How Many Super Mario Games Are There NOW?

For the best results, read the title with a whiny stress on the word NOW, like you’re a kid asking “Are we THERE yet?”

Let me see, off the top of my head. It’s Super Mario, so the original Mario Bros. or anything before it are out. I assume these are “mainline” games, meaning tentpoles for their platform. Okay, let’s go:

Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan), Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA), Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. 4: Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros., New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Wonder. That’s 18, but I’m sure I missed one or two. Super Mario Maker & 2 are more like side games; All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is basically a romhack, if it’s not a platformer in some way it’s not really a Super Mario game so Paint and sports and karts don’t kount. Bowser’s Fury is like a parallel universe, and the later Yoshi and Wario games made themselves distinct from the original series. Mario Clash for Virtual Boy doesn’t have Super in the title, and it feels more akin to Mario Bros. anyway.

jan Misali (talk to them about their name’s capitalization) did a video covering the matter in an extreme amount of detail. It’s two hours and eight minutes long! Can you hang in there that long? I just finished the video about the Star Wars hotel and I’m frankly exhausted. Tell me how this one ends.

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)

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!

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?

Vivian in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is Trans

She is! She always has been!

Image from abadidea on Mastodon, who got it from Nintendo Life

I had heard this fact but wasn’t sure if it was actual lore or fan-canon, a character who had been adopted by the community as trans. But as it turns out she always had been in the original Japanese, and in some localizations. Nintendo of America censored that aspect of the character for the US audience.

It’s funny. Those of us in the US who “consume media” that’s been localized for international audiences sometimes hear of those countries where one aspect or other has been papered over, like making Steven Universe’s Ruby a boy so her and Sapphire’s relationship would play better in countries with more homophobic cultures. Show creator Rebecca Sugar pushed against those localization decisions by, when the characters got married, making sure Ruby was the one in the wedding dress. It’s a decision that may have shortened the show’s run (the last season feels rushed), which reflects poorly on producer and airer Cartoon Network.

We in the US can tut at this, and look down upon those “less enlightened” places. Well, here’s a case where it was done for us, to us. And it’s been remedied in the new release, not a change, but the removal of a change. Vivian isn’t a bit character either, she’s an important part of the story.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the highlight of the Paper Mario series, its gameplay is terrific, and it’s story is hilarious and surprising, much better than a Mario game has any right having. It has many fans, and I’m sure most of them didn’t know either. When they play through this and find out about Vivian, I think it’s going to spark a number of conversations. It may also spark a few realizations.

Episode 3 of BS Shiren the Wanderer Recovered

The Mystery Dungeon series of Japanese roguelikes, which includes the Shiren the Wanderer games, has a fair number of obscure entries. There’s “The Rainbow Labyrinth,” a mobile entry that toyed with adding F2P features and never made it out of beta. There’s a few other mobile remakes of early titles that can’t be obtained or played now due to their platforms being discontinued. And back on Super Famicom, one of the very first Mystery Dungeon games, a spinoff and modification of Furai no Shiren, was released for Nintendo’s Satellaview add-on.

Most Satellaview titles are extremely obscure now, with their only remaining remnants that aren’t languishing in a vault somewhere inside Nintendo (if they even exist there) being saved data files on aging flash memory cartridges in the possession of diehard Nintendo players and collectors in Japan. Satellaview was treated as a way of distributing disposable software, games and other programs that were tied to a specific date or time, so there are a good number of lost items for it, and many will probably never be recovered.

Entropy and bitrot are huge problems with computer software of all types, and it’s shocking how little most companies, even Nintendo themselves sometimes, seem to think about recording essential parts of their past. So any successful reclaiming of old data from the land of howling hungry ghosts is good.

Image from Satellablog

That’s why I’m remarking here that Satellablog, dedicated to recovering and making playable as much old Satellaview software as they can, has managed to obtain a copy of Episode 3, of the Satellaview version of Shiren the Wanderer, “Save Surara” or “Save Surala” depending on the tastes of the person romanizing the title. That means episodes 2, 3 and 4 have been found, leaving only the first episode.

Save Surara was a Soundlink title, like the releases of BS Legend of Zelda. That means they were intended to be played at the same time as a special audio broadcast, and contained events that were timesynced with that broadcast. Without the broadcast (which are usually lost now), Soundlink games can’t be entirely played as originally intended, but it’s still better than nothing.

Here is video of Episode 3 in action. It’s about 49 minutes long. It’ll have to be modified to get it into a state where people who aren’t into romhacking will be able to play it themselves:

With three episodes recovered, there’s still hope that someone in Japan saved a copy of Episode 1 on a forgotten flashcart resting in a closet somewhere. Frog bless all of you awesome hardware horders over there!

Thrilling Tales of Old Video Games, on Princess Peach Showtime

The article notes how few games in Nintendo’s many series star Peach. There’s really only been one headline game for her before, 2006’s Super Princess Peach, which was really easy. Showtime isn’t bad, but the article notes it’s more like a collection of minigames than a cohesive whole. I mean yes, it does feel a bit like nitpicking, but Peach has been playable in a good number of platformers before, going back all the way to Super Mario Bros 2., but never in the starring role. (She’s arguably the best character in Mario 2, too.)

Please excuse the “Demo Available,” this image came from Nintendo’s site.

The article notes how much Peach’s sidekick resembles Lisa Simpson, and is that ever apt.

Is this a low-effort post? Maaaybe. But the article is a good overview of Peach’s history as a playable character, I agree with their plea that she needs more time in the spotlight.

Monopoly Mario Illustrations in the Style of Rich Uncle Pennybags

There is no one who hates a thing more than someone who formerly loved it. As a kid I rather enjoyed Monopoly, until I came to realize its many flaws (as I like to say, it’s over long before it ends). This means I know a lot about the game, even though I find it pretty annoying to play.

One of the things about Monopoly I know is that its artwork has changed a fair bit over the years. The board mostly looks the same, but the characters are different. The character that Hasbro now calls by the generic “Mr. Monopoly,” and used to be called Rich Uncle Pennybags, was not the original mascot for the game, which was a character with a big 50s ad art-styled head. I don’t have pictures of it, just vague memories from seeing it back during the Monopoly anniversary that happened decades ago now. Google is of no help. The search continues.

Another thing that I know about Monopoly, as the rest of the developed world by now, is that Hasbro was, for a while, extremely active in pimping out the Monopoly property for making custom versions. There are several hundred of then, probably thousands by now, and they keep making more.

There have been multiple Nintendo Monopoly boards. Mario obscurites site Supper Mario Broth found one, and in one of the few examples of something I’ve found interesting about one of those damn Monopoly variants, there are drawings of Mario and Luigi on the cards done in the style of Rich Uncle Pennybags!

Most of them are pretty sad attempts to wallpaper over Monopoly game elements with a Mario pattern. In the game, houses are “power-ups,” and a hotel is an “invincibility.” But the artwork shows much more care in melding the two properties than do the rules!

Mario Parties require you pay at the door. They’re probably BYOB too.

PannenKoek’s Epic 3 3/4-Hour Explanation Of Mysterious Mario 64 Invisible Walls

You may remember PannenKoek as that person who has been trying to figure out how to complete Super Mario 64 in as few A button presses as possible, an odd, but no less noble, quest. They’ve been at it for quite a long time now, 13 years, but they’re still going. They have two loaded Youtube channels containing the pixelated fruits of their labors, PannenKoek2012 and UncommentatedPannen. Whenever you see a random Youtube video that uses the File Select music from Super Mario 64 as background music, they’re paying homage to PannenKoek, god of the game explainers.

While explaining aspects of Mario 64, that foundational, primordial 3D platformer, sometimes they ably explain complex and niche topics in computer science along the way. We’ve covered their videos before, more than once probably, and marveled at how by explaining some unexpected behavior in Nintendo’s N64 launch title, they have managed to make something important about how computers do things comprehensible. In three videos, they explained how Mario 64 handles terrain well enough that one feels (somewhat misguidedly) that they could implement their own 3D platformer. They made a bizarrely interesting video about how characters blink their eyes that shows various ways that games implement timers and randomness. They have a whole video on pseudorandom number generation, and another on floats, that computer number representation system that has deeply weird implications.

Their most recent video is a three hour, 45 minute epic that explains why sometimes, when Mario jumps, he seems to strike something invisible in his way. It’s a consequence of several unusual decisions Nintendo made in constructing the physics of Mario’s world, which includes the fact that level edge walls in Mario 64 aren’t implemented as geometry, but as a consequence of the lack of geometry: if there is no floor over a space, then the game rules it as Out Of Bounds. It won’t let Mario enter this completely invisible unspace under normal conditions, and will instantly kill him if he somehow enters into it. It is like antimatter. And that’s not even getting into how ceilings operate.

Here, then, it is. It is a lot, and I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t get through it all, but for a certain intersection of game obsession and brain chemistry, it is engrossing, and that’s before they even get to the periodic table of invisible walls:

Could You Realistically Survive in Super Mario 64?

It’s a fun idea, to determine if you, as a physical human being person, with all your physical human being person needs, could survive in the world of Super Mario 64, were you somehow to be transported there permanently.

The video embedded and linked below, from a Youtuber named Pretzel, is the projected beginning of a series about whether you could survive in different game worlds. Games are abstractions, and play life in them often leaves out details like drinking, eating, or (let’s face it) pooping. By ignoring that and trying to look at them as if they were actual places you are, by definition, engaging in pedantry, ignoring the essential nature of these places. But it’s fun to think about somewhat. At least we know this world has cake!

Could You SURVIVE in Super Mario 64? (Youtube, 14 minutes)