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

Sundry Sunday: Bowser Explains Why He Turns His Castles Into Race Tracks

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

Why does Bowser set up race track courses in his castles? Does he have that many to spare? It’s a question with a simple answer, that he answers in 50 seconds. It’s also pretty good animation on Bowser, done in Blender by GleanieBOI!

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)

Romhack Thursday: DKAFE

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

We’ve not done Romhack Thursday for a while. As the winds of the ‘net, and my attention, blow around randomly, sometimes there’s more things that seem worthy of posting than others. This one definitely fits the bill though.

We’ve posted about 10yard’s intriguing Donkey Kong hacks Galakong and Vector Kong before. I don’t think they’re actually hacks in the classic sense of the term, modifications of a game’s software intended to run on its original hardware, or at least an emulation or simulation of it. Galakong might, and Vector Kong definitely does, rely on Lua support in MAME to produce, respectively, a version of Donkey Kong where Mario teams up with the ship from Galaga, and another version of Donkey Kong limited to the Girders stage, a.k.a. Ramps, but with sharp colorful line-drawn artwork akin to that produced by Atari’s later Vectorscan monitors.

10yard let us know that they have produced a front-end to a variety of Donkey Kong romhacks, 90 in total. It runs on Windows an Raspberry Pi, although if it runs on the latter I suppose it must also be possible to get it to work on Linux? Maybe?

It’s not just a front end though. It presents all of its mods through an interface that itself plays like Donkey Kong! You move Mario around the levels of the classic arcade game (they’re connected vertically), and each is littered with arcade machines. You can play them with coins collected them as DK rolls them through the boards, and also earned by getting good scores in each game. Collecting more coins not only gives you more chances to play, but it unlocks further games in the collection.

You download the package from the Github page linked above. You must also provide the MAME-compatible romsets for Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3. (It might work without without all of them, but fewer games will be available.) Of course, it’s up to you to rip, or otherwise provide, those files. If you provide them, it’ll handle all the patching for you automatically. It even includes its own custom version of MAME to play them.

Both Galakong and Vector Kong are among the hacks provided, but there’s so much more to see and play besides those, including Halloween, Christmas and Doctor Who themes hacks. There’s really too many to mention here, and I’ve only started unlocking games myself. I’ll leave you with the closing link, and some screenshots of the hacks included that I’ve managed to unlock so far.

DKAFE (by 10yard, for Windows and Raspberry Pi, on Github)

Most of the hacks include a screen like this one, that tells you what scores you must reach in order to earn coins. 3rd place usually isn’t terribly difficult to reach. For many games, a 1st place score will be reached around the time of the Conveyors board in Level 3.
This is the game selection mode. Coins you earn are rolled down the ramps from the top of the screen; you have to collect them in order for them to count!
Before starting each hack, you’re presented with a text description of the game and how it plays, and who made it.
Here’s Galakong, which has been linked from this site before. The game is slightly easier, objectively speaking, than standard Donkey Kong, but it’s easy to get your attention split between the ship and Mario and make mistakes because of it.
Pac-kong replaces the roaming fireballs with the ghosts from Pac-Man. They move mostly randomly, like the fireballs, did, but they’re much faster. You can become invincible by collecting an Energizer, which turns Mario into Pac-Man temporarily. Pac-kong’s one of the harder hacks present.
Donkey Kong Anniversary Edition changes the boards slightly, and replaces the bonus items with presents and balloons. In case you didn’t know: you can collect items off the edges of girders by jumping at them: if you hit the edge of the screen during your jump, Mario will be bounced back to around the place he leapt from, and will (usually) be unharmed!
Donkey Kong Wizardry changes the Girders level substantially. They add new pits to leap over, changes to the way the ramps tilt, and adds other surprises. You get an advantage though: if you press the Player 2 Start Button (the 2 key), it’ll freeze the fireballs for several seconds.
Donkey Kong Lava Panic adds a tide of deadly fluid constantly rising up from the bottom of the screen. It becomes important to get the lower rivets on the Rivets board before they become submerged!
The Halloween and Christmas-themed hacks change the Girder stage greatly. When barrels (or whatever analogue that hack uses for them) fall off of a gap in the middle of the screen, they may randomly decide to go either direction, adding even more uncertainty to Mario’s progress. Be careful!

Indie Showcase For 5/28/24

Each indie showcase highlights the many games we play here on stream, and if you would like to submit a game for a future one please reach out.

0:00 Intro
00:14 Curse of Eternity
01:35 WizardChess
3:43 Ardenfall
5:11 Sippin Hot Blickety Block…
6:34 Crafty Survivors
8:27 Bad Writer

How Super Mario 64 Was Beaten Without The A Button

In 24 minutes, Bismuth on Youtube explains how Super Mario 64 was beaten without a single A button press, on actual hardware by someone who’s nom de net is Marbler. The run was performed over five days. Video of the feat isn’t up yet, but should appear on Marbler’s channel when uploaded and encoded. Here is the video embed:

I have some commentary on this. First, if you’ve been following PannenKoek all this time like I have you know they’ve done many videos over the internals of SM64, many with the end goal of getting the A Button Challenge as low as it can go. The answer is, he doesn’t get all the stars, and it’s been a long iterative process of routing, and figuring out how to do formerly TAS-only techniques on with a controller. After a long period of improvement, finally, the dam broke.

What does this mean for PannenKoek? I think their most interesting videos lately have been those that are more about Mario 64’s internals, like that terrific explainer about invisible walls. And completing every star without A button presses is still a ways off. I think they’ll be fine.

How Super Mario 64 was beaten without the A button (Youtube, 24 minutes)

Youtube Series: Inside the Famicom

It’s only two episodes in, but this series from the Youtube channel What’s Ken Making is already really interesting, with episodes averaging at around 16 minutes each. The first part is titled “The Design of a Legend,” which doesn’t really grab me much, but the second is about the main processor, “The 6502 CPU,” which Ken admits near the start isn’t exactly accurate. The Famicom/NES’s processor isn’t precisely a MOS 6502; it’s a Ricoh 2A03 in NTSC territories, and a 2A07 in others. The 2A03 is licensed from MOS, but lacks the original’s Binary-Coded Decimal mode, and includes the Famicom/NES’s sound hardware on-die.

Episode 1 (15 minutes):

Episode 2 (17 minutes):

That removed BCD feature. Why? The video notes that the circuits are right there within the chip, but have been disabled by having five necessary traces severed. The video notes that the 6502’s BCD functionality was actually patented by MOS, and asks, was the feature disabled because of patent issues? Was Ricoh trying to avoid paying royalties?

Sundry Sunday: The Incredible Shrinking Hedgehog

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

Mashed has a fun animation up on Youtube starring Sonic, his pals, and his enemies, where they’ve been, um, ensmallerd to itty bitty size. It’s a standard Saturday Morning kind of plot, but the voices are good, the writing is funny, and the animation, by Painter Seap, is sharp. It’s 5 1/2 minutes long, and it’s embedded below. Just so you’re properly warned, it ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s a fairly minor one.