Sunday Sunday: Shiftylook’s Mappy Cartoon

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

Shiftylook was a great site with comics and animation based on Namco characters, with official permission. It’s been gone for several years now, but it was nice while we had it.

Some of its cartoons have managed to survive, transferred to other sites, and the entire run of their Mappy cartoon, 13 episodes at nearly two hours in total, is on Youtube, uploaded by Nicky. We’re highly cognizant here of the demands of maintaining a daily blog, and I probably should be spreading these out one a week, but eh, I’m sure we won’t run out of material any time soon…. Of everything Shiftylook put out, Mappy has an unusually high number of people fondly remembering it. I haven’t seen much of it, so there’s always a chance there’s something unfortunate in there. If there is, I’m sorry, but I doubt it could be that bad.

Mappy the Complete Series (Episodes 1-13) (1 hour, 55 minutes)

The Original Neverwinter Nights

The World Wide Web is now over thirty years old. In that time, more content has vanished from it than remains now, but some of it can still be dredged up from the shadowy archives of the Wayback Machine. This is the latest chapter in our never-ending search to find the cool gaming stuff that time forgot….

I feel sometimes like the kid from The Sixth Sense. That reference probably dates me to an extent, it’s from 1999 which feels like practically yesterday. It’s pretty recent as my references go: I know who Kojak was, and remember M*A*S*H.

I feel like that kid because when I look over the internet, sometimes I see ghosts. The shades of dead games. When something disappears from the web, it’s really gone, there is no corpse and its server leaves practically no trace of its existence. But sometimes signs can be found, like archived client uploads, broken hyperlinks, site snapshots on the Internet Archive, or still-active fansites.

One of those ghosts that flickers into my hazy vision sometimes is the original Neverwinter Nights. Not the Bioware game by that name, which really has very little to do with it. The first Neverwinter Nights was a SSI-produced MMORPG on America On-Line, that lasted from 1991 to 1997, a contemporary of Island of Kesmai, and of WorldsAway,which I’ve brought up here before.

NWN might have been a MMORPG, but it was also a MS-DOS game, and it ran on a modified version of SSI’s Gold Box engine, and (I presume) used the 2nd Edition D&D ruleset. That may have been what doomed it in the long run, for the license expired, and AOL, TSR and SSI couldn’t reach an agreement that would allow the game to continue. It is worthy of note that of those three companies, two don’t exist now, and the remaining one is nowadays nearly a ghost itself. I’m not going to say it happened because they couldn’t reach an agreement on continuing NWN, in fact it probably wasn’t, but it’s a little comforting to think it might have contributed. Two things that are equally disposable, it seems, are old MMORPGs and the hide-bound corporations that ran them.

There is a fansite devoted to the AOL Neverwinter Nights, apparently continuous in existence from the days the game was live. It hosts a fan recreation called Neverwinter Nights Offline, which is not an exact recreation of the original but recreates a large portion. Of course, without other human players inhabiting the game’s world, it’s nowhere near the same. It runs in DOS, so Dosbox might be of some use to you.

There is also ForgottenWorld (no relation to Capcom’s arcade game), a fan-made recreation of Neverwinter Nights. The note on the fansite dates to 2004, but ForgottenWorld still survives, and even has a Discord. I haven’t tried it myself yet, nor the offline version of NWN linked above. That’s because I see ghosts like these all the time, and I cannot devote the time or energy to any of them that they truly deserve. But maybe, you can.

On Neverwinter Nights Offline, there is a series of Youtube videos where aulddragon plays it for four hours. The first video in the sequence follows. Check out that Gold Box combat style!

Fansite: The Original Neverwinter Nights 1991-1997
Let’s Briefly Play “Neverwinter Nights AOL” (Youtube playlist, about 4 hours)

The Many Revivals of Toontown Online

planet clue on Youtube posted a roundup of the many recreations of Disney’s defunct MMORPG Toontown Online, which range from strict remakes to expanded projects that add a considerable number of features to the original.

Fan-made MMORPG recreations and revivals, sadly, never manage to gain even a small fraction of the users of the originals. This is for several reasons, particularly the lack of ad budget, and a desire to stay partially under the radar, necessary to avoid legal reprisals from the original publisher–which, I remind you, in this case is Disney, the 2,000 lb. gorilla-mouse of lawsuits.

These F2P MMOs are a large part of many people’s childhoods though, and it’s inevitable that there be community interest in reviving them, if just to be able to visit old virtual stomping grounds once again. The people that I shed a tear for are those who played old Compuserve and AOL-era MMOs like Island of Kesmai (which exists in two fan-run forms, LOKFreedom and Lands of Kes) and, particularly, the original AOL-based Neverwinter Nights. But more on that tomorrow….

I think it’s possible that Disney will come to realize how many people have fond memories of Toontown Online, and also Club Penguin (which also has a fan revival), and bring them back after some time. They are not insensible to bringing in yet another revenue stream, and they’ve been open to revivals of other old video game properties of theirs like Ducktales Remastered. If that happens though, will they then launch their legal-nuclear missiles at the many fan remakes of Toontown Online? It remains to be seen.

The Death, and Many Many Rebirths of Toontown Online (20 minutes)

720 Degrees Hints and Tips

Following on from the Defender tip video I linked, here’s a high-level tip video for a “radically” different game, Atari Games’ wonderful yet challenging arcade skateboard adventure 720°.

It’s really different, not just from space shooter games, but from just about everything else, even from other skateboarding games. In some ways it’s much like an early, 2D version of a Tony Hawk game, with an open world to explore between events called Skate City. But it also has a bit more going on than that: you have to earn points in Skate City doing tricks in order to earn Tickets, which allow you access to the four parks at the edges of the big isometric area, and you can earn money by doing well in the events to earn gear upgrades for your skater. Yes, there’s an equipment system in this 1986 arcade game!

Exploring Skate City isn’t a laid-back experience, however. It’s timed, and when that expires a now-iconic voice proclaims SKATE OR DIE, announcing the arrival of the killer skateboarder-hating bees, which get angrier, faster, and more Warner Bros. cartoon peril-like as further time elapses.

The only way to “die” in 720° is to be caught by the bees, all other defeats and injuries are harmless, but the bees still end lots of games: on default settings, you need 10,000 points to earn each Ticket, which is quite a lot! You are spotted a Ticket when you continue, but it’s not a gift or purchase, but a loan: the game will increase the points needed for the following Ticket by 10,000 when it happens, so you’ll have to score even more points to make it to the following Ticket. But lest you think this is a naked ploy by Atari to force players to credit-feed to see the later parks, you only get two of those continues! It’s best to think of continues as failsafes, in case you have a Ticket but get stung before you make it to a park.

720° is particularly interesting because of its unique joystick. It’s a standard 8-way stick, but its mechanism forces it to point in one direction at all times, so instead of pushing where you want to go, you spin it. The video contains a lot of that spinning. 720° is a very physical game because of it. In most games, arcade or otherwise, the controls could be considered just a way to communicate your intentions to the game, and missed inputs where you had intended to act feel like a betrayal by the hardware, but games like 720°, and Namco’s Alpine Racer, and Atari Game’s Marble Madness, the controls feel like an intrinsic part of the fun.

In the first class of these games, a brain interface might possibly be welcome for getting the controllers out of the way and removing any question of what your intent was, but 720° would be an entirely different experience that way. Physical execution is essential to the experience. It’s also a different game when played in emulation, because of it.

720° was designed by one of Atari Games’ most successful teams, John Salwitz and Dave Ralston, who also designed Paperboy, Cyberball, and my favorite of all of Atari’s output, probably my favorite arcade game of all: Rampart. Sadly, it looks like Rampart, while successful (at least judging by how many ports it got), was the title that marked their departure from Atari Games.

So relax for half an hour, or however much of it you can stand, and watch a 720° master demonstrate how to win over this uniquely challenging arcade game, on a physical cabinet no less. It’s a world where you earn 500 points from knocking over a bodybuilder, and isn’t that a place we’d all like to live in?

Atari 720 Degrees Play Through & Tips (Youtube, 30 minutes)

Oldweb: Flying Omelette Lives

The World Wide Web is now over thirty years old. In that time, more content has vanished from it than remains now, but some of it can still be dredged up from the shadowy archives of the Wayback Machine. This is the latest chapter in our never-ending search to find the cool gaming stuff that time forgot….

Considering its longevity, I can almost forgive the broken image links in the right sidebar!

A brief but happy statement: the website Flying Omelette, dating back to 1998, is not only still online, but its most recent update was this past November, and it saw frequent updates throughout 2023. Rock on, levitating eggfood!

There’s a lot of things to find on the site, including collections of MP3, nine hosted shrines and a number of guides. Please show it some love, because you can be sure that Google won’t.

Flying Omelette (

Space Harrier Theme on Japanese Master System Hardware

Fact 1: the Japanese version of the Master System had an add on that provided FM synthesis sound synthesis, and greatly improved its music. Many US-released games have support for the add-on, but it was never released over here so that feature remained unused.

Fact 2: A later revision of the hardware in Japan (there called the Master System) had the FM chip built in. This version could even mix together the system’s default sound with the FM chip. And, if you turned the system on without a game inserted, it played a special version of the Space Harrier theme, programmed to take advantage of both chips.

This is that:

Details of Mario Kart 64’s Catchup AI

It’s information I’d much rather see in text, and I find the video a bit annoying from a construction standpoint (the speaker has a bad case of Youtube Voice), but it’s really interesting information regardless. This video from Abyssoft contains a deep explanation of MK64’s opponent driving algorithm, and explains that the game selects two rivals for your character on each cup, and that opposing drivers pick one of three paths through the course, and can clip right through walls if needed to continue driving around the circuit.

Explaining the Ways in Which Mario Kart 64 CPUs Cheat (Youtube, 12 minutes)