Ordinarily this would be the kind of thing that intrepid blob reporter Kent Drebnar would cover here some week, but this is too big to hide as just one of several links in an omnibus post. At long last, one of the biggest N64 games of all is getting a rerelease on Switch Online (oh, and Xbox One as well), even if you have to get the Expansion Pack to play it. It should be playable when, or soon after, this post goes up! It even offers widescreen support and online play!
While it couldn’t save the system in the face of competition from the Playstation, there is no denying Rare’s Goldeneye 007 moved an awful lot of Nintendo 64 consoles, and until now, 25 years later, unless you wanted to pirate it, the original cart and system was still the only way to play it. It remains the most iconic James Bond video game ever made, and it may still be the most popular. They got so much right when making it, both with respect to the franchise and to doing a console-based first-person shooter right.
WARNING: the following paragraph will make little sense to people who weren’t both N64 players and internet readers at the time when it was new:
The spirits of countless N64 IGN readers rejoice this day. a golden eye is an eye tat is golden! Sadly, all record of eye tat boy is gone from their current website, Google is of no use at all in ferreting record of it out of the present-day web, and it’s too much trouble to dredge its memory up from the Wayback Machine. So it goes.
The gaming landscape has changed so much since then. When shrinkwrapped Goldeneye 007 boxes first saw store shelves, Rare was on their way to becoming one of Nintendo’s most beloved second parties. People largely came to see them as like a British branch of the company, then the Stamper brothers wanted to sell, Nintendo somehow said no to buying, and as a result the company began largely to languish, until around the time Viva Pinata came out. Since then, the people who made it left Rare and went on to make the Timesplitters games, which are still fondly remembered.
Such is N64 Goldeneye’s legend that Activision once actually released another James Bond game by that name, that actually wasn’t a port or remake of the original but was more of a reboot of it, with the Daniel Craig version of James Bond included.
Goldeneye 007’s twin release on both the Switch and Xbox platforms must have required some deep licensing mojo, but perhaps not even as much needed to wrest the rights for a rerelease of a James Bond movie tie-in game from the Broccoli family, as well as the likeness rights from Pierce Brosnan. With that many owners looking for their pieces of the financial pie, the stars must have aligned mighty right for the game to see the legal light of day again. Someone, please go check R’lyeh! Cthulhu must be about to awaken!
On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.
Most of the things we’ve presented here so far have been play hacks, or occasionally graphics hacks, but there are lots of hacks that exist purely to translate games into other languages. This week we offer two of these, both translations of Idol Hakkenden.
One of these, and arguably the much more playable, is from LIPEMCO! Translations and was made in 2018. (Say it aloud with me: “LIPEMCO!”) It is a fairly direct translation that keeps all the references to Japanese culture, and has much more text.
The other is from 2020, and is from Polinym of Woolsey Fan Company, which retitled it Pop Star Debut. It’s less technically impressive, with brief text that enhances the feeling of crazy logic that suffuses the game through.
Portopia-style adventure games are all heavily menu-driven. Portopia was written by a young Yuji Horii, who would adapt the style into the combat system of Dragon Quest and, soon after, became an ultra super rich person.
But in those ancient days there were a lot of games that used a Portopia-style system to present adventure stories, and a lot of them were on the Famicom. Not a lot of them made it overseas, but sometimes we’d get glimpses of the style, like in Princess Tomato of the Salad Kingdom, or the adventure sequences of The Goonies II and Dr. Chaos. The popular NES ports of ICOM Simulations’ computer adventure games Shadowgate, Deja Vu and The Uninvited could also be considered of this style, even if the games themselves started out on the Macintosh, in English.
While Portopia was a murder mystery, some of these games, like Idol Hakkenden, were not. It’s pretty much just a traipse through a linear plot where you help a fairly dopey young girl to become one of those media-destroying pop culture sensations. Take a look at the fairly hype intro movie I included above for a sense of it. In it, protagonist Erika (Sabrina in this translation) dances to the theme song, alternatively spinning before monitors showing her face, the lava pit of a volcano, and outer space. I don’t think two of those three settings actually appear in the game, but I haven’t made it through the whole thing yet, so, who the heck even knows?
These kinds of adventure games are known for being sometimes a bit random with the actions that are needed to advance the plot. To pick just one example (this is from Pop Star Debut, it does make a little more sense in the other translation, although not much more):
Early in the game an item that can be looked-at is a Rock (it’s an Ashtray in the more accurate translation), suddenly appearing on the list of things that can be examined in a room despite Sabrina having visited that location before, when it was Rockless.
Looking at it causes her to react in disgust. A passing old man compliments her on her tidiness, and gives her tickets to a planetarium show. The Rock, meanwhile, vanishes again. (They’re probably filming another Fast and Furious movie.)
While at the planetarium, you can speak with one of your entourage, a girl named Sonya, who tells you that she has an idea: you will need a nutcracker. “Like the ballet?” asks Sabrina. We hope.
So you go back to the Lobby, and ask the lady there for a nut. They sell “Fortune Nuts” there, ah. They don’t have nutcrackers, but you’re told “Aquariums have them.” Standard aquarium equipment, certainly.
The aquarium does not, in fact, have a nutcracker. What they do have, however, is an otter named Kip.
Kip cannot open the nut himself. But one of your followers, if asked, will tell you he might could do it with a Rock. Like, the one that was in the Lobby?
When you go back, it has reappeared, in the Take list, and it can be picked up. Then you can bring it back to the Aquarium where, if you perform a song for the otter, it will deign to open the nut. The lyrics go, and I quote: “Kip! Can you? Big jaws! Klap! Snap! Open my nut Oh! Kip! Please! Yeah!!” I am given to understand that in Japanese the lyrics matched music that played in this sequence, but it was too difficult a task for the translator to manage. The first translation’s version of this sequence is presented below.
The song communicates to the otter the nature of your request, and he agrees. Sadly, it breaks his teeth, and also the fortune sinks to the bottom of his tank. Some other means must be sought to retrieve it and learn its no-doubt essential wisdom.
And the game continues from there.
The group sponsoring the Pop Star Debut release, the Woosley Fan Company, borrows its name from 8- and 16-bit era Square translator Ted Woosley, who gained some notoriety for his loose, but distinctive and energetic, translations. It was he who added the well-known “You spoony bard!” line to Final Fantasy IV (a.k.a. II) in the US. The description of the hack mentions it’s not a literal translation, but tries to convey some of the same energy. It turns out that the translation takes a lot of liberties.
The hardest thing about writing a fan translation is not always the language itself, but squeezing the changed script into the memory space of the original game. Japanese is a more compact language than English, with concepts generally expressible using fewer glyphs. Pop Star Idol uses many subtle cheats to get its script to fit, including condensing common digraphs into one character. Even with these savings, some of the translated text seems rather terse. The first translation expands the rom size by over 100K to fit a more accurate translation, although Pop Star Debut’s much abbreviated text is entertaining in its own (largely unintentional) way.
Both versions have places where you’ll probably end up just trying every option available to you to find the trigger to advance the story, but that’s pretty much what you have to expect from this kind of game. So long as you’re prepared to accept this, and bring along a great deal of patience (especially for Pop Star Debut), Idol Hakkenden is a fun glimpse into a style of game we mostly never got to see in the U.S.
One more thing: Pop Star Debut did go the extra mile of creating an English PDF of what the manual might have looked like had their translation been released as an English NES release. It’s included with the hack!
Hope Bellingham at GamesRadar tells us that U.S. Customs wrecked a sealed-in-box copy of Pokemon Yellow valued at over $10,000. I rather disagree with that valuation too. I thought all the misguided young people were losing their money in crypto these days? (Note: GamesRadar is one of those sites that waits until you start reading an article then puts up a blocking box begging you to subscribe. Hint to GamesRadar: NO, and if I were interested in subscribing my generous impulse would have been destroyed by your prompt!)
At the Guardian, the very British-named Oliver Wainwright reviews Super Mario World, not the game but the theme park in California, a part of Universal Studios Hollywood. The verdict: 8/10, good graphics, some replay value. I’ve been in a melancholy frame of mind as of late, so seeing those brightly-painted dioramas makes me wonder what they’ll look like in twenty years, when Universal Studios’ attentions have drifted to another big thing. Nothing ages quite as badly as a happy prop painted in primary colors.
You’d think there’d be more unique types of puzzle games than there are. For every genuinely new idea there’s a dozen Tetris-likes. Even genuinely unique puzzle games often have another game as a basis, like how Baba Is You starts from a foundation of Sokoban before launching off to the depths of Ridiculous Space at Ludicrous Speed.
I can’t claim to have comprehensive knowledge of all kinds of pre-existing puzzles, but Squirrelativity seems unique enough to be really interesting..
Made for Ludlum Dare 52, it’s a free game with only 15 levels, but they’ll have you mystified long before you reach the end.
One team of squirrels has a tree growing up from the bottom of the board, the other has a tree growing down from the top. How it grows, though, depends on how you draw their branches. The bottom tree’s branches can only go up, and the upper tree’s branches can only go down. Each set of squirrels can only broach their own branches.
In the middle of each board there are a number of green seeds. A color of fruit will grow out of the seed, depending on which tree touches it. However, each squirrel’s tree makes the fruit that the squirrels of the other tree likes. It also drops down according to that tree’s gravity. That is: the blue squirrels’ tree grows up, and produces red fruit that drop down, and the red squirrels’ tree grows down, and produces blue fruit that drops up. Got it?
The screenshot I took demonstrates how the fruit falls. Neither tree can grow branches through a space containing a branch from the other tree, and each level can only end if you both get all the seeds, and each team of squirrels get the same number of fruit as the other. The delicate balance of squirrel power must not be overturned!
Just about everyone respects Masahiro Sakurai! I’m no different! He’s made some wonderful games, and even his more obscure works are really cool and fun!
I’ve linked to his series on game design before, released on Youtube with Nintendo’s help. It’s really popular! We try not to link too frequently to the same series or blog, instead waiting to find something in it that connects with me personally, in the hopes that whatever it is will be something that connects with my readers as well, and that’s why I’m linking to him talking a bit about Kirby Air Ride.
Like The Speed Rumbler, I feel like I have to say something really specific and detailed about KAR. (What a cool and appropriate acronym, both in the context of Kirby and Speed Rumbler!) Especially City Trial, which I think is just waiting for some interested party to revisit an expand. In the meantime though, enjoy Sakurai talking about what may be the most unique Kirby game, even in a series containing Star Stacker, Pinball Land and Tilt ‘n Tumble.
We’ve been meaning to do an Arcade Mermaid article on Capcom’s very difficult late-80s arcade game The Speed Rumbler, since it’s a stand-out inclusion on Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium on current console. This article is still coming, but in the meantime you can read Gaming Hell’s own take on this sadly unknown yet really cool game.
There’s a lot to like about it, but my favorite thing about The Speed Rumbler, known as Rush & Crash in Japan, is the CAR meter:
There is no reason that I know of to put the word CAR in a red splash, other than that the word CRASH in its arcade title screen is also within one. It somehow seems appropriate in the game though, since sometimes just rolling through things is as useful as shooting them.
If I wrote more about Speed Rumbler here I’ll just be using words I’ll have to repeat when I write about it myself, so go read Gaming Hell’s article!
Remember Crazy Taxi? How they got licensed punk music from Bad Religion and The Offspring for it? Remember how awesome that was? I’m not even a music person mostly, but I could still recognize that the soundtrack of those games was special. (I’m talking about the arcade and Dreamcast versions-other versions may or may not have that soundtrack, probably due to licensing issues.)
You want to know what game doesn’t have a great sound track? Crazy Bus.
Crazy Bus is a homebrew Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game that was created as a test for the programmer’s BASIC compiler. It wasn’t meant to be a real game. As a result, its soundtrack is almost a masterpiece in cacaphony. Listen for yourself… but you’re going to want to turn the volume down for this one.
It’s awe-ful-some. I encourage you to play it for for friends, family, co-workers, prospective employers, random strangers and household pets. I’m certain nothing bad will come of it!
For this Perceptive Podcast, I sat down with Konstantinos Dimopoulos for another chat about open-world design and creating meaningful spaces for the player to explore in a game. We spoke about how open-world gameplay has evolved and the push and pull between environmental and level design.
The Gripe Monster occasionally demands that we give him time to vent his three spleens our our website, or else he’ll shed fur all over the break room. That stuff will clog up a vacuum cleaner like a whole herd of angora cats, so here he is.
Grar! I am the Gripe Monster! The world is in a state of constant decay! People used to know important things, but now they have forgotten! I alone remember the proper way! Every time someone gets it wrong, the center lobe of my monsterly brain throbs painfully! It is like fingernails on a blackboard, or someone slacking off during a raid boss fight!
To save myself from constant migraines I must inform you of the difference between the words “invincible” and “invulnerable!” It is essential that you get this right! So many times it has been misused, that people foolishly get them mixed up constantly now! If you wish to avoid my wrath, you will not be one of them! I bet you misuse “begs the question” too!
Invulnerable is the state of being immune to damage! No harm may come to your character while they are invulnerable! It is a proper state for a game to apply when your character has taken damage, so that they do not get hurt again immediately!
To be invincible is to not be able to be conquered! By game convention, it means that your character defeats enemies on contact! By its nature, it implies invulnerability, but it is a state greater than that!
When Super Mario is attacked by a Little Goomba, as I am sure happens to him all the time when you are playing, while he is flickering, he is invulnerable. Enemies pass through him, but are not touched by him while this state exists! When he collects a Starman (make sure to use the correct name for this power-up!) he is invincible. No foe can stop him! Instead, it is he who stops them! He defeats them on contact, kicking them off the thin plane that his world consisted of until the Nintendo 64 era brought hated depth to his reality!
When speedrunners talk about invincibility frames, they are committing a sin against language! They are properly called invulnerability frames! Because of this, when they are abbreviated to “i-frames,” they may seem to be correct, but they are still woefully mistaken–in their heads! I know what they really mean, and it fills up my copious gall bladder in rage!
Be sure to get it right in the future, and you will not have to suffer my terrible gaze, as do the clerks at the coffee establishment that I go to, when they forget to give me the cream and three sugars that I require! Such terrible service! I will only tip them two dollars!
Geez, how petty can you get? Now that he’s used up our site’s whole inventory of exclamation points for the month, that’s got to be all from Gripey this time. I’m not at all surprised to learn that he plays MMORPGs.
Kikimi the Game Eating She-Monster’s blog is on the short list of blogs we watch for interesting stuff, and she’s found a winner this time! Korokoro Puzzle: Happy Panechu! is a Japan-only GBA puzzle game that uses a similar kind of tilt sensor as found in Kirby Tilt N Tumble.
It’s a game that involves moving colored blog creatures around to connect them in groups of four or more to clear them out, which sounds pretty typical at first. But doing this also creates bombs that you can also connect, to make them into bigger bombs, and clear out larger fields of clutter as you do so, as voices proclaim things like “So happy!” and “Mega happy!”
The tilt sensor comes into play in that it allows you to determine from which side of the screen new objects enter from.
Korokoro Puzzle only got the one entry, but we have it from Kimimi’s that it hides a whole lot of gameplay within its little rectangular case.
On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.
Gradius for Famicom and NES is a well above-average port of a game for very different hardware than the arcade original. It was good enough that it was converted right back into arcade game, released for Nintendo’s Unisystem arcade hardware as Vs. Gradius. Graphically and aurally, it is quite similar to the arcade game.
It’s similar, but not identical. Now this hack doesn’t change the major downgrades from arcade Gradius. There is no vertical scroll in levels two or three, and you still can only have two Options at once. But in a variety of subtle ways, the game looks a bit nicer. In particular, the game’s text fonts being changed from the boring old font used on the NES back to the arcade’s snazzy line-drawing affair is a nice change.
The original version of this is quite an old hack, created back in 2000, but it has been periodically updated over the years, most recently changed in 2018. That’s a long period of support for a romhack!
Xevious was modestly successful in the US, where it was produced by Atari, but it Japan it did amazing numbers. Jeremy Parish (in his NES Works and related series) has mentioned several times that it was a vastly influential game in Japan, inspiring a whole generation of designers, and a whole bunch of clones and similar games. Its US release was around the time of the arcade crash, which was mostly an American thing. If it hadn’t had happened, maybe now we’d think about Xevious the way we consider Pac-Man.
Xevious basically invented the vertical scrolling shooter where your ship has free movement of the screen. It also included a Bomb button to attack objects on the ground, displayed on the game’s background layer. It was a concept that would later be iterated upon in Konami’s Twinbee games.
Revealed in the article is an interesting fact. The scrolling background is stored in ROM as a huge 1024×2048 bitmapped image. That’s much wider than the screen is though. What the game does is send the player into a vertical portion of it 224 pixels wide.
When the player reaches the top, they wrap around to the bottom of another vertical stripe of the game world. In a complete loop, the player will travel from the bottom to the top 16 times. You can tell when you’re about to start another loop because the background will reach a place with trees all the way across!
You always start off a life in a tree-filled area because it begins you at the bottom of a stripe; each vertical pass over the map functions as a checkpoint. The stripes overlap somewhat, so you sometimes pass over an area you’ve seen before but offset by a bit.
For more facts on Xevious and its development, be sure to click through to the article!