The Mysterious Nintendo64 Prototype


Welcome to my first article for NESWORLD in a very long time, it’s not that I have lost interest, one day just took the other, then a year passed and then another, kids, house and… oh yeah you’re probably not here to read my rambling about not having enough time to do anything contructive with the site for years. So let’s continue, shall we? 🙂

So a facebook friend of mine had been messaging me on and off asking about my N64 prototypes and after having listened to him for months I finally decided to look at and redump some prototypes. Most of what was in my boxes of prototype stuff I had almost completely forgotten that I had, so there were some pleasat surprises in there.

One cartridge caught my attention because it had no labels, writing or other on either the front or backside, the only thing present was the label that explains the cartridge type. It was actually a quite nice and not beat up cartridge as some/most of these prototype carts can be. When tested in an N64, the cartridge gave me nothing more than a black screen.

The cart has been in my posession for roughly 10 years, maybe more – I sadly can’t remember how I acquired it , but I have always figured it was blank. I was still curious though, so I decided to plug it into a device called UltraSave, an Add-on for the 64Drive that lets you dump N64 cartridges, and most importantly prototype flash cartridges – even those that may seem blank. Previously the cartridge hasn’t been undumpable as it isn’t detected by a gameshark, details on that later.

To my surprise the UltraSave came to the conclusion that this was a 1024mbit cartridge, which is fairly incorrect and I have never seen it do that before, keep in mind that the maximum size for a N64 cartridge is 512mbit. Well it dumped a 1024mbit file and while I have no, or not enough, technical knowledge to do any forensics on N64 roms, I decided to pass long the rom to people who all have a better clue of what to look for.

The conclusion came quick, the content of the rom was corrupted, although there were small signs of graphics, the content just wasn’t salvageable. However not everyone gave up, and notes were taken that this rom didn’t compare to anything previously seen, we could be dealing with an unreleased game?!

So the rom took another round on Discord and IRC, letting as many people as possible dig into the rom and graphics while I attempted other ways to download the content. Maybe it was possible to at least know what was on that that cartridge, although we would probably never be able to play the game.

The first artwork found was an eyeball, a K and a pig’s snout? But no one really know what that mean until people on discord began digging in and comparing to video and screenshots of unreleased games.

First guess called from user WadeMalone, another user called Buu342 supplied some pretty good clues as to what the game could be, like a matching flower texture. 

He went on to find matching lillies. For the last texture image I’d like to return to WadeMalone’s first evidence post with a few additions, he posted a screenshot from a youtube video showing a snout, a bone and a footprint, all off which could be found in the textures in the rom… so evidence was pretty solid, still just guessing…

These textures are most likely from an unreleased N64 game that went on to become a Gamecube game. The Japanese title is Doubutsu Banchou, also known as Animal Leader, which also translates to Cubivore released on the Gamecube, published by Atlus and developed by Saru Brunei, a name that also can be found in directory/filenames in the rom.

So what do we know about Doubutsu Banchou for the Nintendo64?

The Americal title would have been Animal Leader. The developer was Saru Brunei, a Marigul funded development team and Marigul would publish the game, to be released sometime in 2001 and first announced at Spaceworld 2000.

Initially it was planned for the 64DD disk add-on, then a cartridge version was announced before the game ultimately got cancelled for the Nintendo64 and moved over to GameCube as Cubivore in the US and Doubutsu Banchou in Japan.

Doubutsu Banchou is a 1 player strategy game in which you control a small pig and your goal is to survive.

That’s it is for now, stay tuned for more, and a thank you to everyone who helped determine what this rom dump could be.


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