konami’s free cult horror classic that was pulled down from PSN unceremoniously in 2015. That move led to a spike in prices for secondhand PS4 consoles that happened to have the game trapped on their hard drives.

Sure, we’ll likely be able to find copies of many of the biggest and most popular of these digital-exclusive games in order to export them to a more permanent and emulatable archival format (a recent DMCA decision makes this whole process easier when it comes to mimicking authentication servers). But as servers go offline and games are scattered among myriad distinct consoles, assembling anything close to a complete understanding of today’s digital game marketplace is going to get very tough very quickly. As is the case with many early films that have been lost forever, we may not know what hidden gaming treasures have been lost to history.


E.T.’s Home Is Found: Trove Of Atari Games Unearthed At Landfill

Turns out the legend was true.

From NPR:

For decades, it was mere legend: an “Atari Dump” rumored to harbor millions of copies of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, a video game so bad that burying it in the New Mexico desert seemed the best way to move on.

But now, the Atari graveyard has been exhumed, and the latest attempt to find the cache of game cartridges has been declared a success. Helped by heavy machinery, a crew found some of the games today, in a dig that inspired the Twitter hashtag #DiggingET.

The Atari 2600 gear was found in a landfill in Alamogordo, N.M., where the city council voted in 2013 to allow gaming media company Fuel Industries to search for unsold boxes of games and other items that were allegedly dumped there by 14 trucks in 1983.

Fuel is making a documentary about the search for E.T. It also organized a hunt for the game consoles at the landfill Saturday.

“We found something,” film director Zak Penn told an excited crowd at the dig site this afternoon. “We found an intact ET video game. The actual cartridge is still in there.”

That’s from video of the discovery that was posted to the IGN website. Those taking part in today’s search for say there are many more copies of the E.T. game in the area being excavated.

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