American Nintendo 64DD discovered

The N64DD has been a very bizarre bit of hardware to work with. The idea behind it is that the usual cartridge couldn’t provide the level of storage that a CD can (like on the Playstation or Sega Saturn) so the DD would provide the N64 with a cheaper way to deliver high-capacity games. The typical n64 games were 8 or 16 megabytes, with the larger ones being 32 megabytes and some even 64. The problem with this is that the 64DD only provided 64MB of storage. This means that the increase in storage wasn’t that significant and not worth the investment so the hardware was scrapped soon after release in Japan. This is what makes the American Nintendo 64DD so rare.

Not too long ago, a post about an American Nintendo 64DD has surfaced over at assembler games. Now this is what makes this so bizarre: It was never even close to release in the West. The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive was a Japan-exclusive release. This means that this a unique piece of hardware is extremely rare. A few days later, a video by the collector was published, have a look below to see for yourself.

Video

Big surprise over at the 3:15 mark. Thanks for the reference!

Transcript
MetalJesusRocks: Hey guys, I’m the Metal Jesus. Now I’ve been very fortunate here on my youtube channel to be able to share with you some amazing game finds in the past. Specifically what comes in mind is when Emilio found that one-of-a-kind ultra-rare orange Halo XBox at a garage sale. How amazing is that?

Now the thing to know about my area here is that I live in Seattle specifically the Puget Sound and in our area we have a bunch of game development places like Nintendo of America is here; Microsoft, Valve… We actually have three hundred game developers both big and small in our area so there’s a lot of game development that’s happening. And so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you might find something kind of interesting or rare around here. It does happen.

Well, in this video I’m going to share with you something that I recently acquired that is pretty dang rare. Now that is a Nintendo Prototype that they made for our market that never came out. It’s actually for the Nintendo 64 and most people (including me) didn’t even know this thing existed until this week. And it came with a disk on the inside. And I’m going to have more information about that because that’s also kind of interesting and exciting.

So what is the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive? The 64 DD as it was called… A lot of you are kinda wondering what that is, well that’s because it never came out here. It only came out in Japan. Now the history of it was that around 1995 or 96 Nintendo announced that they were going to make a disk drive that would fit on the bottom of the N64 and basically expand that console quite a bit. And what was really cool about it is that they were going to use basically floppy disks that were specific to this machine and I’m going to show you those in a second.

So it was actually kind of exciting at the time because here is this add-on that hopefully will take off and they had big plans for it. They actually did announce that this thing would come out in the US. However, it flopped terribly in Japan. It came out in December 1st, 1999 so it took a while to develop and it just tanked. They only made ten titles for it, I have a couple of them here that I’m going to show you and it just bombed. Nobody heard of a US version at that point. It was pretty much assumed that they never made one or if they did that it was only developer units.

So, along comes this machine right here. So initially I just assumed that this was a development unit because the development units (while rare) they do exist – they’re out there. And Nintendo created them for a bunch of partners to potentially make games for this device. But when I got home and I got searching I couldn’t find any matches to this. And there’s a couple of things that are very unique about this. For one, it did not come with a partner cartridge. That’s a development cartridge that you would put in the top of the N64 that would then boot up the drive. What’s really interesting about this one is that it doesn’t need it. It actually – you just turn on the N64 with it attached to the bottom and the screen comes up.

So it’s like it’s ready for retail – it’s really interesting right? So I was like “That doesn’t sound right”. And then I noticed something kind of peculiar about it: Well, it was in English. See, I didn’t know that I had an American Disk Drive yet and so it comes up and it actually is asking me to put in a disk. And I knew that was kind of unusual because again, all the retail units were only in Japan. They only have Japanese on the actual splash screen.

There are some other unique features about it as well. Let’s take a look at the front here… So you’ll notice it says “NUD No. 1 USA Lot Check”. now, I don’t know necessarily what that means, I don’t work at Nintendo. I can probably guess what some of it means.

But I went out to a website for research called assemblergames.com. Now these are the guys who authenticated the orange XBox. So I knew them, I trusted them. And they did not disappoint because they reached out to the actual guy who supported this at Nintendo for their partners. So his name is Mark DeLoura and when he first heard about this he flipped out. He was super excited because he was like “yeah, that’s the retail unit”. He hadn’t seen it in almost 20 years and his job was to support this for the partners, he wrote code for it and he demoed it back in the day. And he hadn’t seen it in all this time so he was really excited.

So, what this actually means is “Nintendo Ultra 64 Disk Drive number one for the USA market”, and then “Lot check”. When I asked him “What does ‘lot check’ mean?”, well this is cool. Lot check is actually the part of Nintendo that tests hardware and software right before it goes to market. So think of it as QA people who would take an N64 and there’s multiple versions of the N64 and they would put it on top of there and they would plug it into a television and make sure everything works. Or they would plug it into different types of television again to make sure that it works.

now, what’s really interesting about this, and we’re going to get to it, it came with a disk in here that could be pretty interesting. So, some other unique things about it. Well, let’s flip it over here. For one, you’ll notice this label says ‘Nintendo 64 Disk Drive’. That’s kind of odd because actually when it came out in Japan it was called the 64DD. Also, the copyright is ‘1996, 1997’. The retail version came out in Japan in 1999. So clearly this is a couple of years before the Japanese version even came out. Also the serial Number in the back here says ‘NDJ’ and then it has a number basically. All the ones that came out do not have that ‘N’ there, they tend to start with just ‘D’.

Now again, I don’t work at Nintendo so I don’t know what the whole plan was there but clearly this is kind of unique. Also another thing too, you know I mentioned originally I thought it might be a dev unit. If you look on the web, you’ll notice that all of the dev units actually have blue drives here. And this one, again, looks like a retail-ready version because it’s black. It matches the case.

However the most telling thing about it is that it boots up in English with no disk in there. And again, no one had ever seen that before. Now I’d love to tell you it does something more than that but it’s really just booting up, ready for a disk. Mario comes out, he runs around the N, the N changes a little bit and that’s pretty much it.

Now, ok so what about games for this? Well, this model was designed for the US market. I didn’t know that when I first got this so the first thing I did was I tried to play F-Zero X so this is the Japanese release of F-Zero X. And I was like ‘let’s see if it’ll play a Japanese game?’ It doesn’t! Now I was like “Well that’s weird, is the drive defective?” I mean it should do that right? Well, mark quickly corrected me with that. See, Nintendo cares about region locking. And therefore this is region locked to the US. It’s designed to only play US games. I was like ‘Ooh, that makes total sense’ It’s not broken, ok, cool. It just won’t play Japanese games because it assumes you imported them so it doesn’t want to support that, right?

So what about that blue disk that was in it? Here it is, this is the mysterious blue disk that was in the drive. And it’s got a serial number here on the back so for those of you who have been on ebay and buying these and keeping track of what serial numbers have already been sold that’s the serial number as far as I can tell this has never been sold before. No one has ever seen the contents of this.

Now when I was talking to Mark he was very excited about this. ‘Cause remember how I said that Nintendo would be testing games for the US market? This most likely contains software for the US market. Now, I would love to tell you it would boot up, it doesn’t. And again, he wasn’t surprised. Again, this is a developer release of a game, this is technically unfinished, probably very close to being finished. But the way that they would have tested this is they would have had one of those N64 Partner cartridges. Now they’re very long, they pop in the top and so the testers would have had one of those because you need that to boot this up. And that’s probably what I’m missing. I don’t know for sure.

Now I asked him, I was like “You know, speculate. What do you think is on here?”. See the thing is that there were a lot of games planned for this and a lot of games that gamers were very excited about and they actually demoed and showed some of this stuff in Nintendo Power magazine. A lot of people were very excited to see well, they were basically going to release a Zelda on here, also an expansion to Zelda, I think it was like Zelda Ocarina of Time. They were also going to – probably one of the holy grails is that they were going to release Mother 3 on the Disc Drive. That was going to be sort of its killer app.

There was actually a bunch of stuff that was actually planned for this. Conker, there was a Fire Emblem game planned for this – there was all sorts of stuff. I don’t know what’s on here. Mark suspects it’s one of two things: It’s either a US retail-ready version of a game or it is potentially some of his demo code that he used to show people what this thing could do. We don’t know. He doesn’t know for sure. I can’t read the disk.

So I would love to know what is on this disk. There has to be someone out there who has the know-how, the hardware, the means to read the contents of this and also maybe copy off the firmware of the US version of the operating system. Wouldn’t that be interesting for homebrew games? The possibility is kind of interesting. So post down in the comments below if you know somebody that could help me do that. I would love to do a follow-up video after I know what is going on with this. It would be really cool if it was Earthbound 64 or Zelda or whatever, it could be anything. Pretty cool.

Alright guys, thank you very much for watching my channel, thank you for subscribing and take care. I’d wanna give a huuuuge shout out and thanks to Mark DeLoura who talked to me on the phone for probably half an hour – 45 minutes. Just to help me figure out exactly what I’ve got here. Such a cool guy, so nice. I actually want to have him on my channel at some point because the guy is a fountain of knowledge and it extends actually beyond Nintendo so that would be very cool. Also a huge shout out and thanks to assemblergames.com, that is a really awesome site that has some of the smartest people in probably all of game collecting. If you want to have your mind blown, go over to that site and check out some of the things that get posted there.

Alright guys, thanks for watching.

Gallery

64DD-English-1

The American N64DD

64DD-English-2

Another angle from the front

64DD-English-5

Label at the bottom

64DD-English-6

The disc that was included

64DD-English-4

The screen output

64DD-English-3

Another shot of the output

Is the American Nintendo 64DD real?

While this is a pretty interesting discovery, we have to look at it with a pinch of skepticism. Now, even though it is definitely possible that this exists, there are a few things that come off as a bit odd.

The image with the bottom label says that the model is NUS-010 (JPN) which is a Japanese N64DD code, plus the rest of the label is in Japanese as well.

Also, the disk that is included with the drive is blue which means that it is part of the dev kit. Meanwhile, the console is the standard grey which means that it is a normal retail model which is a bit odd to find being sold together. This is shown in this picture from the dev kit:

Disk-Drive-Development

Though what really makes me believe that this is true is the confirmation from Mark DeLoura, who worked at Nintendo at the time this was being worked on. He said that this was definitely a retail version of the 64DD that had been tested by their QA, and that the American Nintendo 64DD doesn’t work with official Japanese game because of region locking.

I’m really looking forward to where this ends up.

Articles across the web

This American Nintendo 64DD is a rare example of unreleased hardware that shouldn't really exist, but yet it has popped up in a collector's possession.
Article published on N64 Squid

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