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The Nintendo PlayStation is real, and now it’s fully operational

The only known "Nintendo PlayStation" (Photo: Dan Diebold/Imgur)
The only known "Nintendo PlayStation" (Photo: Dan Diebold/Imgur)

Two years ago, one of gaming’s greatest myths became a reality when a man named Terry Diebold unearthed the world’s only known prototype of the “Nintendo-PlayStation.” A Sony-created and branded machine, it was a hybrid Super NES that came with a CD-ROM built in, making it capable of playing both disc-based and classic cartridge games. But the alliance between Nintendo and its future console-war rival fell apart before the system ever saw release, and its existence was little more than a legend until Diebold found a half-working prototype in a box of junk he bought at an auction.

When we last saw the machine, Diebold had put it into the capable hands of Ben Heck, an engineer famous for hacking and modifying consoles, who tore the device apart, figured out how it worked, and managed to get the CD-ROM drive working. But without any games ever made for the system, it was impossible to actually make something run on the machine. It’s been nearly a year since Heck’s breakthrough, and in that time, a couple of home-brew developers have actually made games for an emulator based on the console. With those in hand, Heck got back into the thick of it and recently livestreamed his big attempt to get the Nintendo PlayStation prototype into full working condition. Lo and behold, with more tinkering and some blind luck, he has done it:

The results are a little underwhelming on the surface—although Heck’s celebratory dance to, what we have to assume is, his interpretation of the Battletoads pause music was tremendous. Only one of the two fan-developed games booted up and it was a glitchy mess, but as Heck points out, these weren’t written by people with actual knowledge of the prototype’s hardware. The creators were programming based on a notion of how the system theoretically worked, so the fact that the game booted up at all is kind of amazing. Better yet, Heck later contacted the game’s creator, who figured out the problem and updated the code. After that, Heck says the game was working perfectly. It’s one of those odd bits of gaming history that warrants repeating: This is the first time the public has ever seen a CD-ROM game running on a fully functioning Nintendo PlayStation, a machine that had been lost to history for nearly 25 years. What comes next, as Heck said, is up to the home brewers making games for it.

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