Romhack Thursday: Advanced NES Rom Utility

Edit the Frog would like you to know that he has no relationship with that meme frog going around.

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

We’re starting another weekly feature on Set Side B, where we try to regularly bring you news on new romhacks and romhack-related items. Big websites sometimes seem like they try to appease publishers, whose good graces they rely upon for news and review copies, by not mentioning hacks too prominently, at least if they’re of console games. Whether this happens, or if it merely seems like it may happen, we don’t ask big publishers for review copies so we don’t have to avoid talking about them, and are free to tell you about the most interesting of these game edits that we can find.

To start us out though, something you’ll find you’ll need if you make heavy use of hacks, are good rom patchers. To shield themselves from legal liability, hack authors usually distribute their modifications through the use of patches, which are in essence lists of modifications that can be applied in an automated way to a source rom file, which you’ll have to source by some other means.

Two good such utilities are Floating IPS, which can apply IPS patches, and (the sadly departed) Near’s beat, which can apply BPS patch files. IPS is the most commonly-used utility, and functions mostly as a kind of binary diff, but it’s limited to source files of a maximum size of 16 megabytes, and doesn’t offer any error detection features, so if the file you’re patching isn’t exactly what the patch expects (which happens frequently, as bad dumps or headerless roms often turn up), not only will you end up with a corrupted file, but you won’t even have any indication something has gone wrong-in most cases, you’ll still be told the file patched successfully. BPS is a more intelligently-designed system, and has some error detection built-in.

A new utility that can be of use is “Advanced NES Rom Utility,” a program that can not only apply both IPS and BPS patches but several other types as well, and can also fix many common problems with NES dumps in particular, including fixing checksums and metadata. But patches are usually source platform agnostic, so you might get some use out of it even if NES romhacks are not interesting to you.

Romhack: Elvira’s Monster Party

Someone worked hard to make that pixel art.

Most, maybe like 90%, of romhacks are pretty dumb. Of the remaining 10%, nine out of ten are somewhat intersting. Then you have that last percentile that achieves greatness. The jury is out, but this one could be in that category.

This hack changes the cult NES classic Monster Party and repurposes it as an episode of Elvira’s B-movie show! It also changes game graphics to make the main character Elvira, and many of the bosses and their text to make them into classic horror movie monsters. It seems like it should be worth a look from that pixel art image of Elvira alone.

Beyond that, the patch file’s ZIP has some other bits of artwork in it, including a poster, and box art:

I should point out that this is not actually a hack of the release version of Monster Party, but of the prototype of the Japanese version that showed up a few years ago. So you’ll have to hunt that down if you want to try it. And it is worth noting that that version had been held by some time by collectors who were unwilling to let it be dumped. So the construction of this particle of greatness was effectively blocked for an age by their greed. Please remember that.

In monster form, Elvira’s black gown switches to something rather more revealing, which is kind of keeping in character honestly.
Monster Party’s collection of B-movie goofballs have been replaced, with a new series of B-movie goofballs. I love the Statue of Liberty’s face in the background.

One of the folk responsible for this patch is Garrett Gilchrist (Twitter), who as it turns out was also one of the people behind the Raggedy Ann and Andy patch we reported on a few weeks ago. They’ve made a number of other patches hosted on Romhacking.net that, if you have an interest in such things, you may want to take a look at. Another person who helped in the making of Elvira’s Monster Party, through research, is Rani Baker, who has a Ko-Fi if you’d like to throw them a dollar or two.

It wouldn’t be Elvira without a heaping helping of playful innuendo.

Elvira’s Monster Party, at romhacking.net (via Frank Cifaldi’s Twitter feed)

Nethackathon 2022

April 15th through the 17th, a group of 24 streamers will be playing classic roguelike NetHack for 48 straight hours on Twitch! Their site is at nethackathon.org, and they’re on Twitter. Last year’s marathon can be found archived on YouTube.

They did a similar stream last year in the month of September, but this year they’ve moved it to April in order to space themselves better around the two major NetHack tournaments in June and November.

What is that? You don’t know anything about NetHack? Oh boy, I get to explain it again-it’s a venerable roguelike game that’s been in existence for 34 years! The first version of NetHack is older than the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It began during the presidency of Ronald Reagan! While there have been lulls in its development, and at least one major member of its dev team, Izchak Miller, passed away years ago, it’s still going, and it’s still being worked on. It’s notable for its high difficulty, the large amount of information a player must assimilate to be successful, and for its high degree of fairness (although sometimes it doesn’t seem fair)

NetHack comes across as like a solo adventure in an old school first-edition AD&D megadungeon. It’s full of monsters with weird properties, you have to figure out what your items do, and every game is randomly generated.