Hardware engineer and YouTube personality Ben Heck examines the inner workings of the Nintendo PlayStation in the latest episode of his web series The Ben Heck Show, which details the scrapped Super NES add-on’s specifications and capabilities as part of a comprehensive teardown.
Heck additionally announced plans to restore the hardware to working condition, potentially bringing the lost peripheral to life for the first time since it was initially announced more than 20 years ago.
Long thought lost to history and intercompany non-disclosure agreements, Sony’s original PlayStation was designed as a CD-ROM add-on for Nintendo’s 16-bit Super NES console. While plans for a public release were eventually canceled, a working prototype of the peripheral was recently discovered at a bankruptcy auction. Its new owners have since taken the unit on a worldwide tour in the hopes of finding out more about their discovery.
Heck’s examination reveals that the unearthed prototype was likely cobbled together using multiple shell casings, and video output was provided by a unique RF connection in addition to a standard A/V out port featured on retail Super NES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube units. Among other revelations, Heck found that CD-ROM data would have been loaded into RAM stored on an attached cartridge, which also handled regional lockout.
Specs-wise, Heck wasn’t impressed.
“Even if the system had come to fruition, it probably would have had [the same graphic capabilities] as the Super Nintendo,” Heck concludes. “Aside from corporate politics, it’s quite possible that one of the reasons this didn’t come to market is because it probably wouldn’t have been any better than the Sega CD, and possibly even a little worse.”
Heck notes that the discovered prototype is nonfunctional in its current state, and does not read or initialize inserted disc media. Heck will attempt to restore the console to working condition in a follow-up episode, in the hopes of eventually getting it to read an audio CD.
To date, no examples of disc-based Nintendo PlayStation games have surfaced in the collecting community, but a pair of enterprising programmers recently created Super Boss Gaiden, a SNES homebrew game that takes advantage of CD-ROM storage media. While the game functions in a Nintendo PlayStation-compatible emulator, it remains to be seen whether it is compatible with the actual Nintendo PlayStation hardware prototype.