Nintendo’s Satellaview, a Japan-only satellite add-on for the Super Famicom, is a rich target for preservationists because it was the home to some of the most ephemeral games ever released.
That includes a host of content for Nintendo’s own games, including F-Zero. That influential Super Nintendo (Super Famicom in Japan) racing title was the subject of eight weekly broadcasts sent to subscribing Japanese homes in 1996 and 1997, some with live “Soundlink” CD-quality music and voiceovers. When live game broadcasts were finished, the memory cartridges used to store game data would report themselves as empty, even though they technically were not. Keeping that same 1MB memory cartridge in the system when another broadcast started would overwrite that data, and there were no rebroadcasts.
As reported by Matthew Green at Press the Buttons (along with Did You Know Gaming’s informative video), data from some untouched memory cartridges was found and used to re-create some of the content. Some courses, part of a multi-week “Grand Prix 2” event, have never been found, despite a $5,000 bounty offering and extensive effort. And yet, remarkably, the 10 courses in those later broadcasts were reverse-engineered, using a VHS recording, machine learning tools, and some manual pixel-by-pixel re-creation. The results are “north of 99.9% accurate,” according to those who crafted it and exist now as a mod you can patch onto an existing F-Zero ROM.