Satoru Iwata, who was the 4th President and CEO of Nintendo, was a programmer and game designer decades before he was a businessman. Long before his tragic death in 2015, he successfully wrote and initiated his own data compression tool to fit the NES’s Golf (which included a full 18-hole course) onto the NES’s meagre 156kB cartridge in 1984.
Fast forward to the early July of this year, hackers on the community SwitchBrew.org discovered an emulator built into the Switch’s firmware called flog. On further examination, an emulated copy of Golf was also discovered. Golf is flog spelt backwards, if you hadn’t caught on.
While it was first suspected that this was Nintendo setting up the Switch for a dedicated NES emulator, it’s since been discovered to be a heart-melting tribute to Iwata. You don’t need to hack your Switch to access it either – although the process is far from simple.
Firstly, the Switch can’t ever have been connected to the internet. The Easter Egg relies on the Switch’s internal clock being set to July 11 – the date of Iwata’s passing. If the Switch has been connected to the internet previously and synched the time its self, it appears to be quite tricky to be able to set the date again as a user. There have been some reported workarounds that involve removing the Switch’s internal batteries that hold the internal clock – but right now for the average user, they’ll either have to use a Switch that’s never been connected or wait for the actual date to commence.
Once the Switch thinks it’s July 11th, the user can go to the main menu and disconnect the Joy-Cons. But here’s the tricky part: using motion controls (with a Joy-Con in each hand) the user must reproduce Itawa’s famous hand motion from a Nintendo Direct presentation in 2014 (skip to about 16 seconds in to get an idea of the motion).
Once that’s complete, 1984’s Golf will launch. If you’re more of a visual learner, YouTuber fire3element has released an unedited video showing the process:
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As you can see, it’s a bit tricky to get the motion correct although entirely possible as the video proves. There is yet to be an official comment from Nintendo, but right now we can appreciate it for what it is – a very fitting tribute to one of the industry’s most important figures.