HG 101 Forum Thread on Obscure Arcade Secrets

Today’s find somehow doesn’t involve a Youtube video! On the forums for Hardcore Gaming 101 there’s a thread, inspired by the lengths players must go through to reach the true ending of Bubble Bobble, about arcade games with super obscure secrets. I don’t even think I know what they’re talking about with the Rainbow Islands secret, involving playing through the game seven times doing a minor thing different each time. It sounds like a bit of a money sink to me, but this was the era of Tower of Druaga after all. The thread is here.

If you don’t know about the absurd secrets in Bubble Bobble, the best guide I know of to those is still the Bubble Bubble Info Pages, last changed in 1998 but still on the web after all these years!

Sundry Sunday: Doctor Who 16-Bit RPG

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

Among other accomplishments (most of them recently have been musical), years ago DoctorOctoroc made a number of 16-bit Square-styled videos based on a number of media properties. We linked to their humorous take on Breaking Bad a while ago. This is another, from around the time of 11th Doctor Doctor Who. You might say that DoctorOctoroc doctored 11th Doctor Doctor Who. Gimmie the news, I got a bad case of loving you!

Here is that take, which will take four minutes of your time, and is suitable to watch during your stay in some kind of medical waiting room.

NYT’s Connections Puzzles

The New York Times, long a hold-out against comic strips, nevertheless makes a concession to play and whimsy in the form of their Games page. A lot has been made about their purchase of Wordle (and their recent crackdown on imitators, boo), and it should not be construed that we appreciate that.

But we find that one of the more positive aspects of their gaming products lately has been their Connections puzzle, which right now is not even a year old. (I don’t know if you’ll need a subscription to get through to that link. Paywalls suck, but are a necessary suckage.)

Today’s puzzle. It’s here today, it’ll be here tomorrow.

Each puzzle is a 4×4 grid of words. Rarely it may contain phrases; on April 1st, it had emoji, but it’s usually pretty good about staying in its lingual lane. The positions of the words in the puzzle are not relevant to solving it, but they’re sometimes placed with an eye to theme, or in such a way to suggest connections that don’t actually exist, in order to obfuscate the solution a bit. Usually, they hardly need to bother; the puzzle is usually fairly difficult.

Each puzzle contains exactly four categories of four terms, no more and no less. The categories and words in the puzzle are always chosen to punish imprecise and vague associations.

A solver (I won’t presume that that solver will necessarily be you at this stage) will want to find four words that have the same relationship with their category. One will never have a subordinate relationship with another word in its category, exclamation point! I emphasize this because you’ll often find a puzzle has a word that seems to have a superior-inferior relationship with another word, but this is a trap! Categories are egalitarian! Down with hierarchy!

Words are also chosen so that sometimes you’ll only find three words in a prospective category, which is a sign that you’re on the wrong track. Sometimes you’ll find five, which could mean you’re on the wrong track, or that one of the words is slightly outside the category. Sometimes your only real clue is because another category relies on one of those words to complete it, instead: categories never overlap, so if a word is in one category it isn’t in another.

Because the categories are exclusive like this, if you find one category, all the other categories become a bit easier to figure out. There are always four, and they’re ranked, by the puzzle setter, in color by trickiness, from least to most crafty: yellow, green, blue and purple. If it helps you remember (let’s drop the pretense that you are not involved in this), those are in spectrum-order. Even so, often you’ll find you’ve gotten the blue or even purple category early.

You only get four failures, and the nature of the puzzle is that sometimes you’ll make a mistake or two. There is no penalty for running out of mistakes other than getting told the answers, which by that point is occasion to curse the perfidy of the puzzle maker. (“Brit-pop bands? How was I supposed to get that?”)

By way of aid, I can tell you that categories tend to follow certain themes. Sometimes they’re literal; sometimes ridiculously so. My (least) favorite example of this was CONDO – LOO – HAW – HERO. Go ahead. Guess what the hell those have to do with each other. You’ll hate it. (Answer at end of post.) But because, once you’ve gotten three categories, all that remains must be the fourth, you have some leeway, which is good for when you have a category like that one.

Another very common category is the phrase that’s completed by all the words in the category, or titles that are all completed by those words. If you’re stuck (yeah I’ve given in to just using second-person by this point), it’s often because there’s a category of this type.

Being well read is always useful for this kind of puzzle, but rarely is it necessary. Like the Crossword, a basic facility with language will be of inestimable aid. None of the connections will be too obscure; nor, likely, will you have to deal with absurd words like inestimable.

Unlike the Crossword, the New York Times doesn’t maintain a public archive of Connections puzzles for you to try, but multiple other sites do, at least until the NYT gets as litigiously jealous of them as they became of Wordle clones. Here is one. There is an official Companion blog that offers hints. Other sites, including Rock Paper Shotgun (really?), offer their own daily hints.

Here are some example categories, all taken from recent puzzles. What do these words have in common? I’ve hidden the answer with an abbr tag, on desktop devices you can hover the mouse over the words to reveal the category.

Star – Feather – Flower – Mushroom

Brain – Courage – Heart – Home

Jack – Love – Squat – Zip

Getting harder now:

Cradle – Eye – Meow – Pajamas

Dogs – Brown – Unchained – Fiction

Clown – King – Colonel – Mermaid

Bowl – Buzz – Crew – Pixie

Cigarette – Pencil – Ticket – Toe

And finally, that example I gave earlier:

Condo – Loo – Haw – Hero

U Can Beat Video Games Covers Final Fantasy IV

I’ve posted about the great Youtube walkthrough channel U Can Beat Video Games several times in the past, so I try not to report on every video they do. And lately, as they’ve been tackling bigger projects that take a lot more time to finish, there haven’t been as many to post about.

But now they’ve completed their four-part series, each at three-plus hours, on one of the most iconic JRPGs from the era, Final Fantasy IV, which of course got released in Western markets as Final Fantasy II. It goes over everything in the game, every secret, every step of the story, a lot of cool tricks and strategies, and more.

I understand some people use this as background for doing other things, or as their adult replacement for Saturday morning cartoons (look them up). In any case, it makes for a lot of viewing, so block off a fair amount of time for this.

Here are the direct links and embeds:

Part 1: Beginning to Cecil’s promotion to Paladin (3h44m)

Part 2: To Dr. Lugae in the Tower of Bab-Il (4h8m)

Part 3: The Underworld and up to the Bahamut optional fight on the Moon (4h17m)

And finally:

Part 4: The remainder of the game, and the ending (3h38m)

If you think this is huge, it’s only going to get huge-r when they reach Final Fantasy VI (er, III)!

Sundry Sunday: Medieval Cover of Super Mario Bros.

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

It’s a cover of the theme to Super Mario Bros. played in a medieval style (1 1/2 minutes). That’s all for today. This video has lurked in my files for months, I figured I’d go ahead and get it posted. Remixes of the SMB music are one of the oldest genres of internet meme music there is, so here it is in a really old mode. The channel it’s from does medieval covers of a variety of music, so if that sounds entertaining, please ambulate towards that vestibule.

Old Vintage Computing Research: The Web-@nywhere Watch

Back in January, the wonderful blog Old Vintage Computing Research, which covers all kinds of old machines and devices, presented this bizarre “smart” watch from the early days of the World Wide Web. It didn’t connect to the internet itself; it sat in a cradle and had up to 93K (who could need more?) of precious plain-text data sent to it from a Windows 9X or 2000 machine, that you could then read “on the go,” “on the road,” “in transit,” “while sitting on a subway car sadly isolated from a web browser,” etc. This essential device would have cost you $85 at the time.

Image from the linked blog post.

Imagine trying to read approximately 20 print pages’ worth of internet text on that tiny display! For more, please click through for the device’s history and loving paens to its gross unusability.

I couldn’t let this promotional image from the device’s long-dead website go without comment though, offering “Free download from WEB”:

Image from the blog, originally from the device’s website. This bikini-wearing computer graphics lady likes her Web-@nywhere so much she got a dorky tattoo of its logo. It’ll either take an expensive operation or a simple retexturing to remove that! No one tell her she’s wearing the watch upside-down.

Old Vintage Computing Research: The Web-@nywhere Watch

7DRL 2024 Is Underway

Slipped my mind, but as I mentioned last month, the 7DRL game jam for 2024 is underway! There’s still time to get in a whole week of work!

They made a promo video for it (2 minutes), which shows some popular games from the jam over the years, and reminds us that this is the 20th year the jam has been running, making it nearly an internet institution by this point! And the video also reveals the theme-which is “roguelike,” hah.

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 works of GAMEDESIGN & SKIPMORE

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.

DICEWARS

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)