Whether the name “Cubivore” means anything to you depends on if you’re a collector of Gamecube-era video games. It’s a bizarre survival simulator developed by Intelligent Systems for Nintendo — originally for the 64DD, then for the regular Nintendo 64 once the DD flopped, and finally for the Gamecube. Nintendo elected NOT to release the final version of the game in the US, but allowed a third-party publisher to do the legwork if they were willing. Atlus, who always prints in low quantities, was willing.
It was quirky, and it was ignored…you know what that means. When the Gamecube was finally old enough to be “collectible,” Cubivore quickly became one of its most valuable titles. The price of a complete-in-box copy has gone up practically every month and, at last check, reached over $600.
The Japanese title was Doubutsu Banchou, which means “Animal Leader.” You play as a blocky creature who flops around, eating other animals to evolve and turn into another animal. Because the characters are all basic blocks, the graphics barely changed between the N64 and Gamecube versions. But what became of the N64 version? It was only shown in public once, at a trade show, before disappearing. Until now.
The website Nesworld dabbles in preservation of development ROMs, and had one in their possession for the longest time that wouldn’t work. They tried several suggestions over the years, with no response coming out of the chip board. It was only in recent months they were able to get the board inspected. A broken circuit was discovered, and once it was repaired, the board came to life, probably for the first time in at least twenty years.
Nine times out of ten, prototype boards tend to be nothing but retail versions of games that already exist. This wasn’t one of those times. It was THE long-lost N64 version of Cubivore, in a near-completed state. “I unfortunately do not remember where or how I got it and had I been able to get my N64 Gangwriter running the game probably would have been lost as I most likely would’ve used the cart I thought was empty as a Gangwriter test cart,” says the uncredited discoverer.