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Nintendo’s rarest Kirby video games have been saved, thanks to historians

A group of gaming historians has recovered some of the rarest Nintendo-published games produced during the Super NES era and preservation efforts are underway to ensure future generations will be able to play a series of 16-bit Kirby’s Toy Box titles that were once thought lost.

Video Game History Foundation founder Frank Cifaldi issued a call for donations earlier this week in the hope these rare games could be purchased as part of a once-in-a-lifetime auction from a Japanese collector. Nintendo fanatics collectively rushed to support the cause and the group’s donation goal was met within a matter of hours.

With financial help from backers, the preservationist group successfully won its targeted auctions and the next step is to convert these rare games into a format playable on modern PC emulators.

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Cifaldi explains that the games in question were distributed digitally via Satellaview, a short-lived satellite TV service for Super Famicom owners in Japan. Using a modem peripheral and a special cartridge for storage, players could log into the Satellaview service and download exclusive games like the F-Zero sequel BS F-Zero Grand Prix and BS Zelda no Densetsu, a 16-bit remake of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda.

These games could only be downloaded during brief windows of availability, however, as Satellaview content was often tied directly to satellite TV broadcasts. While downloaded games could be permanently written to Satellaview cartridges, Cifaldi notes that each cartridge could only store one game at a time, making it extremely unlikely that many titles would survive long enough to be documented and preserved by historians in the decades that followed the Satellaview service’s closure in 2000.

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Nintendo’s pink puffball mascot Kirby starred in many Satellaview minigames as part of the Kirby’s Toy Box series, but until this week, only a handful were preserved via emulation. Thanks to Cifaldi’s group raising more than $800 toward its preservation efforts, however, many fans will soon be able to experience the lost Kirby games Cannonball, Circular Ball, Pachinko, and Arrange Ball for the first time.

“Okay, we got ’em all!” Cifaldi said following the successful fundraiser. “Still missing most of Nintendo’s Satellaview output, but at least we’ve got most of the Kirbys now. THANK YOU ALL!”