Recreating a game using a VHS recording of it
February 11, 2024 9:15 PM   Subscribe

The exclusive Satellaview-only broadcast tracks of Nintendo's classic SNES/Super Famicom racing game F-Zero have been recovered by fans, and are available in a romhack on the original F-Zero. The story of their recovery, and in some cases recreation, is told in an interview with the hack's main programmer on classic gaming blog Press The Buttons, which reveals that special tools were used to recreate some of the tracks from out of a VHS recording of the tracks being played when they were originally broadcast. DidYouKnowGaming (12 minutes) also has a video about the process of the tracks' recreation.

To be up front about this: Press The Buttons is the website of MeFite Servo5678. He's an online friend, but the self-linking policy prohibits him posting it here himself. I'm posting it because of the recently-relaxed policy towards friend links, and also I think the story of the recovery of the tracks is easily interesting enough for MeFi. (Note that the hack isn't his, just the site hosting the interview with its programmer, so he felt weird about posting it on Projects.)

Here is some more context on the hack:

Around in 28 years ago, Nintendo released what were effectively the first sequels to their classic SNES/Super Famicom high-speed racing game F-Zero. But they weren't released on cartridge-they were distributed in Japan only via a satellite TV broadcast, using their Satellaview peripheral.

It recorded games sent out over the air/spacewaves and stored them on Flash memory cartridges. When the St. GIGA broadcast service over which the games were distributed shut down, all of the games and other software that Nintendo distributed through it went straight into the memory hole. None of them have been officially released since, leaving it up to hobbyists and fanhackers to reconstruct the lost media.

Now, all ten Satellaview-only tracks have been recovered and put into this hack. While some of the tracks were recovered off of old Flash cartridges, a few of them were recovered through the use of some interesting tools. A VHS recording of the tracks being played was uploaded to Youtube. A tool was used to figure out the precise moves the player in the recording used in their game, and from that, to figure out the source of every pixel of the track from the recording. It's a pretty great trick! There is view on the site of the tool in action, filling in the map as the recording zooms around it.

Previously on Metafilter, two posts on recreations of Satellaview Zelda games.
posted by JHarris (6 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Oh that is really cool. I'm really glad someone recorded them, that must have been really rare back then.
posted by Canageek at 10:02 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]

From the interview with the hacker: If there's one thing I hope people come away with, it's this: "BS" stands for "broadcast satellite", referring to the method of distribution, and NOT "broadcast Satellaview". This bothers me for all the same reasons as people who think the Microsoft paperclip is named Clippy and people who think "extravert" contains the letter O.

I am so glad these kinds of nerds still exist, taking their unrelenting need for accuracy and using it to make the world a better place.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:15 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, JHarris! I've run Press The Buttons for almost 20 years now, and I've been coordinating with the lead on this project for a long time, so he lets me know when he has something new in the works. In the past he's hacked the 64DD-exclusive tracks into plain F-Zero X and hacked the lost e-Reader cards into F-Zero GP Legend. I can't wait to see what's next.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:15 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]

This is so cool. The tool used to extrapolate the map is great! What a hack.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:03 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]

Impressive technical feat. I didn't play F-Zero, my first fast racing game was WipeOut.

This bothers me for all the same reasons as people who think the Microsoft paperclip is named Clippy ...

Well that shows what I know. "Clippit" huh.
posted by k3ninho at 7:53 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]

“Oxtrovert” only applies to some very outgoing cattle.

More seriously, while I have almost no interest in playing these games, I find the history and the dogged determination to resurrect them fascinating. Digital preservation is hard, folks!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:21 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

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