Shiren 6: What Happens When You Finish The Final Dungeon

I’ve been playing a lot of Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island lately. Partly in preparation to add a chapter on it to my Mystery Dungeon book, partly because I like Mystery Dungeon games. I streamed my playthrough of finishing the main dungeon (on my first attempt!) here.

Here is the title screen (which is a spoiler for after finishing the main dungeon, although that is really only a short way into the game):

After you finish every other task in the game, including finishing the final 99 Floor “megadungeon” where most items are unidentified, the title screen changes to add a nice rainbow:

I forgot to get a picture with the title in place. I can’t go back and get it now because of what followed….

There is one more thing to do at that point though. That is to play through the megadungeon again, but finding 12 “Celestial Stones” that severely restrict your inventory by the end.

Well, I’m not sure if they really counted on anyone doing that? There doesn’t seem to be much reward for it. It doesn’t go remarked upon by anyone in the game. But it does change one thing: the title screen. Here it is:

I like the red “IN SPACE” stamp! Sadly, all the graphics in the actual game still show an island floating in the atmosphere, and not in orbit. I wonder if they plan on doing something with this in an update? That seems like a lot of extra work for the benefit of not a lot of people.

Looking through my screenshots, I found this illustration that can be unlocked for behind the main menu, showing Shiren stumbling upon a Monster House:

There’s a lot more to say about Shiren 6, after I gather up my thoughts about it….

6th Division Den

I don’t see as many fan shrine sites as I used to. Old ones have died out or, in the best case, gone into archive mode, and new ones aren’t replacing them as quickly, or at least don’t seem to be. It could be I don’t search for them as often, or Google not surfacing them as much-not only has the quality of its search degraded markedly over the past decade, but for whatever reason its results seems much more focused on answering questions and selling things. Google also seems a lot more like to give you links from big sites, instead of small web sites made by individuals.

That’s why I was please to find 6th Division Den, a site focused on Metal Slug that the Wayback Machine suggests was founded as recently as 2018. I didn’t find it through Google, but as the host of the official site of the game from yesterday’s post, Aqua Ippan.

Much of the site’s content is devoted to creating pixel art and on getting the images out of the games, but it has a lot of examples to go by. And the site itself looks great! I don’t see many sites like this anymore, but I’m glad they can still be found from time to time.

6th Division Den, Metal Slug fandom and resource site

On PETSCII

We’ve brought up a couple of examples of Commodore PET software lately, which as I keep saying, is interesting because the PET has no way of doing bitmapped graphics, sprites, or even definable characters. Its characters are locked in ROM and cannot be changed. So, it includes a set of multi-purpose characters that was used throughout all the Commodore 8-bit line, even as late as the C64 and C128, which having definable graphics didn’t need these kinds of generic graphics characters, but they were still useful for people who didn’t want to create their own graphics.

The PETSCII characters, as used on the Commodore 64 (image, with some editing, from Wikipedia). The graphics set also includes reverse-video versions of each character.

Back on my Commodore coding days I became very familiar with these characters. I think they’re much more universally-applicable for graphic use than the IBM equivalent, the famous Code Page 437, although that’s mostly because PETSCII doesn’t bother defining supporting so many languages. Code Page 437 also uses a lot of its space for single and double-line versions of box-drawing characters, although on the other hand it doesn’t waste characters defining reverse-video versions of every glyph.

PETSCII has:

  • A space and reversed space, of course.
  • Line drawing characters for boxes of course: vertical and horizontal lines, corners, and three- and four-way intersections. There are also curved versions of the corners.
  • More line-drawing characters for borders.
  • Still more horizontal and vertical lines, at each pixel position within their box.
  • With the reverse-video versions, enough characters to effectively do a 80×50 pixel display, as if it had a super low-res mode.
  • Different thicknesses of horizontal and vertical lines too.
  • Diagonal lines, and a big ‘X’. Note that on the PET and Vic-20 these lines were all one pixel wide, but on later computers with both better resolution and color graphics they were made thicker, which means diagonal lines have “notches” between character cells.
  • Other miscellaneous symbols: playing card symbols, filled and hollow balls, and some checkerboards for shading. On the PET and Vic, the shading characters were finer, while on the other 8-bit computers they were made of 2×2 boxes.

There are resources that let you use PETSCII to create old-school computer art, like this PETSCII editor, Petmate and Playscii, and for a bunch of examples of what you can do with it you can browse through the Twitter account PETSCIIBots. And this blog post from 2016 both makes the case for PETSCII as a medium for art and provides some great examples of it.

Some robots from PETSCIIBots

Final Fantasy Artist Yoshitaka Amano Draws Cuphead Characters

I’ve been trying lately to take it easy on the Youtube posts, but in this age of the internet they seem unavoidable. This one though, I think is unquestionably worth it, a six-minute video of the illustrator of classic Final Fantasy games (whose work mostly came through in monster images and manual art) doing a piece for the cover of the CD soundtrack in preparation for Cuphead’s Japanese release. The early moments of the video are preliminary sketches that show them getting used to the characters; the work he settles on is a Final Fantasy-esque interpretation of Cuphead and friends (and enemy). Thanks to NoxAeternum to finding this and posting it to Metafilter!

Princess Peach Through The Years

Wonderful blog Thrilling Tales of Video Games did a retrospective last month that went through all the various versions of Princess Peach there’s been. Interestingly, while Peach’s look largely solidified in the promo art for Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 (the insanely hard one, a.k.a. “The Lost Levels”), before that there were all kinds of takes on the character, ranging from Miyamoto’s own drawing (used in the box art of Super Mario Bros. in Japan) to a variety of versions all trying to adapt her single sprite image from the ending of SMB.

Peach in this illustration was drawn by Shigeru Miamoto himself. (Image from blog)
And this is the first version of modern Peach. (Image from blog)

The post features a whole bushel of Peaches, many barely seen outside of Japan. Recommended highly!

Thrilling Tales of Video Games: A Parade of Princess Peach Prototypes

Roguelike Celebration: Joel Ryan on Creating the Sil-Q Tileset

Sil-Q is an Angband variant. Joel Ryan, aka MicroChasm, made its tileset which shows a lot of care in its creation. Sil-Q’s tiles are modular, so humanoid monsters can hold weapons, and also have strong silhouettes to aid recognition. It’s full of the kinds of concerns pixel artists have to worry about!

Silhouettes of various monsters in Sil-Q
As a bonus, the talk provides this lineage of Sil-Q!

Fabian Sanglard on Sprite Creation on the Capcom CPS-1

Street Fighter II has some really complex spritework! Its characters don’t actually use traditional sprites, but more what amounts to custom tile layers for each one. This helped unlock characters from being mostly rectangular, and allow them to have poses with radically different shapes.

Fabian Sanglard has a great article about how character art was created for that system that’s well worth your time to have a look at. Well, maybe it’s worth it? I don’t know you. For all I know you’re looking for sewing advice. This is probably the wrong site for that. No offense to all you clothes-makers out there.

ROMs were expensive, and Street Fighter II required a lot of them, so it was important to make the most out of each one. A big rectangular shape around Edmond Honda would contain a lot of empty, wasted space. Imagine how much space they would have wasted with Dhalsim’s long stretchy legs! With this system, they only had to include the graphics data that would actually contain pixels.

This was in 1991, mind you. More recent development practices would probably have the data be compressed in storage, which would take care of all those empty pixels, or at least they could make a tool to handle figuring out which tiles should contain data. What the Street Fighter II artists had to do was create physical representations of each character on a physical board, chop that up into squares, and figure out what each tile had to contain, a laborious process.

Fabian reckons this system was used for other CPS-1 games, going back to at least Forgotten Worlds. Looking at the tile layouts of CPS-2 titles, it seems a lot more evident that they used a packing tool to handle fitting their characters into the memory space. For more info, please go check out the article!

Hand-drawn Map of The Legend of Zelda

It’s another hand-drawn map of The Legend of Zelda from a guidebook, again from History of Hyrule! It was made by Takako Toshima and published in Newtype magazine in Japan.

Along these lines, it’s a good time to revisit Mapstalgia, a defunct blog made by Josh Millard (cortex from Metafilter), that’s filled with player-made maps of this sort!

History of Hyrule, Legend of Zelda art in print

Source: Art and Artifacts – Upload credit: Melora of historyofhyrule.com

This is a collection, made by Melora, of various Japanese publications related to The Legend of Zelda and its sequels, including manuals, hint books, strategy guide and manga. There’s a lot to go through! Some of it is translated, a lot isn’t. But it’s all nice to leaf through. There’s four heads to this particular Gleeok: a home page, a blog, a Twitter feed, a Flickr image archive with tons of images, and a substantial amalgamation on the Internet Archive. If you’re as familiar with Zelda games as I am, you might not even particularly need the strategy guides translated!

I still remember the first substantial thing I read about Zelda, long ago, a review in, of all places, Games Magazine. I must have been about 13 at the time. It seemed like an awesome thing to my games-addled brain, but at that moment I didn’t even have an NES. When I first played it, it was amazing. I spent months uncovering every item and secret (finding Level 7 in the second quest was a major roadblock).

So, when I think of The Legend of Zelda, I think of challenging game play, exploring a huge world, finding deviously hidden secrets, and overcoming a formidable challenge purely by my own efforts. All of these side various comics are a bit lost of me, as it is not often that I get into the lore of the series (The Wind Waker was a major exception), but I understand that a lot of other people do, and I think that’s terrific.

I have not had that the kind of experience I got from The Legend of Zelda from many other things since the era of the NES, but two places I did get it from were Breath of the Wild, of course, and Fez. I hear Tunic‘s pretty good, I probably should look into that soon….

Some more images, from various materials related to the first game. All are from this Flickr album, and were uploaded (and many of them, scanned) by Melora of History of Hyrule:

Publication Source: Million Publishing Guide – Contributor Source: Zelda Dungeon

Publication Source: 3 Game Guide
Contributor Source: Donated by Mases of Zelda Dungeon
Originally found in the comic magazine Monthly Shonen Captain May 18, 1986, discovered thanks to twitter.com/kazzykazycom
Found by kazzykazcom on Twitter, unknown origin
Source: From the The Legend of Zelda: The Mirage Castle by Akio Higuchi and Yuko Tanaka, 1986

Game Boy Camera Virtual Art Gallery

From Cat Graffam on Twitter, the Game Boy Camera Art Gallery is a Game Boy rom image, in the form of an RPG-style walkaround, showing off photos taken with Nintendo’s crazy and awesome little heavily-dithered, 4-color foray into 90s digital photography. It can be viewed in-browser or as a downloadable rom, or you can purchase a cartridge with it for use on your own Game Boy or Game Boy-compatible hardware! Here are a few works from the compilation: