Dan Olson Discusses James Rolfe

Dan Olson is the brilliant documentarian behind Folding Ideas. He’s covered a range of interesting topics ranging from Decentraland, gamer culture, NFTs, financial scammers and Minecraft.

James Rolfe plays the Angry Video Game Nerd, that long-running game commentary and comedy series, and to some degree he is the nerd, even though the character doesn’t reflect his own views or personality. Although he plays a character, playing it has become his career. He does other videos too, but it’s what he’s known for, it’s his mark upon the world, and so it’s how he’ll be remembered.

Rolfe is the head of a little empire called Cinemassacre. Rolfe was really popular at one point, but over time his subject became less relevant. Time is unkind. By the time the mechanisms became available to effectively monetize what he does, his fandom had diminished, although he keeps plugging away, and it sustains him. Cinemassacre partnered with an outfit, Screenwave, to help him monetize it, which involves making five videos a week. It’s provided him with an income to support a family. That’s the same tradeoff most of us make, only he gets to do something he likes doing.

Dan Olson did a video on James Rolfe (1h 17m). Here, I’ll embed it:

It makes the case that James Rolfe was a victim of his own success. The Nerd character was extremely popular for a while. If you have three things you do, and one of them turns out a popular as the Nerd was, you’re naturally going to focus on that, and the others must suffer.

Dan Olson’s video is not against James Rolfe, but it’s also not in favor of him. It presents him as a hack, a jobber, a person who, when he finally has the chance to do something with his own ideas, they end up half-baked, iterations over things he made as a teenager. These things are probably true, but they’re also better than what most of the rest of us get.

I have never really been a fan of the Nerd. I think that the relentless negativity has fed into a culture that tears things down. But there is effort in how they’re made. There is a weird skill in coming up with so many distinct ways to insult things. I don’t agree with all his videos, which don’t leave much room to consider things noble attempts or failed experiments. But they’re just games, after all.

James Rolfe isn’t a bad person, far from it. Even so, Olson’s video tells us that Rolfe has an anti-fandom, a band of people who just hate him and what he does for no reason, for the crime of having a family and doing what he needs to survive. What an awful thing to exist. To think that there’s a category of person so petty. But also, this kind of pettiness is a great invisible sea. It is one of the worst of the early internet’s many legacies, and it’s largely the result of most people having no real, I’m not going to say life, but I will say stakes in life. When people’s lives are devoid of real meaning, they find what little meaning they can, and sad to say, there’s a lot of people who, to put it in Balatro terms, the best card they’ve been given is a five of clubs, and the rest of their deck is mostly twos and threes. (Can you tell what I’ve just came from doing?)

I’m rambling a bit, and part of that is due to the fact that Olson’s video rambles too. Dan Olson became obsessed with James Rolfe and his legacy, due in part to the similarity between their lives, and it feels like the video was released partly to exorcise James Rolfe from Olson’s mind.

I hope that Olson has successfully evicted the nerd from his brain attic. And I hope that Rolfe continues to be successful, even if I won’t watch his videos. It’s a hard life for all of us, far too hard to spend it tearing others down.

Twinbeard Completes Bowser’s Fury One Shine At A Time

Twinbeard is a pretty active gamedev and Youtuber. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he made Frog Fractions and Frog Fractions II. Yes! Him.

Lately he’s been playing Mario games on the installment plan: one significant unit of the game per video. One level at a time, or one star, or shine, or whatever luminous MacGuffin the plumber is lusting after at the moment.

He just wrapped up Bowser’s Fury in 105 videos: 100 shines, plus some extra things like boss fights. Some of the videos go by really quickly; some do not.

If this sounds familiar, before we linked to Twinbeard playing through Super Mario Galaxy in a similar manner. Now that he’s finished helping Bowser though his emotional issues, he’s off on another game, this time with a different angle. He’s playing through a romhack of Super Mario World, but with each level remade from memory of various different people. It might also be worth looking into!

Twinbeard Plays Bowser’s Fury (Youtube playlist, 105 videos)

Nintendo Direct Recap, June 2024

Well, it looks like another Nintendo Direct has come and gone. Coverage of current-day Nintendo things lies at the very edge of our tripartite purview, that of Retro, Indie and Niche, but in a way they are part of all three. Retro and Niche should be obvious; Indie, not nearly so much, but Nintendo is the least beholden of the three great console makers to the winds of trend, and even with their billions and billions of dollars they still at times manage to surface their long-held toymaker mindset. (At least, if you’re talking about game design. When it comes to throwing around their legal weight they’re the most corporate, the Disney of gaming.)

Well I’m not going to fight it. Here is my impression of every ever-lovin’ game presented in yesterday’s Nintendo Direct. Tomorrow I’ll get back to writing about random itch.io things, or Youtube videos about obscure arcade game. Those sound like something I’d do.

Here is the whole Nintendamn video, at 43 minutes loooong:

Overall: I really miss the days when Reggie Fils-Amie, Shigeru Miyamoto and, especially, Satoru Iwata would present these. Remember the time they had puppets represent everyone? Those three had chemistry. I still can’t say I approve of the reading of the narrator, who, nothing against him personally, is set at Smarm Level S.

So, the games. Titles link to the upload of just that part of the presentation on Nintendo’s Youtube account.

Mario & Luigi: Brothership. The series that bankrupted Alphadream, brought back to life. We don’t yet know if it’s a Nintendo in-house production or if another company’s making it, nor do we know if any Alphadream employees are working on it. Destructoid wonders about that too. I hope they get some credit for it, in some way.

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition. News of this was leaked a bit early. It looks to be of similar lineage to the NES Remix games on 3DS and WiiU. It’s weird to see Nintendo embrace speedrunning, considering that that entire community was enabled and greatly furthered by emulation, but I guess if there’s money involved corporate qualms shall be set aside.

Fairy Tale 2. I barely know what this is, and I hate to tell you this, but I don’t care about you enough to go find out. It’s okay, we can still be friends.

I know it’s based off of an anime. I find it hilarious that the first words said in the trailer are “Let’s go, Happy!” Speaking of, the slogan of Koei-Tecmo now appears to be “Level up your happiness.” I have never lost my disdain for the engrish phrase “level up.” I dislike it nearly as much as “getting a Game Over.” That how I feel, it’s because I’m right, and the Great Trash Heap has spoken. Nyaaah!

FANTASIAN Neo Dimension. “From Final Fantasy series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and composer Nobuo Uematsu.” And from Square-Enix, natch. Maybe I’m just old (51 now) but sometimes I see a trailer for a JRPG and I just start to get a migrane. The plot has to do with restoring memories, which is like the plot of more than half of all JRPGs for the last thirty years. Someday there’ll be a JRPG plot where everyone knows who they are and is in complete control of their faculties for the entire story and it’ll be a frogdamn sensation. I haven’t even started on how it seems to be about a bunch of teenagers trying to kill God again. But I’ll say this for it: it makes unironic use of the word DIMENGEON, so I can’t hate it all that much.

Nintendo Sports SWITCH. The Switch successor to the incredibly popular Wii Sports tends to get forgotten about, but it’s still kicking… and swinging, and bowling, and now is getting a new sport in Basketball. So, now Miis can dunk. Setting all of that aside: what the hell is Spocco Square? Is it their version of (ugh) Wuhu Island?

MIO: Memories in Orbit. Nothing much to say. It seems to be an exploratory platformer where you play the part of a humanoid variation of a GLaDOS core. They don’t say anything about it in the trailer either, so I am absolved.

Disney Illusion Island update. The update is free, and it launched the day of the Direct. I also don’t know much about Illusion Island, but Mickey looks like a goofus, and I love it for that.

Hello Kitty Island Adventure. More often than you’d think, a Hello Kitty game comes out and it’s unexpectedly good, and this may be one more for that notable pile. It looks like it might be worth it for the customizable Sanrio character creator all by itself. Hello Kitty has long been the butt for a certain irascible breed of internet funnyperson. The Brunching Shuttlecocks once suggested the creation of a Sanrio fighting game called Hello Kitty, Goodbye Teeth. “She has no mouth, and she must pummel!” I’m still trying to round up enough figures to field a Hello Kitty 40K army.

I love how among this field of brainplush animals there’s the Evil Sanrio Character Kuromi, and of course, eternal malcontent BADTZ MARU, always too hip for the room. No sign of Aggretsuko tho.

Looney Tunes: Wacky World of Sports. On the other hand, I have absolutely no faith that this will even live on the same continent as good. Kids these days barely know what they missed, and probably think of Bugs Bunny as Michael Jordan’s sidekick (or even LeBron James’, because we live in hell). When me and my decrepit ilk roamed the wastes, Bugs Bunny and friends, still the best cartoons ever made and I will fight you on that, were on the air constantly. Now you have to go to MeTV Toons to find them, and you definitely should find them.

You probably should not find this game. I’m almost prepared to lay money on Bugs Bunny’s face on the box, if it gets a physical release at all, having American Kirby-Style Angry Eyes. Like Mickey and Donald got when they played Soccer, Basketball, Football, went Skateboarding and rode Motocross. (But not, strangely, when they played Golf.)

American game box art starring cartoon characters has had a long and angry history, except when golfing. Unless you’re Donald Duck, but he gets a pass as his fury, and his lack of pants, are his defining characteristics.

Anyway, so the trailer’s lead character is Lola Bunny, the one who was created for Space Jam, and that tells you nearly everything. I am prepared to admit, though, that it was good thinking to tape the tennis racket to the Road Runner’s wing. Attention to detail right there.

Among Us update. I refuse to comment.

Farmagia. Urp, another anime JRPG, every Nintendo Direct’s like half this stuff by weight. There’s so many of these games to get through and not enough to say about them. In the game’s lore the word Farmagia is the name of a profession, but it seems to be a synonym for Pokemon Trainer.

Donkey Kong Country Returns HD. Or, Donkey Kong Country Returns Returns. It’s been so long that the reboots of the reboots are being remade.

Dragon Quest III HD-2D. Ah! This looks interesting, Dragon Quest III was always the best of the early DQ titles, allowing you to actually create the characters for your party and run with a team of three Goof-Offs if you want, who cares if it makes your group insufferable and you doom the world, you do you. Instead of making it in the more recent style pioneered with Dragon Quest VIII, they’re using the Octopath Traveler engine, which looks like a great fit for it. Also announced are remakes of the first two games, in that same style, next year. It’s only a matter of time before the Famicom/NES Final Fantasy games get the same treatment, I’m sure.

The clip ends with Yuji Horii himself greeting the viewer, dopey haircut and all, and I say that with immense love. I’m happy that the same guy who designed the original Dragon Quest (and also the Portopia Serial Murder Mystery), who went to California to that early Apple II demo and saw Wizardry and Ultima there, is still helming the series after so long. I really think it shines through and makes Dragon Quest a special thing.

Richard Gariott doesn’t make Ultima games any more, since Electronic Arts keeps it and a great swath of other classic computer IP locked up. Andrew Woodhead and Robert Greenberg haven’t worked on Wizardry for decades, and Sir-Tech is long long gone. All of those missing creators is a huge shame, but Yuji Horii’s still at it, and we should all be grateful. Of course, it’s all possible because of Dragon Quest’s gigantic cultural influence in Japan. That influence is also why there’s so many anime series that adopt video game conventions without questioning them, and I can’t say I much approve of that, but I never said it was a bad thing I’m not in charge of the world.

I notice they’re still calling Loto “Erdrick” in Western territories. Dost thine other characters continue to speakest Elizabethan English also? Dost thou carest?

Funko Fusion. You know the thing about Funko Pops… they’s got dead eyes. At least these plastic monstrosities, being visual only, won’t be cluttering up the planet in a century. The whole gimmick of this game is that it’s a huge crossover of a long list of properties. Didn’t we already see that with Lego Dimensions? Are they still making movie-based Lego games?

The trailer puts a lot of focus on Freddy Fazbear’s Pop.

I’m not even halfway through the video yet! Let’s shift this recap into high gear.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD. Had been announced before. Multiple mansions, no Gooigi.

The New Denpa Men. The what now? Ah, was a 3DS game where you collect funky little guys with heads like the Prince of All Cosmos and have them fight in dungeons. I’m interested.

Metal Slug Attack Reloaded. Don’t get your hopes up, it’s a remake of a mobile game that only uses the aesthetics of the arcade classics. It’s got the animation of the games but tower defense gameplay. Tower defense games are not anywhere near as popular as they used to be, but I still scoff at them, scoff scoff, and I bristle when I hear someone describe my beloved Rampart as a tower defense game.

Darkest Dungeon II. I’ll be honest, I’ve never played either of the Darkest Dungeon games. You’d think I’d be all over them, like pretty on something that isn’t an ape, but no. There’s so many games that get made and nowhere enough time to play them all. I feel bad about it too. The trailer narrator tells us, with the most ominous tones they can muster through all the smarm, that your group must avert an apocalypse, but looking at the world they’re traveling through I think it might have already happened.

Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack new games. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Four Swords: Colon Confusion. (It’s good.) Metroid Zero Mission. (It’s GREAT.) Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. (Who owns the rights to Acclaim’s output now?) And Perfect Dark. (probably a result of the deal that brought Banjo-Kazooie and Goldeneye 007 to Switch). Perfect Dark even gets online multiplayer. It’s time for a new generation of players to learn to curse the Farsight.

Phantom Brave: The Lost Hero. Nippon Ichi, so probably a lot of fun. I’m just now halfway through the video.

Marvel vs Capcom Fighting Collection: Arcade Classics. I am not a fan of fighting games generally. I think the fighting game boom, while it resulted in a burst of popularity for arcades, by greatly diminishing the styles of games that could be popular, ultimately resulted in their downfall. And I’ve never even played a MvC game. But I’m still kind of interested in this. Capcom’s crossover fighters are the ultimate inspiration for the Smash Bros games, after all. A lot of people will be pleased to see this. Among all those fighting games, sticking out like a sore gun, is The Punisher, a lone belt brawler.

Super Mario Party Jamboree. I guess they’ve abandoned the numbering system for good. It was getting silly after 10 numbered games. I wonder who makes these now that Konami owns Hudson Soft. It features online play for up to 20 players at once! With 110 minigames, it looks like ZoomZike‘s gonna have his luck cut out for him on this one.

The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom. THIS is the one the internet’s been abuzz about, even making it over to my other internet home at Metafilter. Why? Because ZELDA’S FINALLY PLAYABLE BABY! Not as an animate statue or in a romhack or in a weird CD-i game but as the genuine bonafide protagonist in a Nintendo-made title! What is more, it’s not a game in the Breath of the Wild style, a gigantic non-linear exploratory monsterpiece. It seems to signify that Nintendo thinks there’s room for both styles in new games. And it’s also made with the HD Link’s Awakening engine, which looked great! Even the gameplay looks really interesting. Zelda isn’t a traditional sword-wielder, but instead has a magic wand that can duplicate lots of different things, including enemies that will fight for her. I think people were hoping for a warrior Zelda, but I appreciate that they didn’t want to just make her Link but with breasts. (Isn’t that Linkle is supposed to be, anyway?)

There was also announced a new Switch system design to celebrate the game. As DoctorFedora on MeFi said, it seems odd to announce a new design when the Switch’s successor is supposed to come out only next year, but Zelda merch tends to be evergreen anyway.

Just Dance 2025. While I’m still sad that they aren’t still making Wii versions of Just Dance. The last Wii version was made in 2020; the line for WiiU didn’t even make it past 2019. The first Just Dance was a Wii game made in 2009, meaning there’s eleven Wii versions of Just Dance, released over that many years. They stopped making the Wii in 2013! But besides that, I don’t have a whole lot else to say about Just Dance.

LEGO Horizon Adventures. Before, they’d make Lego games that crossed over with movies; now, they make them crossing over with other games. You could always count on Lego to provide a cheeky irreverent take on whatever property they crossed with. While the gameplay is usually simple and kid-friendly, there were a lot of jokes for the adults playing along with them to get. I don’t know if that continues with the newer games, but I really hope it does.

Stray. Ah, the kittycat game. Everyone knows about this one, even me, although my tastes run more towards Little Kitty Big City. (A Q&A with its makers that I did should be up on Game Developer before long! Another fun cat game I did a Q&A about is Gato Roboto!) Even after the end of humankind, cats will still be knocking things off of shelves, and I’m certain that cats will outlive us. I’m not sure about dogs though.

Tales of the Shire: A The Lord of the Rings™ Game. This The Lord of the Rings™ game promise to be the enjoyable! Let us the all obtain the game when the it come out! Shall provide many time of the joy! Switch fun to have the entertainment when the play on TV occur! What the happy shall be!

How did that title even happen? And of course Nintendo’s promotional materials will all faithfully copy that extraneous The, because The Title of the Property is The Lord of The Rings™, and it MUST BE OBEYED, or else face the wrath of Melkor who is Morgoth.

I’d be done with this recap by now if I didn’t keep embarking on these cockamamie digressions, but they’re too fun to pass up. Trailer observations the now!

Everyone remembers the perfectly round doors that Hobbit dwellings have. But how many renditions of Middle Earth remember the doorknob in the center of the door? And how many remember that Bilbo’s ancestor Bullroarer invented golf, the sport with the power to quell even Mickey Mouse’s rage?

The promise of the trailer is that the game will let people experience life as a Hobbit. Was there ever a great demand for that? Most Hobbits, like Bilbo’s cousins the Sackville-Bagginses, were pretty insular and conservative. They’d probably have voted Tory. Bilbo and Frodo were exceptions, because of the fairy blood in their lineage from Bullroarer’s wife. Yes it’s true, I know Middle Earth lore, but, ah-ha, I never pretended to be cool! Bright blue my jacket is, and my boots are yellow!

Continuing the trailer, wow they’re really into this Hobbit home life thing. It’s essentially Halfling Crossing. No adventures at all. Nasty things, they make you late for dinner! The last shot of the game has Gandalf in it, so I guess the Wider World does factor in slightly, but it still doesn’t look like you get to do any burgling.

Ace Attorney Investigations Collection. The trailer itself notes that one of the two games in this package was never localized. I wonder if anyone’s gotten a distorted view of the legal profession from the Ace Attorney games? Phoenix Wright and his cohort spend a lot of time tracking down clues themselves, instead of brainstorming ways to restrict what young people do, which the media tells me is the common objective of all lawyers.

The Ace Attorney series is beloved by a lot of people. Like me, I am part of that lot. I still remember fondly the time when Phoenix called a parrot to the witness stand. Even sidekick Maya Fey, the girl who claimed to have two stomachs, was a bit worried about that one. That moment isn’t one from these games, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other instances. And these games star Miles Edgeworth, fan favorite yet also the most stuck-up person theoretically possible to exist. I want to see him call a parrot to the witness stand. Make it happen Capcom!

Uh-oh, he’s got that look in his eye.
…he is.

The Hundred Line: Last Defense Academy. The trailer opens with two anime highschoolers walking together. The boy has weird colored eyes, like many anime protagonists. The girl has an incredibly short skirt, like many anime girls. It’s gotta be a JRPG.

Then the screen flips to a flaming hellscape! Caused by oddly cute and colorful monsters! I knew it, it was only a matter of time: the Pokemon are fed up and taking over.

The narrator then tells us how Takumi Sumino’s life got turned upside-down. He’d like us to take a minute, to just sit right there, and listen to how he became the prince of a place called Bel-Air.

“A mysterious school mascot suddenly appears.”

I am having to fight the strong urge to just close the browser window now. I have to note that this trailer is being played straight. It sounds like the silliest thing on Planet Earth, but the cutscene doesn’t realize it.

As the trailer continues with its story about cute blob monsters attacking a school that the protag must enroll in, it becomes clear this game is

  • a high school-based time management sim like Persona, and probably also a dating sim,
  • that has grid-based tactical combat, and
  • has permadeath. Choice quote, spoken by a student in the game: “That was the first time I ever saw a person die….”

It’s like they found a second solution to the anti-life equations that led to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE.

I am somewhat joking here. Why? Because it’s easy. I could probably rewrite this whole recap and the jokes would be completely different. But all of these crazy ideas kind of make me want to see how they all fit together. We need more crazy ideas in gamedev, and these developers are clearly smoking the good shit. But, I still don’t think this one is for me.

“The creators of Danganronpa present…” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah now it all makes sense. Or as I should say, it doesn’t make sense, but in a really familiar way. It’s from Spike-Chunsoft. Listen, anything that helps this deeply weird company survive long enough to make more Shiren games is okay by me. So I approve of this… provisionally.

Romancing SaGa 2: Revenge of the Seven. Another JRPG, as I told you every Nintendo Direct has several of them. I think of how the Dreamcast had only like three.

The SaGa games are all bonkers, but they’re my kind of bonkers. This is a full remake of the Super Famicom Romancing SaGa 2, and not the Octopath Traveler kind of reimagining, this one’s been turned into a very different-looking game without pixel-art trappings. I may have to look into this one.

…and finally, after 41 minutes of video and four hours of writing…

Metroid Prime 4: Beyond.

We find out very little about the game from the trailer, it’s really just a teaser, but it’s glorious. It does leave me wondering though: after all this time and so many games, why are Samus’ main antagonists throughout still called just “space pirates?” They don’t even get a proper noun! None of them except Ridley has even a name. (He counts as one of them, right?)

Done! See you next the time!

Sundry Sunday: Ken Woodman’s Mexican Flyer and Space Channel 5

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

I find myself looking back upon the Dreamcast’s library, which was outrageously experimental. Sega tried so many things to see what would stick, but sadly few of them did, even though they’re really cool games.

There’s probably no better example of this than Space Channel 5, which I sometimes like to call “How Many Ways Can We Remix Mexican Flyer?”

Mexican Flyer is a real song, that existed long before Space Channel 5 and the Dreamcast. It was first published by Ken Woodman and His Piccadilly Brass in 1966 on their album That’s Nice. Here’s audio from Youtube (2 1/2 minutes):

Space Channel 5 remixes it several ways. Here’s the beginning, which is a fairly straight rendition. (That link was made with Youtube’s Clips feature, which doesn’t embed too well in WordPress.) Here’s the start of the second level (5 minutes):

Space Channel 5 isn’t a very long game, with only four levels, and although there’s alternate sections of a couple of levels that unlock after finishing the game and a subgoal of rescuing all the hostages, it doesn’t have a lot of replayability. It’s an enjoyable trip while it lasts, though.

It ends with a (mostly) a capella version, about ten minutes long:

And here’s the music isolated without the gameplay sounds overtop it (3 minutes):

Ken Woodman passed away in 2000, only a few years before Mexican Flyer began its video game afterlife. He also did music for a couple of British radio productions, and arranged music for Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Sandie Shaw.

What is a Game Dad?

I refer you to the question in the title. It’s not GamerDad, or The Game Dad Blog, or Board Gamer Dad, or Video Gaming Dad, or the Youtube channel GameDad. It’s a GameDad, as opposed to a GameBoy.

A Game Dad is a frankly awesome idea! It’s any portable, pocket-sized game-playing device that has a focus on emulation. I myself would say it needs physical controls, not a touchscreen, to control well, but that’s not part of the “official” spec given by Dan over at gamedad.club. It looks like site owner Dan agrees with me to an extent.

Game Dad is not a brand name. No company yet calls their device a Game Dad, it’s more an adjective that you can apply to things. Two special cases: A Steam Deck is not a Game Dad because it’s not pocket-sized. A smartphone is not a Game Dad because it’s not dedicated to playing games. Game Dads shouldn’t be something you do work on, or will pester you while you play. Game Dads don’t host apps. Game Dads don’t try to feel you algorithmic bullshit. Most Game Dads, when you turn them off, they don’t go to sleep. They turn off.

The picture here, from the site’s header, might help to fix the idea in your head. Notice that unlike a Gameboy it has four buttons and dual analog sticks, but it otherwise looks a lot like a Gameboy.

Lots of companies make Game Dads, or Game Dad-adjacent devices, and you should be able to get a pretty good one for around $70. That will typically get you something capable of playing up to PS1-era games. N64 games are a little more challenging since its processor was weirder. But as the site says, the best Game Dad is the one that plays the games you want to play. Dan’s site is full of advice and opinions, and all of them are good. The one he has personally is an Anbernic RG353V/RG353VS. Both run Linux, but the V version also has an Android partition and a touchscreen, two features that Dan considers inessential to Gamular Dadiness, and lowers the price by $20 to about $78, but the more expensive one also has more RAM and built-in storage, if those things matter.

Please ignore that the page says that it “let you fondle admiringly,” the device is not emotionally needy.

At this moment a lot of the interest in retro gaming circles is in FPGA devices like the Analogue Pocket, which will be more expensive than this. This isn’t a device for complete cycle-accurate recreations, it’s for inexpensive, pretty-nice emulation for good-enough gaming fun.

By the way, Dan is on Mastodon as @ifixcoinops@retro.social. Yes, I’m still using Mastodon. You should too! I’m on Bluesky because I feel like I have to be, but I’m on Mastodon because I want to be.


How Many Super Mario Games Are There NOW?

For the best results, read the title with a whiny stress on the word NOW, like you’re a kid asking “Are we THERE yet?”

Let me see, off the top of my head. It’s Super Mario, so the original Mario Bros. or anything before it are out. I assume these are “mainline” games, meaning tentpoles for their platform. Okay, let’s go:

Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan), Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA), Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. 4: Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros., New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Wonder. That’s 18, but I’m sure I missed one or two. Super Mario Maker & 2 are more like side games; All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is basically a romhack, if it’s not a platformer in some way it’s not really a Super Mario game so Paint and sports and karts don’t kount. Bowser’s Fury is like a parallel universe, and the later Yoshi and Wario games made themselves distinct from the original series. Mario Clash for Virtual Boy doesn’t have Super in the title, and it feels more akin to Mario Bros. anyway.

jan Misali (talk to them about their name’s capitalization) did a video covering the matter in an extreme amount of detail. It’s two hours and eight minutes long! Can you hang in there that long? I just finished the video about the Star Wars hotel and I’m frankly exhausted. Tell me how this one ends.

Hare Basic for the Commodore 64

Our friend Robin at 8-Bit Show And Tell lets us know of this cool and free Commodore 64 BASIC 2.0 extension, of a sort, called Hare Basic. It’s a successor to an earlier version called Bunny Basic. Here’s the video, 48 minutes long. My comments on it follow below, which you can read either after having watched the video, or before, depending on of you have most of an hour to spare right now.

Here are the downloads, which are hosted on the creator’s Dropbox, so availability may fluctuate.

Commodore BASIC is, in many ways, the worst of all worlds. It’s a slow interpreted language, a variant of infamous Microsoft BASIC, and it has almost no machine-specific features, but it comes with the machine, and it’s burned into ROM. You can swap it out for extra RAM if you have a replacement OS or are running something in pure machine code.

I could go on for a long time about the problems with Commodore BASIC 2.0, a language I’m quite familiar with having spent much of my teens programming in it. Sometimes it feels like it was designed especially to run slowly. One example: it supports floating point math, which ordinarily would be a good thing, right? Use integer math for performance, and just use floats when you need decimals, right? But no: internally, Commodore BASIC converts integer variables into floats when doing any math with them, and converts them back to store as integers when it’s done. Wilberforce Trafalgar Franklin?! Why?! It does these unnecessary extra steps to do all arithmetic as floating point even when it doesn’t need do, and doesn’t offer a way to do performant integer math at all! Need I remind you that Microsoft BASIC is based upon software written by Bill Gates himself? I suspect that I don’t!

Hare Basic is a highly optimized subset of Commodore BASIC that can be switched on and off as needed. It has to be coded in a special way which might throw beginners for a loop: Hare Basic can’t abide whitespace, for example, only allows for variables of one letter in length, has no support for modifying strings, and contrary to Commodore BASIC can only do integer math. There’s lots of other differences too, and if you want to play around with it it’s essential that you study the manual.

But once you get used to it, it runs blazingly fast, sometimes as much as 10 times faster! And the best part is you don’t have to use it for everything. You can start out with a standard Commodore BASIC program, then enter into Hare Basic mode with a USR function call. You could write your whole program in Hare if you’re up for it, or just loops, or other places where performance is necessary.

Of course, this is ultimately an enhancement for a programming language that runs on a home computer made in 1984. It’s not what one might consider of universal interest. But it might be of interest to the kinds of people who read this site. It’s interesting to me, at least. Maybe I should dust off VICE and see what I can do with it? I haven’t coded on a ’64 in nearly three decades, maybe I should get back into that….

Excellent Breakdown of Wii Music Capabilities

By that title, I don’t mean the capabilities of the Wii title called Wii Music*. The video below, from Dublincalif, is about the properties of the Wii’s sound system itself. It’s 24 minutes, but pretty interesting for all that, and it’s presented really well. It’s a model explainer video, and a great first effort in that style from its maker!

You might think that all the music on the Wii is just streamed, either from audio tracks or files, but it isn’t. The Wii has fairly little NAND storage, and music is a major consumer of storage space, so a lot of its music is sequenced, essentially MIDI files played with sample banks, with optional effects added. The video is a great overview of its features and capabilities.

* Of random interest: Wii Music’s data is amazingly small! Of that 4.7GB DVD it resides on, it uses less than 10 MB!

The Wii’s Music Is A Bit Complicated (Youtube, 24 minutes)

Farming Simulator eSports

The life of a farmer is a difficult one. Most people don’t know how difficult it is to succeed in agriculture. It’s not enough to harvest fields of wheat and bale hay. The first bale of hay collected in the barn, as it turns out, sets a multiplier! And any grain collected in the silo, and any hay harvested in the upper floor of a barn (but only the upper floor), is not only affected by that multiplier, but reduces the multiplier of rivals. I presume all of this is due to farm subsidies.

These are the idiosyncratic rules of Farminng Simulator eSport, a popular (in some circles) gaming competition, it seems, in Germany. Teams are sponsored by agricultural equipment manufacturers, and there’s a pick/ban system in place for tractor selection. Pro gamers compete to get bales into their barns (preferably by that magic window into the upper floor!) before their opponent does, and can raise and lower a bridge on the rival farm, in an effort to mess them up, all while real farmers share pints of lager and look on in confusion.

People Make Games looked into this scene and explains it over half an hour, here:

Inside the Peculiar World of Farming Simulator eSports (Youtube, 32 minutes)

JRPG Junkie’s Review of Skies of Arcadia

It’s not completely positive, as they point out the game’s high encounter rate and the slowness of battle, but gosh there’s a lot of awesome things in Skies of Arcadia that don’t seem to have ever been revisited in other games.

The main overworld is one in which you have an airship and fly around a world that has floating islands but no real ground. Sure, that’s been done by other people, and more than once, and fairly recently too, but SoA brought some really interesting nuance to it that gave players good reason to explore, like interesting optional subquests. You could find mysterious locations out in the world and sell them to the Explorer’s Guild for extra money, but only if you’re quick enough to stay ahead of rival ships also looking for them. There was also an alternate form of combat, ship-to-ship (and sometimes ship-to-huge-monster) battles, that played out very differently from the JRPG norm. All the extra things to do gave the game this weird veneer of simulationism, which I always find interesting, even if it was largely an illusion.

Skies of Arcadia was originally a Dreamcast release, one of only two substantive JRPGs made for that system (the other was Grandia II), and fell victim to the Dreamcast’s short life and subsequent exit from console manufacturing by Sega. It did get a remake for the Gamecube, but that was the last we’ve seen of Skies of Arcadia, other than character cameos in Sonic racing games.

JRPG Junkie: Back to the Backlog – Skies of Arcadia

Ocarina of Time-r Bug

Here is a very short video from Seedy, only a minute long, explaining an interesting bug in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

OoT handles fiery environments without the Red Tunic, and being held underwater by wearing Iron Boots without the Blue Tunic, in an unusual away. You might expect them to return Link to the last safe place he had been, like when falling into a void, or else maybe kill him instantly, or at least cause periodic damage. Instead, for whatever reason, the designers chose a unique way to implement the danger Link is in.

While in hot places or stuck underwater without the proper tunic, the game starts a timer, with time relative to the amount of health that Link has. If Link leaves the area or puts on the right tunic before time runs out, the timer goes away and Link takes no damage regardless of how much time was left on it. However, if the timer expires before Link reaches safety, he just dies instantly, “getting a game over” in the clumsy parlance of video games. You’d think it’d be better just to inflict some damage on Link every few seconds, but that’s not how they chose to do it.

Link gets eight seconds on the clock for every full heart he has. Fractions of a heart grant proportional time. While the game only displays health in quarter-hearts, Ocarina of Time actually tracks hearts in 16ths (each full heart is effectively 16 hit points), and each 8th of a heart grants Link one second on the timer.

So, what happens if Link has exactly 1/16th of a heart? The display rounds up, so it looks like Link has a quarter of a heart left, but he’s considerably closer to kicking the bucket than that. He has less health than what’s needed to get a one-second timer. How does the game cope with that?

It does it by just not starting a timer at all! If Link is almost dead, paradoxically, he becomes immune to fire and drowning timers. He’s still in great danger, for any attack on him in this state will kill him immediately, but it makes tunic-less challenge runs a bit more interesting.

Break Timers With Low Health (Youtube, 1 minute)