NES Emulator Available On iPhone App Store For Brief, Shining Moment

MacWorld reports that Nescaline, an NES emulator, received Apple’s blessing and was briefly available for download from the App Store, but quickly disappeared. iPhone users craving marathon mobile sessions of Paperboy were bereft.

NES emulators are still available for jailbroken iPhones, but that’s not the point. What happened to Nescaline?

If you try to look up Nescaline in the App Store now, you’ll only encounter an error message. So while visions of Bullet Bill and Koopas danced in my head, it seemed that lawyers or hardliners had danced as well—on Nescaline’s grave.

According to developer Jonathan Zdziarski’s blog, Apple initially removed the app without explanation. Jonathan claims on his blog that an Apple rep did call him today, indicating that “Nescaline was removed because it was an emulator,” which doesn’t really jibe since a variety of other emulators are sold in the store.

Copyright concerns being the most likely explanation, Nintendo should hire some iPhone developers and get right on this. Even for $5, I’d buy this app. Well, if I had an iPhone. And didn’t still have a working 20-year-old NES.

Apple approves, and then pulls, Nintendo emulator for iPhone [MacWorld]


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  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    What is the legality on this? If you own the NES cartridge, can you legally play the game on an emulator?

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Nintendo says that it is not.

      Can I Download a Nintendo ROM from the Internet if I Already Own the Authentic Game?

      There is a good deal of misinformation on the Internet regarding the backup/archival copy exception. It is not a “second copy” rule and is often mistakenly cited for the proposition that if you have one lawful copy of a copyrighted work, you are entitled to have a second copy of the copyrighted work even if that second copy is an infringing copy. The backup/archival copy exception is a very narrow limitation relating to a copy being made by the rightful owner of an authentic game to ensure he or she has one in the event of damage or destruction of the authentic. Therefore, whether you have an authentic game or not, or whether you have possession of a Nintendo ROM for a limited amount of time, i.e. 24 hours, it is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        Yeah, but what do they know?

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        …and, not to be alarmist or anything, but you have something in your hair…

      • twophrasebark says:

        Interesting. Notice they don’t say whether you can make a rom file from your own cartridge and use it on another device.

      • AI says:

        In Canada I’m allowed to have a backup copy, and nothing I’ve ever read restricted how I can get that copy. Plus, it’s a ROM backup. Whether it came from my cartridge or not, it’s an identical string of 0s and 1s. Also, companies have been claiming for years that you don’t own the physical object, you own a license. Well, if I own a license, not a physical copy, then I damn well can get a backup copy wherever I want because I already have a license to use it.

    • Shadowfire says:

      Legally, you ability to play is dependent upon your ability to copy the actual cartridge. Since a ROM downloaded from the internet is not technically a backup copy of your own cartridge, a ROM would not be legal. If you had a copying device, however, there’s really no legal leg to stand on for Nintendo.

    • Guppy06 says:

      Only if the game image is one you dumped from your own cartridge, which for NES games is a black art. There is no legitimate use for an NES game you downloaded off the internet (outside the Wii Shopping Channel, of course).

    • shepd says:

      Many copyright laws do NOT allow backing up durable media. I believe there was a court case in the US that proved ROM cartridges are durable and therefore not permitted to be backed up.

      So, except for public domain ROMs, I can’t see a reason (legally) for the existence of an unlicensed emulator.

      Obviously, licensed stuff is different, but this emulator isn’t.

      • ShadowFalls says:

        Because even though the cartridges themselves are durable, the method is keeping saved games is not. They require a battery, which eventually runs out of a charge, therefore losing a person’s saved game. For digital devices of today, you do not have that issue, and the game save can be readily backed up in case of failure. This is one of the disturbing issues of Nintendo DS games. Your saved games are stuck on the cartridge itself, therefore if something happens to the cartridge, there goes your saved games.

        Sure you can start over, who can’t right? But when someone puts hours into something, they prefer to not lose it because inadequacy of the technology.

        The reason Apple removed it is clearly to not get in trouble. Since any games you play on the emulator would be “unauthorized” they would be seen as allowing it themselves. Good chance they even got a call from Nintendo who didn’t want any competition with their Wii emulation. Though I do thoroughly dislike how Nintendo is doing it with the Wii, simply because the full range of titles will never become available.

    • webweazel says:

      Looking at it, there’s probably not much of a problem. There are boku amounts of emulators out there, plus ROMS just about everywhere. If they had a problem with these sites delivering this sort of content, they would be going after them to remove it. They have not, even over all these years. I still use my emulator once in a while on my computer. I DL it like 8 years ago. (I need to upgrade!) Got Galaga and Tempest, the ones I wanted. I also have the plug-in games for the TV. My son loves it.

      Quite a bit of these old games are classified as “abandonware” where the copyright holders still technically hold the copyright, but have decided to release them to the public. I bet they would fight for copyright in CERTAIN situations, though. I bet the problem would lie in if you torrented a disk that was actually ON SALE NOW for use in a game system. Which I can wholeheartedly understand.

      Google “abandonware games” and see what comes up. There’s a crapton of old classics available. Even some old DOS goodies, which can be a lot of goofy fun. (You might need DOSBox to run them, though.) So, go get some abandonware classics for your computer and have some flashback fun. Don’t forget to wear your Member’s Only jacket and your parachute pants whie playing!

  2. Vanilla5 says:

    When I had my iPhone jailbroken, I played the NES emulator all the time. And that was available for free – although I’m sure it violated a myriad of laws.

    • Vanilla5 says:

      Aaaand, I skipped over that line where you already said that. Rdng s fndmntl.

      There – I disemvoweled myself.

  3. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    Playing games on the iphone sucks, except for card games. All other kind of games shouldn’t even be on a phone in the first place.

    Can’t a phone just be a phone, if Apple wants to do the gaming thing, they should just make a god damn gaming device, with real controls, not no touch screen.

    • guspaz says:

      How are touch controls any less legitimate than any other control scheme? There are plenty of games that work perfectly with touchscreens.

      Cooking Mama? Better on the iPhone than the DS.

      NES-style console games? Takes a bit of getting used to, but you’d be surprised how well a d-pad and two buttons works.

      FPS games? Looking up and down is flat out, and strafing might not be practical, but for games like Wolf3D and Doom it works more than well enough.

      Motion-control games? You don’t necessarily want to be waving your iPhone around too much, but many games that work on the Wii would work on the iPhone since they both have a full set of accelerometers.

      Rhythm games? Works better here than most other handheld consoles.

      Puzzle games? Sure, these are intellectual anyhow; Professor Layton type games would have no issues.

      People like to dump on the touch-only controls, but the fact is that it’s still more than enough for a huge number of different types of games. Sure, straight-up ports might not be ideal, but if you design your games FOR the control scheme (much like you’d design a DS game for the stylus or a Wii game for the wiimote), the results can be excellent.

      So, the iPod Touch/iPhone platform is no less legitimate of a gaming platform as the DS or PSP. The fact that the iPhone is also a phone, MP3/video player, camera, internet modem (tethering everywhere but the US), and so on, is a level of convergence that significantly lightens the load of how many devices I need to haul around. I’ve just got one device in my pocket.

      • Colonel Jack O'neill says:

        Puzzle, and card games, and games like those are ok.
        I mean, how is someone gonna play a FPS on there, or a sports game or a racing game.
        Even the old NES games, using the screen as the controller takes up valuable screen real estate.

        With the motion control games, this is different then the WII, with the WII, you ain’t moving the screen as you move.

        It doesn’t matter how good the controls are, if you’re taking up screen real estate, and always have to be wiping the screen.

    • Bix says:

      They made a gaming device. It didn’t go so well. It was 1995 Apple, but yeah.

    • tbax929 says:

      I disagree. I don’t have an iPhone, but I have an iPod Touch. I can play Tap Tap Revenge for hours. I usually play when I’m under the dryer at the beauty shop. I also play Scramble 2 a lot. It’s not a game, but there’s an app called iSpy that I find fascinating.

      Yes, a phone should first and foremost be a phone. But there’s nothing wrong with it being able to do other things.

      PS: I used to LOVE Paperboy when I was a kid.

  4. idontknow82 says:

    What are they worried about? They do not even sell nes’s in stores. They don’t make anymore nes games. Basically they shouldn’t have a thing to say about it because they are not selling it anymore.

    • Guppy06 says:

      Welcome to 2009, where NES games are selling briskly at a typical $5 a pop on the Wii. So, yes, they are selling NES games and making money off them.

      Your argument might have held water 5 years ago, but that was then and this is now.

    • radiantchains says:

      Nintendo still sells NES games on the Wii’s “Virtual Console”.

    • SChance says:

      They still own the rights to their property, though, which does indeed give them a right to say whatever they want about it. And the library is slowly being ported over to the Wii anyway.

  5. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    Will Bo Jackson on Super Tecmo Bowl still be able to blow by people on the iPhone?

    If so, then lets get this app reapproved so I can find someone with an iPhone and play it.

  6. Watcher95 says:

    Did they really think Apple would stand for this? Apple is the DRM champion these days.

  7. Jonbo298 says:

    Meanwhile, Android so far has the NES, SNES, Genesis, Game Gear, and Gameboy Advance emulators. Windows Mobile has those (if i recall) AND a somewhat functioning PS1 emulator. Apple needs to lighten up a bit.

  8. b612markt says:

    Just another reason I love my Droid. I installed an NES emulator on the Droid and love it.

  9. fishy007 says:

    What happens when an app like this gets pulled? Do the people who have bought the app get to keep it? Do they get a refund?