Earlier this week we reported on the discovery of a North American Nintendo 64DD unit, likely the first high-profile example to be shared online. Its stickers caused plenty of chatter as they suggested it was a Lotcheck / retail-ready unit, helping to confirm the fact that a North American release was planned for the unit prior to its poor performance in Japan. The discovery also included a blue disc that doesn't even work in the unit, likely needing a development build - that mystery is also enticing for retro enthusiasts.
It was found and purchased by Jason Lindsey, who also runs the hugely popular MetalJesusRocks YouTube channel. He's an eager collector, though this is perhaps his finest addition yet; he's now posted a video about the discovery (at the bottom of this piece), and we also caught up with him to learn a little more about this system and how he came to own it.
First of all, do you mind talking about how you came to own this unit?
I acquired this from somebody I met off of Craigslist… however that person is shy and interested in keeping their personal information private and I want to respect that.
What were your emotions when you realized what you'd found?
I knew from the first moment I laid eyes on it that it was something special. It was the lettering on the front that tipped me off that is was probably a prototype of some kind. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited to learn more about it as you could imagine!
There's been some conversation over what kind of unit it is: a demo unit, a testing system, maybe even a development kit. Can you shed light on this?
At this point we are 99% sure it is a prototype retail version of the drive for the US market. I talked on the phone with Mark DeLoura, who ran that division for Nintendo back in 1995-2000 and he programmed for the unit, and he is pretty sure I have the real deal. Just hearing his excitement on the phone was all I needed to get my heart beating a little faster!
Have you been able to learn more about its origins from other former Nintendo staff or any fellow collectors providing their expertise?
Other than Mark, nobody else yet… although I suspect this video will bring some people out of the woodwork. There are a LOT of ex-Nintendo employees in the Seattle area…
Have you been able to get the blue cartridge working? What's on there?
The machine displays an error when you run the blue cartridge, but Mark said that was to be expected. I probably just need the special N64 Partner cartridge to actually get it to boot and there are several of those out there floating between collectors. It's just a matter of time I believe.
What discs are you able to run through this unit?
That's the thing: It's REGION LOCKED to the US as if it was sold at a GameStop! It wants a retail US 64DD game! Crazy right?!
You have a hugely impressive collection already; where does this system rank in that?
As far as systems go, I don't own anything really special… unless you want to count my original Windows XP machine that has never been on the internet. But I do own about 6,000 games now and I do have a lot of gems in there across all platforms…but nothing compares in my collection to this. This may end up being one of a kind… and if it's not… well, it says "No 1" on the front.. which is pretty cool by itself.
Why do you think the 64DD struggled in Japan, and do you think it could have been a success in the US if it had been released?
Honestly… in 1999 you either thought the PS1 with CD based media was more than enough or you were looking forward to the PS2 and the upcoming DVD format. Heck, floppy disks were on their way out on COMPUTERS in 1999 too… so I don't think it ever really had a chance. That said, I do think the development of the unit helped Nintendo start thinking about online connectivity with their console with the RandNet service.
What will you do next with the unit? Do you have more investigations or videos planned?
The purpose of this video is to really tell the world this thing exists and then I want to see what the contents of the disk are. It's possible that it could be a US retail game…or it could be demo code….or it could be blank. I have no idea at this point. But that's the fun of the mystery, right?
We'd like to thank Jason Lindsey - AKA Metal Jesus Rocks - for his time. Check out his video below and also be sure to take a look at the MetalJesusRocks YouTube channel.