The Satellaview is an often forgotten chapter in Nintendo history that is barely preserved. Here’s how Nintendo can fix that on the Switch.
From New Nintendo 3DS to PlayStation 4 Pro, mid-generation hardware upgrades are becoming more and more common. Meanwhile, in the age of cartridges, mid-gen upgrades took the form of modular console upgrades. Sega is the best example, particularly with the Genesis and its myriad add-ons like the 32X.
Nintendo also tried their luck in practice. His fourth-generation attempt, Super Famicom’s Satellaview, was perhaps his most interesting and worthy of another look. The Satellaview was a cumbersome, expensive, and Japan-only satellite modem that connected to the Super Famicom. Once set up, the service allowed users to receive streams of game data that could be downloaded to the Super Famicom and played during specific streaming periods.
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Satellaview’s retro hit
In many ways, Satellaview was like tuning in to an interactive television show. During streaming times, players would have access to exclusive Nintendo software with additional features that would not have been possible on a traditional Super Famicom cartridge.
Perhaps the most famous Satellaview broadcast was BS The Legend of Zelda, a complete 16-bit reinvention of the original NES Zelda, complete with orchestrated music and voice over. Because the signal was broadcast live for finite periods like a television program, these additional presentation elements were possible.
While this is just a cursory look at how Satellaview worked, the plugin did facilitate some truly fascinating Nintendo experiences. BS The Legend of Zelda it is also far from the only exclusive game on the service. There were Excitebike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium, a Mario-NES theme remake Excitebike, too BS Fire Emblem: Archanean War Chronicles, a completely unique Fire emblem Title. There are even more, of Super Famicom Wars to several Kirby-themed games too. Of course, the limited-time streaming structure meant that many of these games were small in scope, but they are retro Nintendo exclusives that have largely been lost to time.
Preserving the Satellaview legacy
The Satellaview is also a clear indictment of the gaming industry’s preservation problems. Of course, the medium was quite young when Satellaview was on the market, and conservation has become more important in past generations. The entire Satellaview hack relied on a finite structure, one that was compelling at the time and inaccessible now. The ROMs of some Satellaview games have been recovered and downloaded online, but it is far from a comprehensive restoration.
Even if more games appear, there can never be a complete reconstruction of the Satellaview experience, considering how those games relied on real-time components. However, Nintendo can and should try to rebuild the Satellaview legacy. While it’s unclear how many Satellaview games are stocked by Nintendo, each and every one that still exists needs to be added to. Nintendo Switch Online. Publishing the games would preserve the body but not the spirit of Satellaview. Still, it would be a step in the right direction. Fans should be able to experience Satellaview content for generations to come, even if it’s in a biased state.
Nintendo is already embracing limited-time events on its biggest games, from Splatoon 2 Splatfests for New Horizons’ Holidays. Perhaps a similar philosophy could be used to revive the spirit of the Satellaview. Nintendo could stream these games with modern Nintendo voice actors to players in streaming snippets. The games could then be added to Nintendo Switch Online and properly preserved afterwards. This would be an amazing community event.
There is no financial incentive here, but it is a historical imperative. Dedicated fans have long clamored for access to these niche corners of Nintendo’s lineage, and the technology exists to restore this. If re-created broadcasts aren’t feasible, the games themselves should at least be revitalized. Satellaview is easily one of the most unique chapters in Nintendo history, and it deserves to be celebrated, not forgotten.
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