F-Zero GX Pilot Profile Movies

The sudden release of F-Zero 99, free to play for Nintendo Switch Online members, has brought Nintendo’s ultrafast racing series back into the spotlight after 20 years. (Well, there were some GBA games, but they don’t seem to be as much remembered these days?)

F-Zero 99 gets its aesthetic from the original SNES game, which is nice, but also feels like a bit of a waste. Nintendo created 26 new characters for F-Zero X, and the Amusement Vision team at Sega (creators of the Monkey Ball series!) made some more for F-Zero GX. And the cool thing is, none of the characters feel like an afterthought. Every one of these weirdos could star in their own video game. F-Zero GX gives all of them voice acting in their endings, and even their own theme song!

Most significantly, every F-Zero GX playable character has a short movie that’s unlocked if you complete all the Grand Prix leagues with them on Master difficulty. But that is a huge feat! F-Zero GX is ludicrously difficult even on lower difficulties, and some of the cars are more suited to driving well than others.

Of course, on Youtube you can find a compilation of all the pilot profile movies. Many of them are really silly. Here they are:

And as an extra, here’s a playlist of the 41 character theme songs from F-Zero GX:

F-Zero GX: All Pilot Profile Movies (Youtube, 28 minutes)

The Lost Sound Code of Sinistar

Sinistar was a game that had quite an impressive sound design. It borrowed a bunch of its sound effects from earlier Williams games, with which it shared common hardware that was originally design for pinball machines. A cockpit version of Sinistar, of which only around 200 units were made, was the first arcade game to have stereo sound. And of course all versions of the game have the Sinistar’s famous digitized threats and taunts.

While Sinistar’s main program source code was found and made available on Github, the source of the code that drove its sound hardware has long been lost. Youtube user SynaMax has done the best he could at recreating that code, and has made a video talking about the process, the sound design of Sinistar and other early Williams games, and even found unused sounds in the code.

Contained within the code is the revelation that the sound chip that drove the rear speakers in the cockpit version ran slightly different code than contained within the main sound ROM. The data from that version of the game was only dumped this year, meaning that the game running in MAME was somewhat incorrect.

Now that the right version of the chip has been dumped, the cockpit version of Sinistar now sounds properly in MAME. Although this does mean that users running up-to-date MAME have to refresh their romset for this version of the game. Such are the tradeoffs of MAME emulation.

Another revelation of the video was that the parametric sound generators used by Williams arcade games from that time often produced interesting noises if it was fed with random data. Sound programmers sought out different sets of numbers to give them, including by asking passers-by for numbers off the top of their heads and garbage values found in RAM when dev systems were powered up, in order to produce strange sound effects.

Devs using more recent parametric generators like bfxr, LabChrip, ChipTone, sfxia, rFXGen, wafxr and jfxr can produce noises by similar means using those programs’ Mutate or Randomize buttons!

I feel like I should warn however, near the end of the video is mention of a bit of drama concerning the MAME developers, in getting code supporting the change integrated into the software. I’m not weighing in on this, not the least reason being I don’t know enough about it. But I feel like you should know it’s coming, ahead of time, before embarking on the 51-minute journey.

Rescuing the Lost Code and Stereo Sound to Sinistar (Youtube, 51 minutes)

Romhack Thursday: Speculative Super Mario Bros. Prototype Recreation

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

Some months ago there were the “Gigaleaks,” huge troves of internal Nintendo files and documents that revealed a lot about abandoned projects and the development history of popular games.

There was so much information in them that people are still discovering new details. One thing that was surprisingly overlooked was source code for the version of Super Mario Bros. included in the SNES remake within Super Mario All-Stars. The source contained quite a lot of interesting commented-out lines and other data, that seemed to indicate that it may have been a hacked-up version of the source to the original Super Mario Bros.

A lot (but not all!) of this has been covered on the Prerelease page for Super Mario Bros. on The Cutting Room Floor. You can go read about it there. There resides information on scrapped enemies and objects, weird modes and behaviors of existing objects, and lots of other curiosities.

For the 38th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros., Nimaginendo Games made a romhack that seeks to recreate many of these abandoned elements, and shows it off in a Youtube video. The hack can be downloaded from a link in the video’s description, but only for a little while! I should emphasize that it’s not a real prototype, but a speculative recreation based on information from the leaked source. It even has an older version of SMB’s title screen.

Extra! Did you know that an early working English title for Super Mario Bros. was Mario’s Adventure? And Nintendo of America even made a promotional flyer with that name! These images come from Flyer Fever:

Super Mario Bros. Beta/Prototype recreated in 2023 (Youtube, 8 minutes, link to rom in the video’s description)

A Double Review of Dungeon Munchies and Angel’s Gear

This is a double indie game review of the game’s Dungeon Munchies and Angel’s Gear both played with press keys provided by the developer.

0:00 Intro
00:21 Dungeon Munchies
4:51 Angel’s Gear

U Can Beat Video Games Tackles Super Metroid

It’s yet another Youtube video post, but the subject is pretty notable, U Can Beat Video Games at last tackling the highlight of the Metroid series, Super Metroid for SNES, in an epic-length episode. Often big games get split up into multiple parts, but this time the whole game is covered at once. These videos can’t be easy to put together, and I appreciate the effort that goes into them!

As usual UCBVG covers the entire game, including all items and known cheats, and alternate endings. If you’ve ever wondered why GDQ players, hosts and audience ever shout “Kill the animals” or “Save the animals,” the ending to this video should fill in the blanks to an acceptable degree.

U Can Beat Video Games: Super Metroid (3 hours 37 minutes)

Kasey Ozymy and The Pulsating RPG Design

For this Perceptive Podcast, I sat down with RPG designer Kasey Ozymy to talk about working in RPG Maker and designing Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass. We discuss RPG design and making something that stands out from the rest of the pack. For the final part of our talk, we focused on the Kickstarter for his next game: Hymn to the Earless God and what makes that one different.

PatmanQC on Atari’s Escape From the Planet of the Robot Monsters

Escape From the Plant of the Robot Monsters (I’m just going to call it Escape Etc. from here) is a game I’ve always been curious about.

It’s weird to think now about the time frame of Atari arcade games. 1972 saw Pong; 1979 was Asteroids, signalling a new direction for Atari in arcades; 1984 was Marble Madness, their first post-crash hit; then, 1991 was Street Fighter II and the start of the fighting game craze, forcing Atari to change direction yet again. They would have some hits from there (like Primal Rage and Area 51), but nothing with real cultural staying power until the era of Gauntlet Legends and San Francisco Rush.

Escape Etc. I don’t think did badly, but it wasn’t a huge hit. You can kind of get an idea of the popularity of one of Atari’s arcade games by how many ports it got. APB, for example, Dave Theurer’s last game at Atari, only got Lynx and European home computer ports, while Rampart (John Salwitz and Dave Ralston’s last game, if we’re noting such things) got a ton of ports to lots of platforms. Escape Etc. didn’t even get a Lynx port, although one had been planned.

This isn’t an Arcade Mermaid post, just another link to a Youtube video review. It’s done in an old style, without a lot of flash, but there’s good things about that too, and the information is both interesting and thorough.

More information on Escape Etc. can be found in this post from Vintage Arcade Gal. It’s text!

The History of Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters – Arcade documentary (Youtube, 27 minutes)

Sundry Sunday: Sonic History Lesson for Future Aliens

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

From Newgrounds, that hotbed of gaming stuff for twenty-eight years now, which suggests to me that it might be better called Oldgrounds by now, but that is not here, there, nor anywhere. This video, from user PoultrygeistGame (I have not checked if that is on their driver’s license, if they have one), is about Sonic the Hedgehog fandom, and how difficult it is to properly deduce the general opinion of that fandom of its series just from the content. Here is the video, for which I have to try using a new form of embed in order to present here, since Newgrounds embedding isn’t as automated as is with the Tube of You. Note: contains profanity, if that is of concern. Also alludes to certain unhealthy aspects of online culture. You’ll see.

AsumSaus Relates the Story of aMSa, Player of Yoshi

Yep, we link a lot of videos. Sadly a lot of gaming stuff now takes the form of videos. Text is my preference, but it’s where the content is right now.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve linked to AsumSaus, whose beat is the competitive Smash Melee scene. There’s lots of Youpotatoes out there, but AsumSaus appeals to me greatly. His videos aren’t edited into a confusing mess, they don’t sound like morning zoo radio hosts on crack, there aren’t lots of swishy objects moving around. It’s surprising how many Youtubers spend so much effort making their videos unwatchable, but AsumSaus isn’t one of them. They’re accessible, entertaining, interesting, and sane. All around, great.

Most of AsumSaus’ videos are around 10 minutes long, but this time we have a long-form video, at 54 minutes it’s almost movie-length, but it’s worth it. It’s the story of aMSa, a Japanese player of Super Smash Bros Melee. It turns out Japan is not a great scene for competitive Smash Melee, the best players are widely considered to be in the US and Europe. Not only that, but for much of his career professional Melee was only a side-gig for him, he held down a demanding day job in his home country, and had to travel to tournament events when he could.

But none of those things are the most surprising thing about aMSa. The most surprising thing is that aMSa plays Yoshi. He’s the only top-tier Melee player who does.

When he began, Yoshi was considered F-Tier. To explain to those not familiar with competitive fighting game terminology, the community around games tends to sort the characters into “tiers,” each containing characters considered to be of roughly equivalent strength. Usually these are rated alphabetically, with “S” given an honorary place at the top of the list, according to gaming custom. So, S-tier characters are the best, A-tier characters are second best, and so on down. Usually the worst at F-tier, or even a little lower. Sometimes, if one character really rules, they might be rated SS-tier, or even potentially SSS-tier.

In 2010, the tier list for Smash Melee characters was considered to be this:

At the top of the heap are Fox, whose positive Melee attributes have been a meme for many years now, Falco (who plays very similarly to Fox), Jigglypuff (the best floater in Melee, and who also has Pound for extra saves and Rest for instant kills), and Sheik, who is almost as fast as Fox. In Melee, Sheik could turn into Zelda with a move. No one does this though, because Zelda is way down in Tier F. Tier F characters are widely considered to suck. But, another character in tier F is Yoshi.

Why is Yoshi rated so badly? The obvious reasons (well, obvious to people familiar with Smash Bros) are: Yoshi doesn’t have an up+B save move (it throws an egg instead of serving as a third jump); and, Yoshi’s shield is unusual, encasing them in an egg instead of providing the usual bubble-shield, and Yoshi can’t jump immediately out of it. Yoshi has positive aspects too, but those two are pretty huge.

More recent tier lists for Melee all rate Yoshi much more highly. But it’s not because a lot of players have achieved a good rate of success with Yoshi. It’s entirely because of aMSa. One player, out of hundreds, is the reason Yoshi was rated at B+ tier in 2021, and that’s aMSa.

I don’t want to give away the ending of AsumSaus’ video. aMSa doesn’t win every match, in fact they lose a great many, because in tournaments they play against the very best in the world. But they do experience a lot of success, and beyond that, they seem to be genuinely a good person. aMSa is almost always smiling after a match, win or lose, because they’re having a great time. They’re always gracious to their opponent. It’s easy to get on their side. Crowds love them too.

Here, then, is the journey of aMSa, and their red Yoshi. A top-level professional Smash Melee player, with the least likely character. And be sure to stick around for the very end, as AsumSaus picked the best-possible ending music for the video.

aMSa: The Only Yoshi (who could do it) (Youtube, 54 minutes)

Romhack(ish) Thursday: 21st Century Roguelike Pac-Man

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

It’s another romhack post that’s really not a romhack, but kind of pretends to be one. Gridlock’s 21st Century Roguelike Pac-Man (which I’m going to call 21CRPM) at first looks a lot like the arcade classic, but then becomes something really, really different.

It becomes so different that the game it most brings to mind isn’t Pac-Man but Frog Fractions. It keeps piling on the play mechanics, in a way that the game makes apparent is meant to be humorous, but also sort of, kind of works. I mean of course it’s me saying this, ๐–ณ๐—๐–พ ๐–ฏ๐–พ๐—‹๐—Œ๐—ˆ๐—‡ ๐–ถ๐—ˆ๐— ๐–ช๐–พ๐—‰๐— ๐–ก๐–บ๐—‡๐—€๐—‚๐—‡๐—€ ๐–ฎ๐—‡ ๐– ๐–ป๐—ˆ๐—Ž๐— ๐–ฑ๐—ˆ๐—€๐—Ž๐–พ๐—…๐—‚๐—„๐–พ๐—Œ, so maybe I just like that sort of thing. Although the way it’s the most like roguelikes, permadeath, making you start completely over after losing, is possibly the weakest part of it. I had to start over a lot.

You start in the middle of the normal Pac-Man board, in a field of dots, and the ghosts roaming around as usual. It’s not exactly like classic Pac-Man; ghosts can catch you much more easily on corners (you’ll get caught this way frequently times before you adjust), and the AI is a little different. The Red monster, Blinky/Shadow/Akabei/Oikake, can actually turn right after coming out of the box, and move up through the paths above it.

Also, eating the Energizers in the corners doesn’t make the ghosts vulnerable. Instead, Pac-Man can shoot the dots he eats at the ghosts to defeat them, and while an Energizer is active his shots are stronger. Pac-Man must be facing into a corridor in order to fire, meaning he must often be running directly towards a ghost before he can shoot it. The Red ghost has the least health, and can often be gunned down even without an Energizer, while the Orange ghost has a lot of health, and usually must be shot while it’s traveling away down a long corridor. Fortunately, he’s not any smarter than he was in the arcade game.

A big difference is the Hunger meter at the side of the screen. It constantly runs down, at an alarming rate, as you play. If it runs completely out, the game ends immediately, regardless of how many lives you have left! You have to make sure to keep tabs on your hunger. And dots and ghosts don’t refill it, only fruit does, and only a bit of it. What Pac-Man can do, however, is save it for later: he has an inventory now, and grabbed fruit go right into it. You press the X button to bring up a menu, and can then pick out the fruit and munch it on down.

If you had to rely on the fruit from the center of the board though you’d starve pretty fast, so now Pac-Man has the ability to plant fruit in the maze. If you plant it, of course, then you can’t eat it, but it doesn’t take long for it to sprout and start generating new fruit of its own. You’ll soon have to start relying on this to survive.

When you clear the board of dots, the monster box opens up and when you go inside you get this screen:

This somewhat sarcastic screen appears to suggest that there’s more to the game than the starting screen. And it’s right.

Once you clear the board of dots, the game doesn’t end. Ooooh no, you’re just getting started. No, the board you start in is the “home” location in a much larger maze, accessed through the tunnels on the sides of the screen. As you explore this maze, new locations will be filled in on a map in the lower-left corner. The borders of this map aren’t the ultimate edges either. This greater map is created anew with each play; sometimes you’ll have tricky situations right near outside the starting board, and sometimes it’ll be fairly easy going. There are ghosts and dots and fruit in these boards too, and sometimes more Energizers, but there are no regeneration boxes. Ghosts you defeat out there turn into eyes, but have no way to turn back into ghosts, and eventually just fly away.

Out there in the maze there’s a lot of weird things to find. Like shops.

And quest givers:

And locked treasure rooms:

And areas of solid stone, and ore, that must be dug through Minecraft-style with a Pick (go into the Tools section of the menu to use it):

And a whole Pokemon-themed area:

And there’s crafting! And you can spend Galaxians you find to enhance stats! And boss ghosts to defeat! And probably more! I keep finding new parts to the game as I play. The game’s itch.io page even claims there’s a final boss to defeat, in the form of an evil version of Pac-Man, but I haven’t found it.

You can save your game, but in roguelike style, your session ends when you do it, and its deleted when you resume. Your game ends either when you run out of lives or your Hunger meter depletes, and both are way too easy to have happen. I find it helps to plant at least one fruit on each screen, but don’t carry around too many: if you’re holding too many things you become “Encumbered” and slow way down!

It’s an enjoyable game, for awhile at least. Pac-Man’s movement speed quickly feel much too slow for exploring the huge over-maze. His movement speed is one of the things you can upgrade by spending Galaxians, but I’ve only just recently even found one of those in the maze, and it was in a locked treasure room. It feels like there’s a lot more to the game than the permadeath feature allows me to see, but I’m still trying.

It is true that, ultimately, 21CRPM is a joke game, and the point is that Pac-Man doesn’t need elaboration upon, and the extra mechanics exist mostly to feel tacked on. There may not even be a real point to them. But neither is there a point to video games in general, and it’s still fun to explore them, for a while.

One of those boss ghosts you can receive a quest to defeat. They take a lot of damage, speed up as you deplete it, and can even fire back at you. You might want to craft a shield before taking one on, out of three Iron Bars (made from ore) and a piece of Wood (bought in a shop or acquired from using the Pick on a tree). You might be able to use a Sword on one, but they break quickly and I haven’t tried it yet.

21st Century Roguelike Pac-Man (itch.io, $0)

A Video on Nintendo Manga

I’m working on something big for you all, but it’ll take some time to get ready. So to free up time for working on that, here’s something I’ve been saving, a Youtube video exploring manga based on Nintendo characters, from the account of S Class Anime. Enjoy!

Exploring the World of Nintendo Manga (Youtube, 20 minutes)