A Guided Tour of the NES

This tab has been open on my browser for literally months, so I’m finally excising it from the bar….

A while back the site HackADay did a teardown of the NES, going through how to take it apart and reassemble it, and going through some of the elements of its assembly. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but that lets it be fairly short, at only nine minutes.

NES Hardware Explained (HackADay post, Youtube video)

Nerdly Pleasures on R.O.B.

Another image from Nerdly Pleasures, the Japanese box for “Robot,” their name for R.O.B.

We linked the blog Nerdly Pleasures back on Sunday when we used their image of R.O.B.’s gyro setup. The post it came from though is deep enough that I figured it’s worth its own spotlight!

The lengthy and detailed post came from 2015, and in addition to positioning R.O.B. in time and Nintendo’s history, also provides some technical information, such as the sequence of flashes that games use to communicate with the robot toy to make it perform various actions.

Nerdly Pleasures seems like a fine blog, and it’s still going with a post on King’s Quest IV that went up on the 17th, and I look forward to pointing out more of their work in the future.

What about R.O.B.? – The NES’s First Mascot (Nerdly Pleasures)

When Shooters Became RPGs

For this podcast I did, we took a look at the Shooter genre focusing on the 2010’s, when more RPGs elements were added to shooters and the rise of the “Role Playing Shooter”.


The Japanese person (or people) behind the website www.gamedesign.jp are mysterious to me. I know nothing about them, except that they’ve been making games, first in Flash, then more recently using the Ruffle runtime, since at least 2001.


While the title under which they put up their efforts may not be memorable, if you’ve been playing web games for a while you probably know some of their work. Possibly their best-known game is DICEWARS, which is like a version of Risk that plays much much faster, most games over in minutes, instead, as with the people I know who have played it, of days.

In DICEWARS (several of GAMEDESIGN’s games are stylized with allcaps), you have nation whose territories are represented as colored areas, each containing a stack of from one to eight six-sided dice. Each nation gets a turn to act, during which they can use a stack of dice to attack the dice of a neighboring country. Fights are resolved by rolling all of the dice in the two stacks. If the attacker wins, they move all of their stack save one into their conquest and take over (the enemy dice are lost), with that single die remaining in the stack’s previous home to keep the lights on.

If the defender rolls higher, or there’s a tie, the attacker loses all of their dice in the stack except one and the defender loses nothing. A stack of one can’t attack, and is generally pretty easy to slaughter by other nations; a good element of strategy is figuring out how to keep high-dice stacks near the front, between enemies and your single-die lands, since you can’t manually move dice around between your territories. When a nation is done acting for a turn, they receive extra bonus dice relative, I think, to the largest contiguous group of regions they control. They are placed randomly among all their possessions.

Fairune (Flash version)

Various versions of DICEWARS can be found on mobile app stores, although I don’t think any of them are officially blessed, and they tend to disappear after awhile.

It turns out they have a lot of other games that you may know of. One of particular note is Fairune, which is a capsule, very much simplified JRPG. Fairune and sequels made it to the 3DS and Switch eShops, where they are very inexpensive and enjoyable. Fairune is copyrighted by SKIPMORE, which may be a different entity. It’s still a nice game, worth looking into.

EDIT: SKIPMORE has their own website, which now mostly presents their downloadable console and mobile games.

The works of GAMEDESIGN (www.gamedesign.jp)

1986 Interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Masanobu Endo

One year after the release of Super Mario Bros., and just five after Donkey Kong. SMB was the game that showed the world that Miyamoto was a game design superstar. Endo designed Tower of Druaga and Xevious for Namco, two games that are still fairly unknown in the U.S. but were extraordinarily influential in Japan.

Endo: Also Wrecking Crew, that game feels great. The graphics are so pretty. And who knew Mario was so strong. I love Mario.

Miyamoto: When we made Donkey Kong, I dubbed Mario “Mister Video”, and I told everyone how I want him to be used in Nintendo games for many, many years to come. You know, I struggled a bit with his design. In order to show his nose better I gave him a mustache, and to make his running animation easier to understand, I gave him those overalls…

from an interview from Famimaga magazine, Feb 1986, translated by Shmuplations

The full interview was translated by the (looks at thesarus) always magnificent Shmuplations, and is up on their site.

Masanobu Endo x Shigeru Miyamoto – 1986 Developer Interview (shmuplations.com)

Link to the Past Glitches Demonstrated

Phobia on Youtube shows off a ton of glitches in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Right off the bat they mention that, using these glitches, you can basically just win the game at any time by warping inside a cave wall, finding Ganon’s room in the big connected underworld map, then going one screen up from there, but then they go back and demonstrate not only how to do that, but also how to do a ton of other things.

Some interesting facts revealed, besides that all the dungeons and caves are part of a single map, is that the caves count as their own dungeon, the number of keys there is set to -1, a sentinel value used to hide the key display, but which also functions as 255 keys if you ever encounter a locked door, and that all the Big Keys are the same item, just tracked separately for each dungeon. Meaning, if you can get to a dungeon room with the game thinking it’s a cave, you essentially have infinite keys, and finding a Big Key lets you unlock all the big chests while there.

There’s lots of other little details presented in an accessible manner as well, so if this kind of thing is interesting to you, as it is to me, there’s 35 minutes of it there for you on a plate.

Glitches you can do in Zelda: A Link to the Past (Phobia on Youtube, 45 minutes)

Source of the Red Coin Noise in Mario 64

Supper Mario Broth is excellent! You may already know of this Mario esoterica blog and its prodigious post rate. Somehow they keep finding interesting things to publish!

Here’s a recent mindblower. The four note sound effect from picking up a Red Coin in Super Mario 64 is actually a brief segment of the Bob-Omb Battlefield theme, pitch-shifted according to how many Red Coins you’ve found so far. Their post on the phenomenon has the sound synced up to match the point in the music it’s taken from, and it’s unmistakable once you hear it!

Supper Mario Broth: Super Mario 64 Red Coin Collection Sound

Wolfenstein 3D Ported to the 8088 and CGA

The era of the 3D shooter was inaugurated in 1992 by the shareware release of Wolfenstein 3D by id Software, for 80286-based DOS computers. It wasn’t until this year though that the game was backported to the 8088, the chip the original release of the IBM PC used, and CGA cards. The port was made by James Howard, who showed it off in a Twitter thread. Rees at RetroRGB wrote an article on this “updated” version.

The limited color palette makes for a decent GIF!

While the monitor colors for CGA are pretty harsh on the eyes, the code also has support for CGA’s little-known 16-color composite output, as well as Tandy graphics and monochrome.

Video from James Howard’s Twitter thread

Wolfenstein 3D Comes To Even Older PCs With New 8088 / CGA Port (RetroRGB)

WolfensteinCGA source code repository (GitHub, requires shareware or commercial Wolf3D data files)

Game Storybundle with Set Side B Content

Ten substantial books for $20! Worth a look! And say, who are those handsome creatures fourth over on the top row?

Hello! This is a rare bit of self-promotion on the blog here, one of the books in the Chili Game Book Storybundle is a collection of content from the first seven months of Set Side B! It’s $20 for all of them.

We’re still searching for ways to make our weird little bloggy thing profitable. A Patreon might be in out future (not as a condition of blog access though). One thing that can help us out is sales through this bundle, which also has a bunch of other stuff in it that you may like:

From blogfriend David Craddock, there’s Gamedev Stories volumes 1 and 2. Kurt Kalata and the excellent Hardcore Gaming 101 provide a couple of sorely-needed guides to Indie Retro Games.

From Kristopher Landis, there’s Quest for the Dragon Star, a book about an obscure but hugely interesting TV show from the era of Power Rangers. Dan Amrich’s Critical Path is about breaking into game reviewing for a living-I should look into that myself!

Nathaniel Hohl’s Scare Tactics is about real-world connections with eleven horror game franchises. Project Dolphin by Travis Nicholas is on the history of the Nintendo Gamecube, one of the most underrated game consoles of all time. And Brian Riggsbee’s Video Game Maps maps out 250 NES and Famicom games, celebrating the art of game mapping as it goes back to game guides and magazines from decades past!

The bundle ends tomorrow, so please consider snapping this up while you can! I tend to let my ebooks premiere in Storybundle, and only sometimes make them available afterward on my itch.io page, so it might be your only chance to get my collection in ebook form!

The Chili Game Book Storybundle (EPUB and Mobi, $20)

News 11/16/2022: Freezing Metroid Prime, An Exploding Oculus Set, Mario Galaxy Melancholy

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Sickr at My Nintendo News found a Twitter thread where former Metroid Prime dev Jack Matthews talked about a situation, after the game’s development, where Nintendo told them that there was a “bad batch” of Gamecube processors in the wild that Metroid Prime would work incorrectly on, with glitchy animation. The game pushed the hardware’s memory bandwidth pretty hard, and it was the only game that would reveal the problem. Nintendo’s solution, rather than replace the affected systems, was to get Retro Studios to get the game working properly on the bad chip. Further, Nintendo only had one dev kit that used the bad chip, and in order to get the situation to occur the had to keep it in the freezer! They had to freeze the kit in the break room while burning a disk for it, then run it back into the studio and save the game in as many places as they could in 15 minutes. Then they had to make their fixes and burn the new code while freezing it again. This was to get the game so that it would work with the bad chip as, being in the days before software updating, Nintendo’s “fix” for the problem was to send this new version of the game to disk and send it to affected customers. Seems weird to me, but it makes for a good story!

Metroid Prime (image from Mobygames)

The news has gone around a bit, but Kyle Orland at Ars Technica tells us that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey has created a headset that’s designed to kill the wearer if they fail in the game. It uses explosive charges to detect when the screen shows a certain shade of red used in the Game Over screen to “instantly destroy the brain of the user.” Oh, joy. Luckey says it’s just a piece of office art at the moment, but it has actually been constructed. It seems almost designed to be game news blog fodder, something to keep Oculus talked about while Meta is going through its recent troubles. Anyway, we’re fans of permadeath as a design concept here, but this seems like it might be taking it a bit too far? And how do you even test it? Oh, also, why on earth would anyone even want to create such a horrible thing?

Steven T. Wright at Gamespot talks with someone who taught himself how to to repair old CRT monitors for use in retro game setups. There is considerable demand in repairing these old CRTs, since classic games look and (because they have minimal display lag) play much better on them. Particularly old professional-grade monitors like PVTs, which were quite expensive when they were made, are great for this. Some of his information comes from old personal homepages, another legacy of the oldweb that we’re finding ourselves increasingly obsessed with.

At The Verge, Andrew Webster reviews Digital Eclipse’s new Atari 50 compilation, which he calls “the best attempt at a retro collection I’ve ever experienced.” Digital Eclipse does great work! It’s full of interviews and the context around the games. Sadly games with licenses, which includes the infamous E.T. on the VCS/2600, are not included. Also, later arcade games that were made after Atari was split into home electronics and arcade companies are not included, so anything in arcades from Marble Madness on won’t be in there, which is a huge shame.

Super Mario Galaxy (image from Mobygames)

And, also from Gamespot, Grace Benfell talks about how Super Mario Galaxy’s setting and melancholy air brings a depth almost completely lacking in other games in the series. It’s a nice and meditative piece.

Video: The Pikmin Series Explained in Nine Minutes

The Pikmin series consists of three games so far (plus Hey! Pikmin, which doesn’t fit in with the core play of the other games, and the Pikmin subgame in Nintendo Land, which is extremely non-canonical), and so like any story-driven game property that’s survived for awhile it’s accreted a shell of lore that new players may feel like they have to break through if they want to fully enjoy it.

There’s a whole genre of explainer videos on Youtube to help players crack into these nuts, of various degrees of quality and/or sarcastic intent. Many of them are hyper-edited and obnoxious, and so I’m reluctant to link to them, but the one embedded above, from Chase Kip, is relatively chill and entertaining. So if you want to know what the heck is up with these Pikmin games, please check it out. Despite the thumbnail, it really isn’t about Olimar and the Pikmin’s sculpted bodies, at least, not that much.

Thumbnail grid generated by extract-grid-overview

(As is Nintendo’s style, each game doesn’t really require past knowledge to understand, as they not only explain everything that needs to be explained within the game itself, but even contains a tutorial that previous players will have to get through to re-teach them everything they’ve learned before. But, this doesn’t stop some people from feeling like if they start playing in the middle of a series like they’ve missed out on something.)