Hastings Street is the seediest and poorest strip in all of Vancouver, my home town (city). It is home to probably the biggest population of heroin and other drug addicts in all of Canada. The police are constantly hassling and arresting addicts, prostitutes, pimps, and dealers. I get asked at least half a dozen times by casual passers-by there whether I "am looking" or want "rock," "weed," or whether I can help a guy pawn a loose CD player because "he doesn't have ID on him." I have to put on a "tough guy" face as I walk down that street just to add a small amount of personal safety.
However, Hastings has a meaning to me that is absolutely incongruous with its skid row reputation. It is on this street where I have found many unusual and just plain cool videogames and systems. At one pawn shop in particular, I have seen twenty Famicom games (and bought ten of them) at one time, and a Game Boy Multicart at another. Recently, though, I hit upon the motherlode there. I was walking down Hastings after my final class of the semester, not expecting much. In fact, I had considered not going down this street. But the fact that a systemwide transit strike would hit two days later convinced me just to check it out one time before the area became inaccessible by bus. Anyway, I hit the aforementioned pawn shop and I saw two innocuous-looking Gameboy carts sitting face-down under the display case. I asked the clerk if I could see the titles of these games. When he flipped them over, I was intrigued. Examining the label on the carts and looking at the jumper settings, I thought incorrectly that the size of the carts themselves was just 1 megabit. The price for each was $15. I turned him down, and walked out of the store. In a flash of regret, I returned and offered the man $20 for both of them. (It is at moments like these when you should trust your impulse to return to a store!). Walking out with both carts, I read the label more thoroughly this time, and found that each of them actually held 32 megabits!
Well, I took the games home and tried them out on my friend's Gameboy Color. I was amazed! Each cart held one of the pair of Zelda GBC games which were recently released in Japan. One cart holds "Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons"; and the other, "Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages". As far as I can tell, they are the same as the released Japanese versions of each game.
So, what are these cartridges? Well, they are official Nintendo GB development FlashRAM cartridges. Only licenced developers or Nintendo themselves has access to these carts. How did they wind up on Hastings Street in Vancouver, of all places? That, I don't know. Perhaps they were evaluation cartridges being sent from Japan to Capcom USA or Nintendo of America, situated in Redmond, Washington... However, most games are translated at Japanese headquarters, I believe. Perhaps a disgruntled Capcom or Nintendo employee sold these carts rather than disposing of them, or something? There is also the remote possibility that somebody just copied the Zelda games from the Internet onto these carts, and "released" them in general circulation (ie, to be picked up by "prototype hunters") to create some collecter's item. But that doesn't explain how that hypothetical person got ahold of two Nintendo devcarts in the first place.
In British Columbia, anybody who wants to sell items to a pawn shop has to produce photo I.D. to the store owner. The item is then entered in a registry with the store and held for a probationary period. This eliminates fraud and the sale of stolen items. With that in mind, I shall assume that the seller of these dev carts had possession of them legally. Thus, if Nintendo comes after me asking for the carts back, I'll tell them that I obtained them legally. They will have to prove somehow that those carts were stolen from them before I'll relinquish them, that's for sure.
Anyway, that's a long spiel, but these are interesting items! Below are pics of the PCBs of the cartridges, as well as a view of the back of the cartridge. A Nintendo label and bar code? Interesting...