RetroVision – Nintendo Hide Secret Message Inside The Famicom Mini

Right from the moment the NES Classic Mini went on sale, hackers have been desperately trying to find a way to rip it open and get into the nuts and bolts of what makes it tick. Why you ask? Well there’s a variety of reasons, however the most prevalent one, is simply to add more games to the system beyond the 30 pre-installed NES classics.

In fact, despite only being on the market now for around two months, it seems as though hackers have already found a way to considerably up of games stored on the system. This is something which is achieved by adding ROM files to the system. As such, despite a few risks, many a hacker has now begun adding their own personal favourites to Nintendo’s excellent homage to one gaming’s greatest consoles.

However, despite this development, it seems as though Nintendo may have expected this to happen. Or at least they expected people to try, as one of their team left a secret little message for the hacking community. This message was left by an unknown programmer who refers to himself in the message as “The Hanafuda Captain”. Hanafuda Captain obviously being a reference to Nintendo’s long history as a manufacturer of playing cards prior to getting into the games industry in the 1970s.

The thing is, the fact that this message exists isn’t actually the most surprising thing about this discovery. Instead it’s actually the words themselves that are more interesting. This is because unlike some copyright notice or security warning as you might expect, The Hanafuda Captain actually uses their secret message as an opportunity to remind people of the work that went into the system, and to ask any hacker to please be respectful.

This is the hanafuda captain speaking. Launching emulation in 3…2…1. Many efforts, tears and countless hours have been put into this jewel. So, please keep this place tidied up and don’t break everything! Cheers, the hanafuda captain.

The hidden message and its code as found within the Famicom Mini.

Now of course, this isn’t the first time that programmers have hidden secret messages for gamers or hackers to discover. In fact, this more common than you’d think back in the days of the Atari 2600, with many developers hiding their name deep within the code, all because Atari refused to give developers any recognition for their work.

The most famous of these came about when Warren Robinett hid his name deep within the game Adventure which he created for the Atari 2600. In fact, this secret was actually one of the first known “Easter Eggs” hidden within a game, and was actually an event that helped popularise the term. What’s more, Robinett’s protest for recognition even became the inspiration for the excellent novel Ready Player One. A novel that next year Steve Spielberg will take to the silver screen.

Warren Robinett’s hidden easter in Adventure.

Nevertheless, despite all this, it’s still surprising to find a message hidden that deep within the code. Let alone one from Nintendo themselves. Not only is it cool to see Nintendo speaking to the hacking community in a non-judgemental way, but to do so in a way that references Nintendo’s history under an anonymous pseudonym, is most certainly cool by anybody’s standards. Well done Nintendo.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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