Kirby is one of the most loveable characters in all of gaming. What’s more, the Kirby franchise also has some of the highest number of instalments. And now we have not one, but four more to add to that list, as a number of dedicated gaming historians have come into possession of a set of long forgotten obscure Japanese Kirby mini-games titles.
All four of these titles date back to the Super Famicom era, and had long been thought lost forever by experts. What’s more, just to add to the rarity, they’re all mini-games from the Super Famicom’s Japanese exclusive Satellaview service. This service allowed players via a peripheral to download games via a satellite connection, and therefore, due to the digital nature of these, most have now been lost over the years.
As such this doesn’t just make these four Kirby mini-games rare, it practically makes them mythical. Nevertheless, they’re not the only ones, as these four games actually originate from the Satellaview Super Famicom title Kirby’s Toy Box (カービィのおもちゃ箱). This was a title that included 10 different mini-games centred around the loveable pink puffball.
So which of these 10 Satellaview Kirby mini-games did this network of video game preservationists discover in deep in Japan’s countryside? Well of the ten, the following were found on sale:
- Circular Ball (ぐるぐるボール)
- Cannon Ball (キャノンボール)
- Pachinko (パチンコ)
- Arrange Ball (アレンジボール)
Discovering these game’s wasn’t the end of the tale though, not by a long shot, and in fact it is this latter part that raises the most questions when it comes to preserving rare retro videogames, and the importance of holding onto digital only titles such as Kojima’s P.T.. You see, the total cost of these four games was a whopping ￥85,500 (over $800). Nevertheless, this price was considered worth it to save what could well be the only copies of these games left in existence.
So, in order to help raise the funds fellow gaming preservationist Frank Cifaldi sent a call out to retro fans around the world on social media. All with the promise of not only making all of these available to all, but also the promise of protecting these rare 16-bit treasures for years to come.
Just to explain how very rare saving some of these Satellaview games is, what many don’t understand is that Satellaview games were only written temporarily to the system memory. As such, when a new game was downloaded from the system, the previous one was overwritten. Cifaldi explained this to Kotaku when he stated:
It’s basically impossible to preserve all of these games. The only way they exist on their temporary cartridges is if they happen to be the last game someone played.
So when you look at it like that, finding one of these 10 lost Satellaview Kirby mini-games would be rare to say the least, but finding four of them is nothing short of a miracle. Arguably even rarer, is the fact that all four of these have now thankfully ended up in the right hands, and will hopefully be made available to everyone very soon via emulation. Once these are made avaialble this will make seven of the 10 games now preserved.
Will we one day see the other three discovered? Odds are against that unfortunately. However, just being able to play these four Satellaview Kirby mini-games, games that were considered so rare they were thought lost forever, is nothing short of one hell of an achievement.