Benjamin Heck, the modder who previously turned the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 into stylish laptops, has rebooted one of the most curious retro gaming mysteries in existence: the Super Nintendo PlayStation prototype (Super NES CD-ROM).
The prototype platform was the result of a short-lived partnership between Nintendo and Sony in the late ’80s to early ’90s. At CES 1991, Sony revealed the system, but at the very same event, Nintendo announced that it was linking up with Philips instead. The hybrid system was canceled, thus dismantling a product that would’ve undoubtedly changed the course of gaming history. Heck revealed the back story behind the project on the latest episode of The Ben Heck Show.
Terry Diebold, a former employee of Advanta Corporation, found the prototype of the defunct collaboration in a junk box after the banking company filed for bankruptcy. The story goes that Olaf Olafsson, the president of Advanta Corporation at the time, served as CEO at Sony Interactive Entertainment when the Nintendo/Sony partnership was formed. Diebold eventually passed the prototype onto his son Daniel, and to this day, it is the only one that has been found in the wild.
The Diebolds met Heck at the 2016 Midwest Gaming Classic, and soon after Heck began work to fully restore the console. While Heck was able to surmise the system’s specifications by July 2016, it’s been a challenge for the retro gaming community to approximate what the hardware can actually do without the PlayStation side of things running.
To get it fully functional, Heck replaced a plethora of faulty capacitors in addition to other small fixes to get the disc drive operational. Now, both the Nintendo and PlayStation portions of the prototype function as intended. Previously, the cartridge slot played SNES games, but the front disc drive didn’t work at all, effectively rendering it the oddest looking SNES around.
Homebrew games have been created for the prototype, but now developers can start to really understand the full power of the machine.
Many official games started their development for the Nintendo PlayStation, including what would become an SNES classic, Secret of Mana, but none of the canceled projects have surfaced.
It’s interesting to think about what would have happened had the console reached market. After Nintendo spurned Sony, the latter went on to start its own video game empire with its PlayStation brand. Would that have happened if Sony’s first foray into the industry was a partnership with Nintendo? We’ll never know, but it’s certainly a fascinating “what if” to ponder.