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

F-Zero GX Pilot Profile Movies

The sudden release of F-Zero 99, free to play for Nintendo Switch Online members, has brought Nintendo’s ultrafast racing series back into the spotlight after 20 years. (Well, there were some GBA games, but they don’t seem to be as much remembered these days?)

F-Zero 99 gets its aesthetic from the original SNES game, which is nice, but also feels like a bit of a waste. Nintendo created 26 new characters for F-Zero X, and the Amusement Vision team at Sega (creators of the Monkey Ball series!) made some more for F-Zero GX. And the cool thing is, none of the characters feel like an afterthought. Every one of these weirdos could star in their own video game. F-Zero GX gives all of them voice acting in their endings, and even their own theme song!

Most significantly, every F-Zero GX playable character has a short movie that’s unlocked if you complete all the Grand Prix leagues with them on Master difficulty. But that is a huge feat! F-Zero GX is ludicrously difficult even on lower difficulties, and some of the cars are more suited to driving well than others.

Of course, on Youtube you can find a compilation of all the pilot profile movies. Many of them are really silly. Here they are:

And as an extra, here’s a playlist of the 41 character theme songs from F-Zero GX:

F-Zero GX: All Pilot Profile Movies (Youtube, 28 minutes)

DragonCon 2023: Gaming Options & Gamecube Events

DragonCon has had a variety of gaming options going back at least a decade.

They used to have, for a surprisingly long time really, a set of networked Battletech pods that some people would dutifully bring every year, with N64-level graphics, that had a dedicated following. The pods were made up in an immersive fashion, in a way that suggested perhaps a connection to the old Battletech Centers, which appear to still be in operation. I hear those stopped coming to DragonCon due to COVID and have yet to return. Weirdly, the pen-and-paper version of Battletech itself, which was almost dead for a long while, made it to DragonCon this year in huge fashion.

UGH

They have a board game area where for a $10 fee you can check out a game to play for a while. Sadly I found that area completely unusable this year, despite bringing two of my own board games (Le Havre and Caylus) to play there: its proximity to the music arcade game area (post forthcoming on that) made it impossible to be heard except by almost shouting. There were other tables, but also a lot of competition between Magic, dexterity games, demos, figure painting, Warhammer, Battletech, and a big area devoted to “US Army E-sports,” a phrase that fills me with sadness to type.

Also on the gaming floor was an area where one could check out PC and console games and systems and play them. I found their selection a bit lacking; I have a few personal systems I had emailed them about bringing, but as in the past when I’ve reached out about such things, I never got a response. I suppose that’s understandable, but it’d have been nice to let people play Dreamcast or Saturn games from my own collection.

The console gaming group ran three “challenge run” tournaments where you could try to complete objectives on NES games for prizes. I entered all three (finish all the levels in Super Mario Bros 3 World 1, finish any five levels of Mega Man 2, and a Link to the Past randomizer) but despite playing fairly well, by my standards at least, didn’t win any of them. Pretty good game players among DragonCon’s visitors this year!

Somewhere at the convention was a setup for Artemis Bridge Simulator, which could be thought of as a more elaborate and serious-minded version of Spaceteam. Its location didn’t lie tangent to my con travels this year, but it was mentioned in the con materials. (I suspect it was upstairs somewhere in the Westin.)

I had thought to bring my 2DS and see if I could get some Street Passes, with big conventions like DragonCon being one of the few places left that one could hope to get significant activity, but the odds that more than a handful had thought to both bring their 3DS-type systems and have them on their persons and in sleep mode through the con seem to be slim in 2023. Anyway, I didn’t bring mine.

So now we come to the Gamecube “panels,” which were actually just a bunch of Gamecubes and Wiis set up with classic Gamecube games, along with some entertaining display decoration. No speakers, no podiums, just a bunch of seats, systems, players, and some staff.

There were four of these this year, each late at night in the Westin Augusta ballroom, themed after multiplayer, Super Mario, Zelda and Smash Bros, in order. Really though, they all were primarily multiplayer themed. I showed up for two nights, the first and Zelda ones, and on Zelda night I mostly spent the time showing people how to finish NES The Legend of Zelda, giving directions for getting through the overworld and dungeons from memory. The people there expressed concern over the game’s difficulty, and how many of them couldn’t complete it, as a kid or even now; evidently they don’t watch many speedrunners.

There were the predictable Melee players, of course. Super Smash Bros Melee’s influence on the series, and on gaming as a whole, is unmistakable. After all, each Nintendo console since then has had to have support for Gamecube controllers, in some way, just to allow Melee masters to have their favorite playstyles, and Nintendo keeps making (or at least licensing) the production of new Gamecube-compatible controllers specifically for that scene.

But my favorite game at the Gamecube panels had to have been Kirby Air Ride, in City Trial mode. I’ve mentioned my fondness for this game here before, but to give a brief refresher: multiple Kirbys zoom around on Warp Stars, whose speeds rival those of the cars in F-Zero, through a large (though not too large) city area, searching for powerups, and boxes that contain more powerups. Players can interact with each other, and can change vehicles. Random events occur. After a set time, they’re all thrown into a random event (from a large selection) with the customized vehicle they made during the game. It’s a surprising amount of fun, and I was pleased to find other players there at least as fanatical about City Trial as I was. I think it’s one of the best multiplayer games on the system.

I had brought a few multiplayer Gamecube games of my own, including Wario Ware: Mega Party Games ($900 on Amazon!) and Ribbit King ($362), but as with the console group they were uninterested. Understandable of course, I brought them along only in the off chance. Just, slightly sad.

Here are pictures I took of the Gamecube event:

Kirby Air Ride!
People playing gaemz
Some of the screens were done up like big Gameboy Advance Micros. It was a fun touch!
Another macro GBA Micro, a bit sharper

Next time, a look at the many music games they had this year. I think that’s the extent of my game-related pictures, so please be patient a little longer!

The Copetti Site: Architectures of Recent Game Consoles

From the site, a diagram of the architecture of the Wii U’s Game Pad

A good old-fashioned website! It’s hope to information on the construction of a wide variety of console platforms! Docs on the NES, the Sega Master System, the PC Engine (a.k.a. Turbografx 16), the Mega Drive (a.k.a. Genesis), Gameboy, SNES, Saturn, Playstation, Virtual Boy (yes), Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, GBA, Gamecube, Xbox, DS, PSP, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii and Wii U.

The Copetti site: Architecture of Consoles

About Kirby Air Ride City Trial

One of the best Kirby games isn’t a traditional Kirby game at all. Long before Kirby and the Forgotten Land finally worked out how the game should work in three dimensions, there was Kirby Air Ride, a Gamecube racing game that’s so weird. Kirby tools around on the Warp Stars that are his trademark ride through a number of courses at speeds usually only seen in an F-Zero game. There’s a variety of stars that can be ridden, more to unlock, it was the second game in which Meta Knight was fully playable, and the first where King Dedede was (unless you count short sequences in Kirby 64).

Kirby Air Ride had three modes, but they all felt a bit half-baked except for one. The standard Air Ride mode wasn’t bad, but could only be played one course at a time, with no overarching mode that connected them. That’s right, it didn’t have a “Grand Prix” mode. And the other competitors were only differently-colored Kirbys (Kirbies?) anyway. The courses were pretty good, but it didn’t give you much to keep you playing except for its checklist (which we’ll get to).

There was also a special racing mode that took place from an overhead view, on special one-screen courses, like Atari’s Sprint games, which felt even less substantive than the standard racing mode.

Possibly the best multiplayer experience on the Gamecube

But the reason Kirby Air Ride is special, and the reason I still have my copy of the game after all these years, is City Trial, which is one of the most engaging racing game experiences I’ve ever seen. It’s really good. Not because it has any overarching structure the other modes lack (other than its checkbox screen). But because it’s so novel; no other game I can think of provides the kind of gameplay that City Trial does, unless you count Smash Run from the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros., which was also made by Masahiro Sakauri. But even it isn’t really the same thing, because you can’t interact with the other players during it!

“Forget it Jake, it’s Kirbytown.”

City Trial puts from one to four players, either human-played or computer-controlled, in a free-roaming city area. It’s not really a “race” at all. While the city is, spatially, quite large, the players’ warp stars are so fast that it only takes about 20 or so seconds from one end to the other, and the game also keeps you appraised of where the other Kirbys are with on-screen indicators and a map in the corner. Over a period of between three to seven minutes, you zoom around trying to collect powerups for your star. They come in a variety of types: Top Speed, Acceleration, Charge, Turning, Gliding, Weight and more, all taking the form of 2D icons scattered randomly around the city.

Giving your warp star a tune-up is as easy as scooping up these symbols.

As you collect icons, each provides a small permanent (for the duration of the match) improvement in that one area of your star’s performance. Some are in boxes, which must be broken apart either by colliding with them repeatedly or spin attacks. Some of them are gray-colored, which are permanent power-downs.

Throughout the time limit, you seek out and collect as many as you can. If there is a maximum stat you can reach I’ve never seen it; I think it can go at least as high as 20 icon’s worth, but it’s nearly impossible to get that high. It’s gratifying to feel your default “Compact Star” get steadily better and better as you snatch powerups. But also, there are other vehicles throughout the city, and you can get off your default star at any time by holding down on the control stick and the A button and board another one. All of the varied stars from Air Ride mode (some of which aren’t really stars at all) are present, and they all control really differently from each other. Some even have special properties, it’s not a case at all of them just having different stats. When you switch stars, you get to take all of your collected powerups with you, though if you have a lot you’ll drop some, and have to spend a few seconds picking them back up again.

The amount of care that went into this one mode is almost shocking. You can attack other players and steal their powerups! You can even destroy their warp star, and force them to wander around on foot to find a replacement! Some of the traditional Kirby copy abilities can be found and used against the other players! There’s random events, with a lot of variety, that can happen, providing different dangers, or opportunities. You can sail out over the ocean on your hovering star. If you get enough height, you can fly over the invisible border wall and explore even more ocean.

What cosmic horror is invading Popstar this week?

You can also collect Legendary Machine parts, which are hidden in some of the boxes. The Hydra, from the more recent Super Smash Bros. games, is a direct reference to this. If you manage to find all three parts, to either the Hydra (the green one) or the Dragoon (the red one), you get to ride it. They’re both ludicrously overpowered, although they can also be difficult to control.

Target Flight is one of the more common competitions. It’s like a lost Monkey Ball minigame.

The real mark of genius in this mode is what happens when time runs out. The game shows a chart with everyone’s vehicle stats on it, then throws all the players into a random event. Your vehicle’s stats may make this event easy or hard! If you end up in an event where you have to attack enemies or aim to collide with targets, you might find yourself wishing you had laid off getting all those speed-ups, but plenty of the events are races too, including all of the race courses from Air Ride mode. How do you know what kind of event it coming up? There are two ways: sometimes, during the City Trial portion, the game will drop you a text hint as a message. (Hilariously, once in a great while it lies.) Or else, if you don’t like the randomness, you can choose broadly what kind of event will happen in the game settings.

Whichever player comes out on top in the event, the victory is short-lived. There is no huge victory celebration, no advantage to be gained. The game doesn’t even save player profiles. But City Trial mode is entertaining enough that we don’t really end up caring much? It’s even fun to play against computer opponents.

It was a long time ago, but at one point I had every one of these squares checked off.

Each of the three modes in Kirby Air Ride has a “checklist,” a grid of squares, each representing some accomplishment, or at least occurrence, that can happen in its game. This is the closest thing Air Ride has to progression. If you’ve seen the Challenges in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, this is the same kind of thing. All of the challenges are hidden at first, but when you unlock one, the requirements for the ones around it are revealed to you. Some of the boxes unlock things, like new events, being able to play as Meta Knight or Dedede in the practice mode, or more Kirby colors. But mostly it’s just something to give obsessive players (like myself) something to work for. In a racing game without even a Grand Prix mode (seriously what is up with that?), I’ll take what I can get.

An aerial view of the bad part of Kirbytown, where the Waddles Dee all wear eyepatches and have goatees.

One more cool thing? Until fairly recently (and ignoring that non-canonical anime series), City Trial was our only glimpse into what day-to-day life was like in Dream Land. This city is evidently where Kirby and his friends live and play (I don’t think any of them have a job). There’s skyscrapers, a river, an ocean, an underground region, mass transit rails, a golf course (overseen by Wispy Woods), a castle and a volcano, and even “dilapidated houses,” which the players can demolish with their vehicles. I guess even Planet Popstar has a seedy part of its towns.

Apparently, day-to-day life in Kirbyland is spent in endless vehicular combat sessions. I’d like to say that I’m surprised, but for some reason, I’m not.

If you’d like to see how this works out in play, here’s an hour and 54 minutes of City Trial play, without commentary, on Youtube:

A Walk Through Nintendo’s Internal Employee-Only Museum, Circa 2006

From the recent trove of preserved video from Noclip Game History Archive, here’s a look through Nintendo Of America’s internal employee-only museum/store, circa 2006, on Youtube. There is very little sound in the footage, so you might want to increase the playback speed to double.

For context, it was near the end of the Gamecube’s life, immediately before the release of the Wii, and the early years of the Nintendo DS. Objects glimpsed during the stroll include various consoles, records of Nintendo’s collaboration with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, Pokemon merchandise, Nintendo awards, some arcade units (including a glitched Mario Bros. cabinet), a Virtual Boy, various character statuettes, old playing cards, a capsule timeline of Nintendo history, and various games for sale at the time. It seems that the museum also functions as a retail space for employees.

Exploring Nintendo of America’s Employee-Only Museum (Youtube, 28 minutes)

Pikmin 2 Treasure Changes For Switch

Remember when Pikmin 2 came out on Gamecube? It marked a considerable departure from the first game’s structure. Pikmin had a hard time limit, and it was rather a rush to complete the game within its 30 days on your first try. Pikmin 2 dispensed with that, giving players as many days as they wanted. It also had “dungeon” areas, semi-random underground mazes where even the day timer was paused. A considerable portion of the game was in those underground areas.

One of the less-remembered things about Pikmin 2 was that it had actual product placement in it. Many of the treasures you found were outright commercial objects, modeled and textured in the game, some with vaguely promotional names, like “Courage Reactor” for Duracell Battery, or “Quenching Emblem” for a 7-Up bottle cap. Even the European and Japanese versions had these, although they reflected products from their territories instead.

Presumably because the licensing deals for these objects have expired, the Switch 2 version of Pikmin 2 uses different, more generic items in place of the trademarked originals. The replacements are an interesting lot. Where they could have just removed the old textures and replaced them with solid colors, they put in fake ingredients lists (too small to read), “Established 1920” notices, fake slogans and logos, notices of product quantity in Imperial units with metric equivalent, and more. You’d almost believe Olimar was finding real goods from Earth, ones that you just haven’t heard of. The tip-off is, the names of the replacement products are just slightly too generic. “Coconut Water” and “Night Lip Balm” are descriptive but generic, and so but really able to be trademarked. They’re a nice batch of fake brands though. For “Pineapple Fresh Slices,” they even made up a realistic-looking US-style Nutrition Facts label!

The differences have been recorded in a video by ModenXP on Youtube, embedded below:

And now, as an exercise in overkill, here’s a list of all the old and new versions, and interesting things about the replacements:

Courage Reactor (280 poko)Duracell D-Cell battery“Electric Power Super Battery,” a fake brand that replaces the multiple Duracell items among the treasures. It’s also a D cell. There’s a warning box that’s too small for me to read.
Quenching Emblem (100 poko)7-Up bottle capBottle cap for “Spicy Ginger Ale, Premium Quality.” There’s some other text along the outer edge that’s just on the other side of the readability afforded by the texture compression.
Alien Billboard (80 poko)Kiwi Shoe Polish, 1 1/8 ounce (31 gram) size“Shoe Polish, highquality shoe care.” “Established 1920.” The size is 32 grams, “1,128 OZ” in the British style, using a comma as the decimal separator instead of a period. The slogan “Shine & Protect” runs along the outer edge of the lid.
Drought Ender (100 poko)Old-style Dr. Pepper bottle capA bottle cap for “Coconut Water,” evidently a product someone would want to buy. The rim assures us, twice, that it is in fact “100% Pure Coconut Water.” Promise or threat, you decide.
Survival Ointment (90 poko)A tube of ChapStick lip balm“Night Lip Balm,” with “Extra Moisture.” Lots of tiny unreadable text on this one.
Gerkin Gate/Flavor Gate (100 poko)A lid to a jar of Vlasic picklesThe only item with a different title. This is “Orange Jam,” “Made With Real Fruit,” “Organic Homemade Product.” 13.4 oz (380 grams). Shouldn’t they have just called it marmalade?
Creative Inspiration (100 poko)Old-style bottle cap for RC Cola, eternal third-place in the cola wars“Delicious! Black Berry Soda.” One of the more generic logos.
Patience Tester (130 poko)A can of Sun Luck water chestnuts. How many company ad departments would let a licensor get away with implying their product tests one’s patience?“Pineapple, Fresh Slices.” “In heavy syrup.” Oh, joy. (I don’t like pineapple, and pineapple syrup is not something I would ever care to try.) It’s interesting that they changed even the type of product here, although it’s the same sized can.
Healing Cask (60 poko)A jar of Carmex salve, “FOR-COLD-SORES.” Even though the lid looks like it’s from the 50s, I think this is how the product looks even today.“Organic” Aloe Vera Cream. Nice stylized rendering of a plant on the cover, but otherwise pretty ordinary.
Salivatrix (30 poko)A lid for Dannon “Fruit on the Bottom.” Fruit on the bottom of what? It doesn’t say! It does tell us it has “Same Great Taste!”, but again, the same great taste of what? The mysteries belie this treasure’s paltry value. Bee the why, “Salivatrix” sounds like an enabler of a particularly niche kink.“Morning Fruit Yogurt.” Aaah that’s right, Dannon makes yogurt! Did they remake Pikmin 2 just so they could fix their omission? Blueberry, and Low Fat, Net Wt. 15 oz (425.25g). Thanks for the two decimal places of metric accuracy, fake yogurt lid.
Thirst Activator (300 poko)Cap to a bottle of Tree Top juice. What variety is left unspecified. One of the little jokes of the game is how far off the retail value the Salvage Pod’s valuation of your treasures is. 300 poko is pretty valuable!“FRESH Organic Fruit Sauce.” The name is still Thirst Activator though. Brings to mind gulping down a nice hearty jar of Ragu’s finest, mm-mmm. Both versions of the treasure have arrows telling a consumer which way to open the jar.
Massive Lid (100 poko)Old-style cap to a bottle of Yoo-Hoo Cola. Cola? The internet is mum as to the history of this mysterious product. I don’t want to imagine what it was like.The cap now reads “Mountain Water.” It’s a metal bottlecap, as if to a glass bottle. At least it’s recyclable. The title is odd; it’s a small cap, there’s plenty of bigger lids in the treasure hoard.
Happiness Emblem (100 poko)Another old-style bottlecap, this to a can of Squirt grapefruit soda. Squirt, a Dr. Pepper brand, is still made and sold even today.Ginger Ale LIGHT. Has an ingredients list right on the cap, just like the Squirt cap had. The ingredients are even readable: carbonated Water, high-fructose corn syrup, ginger extract. Hey, I’d drink it. Nintendo’s localizers know their territory.
Durable Energy Cell (160 poko)Duracell C-Cell battery.Electric Power Super Battery, again, Duracell’s counterpart in the Pikmin ludomatic universe.
Endless Repository (130 poko)A can of Beach Cliff Sardines, “Proudly made in the USA” and “in soybean oil.”“Sardines, Skinless & Boneless.” “In olive oil & lemon.” The “pull ring easy-open” and fake UPC code are nice touches. This is one of my favorite fake products, even though I’ve never eaten a canned fish in anger.
Pondering Emblem (100 poko)Cap to a bottle of Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Flavored Beverage. The pondering part of it is wondering what the hell Yoo-Hoo is made of.“Milk Crown” Cream Soda. Nice stylized representation of a splash of milk. The cap tells us “artificial flavor & color.” Remember to demand natural flavoring and coloring from your fictional video-game beverages!
Abstract Masterpiece (30 poko)A Snapple Cap. You can’t flip it over to see if there’s a Snapple Fact on the bottom.Sunny Tropical Juice. “What kind of juice?” “Tropical.” At least the label tells us it’s made from the best natural fruit. No synthetic fruit here, oh no no.
Optical Illustration (140 poko)Lid to a jar of Ragu tomato-based sauce. I joked about it, and lo, it has come into being. There is very little optical here, and it hardly qualifies as an illustration“Tomato Basil” homemade pasta sauce. One of the faker-looking treasures.
Activity Arouser (100 poko)The “W”-logo from the lid of a can of Wilson tennis balls.One of the few overtly fake brands, with a logo of a flaming tennis ball and the cryptic word “TARAI” in a sci-fi font. No other information is supplied. This mystery is going to haunt me.
Proton AA (90 poko)Duracell AA-Cell battery.The third of the Electric Power Super Battery collection. It looks a whole lot like one of those battery brands you can find at a dollar store, that last roughly 23 seconds when put to use.
Drone Supplies (130 poko)Underwood Deviled Ham Spread. A really distinctive package, round but wrapped in paper with a unique fold at the top.Tuna Salad Spread. The kept the paper wrapping. This is the one with the realistic Nutrition Facts label on the back.
Fuel Reservoir (120 poko)Duracell 9-Volt battery.Last of the Electric Power Super Battery set.
Fruit Guard (130 poko)A can (not just the lid!) of Tree Top apple juice. The words “Apple Juice” are not written in Comic-Sans, but it does look a lot like they are.FRESH Organic 100% apple juice. FRESH seems to be the replacement brand for Tree Top. At least it’s not drinkable fruit sauce this time. Also has a Nutritional Facts label on the back (as does the original).
Nutrient Silo (130 poko)Skippy creamy peanut butter.Ribbon’s peanut butter. They made a cute little logo involving a pair of cartoon peanuts for it! I demand fan art of them immediately, get to work! Also has a Nutrition Facts box and fake barcode.
Yellow Taste Tyrant (100 poko)The yellow, unpainted plastic lid of a wide-mouthed container of French’s mustard. The French’s logo is molded into the surface, and seems to react to light, which is interesting.A green painted illustration of a hot dog with the words “Hot Mustard” twice. The modeled French’s logo is gone.
Stringent Container (130 poko)A canister of Clabber Girl baking powder.The canister is of “Baking Powder,” “Queen’s Quality,” “Double Acting” and “Gluten Free.” Established 1932! Like the original, has both nutrition facts and a recipe, here for a chocolate muffin. You can just make out that a “serving” of this can of baking powder has 55 calories. At the bottom of the nutrition facts it says “European Leading Brand.”
Hypnotic Platter (100 poko)Bottle cap for A&W (presumably) Root Beer. Caffeine free.“19TH Anniversary” premium orange juice. Apparently sold in soda-style glass bottles?
There are also probably changed descriptions in the Piklopedia for these items, but I have yet to get the game myself so I can’t report on those.

27 Treausres that Changed in Pikmin 2 on Switch (Youtube, 14 minutes)

On Beam Lighting’s Removal From Metroid Prime Remastered

One of the coolest graphic effects from the original Metroid Prime was dynamic lighting from some of your weapons. Not only did it look amazing to see your shots light up surfaces as they zoomed down corridors and across rooms, but they even made the game a little easier in dark places. I remember at least once using shots to help me get a read on surfaces in a pitch black area.

It was such a distinctive feature that some people were a bit upset that it wasn’t included in the recent remastered version for the Switch, especially since it was included in the remake of Metroid Prime, in the Metroid Prime Collection released for the Wii. What happened?

Youtube channel KIWI TALKZ spoke with Jack Mathews, one of the programmers of the original version, in a Youtube video, where they revealed that the beam lighting effect was designed around a specific feature of the Gamecube hardware, that made it nearly free. They theorize that it could have been included in the Switch’s version, but it would have been much more costly there, especially at its 60 fps target. The Switch was designed, either cleverly or infamously depending on your point of view, around a mobile graphics chip, that was never intended to wow with effects, even those available to 22-year-old hardware.

It is interesting though, to think there are things the Gamecube’s now-ancient 3D chips can do easily that the Switch has trouble with. Mind you, the Switch does target a much higher resolution than the Gamecube, not 1080p but still 900, which is a lot more than the Gamecube which was aimed at standard def televisions. But on the other armored hand, it has been over two decades. Ah well.

Why Beam Lighting Was Removed In Metroid Prime Remastered (KIWI TALKZ on Youtube, 6 minutes)

Secrets of Gamecube Animal Crossing

I’m still playing New Horizons after over two years, and as I write this just had my third Halloween! I’ve got a lot of Jack’s Robes and Jack’s Heads in storage if anyone needs one. But that’s beside the point.

How many of you had the original Gamecube Animal Crossing? I did back in college, and it was quite popular with me and my roommates! One of them picked up her own memory card, to have her own town, where she build up a fortune in bells. She was kind of obsessed for awhile.

Gamecube Animal Crossing existed in the days of the early web, but at a time where people were a bit less determined when it came to investigating a game’s code for information on how its systems worked. As such the schoolyard rumor mill was still a large part of the game’s experience, and all kinds of outlandish lore would get traded around. Of course that still happens today (and misinformation is rampant in general), but if someone wants to know the real scoop, that information is out there for the diligent. (Hell, I wrote an ebook on the very topic of Animal Crossing New Horizons strategies and secrets.)

Youtuber LSuperSonicQ (with help from Chuggaconroy) made a video investigating many of the rumors surrounding the original game. You should watch the video, but seeing as it’s 20 minutes long, here’s a rundown:

  • Brutus the cursed villager: does not exist in the game’s code.
  • Deathwing the cursed fish: does not exist in the game’s code.
  • Villagers meeting each other and changing moods: outcome depends on the personalities of the villagers.
  • Rare dialogue: often the result of talking to a villager when they’re in a mood.
  • Angering villagers: hit them with tools repeatedly, push them around a lot, or talk with one many times in a short period.
  • NES games “Forbidden Four”: Ice Climber, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda. Ice Climber and Mario Bros. were released via eReader and are difficult & expensive to access now. At first included Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out as well, but it was distributed by a code generator (that’s now sadly defunct).
  • Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda: were never released by any means, and are only accessible via Action Replay or other hacking means. (Although it is claimed that this code generator can generate them.)
  • The NES item: does function, but only plays rom files that are on the memory card, and Nintendo never distributed any! Roms can be put onto a card with file transfer methods and played with GCAC’s NES emulator.
  • Gyroid boxing: the rumor that gyroids can be made to fight in the boxing ring furniture items is false.
  • The Ringside Seating wallpaper: the crowd cheers if you ring the Judge’s Bell while it’s up!
  • Master Sword: cannot be pulled from its pedestal. The Super Star, however, will make you flash if interacted with.
  • Password system: can be used to obtain items that are not ordinarily obtainable, like villager event clothing and special stationery, through means like the code generator I linked above.
  • Comic Book, Glasses Case, Pokemon Pikachu: Ordinarily part of villager lost item quests. They can be generated themselves with password generators and placed in houses, but they have no models there, and so are invisible.
  • Tom Nook sleeping in his shop: unviewable in the US version, but in the Japanese version there is a secret means to open his shop late a night, by tapping your shovel on his shop’s window three times.
  • Working for Nook out of your uniform: it works! Just show up for work out of uniform. He’ll react, but let you do it anyway.
  • Mr. Resetti’s surveillance center: unavailable in US version. In Japanese version can be found by breaking a cracked rock and jumping down a hole. While there, Mr. Resetti and his brother Don’s feet are visible. They are not Digletts! Some sequels made the surveillance center able to be visited even in the US. (New Horizons, sadly, is not one of them.) Described at 10:32.
  • Resetti’s music: there is a code that replaces all the game’s music with Resetti’s theme until the game is reset.
  • Post Office: there are messages for sending letters to players with full mailboxes, and for writing a letter to a villager but waiting to send it until after they leave. The trick of writing a letter to a villager and keeping it in your inventory so they won’t leave does not work.
  • Police Station: Copper has animations for interacting with some visitors (Joan and Wendell are mentioned), and is known to fall asleep at 2 AM!
  • The Dump: Nothing special known.
  • Beta Map: Through a process described in the video, it’s possible to be sent to a testing map through normal gameplay. It’s shown off in the video. It’s impossible to escape from it though without resetting. It’s described at 15:58.
  • Secret K.K. Slider songs: K.K. Song, Two Days Ago, and I Love You, can only be obtained by asking for them by name. (Each successive sequel made the previous game’s unlisted songs “official,” but added their own unlisted songs.)
  • Three songs, Forest Life, My Place and To The Edge, can only be played randomly if K.K. Slider doesn’t recognize a request, and cannot be obtained at all in GCAC.
  • The Whale: I’ve seen this one personally! There is a gigantic fish shadow that can be seen randomly, and very rarely, on the boat ride to the Gameboy Advance island. It cannot be caught. Here’s more info.

Everything You Never Knew About Animal Crossing for GameCube feat. Chuggaconroy (Youtube, 20 minutes)

Metroid Prime’s Save System

Zoid Kirsh on Twitter (while Elon Musk hasn’t completely wrecked it yet) tweeted about how Metroid Prime’s save system works. Metroid Prime save files are less than 60 bytes long! A single Gamecube memory card block is eight kilobytes, so it’s a bit overkill, but it’s still nice when a developer is frugal!

Image, of Metroid Prime’s inventory screen, from Mobygames.

The way they explain it is that the game has a number of “world layers” which determine what is spawned in each area when it’s loaded. Which layer is active when a room is loaded is determined by a single bit in the save. That, plus some basic stats like health and ammo, and the record of object scans, all take up very little memory when bit-packed.

If Metroid Prime’s save file were 59 bytes long, that would mean it had 472 bits to work with. The passwords used by the original Metroid only stored 144 bits of data!

F-Zero AX on Gamecube

The last “major” F-Zero game released was back in the Gamecube, the sterling, yet extraordinarily challenging, F-Zero GX. What tends to be less remembered was it was a dual release. At around the same time, Sega released on Nintendo’s TRIFORCE hardware an arcade version called F-Zero AX. In the US arcades were pretty moribund around that time, so it tends to be a lot less recognized on these shores. The AX machine bore a Gamecube memory card slot so that players could take their save files to the arcade unit and use their custom vehicles there, and take data from that version back home. The AX version also has tracks and vehicles not in the GX version.

What tends to be even less well known is that nearly the entire arcade version of F-Zero AX is right there on the Gamecube disk! Back in 2021, Romhacker Elfor constructed a patch for the Gamecube version that, if played in an emulator or somehow made readable by GC hardware, can boot directly into that version of the game.

There are some differences from the arcade version in this revealed version of game, many of them related to music tracks left off the disk. More recently, Anthony Ryuki made a patch to restore those tracks, and bring the Gamecube AX version even closer to the arcade experience.

Link Roundup 5/10/2022

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

Greetings, humans! Here is the gaming news I could glean from decrypting your internet broadcasts from my flying saucer floating above your atmosphere!

Jordan Devore, Destructoid: Rogue Legacy 2 Drops Vertigo From Its Traits List. You see, each character you play in that game is part of a lineage of characters, and they have semi-random traits. One of those traits flipped the screen upside-down during play. Or it did. Now it’s not in the game anymore!

Oisin Kunhke, Gamebyte tells us about a word-in-progress Breath of the Wild Randomizer mod!

Brad Linder of Liliputing notes of a new version of a three-key keyboard made by Stack Overflow.

Wololo (?) of Wololo (??) tells us that homebrew fans are reviving Playstation Home!

Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica lets us know that Nvidia is facing scrutiny from the FCC for inaccurately representing how cryptocurrency mining boosted the sales of their graphics hardware.

Sam Medley of NotebookCheck tells of AltStore, a sneaky way around Apple’s App Store for distributing software they’d rather you not use. I hesitate to speculate on how long this loophole will last, but I’m no fan of hardware lockouts and use limitations, so it’s nice while it lasts!

More news from the orchard. MacRumors talks with Feral about porting games to Apple’s new M1 hardware and the difficulties it has faced with their graphics.

Always awesome Kyle Orland at Ars Technica has an article with a headline too fun to paraphrase: Eve Online fans literally cheer Microsoft Excel features at annual Fanfest.

Ian Evenden at Tom’s Hardware talks about HoloISO, a port of SteamOS 3 that fans have gotten to run on devices other than the Steam Deck. Valve hasn’t released it officially for other hardware yet!

Jay Fingas at Engadget tells us about an auction for a gold-played Wii originally intended for the Queen of England. Seems she was denied the shiny unit due to rules against gifts.

Trent Cannon of Nintendo Life reviews Prinny Presents: NIS Classics Volume 2 for Switch.

Alex Donaldson at VG247 warns us that Sonic Origins probably won’t have Sonic 3‘s original soundtrack, due to rights issues related to Michael Jackson’s involvement with the project. Sega has been hampered with music rights across several games, including the soundtrack for some ports of Crazy Taxi.

More from Ars Technica, Sam Machkovech tells us about Rifftrax: The Game!

Zoey Handley at Destructoid on Famicom Wars, the game of which the upcoming Advance Wars Reboot Camp is a distant sequel!

Rebecca Stone at Twinfinite tells us about the 10 highest-priced used Gamecube games going! Sadly none of those I still own are up there, drebnar, not even Kirby Air Ride!

Mike Wilson writing at Bloody Disgusting celebrates the 30th anniversary of Wolfenstein 3D!

Back around to Engadget, J. Trew tells us about the lengths to which players are pushing NES Tetris.

And Zoe Sottile at CNN (swanky!) notes that Ms. Pac-Man and The Legend of Zelda are being inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame.