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Tips for Buying EarthBound

September 7th, 2009 | Images, MOTHER 1, Uncommon Knowledge

Until now, there hasn’t been a page or a resource that listed all of the known EarthBound Zero prototypes and information relating to them. Hopefully this will help fix that.

What we know:

We know there are at least five prototype Earth Bound NES cartridges in existence. Four are floating around out there in collectors’ hands. One is verfied to exist inside Nintendo of America, thanks to inside sources.

Quick history of the first leaked prototype:

Sometime in 1998, someone named Mariotti posted “EarthBound NES cart for sale” on a message board. It wasn’t clear how this person got it, theories are that he either snuck it out of NOA or received it as a gift from someone connected to NOA.

A Kenny Brooks bought it for $100. Around this time, EBounding posted on another message board that he liked EarthBound, and Kenny let him know that he was the one who bought the prototype.

At the same time, demi of Neo Demiforce, a ROM-translating group, had been working on a fan translation of MOTHER 1. The news that a prototype English version existed caught people’s attention, so EBounding got Kenny and demi in contact with each other. Kenny was unwilling to sell the cart, or even to let demi “rent” it so he could dump the ROM and send it back, since that would probably lower its value. Eventually, Kenny agreed to let demi borrow it for $400 so he could dump the ROM before sending it back. The small community on demi’s site quickly pooled the $400 and the ROM was dumped and spread online days later.

Many people doubted the authenticity of the prototype, claiming that someone had simply hacked MOTHER 1 and put the translation onto a cart and sold it. However, interviews with the English development team seem to indicate that the prototype was real, and every change and enhancement that EarthBound Zero had were present in the GBA MOTHER 1+2 port released in Japan in 2003. Portions of code specific to EarthBound Zero were later found in MOTHER 1+2 as well. As such, it’s now very clear that the original prototype was the real deal.

History of the ROM:

At the time the ROM was dumped, Nesticle was by far the NES emulator of choice. There was a problem though – Nesticle wouldn’t run the Earth Bound ROM – it would just hang before doing anything. This was due to a bug in Nesticle. Xodnizel quickly found a way to fix this by changing one byte in the ROM. Officially, the game was called Earth Bound, but since the SNES sequel was called EarthBound, demi also added the text “ZERO” to the title screen of this second ROM version, which was then distributed online.

Shortly after this, people started hitting anti-piracy screens at certain points in the game. It turns out that the changes Xodnizel and demi made caused the game’s checksum to screw up, thus triggering the game’s anti-piracy code. Xodnizel (and possibly others) went in and made fixes to turn the piracy checks off completely. This third version of the ROM was then distributed online as well.

Incidentally, these three versions of the ROM cause lots of headache for people making hacks of the game or for people who buy reproduction carts that use the second version of the ROM.

Prototype #1:

??? » Marotti » Kenny Brooks » Andrew DeRouin » ???

Notes: I don’t think this one has been seen for years. If anyone knows who has this one now, please let me know!

Prototype #2:

??? » jollerancher » sample_seller » dieyoung7 » Roo

Notes: jollerancher is a collector of prototype games and came across two separate Earth Bound prototype carts. He apparently got them when he bought a box full of stuff from a guy who used to work for Nintendo. You can see these carts and all his others here. He sold both carts (and many of the other prototypes) in 2006. More info can be found here. Roo later bought this cart and has shown it off in several videos.

Prototype #3:

??? » jollerancher » ???
Notes: This is the second of jollerancher’s Earth Bound prototypes. Its whereabouts are currently unknown. It sold for $1500 in a recent eBay auction. More info here.

Prototype #4:

??? » Matt A. » ???

Notes: In 2009, Matt Alderman, a former Nintendo Power game play counselor, posted a prototype on eBay. He had been given the opportunity to play through the game before it was finished, just before the game was scrapped. After much harrassment and even having his account flagged by lamers, he sold it offline to an unknown party. This cart’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Prototype #?:

Ownership: Nintendo of America

Notes: At least one copy of Earth Bound is confirmed to exist inside NOA. Employees (or maybe just a certain group of them) are allowed to check out things kind of like a library (is this it?), but they’re not allowed to take them out of the building, possibly not even out of the room. It’s probably safe to assume NOA has several copies, but for now we know of at least one for sure.

Some other technical info:

Based on the circuit boards, the latter three are all on an NES-TKEPROM-01 circuit board, which it seems Nintendo used for a lot of its prototypes. jollerancher’s first one does have a case, labelled ‘EARTHBOUND’ in sharpie. It’s not clear if the second one has a case, but the circuit board does have a few noticeable differences from the first one.

According to the Lost Levels page, the game had “2 Meg of program ROM, 2 Meg of character ROM, 64KSRAM and battery”, which corresponds with the 4 1MB EPROMS on the board. (On jollerancher’s protos, they are labelled CHR 0, CHR 1, PRG 0, and PRG 1.)

Prototype #4 was in a cut open Zelda case (it probably never had a cart of its own) and did not have labels on the EPROMS, which is dangerous because prolonged exposure to UV rays (from sunlight or something else) will erase the ROM data inside. Hopefully the current owner has covered them up. The EPROMS were also a different manufacturer than jollerancher’s boards, and they were mounted on DIP sockets instead of soldered right on the board.


That’s all the information I’ve been able to dig up so far. Many thanks to Skulryk for helping out with most of this data-collecting. If you happen to know more about any of these or have other useful info or pics relating to them, please let me know!


Other Related Posts:


46 Comments to EarthBound Zero Prototype Info

Sisto said on Sep. 7, 2009

Thanks for the info Tomato! It’s good to know that there is a copy floating around in NOA.

Keiji Dragon / OKei said on Sep. 7, 2009

I always wondered how game companies felt about collectors owning prototypes of their copyrighted work. Also, hate to echo this already, but it certainly is great to know a copy of the prototype is still remains at NoA. I wonder if even NCL has more copies of the proto there.

Great read, Tomato.

Old West said on Sep. 7, 2009

Very, very cool. I still eagerly await the day (if it ever does come) where EB64 is dug up from wherever it’s been hiding. Don’t think it would be of quite the magnitude as when EB0 was uncovered, but man I’d love to see what was on it. :<

Tangents aside, lovely article ^_^

JamesBond007 said on Sep. 7, 2009

There was four version of the ROM, not three.
Version 1 – original prototype, doesn’t work on NESticle. Should be possible to complete, but I’ve never played this version.
Version 2 – Title changed to EarthBound Zero, impossible to complete (piracy screen).
Version 3 – Piracy problems solved. Possible to complete. Word “Zero” on title screen was changed from white to blue.
Version 4 – Version 3 with corrected translation on battle screen:
“draws near!” changed to “drew near!”.
“damage of XX” changed to “XX damage”.

Fred said on Sep. 7, 2009

I’m actually a little confused about one small thing in Prototype #1. It says above that Kenny Brooks lent/rented it to Demi to dump the ROM. Then it says it was sold to “some kid.” At that kid’s website ( http://www.fossilweb.com/Nintendo/earthbou.htm ) he describes the stickers and says that the cover the screws, and if the cart had been tampered with, the stickers would show a peeled or tampered label.

So how did they dump the ROM?

santiagoff said on Sep. 7, 2009

Amazing read,extremely well written, and it even had info I didn’t know of! GREAT JOB! 😀

Double C said on Sep. 7, 2009

At this time I have made a plan to get my hands on Earthbound 64.
1) Learn Japanese
2) Ask Mr. Itoi for it.
3) Find a dev console of the disk drive.

It’s not looking good as of yet…

Mato said on Sep. 7, 2009

Fred: I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure you can read all the data off a cart without opening it up. After all, that’s exactly what a regular NES does.

JamesBond007: I was meaning to look into the text color thing, but that last thing is news to me. Was that really something that was done by demi and company or was that just someone else (like me) who came along and later modded it?

Mitch said on Sep. 7, 2009

Don’t forget about that pm I sent you ages ago about this Mato. I did locate one of the prototypes. I msg’d you on Starmen.

TBird said on Sep. 8, 2009

Ahhh Nesticle. I played many games I missed out on in the NES days with it, including this one. I didn’t know so much work went into getting it running on it until some time last year.

EmeraldWind said on Sep. 8, 2009

This is interesting stuff.

Jim said on Sep. 8, 2009

Nice info.

Anonymous said on Sep. 8, 2009

Christ, why doesn’t NoA just put EB0 up on the virtual console already? It’s not like it’d be hard or that they’d lose any money compared to what they’re doing with it now… Maybe they just hate us? 🙂

Mato said on Sep. 8, 2009

Mitch: Whoa, I forgot about that. So was this Andrew guy the kid who made that page? Or did the kid sell it to Andrew, who then passed it on again?

Ice Sage said on Sep. 8, 2009

I’m glad EB0 is getting more attention. I feel that it gets overshadowed by the fact that EB actually got a US release and that M3 was translated by Mato. Hopefully when the MOTHER half of 1+2 gets done, it’ll get even more attention.

By the way, not to be a mood-killer, but I don’t know how enlightening the EB64 rom is really going to be. Mostly due to the fact that they were having problems actually making the game rather than just selling it, I wouldn’t imagine it having nearly the same amount of “completeness” (for lack of a better word) as EB0.

I talk too much. 😀

Ice Sage said on Sep. 8, 2009

Sorry about the double post, but I forgot to ask: at what point(s) in the game would the checksum cause the anti-piracy screen to come up? Just wondering.

JamesBond007 said on Sep. 8, 2009

I don’t know who exactly did Version 4, but here’s some info about ROM images:
Version 1 – EarthBound (U) Proto.
Version 2 – EarthBound Zero (Demiforce Hack) (U).
Version 3 – EarthBound Zero (Demiforce v1.01 Hack-1) (U).
Version 4 – EarthBound Zero (Demiforce v1.01 Hack-2).

You may read this topic on Starmen.Net:
Also, one guy was lucky and finished Version 2. I found his walkthrough on YouTube:

JamesBond007 said on Sep. 8, 2009

Also sorry fro double post, but I forgot to ask:
Version 4 – EarthBound Zero (Demiforce v1.01 Hack-2) (U) – corrected info.

Ice Sage: I know four points, but there might be more.
1. Graveyard (south from Podunk).
2. 1st XX Cave (entrance to Magicant – when using GGF’s Diary).
3. Live House (Ellay).
4. XX Stone (Mt. Itoi – almost at the end of the game).
Points 2 and 3 are most common, that’s my info about that.

Ice Sage said on Sep. 8, 2009

I wonder why only those points make the screen come up (assuming there aren’t any more)? I would think the checksum would apply to more than that, if not everything. Maybe I just don’t understand NES coding or something. Thanks JamesBond007!

mitch said on Sep. 9, 2009

Mato: Not sure. The dude had a concrete name somewhere, on one of the gaming websites. Andrew DeRuin, I think?

mitch said on Sep. 9, 2009

Upon some investigation, the guy who made that website is Andrew DeRouin. The whereabouts of the first prototype are in a fireproof safe in Arizona. I guess a couple years back he sold the cart to a friend in the Air Force or Navy or something, and the guy’s got it in safe keeping.

Mato said on Sep. 9, 2009

OK, cool, so that guy was Andrew. But are you sure about Arizona? Last time you told me Nebraska. Or does the guy get moved around a lot?

mitch said on Sep. 9, 2009

Oops. Whatever I said in the PM was what is true. I was remembering it off of the top of my head. 🙂

adam said on Sep. 13, 2009

i want to make a mini post about how gygas is alive in mother 2

adam said on Sep. 13, 2009

nentin is ness

Gendreavus said on Sep. 15, 2009

I was at PAX last weekend, and in the classic freeplay section I saw a guy playing a translated Earthbound Zero. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t on one of the prototype since he definitely wasn’t playing it on an NES, and when I asked the guy about it he didn’t seem to know a thing about the game, but it was still pretty funny to see such an obscure game being played there!

iiimegamaniii said on Sep. 19, 2009

I submitted a reply via the form a couple weeks ago–you didn’t receive it?

– Mega

Mato said on Sep. 20, 2009

I don’t remember if it was PM or email but I got your message. Just been busy – I have a few other details about another one I need to update too.

TMF128 said on Oct. 21, 2009

thats it, I am working for NOA. No questions asked.

Anonymous said on Nov. 22, 2009

know im saying this kinda late,… but I saw a fake Cartridge just now. I see them all the time on ebay. I hate scammers.

thaddius said on Nov. 26, 2009
thaddius said on Nov. 26, 2009

Just noticed that the owner listing on that game mentions the seller in the auction that I just posted, so…. nevermind. 😛

darkzzii said on Nov. 28, 2009

i dont know how real the one that came on ebay is… look at the new one then look at the old one there very differnt

sadface said on Aug. 2, 2010

I know the whereabouts of Prototype #2. As of sometime in March 2010 Roo of Clan of the Gray Wolf bought the cartridge via eBay.

Video Proof:

Ness7281992 said on Nov. 23, 2010

I know this won’t help very much, but I know a kid from a 6th grade class (Jim Crowell, if I remember correctly) who not only introduced me to the existence of EB, but EB0 using an actual prototype cartridge of it. apparently, his uncle worked for NOJ back in 1999, and gave it to him for his 7th birthday. I kick myself for not asking more about the game, because he change middle schools the next year. He clearly couldn’t get lots of publicity over it either, as we both lived in the town of Meridian, Id at the time (next door to Boise, Idaho, for you national folk).

Btw, PLEASE don’t ask for more info. That’s all I have at the time; I’ve still been trying to find him these last 9 years. sorry I can’t help any more. And sure, go ahead and treat this as gossip; I can’t proove any of this, anyway.

billy mayz said on Jan. 23, 2011

i wonder what the workers at noa would respond if u asked if they had the cart lying around?

Lucar said on Feb. 6, 2011

Prototype #2 Info
??? » jollerancher » sample_seller » dieyoung7 » Roo (Clan of the Gray Wolf)

Dialga Thunderstar said on Dec. 31, 2011

I want a prototype…

Minifig2401 said on Feb. 7, 2012

somehow i get the feeling that someday if all the copyright stuff will be taken care of, and mother 1 will get the virtual console release it so rightfully deserves. if your going to release a series on virtual console, why not start with the first one? someday maybe like before 2020 we will see mother 1. when it’s a 30 year old series… i guy can hope, can’t he?

Dialga Thunderstar said on Apr. 2, 2012

I have an EB0 prototype. (I wish I did, that is.)

Punchy said on Jul. 27, 2012

This may sound farfetched to some of you, but I may know a location of either Prototype #3 or #4.

GameGuyadvancesp said on Jul. 27, 2012

care to expand on that?, a link to a website?, a private message?, a screenshot?

Punchy said on Jul. 27, 2012

Well, I can provide basic information although it hasn’t been confirmed as of this time.

Essentially what I’ve heard is that my friend’s brother knows a guy who owns a game for the NES called Earth Bound. No Zero, just regular Earth Bound. Sound familiar? I already interrogated my friend about this and he confirmed that it’s for the NES and has no label or anything, and it’s definitely called Earth Bound.

Again, none of this is confirmed and I need to contact this guy to see if what’s been said is true or not. I personally am hoping so ass one of the prototypes was sold to a man in Ohio, which happens to be where I live.

Mr. Copycat (formerly Mr. Nosy) said on May. 29, 2013

GenoWolf1982 from FurAffinity has one of the prototypes:

GenoWolf1982 said on May. 30, 2013

I do happen to own a supposed copy of Prototype #1.
I, however, do not intend on giving up such a treasure.:)

Anonymous said on Jun. 26, 2013

If it’s impossible to verify the authenticity of an NES EarthBound cartridge (supposedly these 4 are real and the rest are fake) why are some fans obsessed with reporting every single auction they see on eBay that claims to be selling a copy?


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