Romhack Thursday: Junkoid

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

A hack of NES Metroid, Junkoid doesn’t offer many changes to the original game besides graphics and area maps. Most of the engine changes it has are pre-existing patches made by other people. It uses the Metroid map and save game patch, but only offers a map for the starting region. Fortunately, while it has some cool secret areas to find, its mazes aren’t particularly complex, and I was able to complete it without keeping any maps on paper.

Junkoid’s premise is that the game world is a dream had by its protagonist, which is its excuse to provide a variety of imagery without any great coherency to it. One area seems like it’s drenched in blood, which I am not usually a fan of) Another like it’s a cloning factory, dedicated to making clones of the heroine, but its boss is a penguin that acts mostly like Ridley.

For the most part it’s not too difficult going, but I found that the final boss could be very frustrating. It uses Mother Brain’s coding most as-is, and doesn’t have the Zebetite gates immediately before it so you can get by with fewer missiles, but it’s very easy to get tossed around by the various hazards of the final area, and the boss’s weak spot, which can only be harmed by missiles, was a bit too finicky when registering hits. Still though, I can vouch that it’s possible.

Have some more screenshots:

Junkoid’s Romhacking.net page

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.

Video: The Minimum Punches To Beat NES Punch-Out!!

Please forgive the two exclamation points in the title. We writers are only given a limited number of exclamation points to use every month by the shadowy Punctuation Cabal, but Punch-Out!!’s title has two of them in it, so to properly stylize it I have to use two each time. Wasteful! Oops, there’s another one. I’m just going to save them from here on out. But anyway.

YouTuber Pap is a TAS speedrunner, meaning, he deals with absolutes. He knows the state of the machine, and isn’t limited by any puny human reaction times, but works by recording button sequences that can be played back infallibly. He asked a question: what’s the minimum number of punches needed to play through the main game of Punch-Out? The answer is 120, but since the game has significant randomness, it’s really unlikely.

He presents what is probably the definitive answer, but that’s not really the interesting thing about it. His video is a master class on the game’s state, how it determines knockdowns and knock-outs, and how it awards stars. Some interesting things revealed:

  1. If a fighter ever gets up on a count of 1, connecting with a single star punch can knock them back down immediately.
  2. Many star punches are awarded based on successful punches where the opponent is not stunned or knocked down. You get them on a cycle based on a count that differs with each fighter. Special timing doesn’t have anything to do with it; it’s if the hit was successful of not. Late punches after stunning give star punches because the opponent is no longer stunned, not because they’re late.
  3. On top of that, there are random stars that are awarded sometimes. This randomness is significant for the minimum punch count challenge. But these stars can only occur if you already have at least one star! Keeping a star in reserve actually helps you earn more stars more easily.
  4. You having full health affects multiple boxers in significant ways, including sometimes turning knockdowns into knockouts.
  5. Soda Popinski has a trick where, if you hold down while he’s preparing to uppercut, he delays. He can then be gut-punched, and if you do, your next star punch will always knock him down.
  6. In the second fight with Bald Bull, I always wondered why it was difficult for me to counter his bull charge at first. Turns out, it wasn’t just me. The “long” version of his charge has a shorter success window, of just four frames! The “short” version, which happens if you dodge the long version, however, has a window of 13 frames. It’s so long it’s almost a gimmie. (I am resisting the urge to expend another exclamation point there.)
  7. The greatest minimum number of punches needed to beat any opponent is a tie between King Hippo (an atypical opponent in many ways) and Mr. Sandman (not surprising at all) at 20.
  8. The lowest minimum number is one, which can be gotten from Glass Joe (of course), the rematch against Piston Honda (huh) and the rematch against Bald Bull (what?).
  9. Mike Tyson/Mr. Dream can be defeated in six punches.

Video: UCBVG Covers Nightshade

We link to U Can Beat Videogames once in a while here (in fact, here), and this week has an especially interesting installment, Beam Software’s cult classic NES game Nightshade. It’s a weird point-and-click adventure game, hugely ambitious and largely successful. Sadly it was released fairly late in the life of the NES. Nowadays it looks amazingly prescient, putting the player in control of a Batman-like hero with no powers at the beginning of his career. It’s an engaging combination of gritty and comedic, offering a Batman-style dark graphical look to its city, but also full of in-jokes, and some of the weirder character art on the system.

It’s arguably better to play Nightshade now than when it was first released. It has no save or password function, but that’s not so much an issue with save states. It’s available on Steam and on the Nintendo Switch Online service.

It does have the standard point-and-click style of obtuse puzzle sometimes, but there’s an abundance of cool ideas. You don’t have “lives,” but instead, when Nightshade “dies,” he’s thrown into a James Bond-style deathtrap. The first four times this happens, there is a way out of the situation, and if you can figure it out in time you get to continue the game with full health. (The fifth time, the trap has no escape.) Each of the traps is unique and a situation that appears nowhere else in the game.

Romhack: Raggedy Land with Ann & Andy

Here at Set Side B our purview is “Indie, Retro, Niche,” and we consider romhacks, of the niche, to be among the the nicheist. (Nietzsche-est?) But there are lots of romhacks, with more every day, and most just aren’t that newsworthy.

This one’s pretty interesting though? As the Romhacking.net entry mentions, Raggedy Ann, while once a pretty big pop culture property with an animated movie and two TV specials directed by Chuck Jones, has fallen into disuse for decades due to rights issues.

The linked hack, for Data East’s Famicom McDonalds tie-in game Donald Land, is an attempt by Garrett Gilchrist and Brooklyn Williams to simulate what a Raggedy Ann game from the NES era would have been like, using graphics and characters from different iterations. Here’s a scene with The Greedy, from the feature cartoon, that once inspired many a nightmare:

Pretty cool, and rather more ambitious than your standard pedestrian graphics swap!

News 7/20/22: Pikmin Cracked Boy

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

Aaron Greenbaum at Den of Geek investigates, what was the last NES game released? Covers multiple territories, and both licensed and unlicensed titles, although in that later case recent releases stretch the premise considerably.

This might be our first link to comingsoon.net, reporting that Nintendo has purchased the studio that animated those charming Pikmin shorts from back in the Wii-U era. [Reminders: first, second, third] Maybe we should save those links for Sunday? Maybe we’ll just slip them in again some week.

We have a bit of animosity towards Cracked for how they treated several of their prior writers, although that did eventually result in the creation of both Behind The Bastards and Some More News, which are creator-owned. Still, bad scene Cracked. Currently working for them (for how long?) is Eli Yudin, and they wrote a list of 15 Gloriously Weird Genesis games. It contains ToeJam & Earl, Wiz & Liz, Rocket Knight Adventures, The Ooze, and Mutant League Football, among others.

At Stone Age Gamer they have a series about Game Boy sequels to NES games, and in that Chris Randazzo writes about Blaster Master Boy, which is really a Game Boy port of Robowarrior, which was originally known as Bomber King in Japan, where it was a spinoff of Bomberman! The source for that information: the dusty back corners of my beleaguered brain.

Callum Bains at TechRadar brings us news that a number of Bethesda and id Software games are playable for free, for a limited time, to people in the Xbox Insiders program.

Jody Macgregor at PC Gamer tells us that that fan remake of Ocarina of Time will get new features, including unlocked frame rate and adjustable difficulty.

Lost Ed Logg Developed Prototype of Millipede for Famicom Found

If you dig around the forums of AtariAge, sometimes there are wonders to be found.

It’s been known for a while that three classic-era Atari arcade games were produced by HAL for the Famicom and NES: Defender II a.k.a. Stargate, Millipede, and Joust. Nicole Express recently did her typically excellent job discussing them and what makes them interesting. Such as, among other things: they use music that was later reused in NES Punch-Out!!, they are subtly different between their Famicom and NES versions, Satoru Iwata may have personally worked on them, and they were developed as part of Nintendo’s pitch to Atari to have them distribute the NES in the United States.

Something that one might overlook reading the article, however, is the news that this isn’t the only version of Millipede made for the Famicom hardware. As an in-house project at Atari Games/Tengen, Ed Logg himself implemented Millipede for it, before they discovered that the publishing rights in the US resided with the other Atari, the one that got bought by Jack Tramiel.

The source was recently found on a backup tape from Atari, and hand-assembled. The resulting rom file can be downloaded from the AtariAge thread on it. It has no sound, because that hasn’t been implemented yet, the colorful alternate palettes of the arcade version are missing, there are some bugs (I mean program bugs, not enemies), and the DDT Bomb objects hadn’t been put in yet, but a lot of the game is still there. There are even multiplayer modes, supporting up to four players playing alternating or simultaneously! It’s especially interesting since Ed Logg assisted Centipede’s creator Dona Bailey in creating the original game.

The NES Sample Encoding Error

There was an error in the data prep in many NES games that caused them to reverse the bit order of samples. Or more accurately, the games encoded the samples correctly, but the flaw is in the NES sound hardware.

The result is, many games with samples sound notably worse than they should. The most infamous example of this is the sound in Double Dribble, which sounds particularly bad on its title screen. The difference can be heard on the game’s page on The Cutting Room Floor. There’s a hack for Double Dribble on romhacking.net that corrects the samples in-game.

Another game this affects is the unlicensed Tengen NES game KLAX. In the arcade KLAX had very little music, but the NES version has excellent music that relies heavily on sampled instruments. There’s a fixed patch for that game on romhacking.net, too!

Chrontendo #60

Chrontendo’s back! Dr. Sparkle’s long-running journey through the entire library of the Famicom and NES continues. He’s been doing this for at least 15 years! Chrontendo got its start as a blog, then moved to a YouTube format, although every episode is also uploaded to the Internet Archive. Dr. Sparkle tries to complete the games he covers, meaning, sometimes it takes a very long time to construct an episode, especially when it contains a lengthy JRPG.

In addition to being generally watchable by anyone with even a passing interest in video gaming history, Chrontendo is a good series just to have on in the background while you do other things. What I’m saying is that it’s comfortable. Like Comfortable Doug! (warning: earworm)

Chrontendo 60 is subtitled “The Most Perverted Episode,” covers April through May of 1990, and features:

  • horse racing sim Kurogane Hiroshi No Yosou Daisuki! Kachiuma Densetsu,
  • a long section the original Fire Emblem and the series in general,
  • Rare’s PinBot, a very unique and interesting simulation of a real Williams pinball table with some unique video extras,
  • GameTek’s home version of the Nickelodeon game show Double Dare, which was also made by Rare,
  • the ludicrously-titled Dinowarz: The Destruction of Spondylus,
  • Imagineering’s Ghostbusters II,
  • Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road, by Rare,
  • a very long section on the epic Final Fantasy III, from and by Square, which Dr. Sparkle proclaims to be the best JRPG on the system,
  • Kagerou Densetsu, a “sorta action RPG thing” published by “Pixel,” but we’re not sure who exactly that is, and may have been intended, it is speculated, to be a kind of RPG-ish sequel to The Legend of Kage, and
  • Nintendo World Cup (forgive me for not typing out the entire Japanese title), that weird Kunio soccer game that Nintendo published under their own banner, just with all the story and setting removed. It’s a decent soccer game even so.

With this episode, Dr. Sparkle is declaring a dividing point for the series. Up until now has been the rise of the Famicom; the rest covers its fall, what he calls the “Byzantine Empire” phase of the system’s life. This doesn’t mean the series is almost over though. Far, far from it.

Chrontendo #60 (YouTube, 2h 36m) – archivespreviously

Sundry Sunday: Nintendo Reminds “You Cannot Beat Us”

It’s Sunday again! The weeks have been hard and they’re only getting harder, so as a reward for making it this far, please enjoy this entertainingly oppressive commercial from 1986!

Back in the NES days Nintendo of Australia sponsored this commercial to put players in their place. I especially like the voice of the Duck Hunt Dog, and the Mario castle music used as a background soundtrack.

Link Roundup 5/12/22

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

Greetings to all humans down there on planet Glorb-III, also known as Earth. Let’s get started, drebnar!

A lament from Reddit on how Streetpasses are impossible to get now. If only Nintendo had thought to include them on the Switch. Probably it’ll take another ten years before they realize what a good idea they had.

Chris Moyse from Destructoid tells us this week’s Arcade Archives release is Taito’s Fighting Hawk!

Kate Gray from Nintendo Life writes about the thing that all video game journalists are someday destined by fate to write about: Earthbound. It’ll happen here too someday, you can rely upon it. And Alana Hauges frpm Nintendo Life has some words to say about its sequel Mother 3!

From Polygon, Michael McWhertor enthuses about how great is the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, Shredder’s Revenge.

Chris Friberg of Den of Geek tells us his picks for the 15 best NES RPGs. #1 is Dragon Quest III! (What do you mean, don’t spoil it? I’m an alien, I spoil everything drebnar!) He also ranks Wizardry pretty high, he has great taste!

Over on Hackaday, Robin Kearey tell us about a reimplementation of the classic Tamagotchi using modern hardware!

Blake Johnson of CBR.com asks if a collection of the DS Castlevania games could ever be released? While the fan favorite remains Symphony of the Night, the DS games are excellent and retain many of its greatest elements.

The image in question, from History of Hyrule’s Twitter feed. Hi Melora!

Go Nintendo’s rawmeatcowboy points to the discovered female Link art from Japanese guidebooks that History of Hyrule uncovered! Hey, that image looks familiar! Meanwhile, comicbook.com’s Connor Casey tells us that professional wrestlers Steve Austin and Cody Rhodes disagree as to which is the best Legend of Zelda game, respectively, Breath of the Wild or Ocarina of Time. This may be the only time in my entire life that I’ve agreed with the opinion of earthling Steve Austin, although admittedly I’m a unicellular organism filled with an iridescent goo.

And Jules Wang at Android Police tells us that Chromebooks should be getting better Android support later, improving their game-playing experience. Between that and Steam Support, who needs a Steam Deck? (Answer: ME I DO YES I WANT ONE PLEASE SEND IT TO MEEEEEE)