The Nintendo 64DD didn’t do well in Japan and was never launched in other regions, but a retro gaming enthusiast may well have found a rare U.S. test unit.
Interest is growing following the discovery in Seattle, WA of a possible rare U.S. test unit for the ill-fated Nintendo 64DD. Found by a retro gaming enthusiast twenty minutes from Nintendo’s North American HQ user PostedOval wrote on the Assembler Games forum about his discovery, issuing a request for help to get the unit functioning.
“This unit also had a N64 blue disc inside, but I don’t know what is on it as the drive just clicks and displays an error message. However, I KNOW that Nintendo of America used this unit and the contents could be anything. This unit also has some usual writing on the front of it that doesn’t look like any third party developer kit I have seen. I was told the label means “Nintendo Ultra Disc unit #1 for the USA”.“
The ‘DD’ stood for ‘Dynamic Drive’ and the 64DD was a peripheral, utilising magnetic discs, designed to increase the capabilities of the N64 utilising the extension port on the base, in a vaguely similar way to how the Mega CD attached to the SEGA Megadrive.
Originally announced in 1995 ahead of the N64 launch in 1996, the 64DD didn’t make it onto the Japan market until much later in 1999, by which time the technology utilised was already dated and interest was tepid at best. It was a bold venture though. The 64MB discs allowed for expanded and rewritable data storage whilst the unit included a standard font and audio library which could be utilised in conjunction with new software and hardware as a creative suite which would enable the user to build characters, make movies and animations for use in games and to share online.
Utilising a now defunct online service called ‘Randnet’ the 64DD housed a 28.8 kbps dial up modem, a very low-spec, first step towards Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi’s “longtime dream of a network that connects Nintendo consoles all across the nation” [Source].
Only months after release in October 2000 the announcement came that the 64DD and Randnet would be discontinued, something that came to fruition in February 2001, reportedly abandoning support for some 15,000 subscribers. The 64DD never launched further afield than Japan.
Despite the units never reaching North American or European markets, it seems that Nintendo may have at least been testing the 64DD in these regions. Though there is an air of uncertainty as to whether the one found in Seattle is actually a development kit at all.
Previous dev kits showcased online show a blue surround for the disc slot. This distinguishing feature is missing from the Seattle unit leading to speculation that it could just be either a Japanese import or an unreleased U.S. retail model that just happens to have been paired with a dev disc. It seems to make sense as the unit won’t read the disc and an image of the serial number suggests a Japanese origin.
We’ll keep an eye on how the story pans out, and even if this Nintendo 64DD discovery turns out to be a well travelled peripheral, it’s still a pretty cool and ultra rare find.
Story source | geek.com
The original poster has dropped a video on his YouTube channel ‘Metal Jesus Rocks‘ showing off the unit and his discoveries so far including his conversations with someone who actually worked on and coded for the N64 DD who confirmed that the unit found is actually a U.S. region prototype device.