Game historian Frank Cifaldi may have just stumbled upon something truly magnificent, potentially preserving one of the most important parts of Nintendo's history. And no, we're not talking about Mario's first ever mustache comb.
Taking to Twitter to post his findings, Cifaldi revealed to the world in a long series of tweets that he had procured the earliest known code produced for Nintendo by the legendary Satoru Iwata.
Satoru Iwata was something of a legend at Nintendo, kicking things off as a programmer and moving on to become the Big N's fourth president. He passed away in 2015 following a long battle with illness. During his career, he was responsible for both the Nintendo DS and Wii, which helped bring Nintendo back into the limelight on both the handheld and home console fronts.
So, yeah, Iwata was kind of a big deal for Nintendo. So how does someone like Cifaldi get their hands on what is the earliest known bit of code the guy did for the company?
According to Cifaldi, he recently picked up a collection of four boards for the Famicom, better known as the Nintendo Entertainment System here in the States. Cifaldi said he was unsure as to whether or not the boards were authentic, but he knew that the rewritable EPROMS on them were "def. old." He goes on to say that the boards were "kinda fishy looking," but he decided to pick them up anyway. The boards, as it turns out, were for the games Hyper Olympic, Stargate, Soccer, and Joust.
Doing some technical magic, Cifaldi started digging into the ROMS onboard and discovered that, aside from Soccer, the games were all before retail code. He posted a few pictures of the version of Joust he had acquired, confirming it was not the final version of the game that was sold at retail.
Folks who are super familiar with Iwata's history probably had their ears perk up just now. Way back in 1983, he was programming the game as part of deal between Nintendo and Atari, a deal that never panned out. While Nintendo never published this version of the game, the folks at HAL, where Iwata was working at the time, eventually brought Joust to the NES, but not until 1987.
As it turns out, Joust was not just an early project for Iwata, but in fact the first thing he ever programmed for the company. In other words, assuming everything is on the up and up, Cifaldi now owns the first bit of programming Iwata ever did for the company, even if his work never saw the light of day. He goes on to point out that this is also technically the only known prototype of an un-released Nintendo first party game.
That's a pretty incredible find, and just goes to show you never know what will turn up where.