Video: GoldenTorizoCode

This is a channel on YouTube of various Super Metroid glitches and weirdness. A lot of it is pretty deep magic, and they tend to throw around evocative terms like Murder Beam, Chainsaw Beam, and even Spacetime Beam. Those links are useful in understanding what in the burning acidic heck the narrator is talking about. Knowing and caring about the gameplay of Super Metroid is, of course, required for comprehension.

But if you do know about Super Metroid, and you do care about learning about some of the more ridiculous glitches in videogamedom, then you’re in for something that is a reasonable approximation of entertainment.

The name of the channel refers to a debug feature left in Super Metroid’s code, that can be pulled off without hyper-obscure tech, although in the process it’s likely to crash your game. When you enter into the room of the of the bosses, the Golden Torizo, if all of the face buttons are held down during the transition, your equipment will be overwritten by a number of items. The code gives you all of the beam weapons in the game, which is good, but also turns them all on at once, producing the afore-mentioned Murder Beam, which will likely crash the game, not good. The opposite of good.

Here’s links to a few of these videos: an unused enemy called a Bang, activating “God Mode,” and how to obtain and use the end-game weapon Hyper Beam against bosses. It is some pretty intense geekery, but that’s sometimes what flows out of the faucets around here.

Nintendo Direct, September 2022

Nintendo released a new Nintendo Direct yesterday, and everyone in the gamesphere is posting about it as they always do. I suppose we should say something too. While it’s not directly related to our subject matter, Nintendo is as niche as a major game publisher gets, so I believe I can find room for it.

First, here’s the video if you care to watch it yourself (the relevent part is about 45 minutes long, I’ve cued it up to the content):

In summary:

Not to bury the lede like Nintendo usually does, the last trailer was about the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, subtitled Tears of the Kingdom. I think they should just call every game Magical Thingumy, but no one ever listens to good sense. The given release date is May 20, 2023, so, not much longer to wait. Despite the closeness of its release, even less was presented about the game than the last time it showed up in a Nintendo Direct!

Fire Emblem Engage seems to offer crossovers between characters from prior games, including Marth himself, Mr. Fire Emblem, the hero of the first game. I mean all the big game companies seem to be falling over themselves to cross their games and even series together into a thick homogeneous paste, why should Nintendo be any different? Arguably they started the whole trend with Smash Bros. anyway. Fire Emblem has been to this well once before with the mobile app Fire Emblem Heroes. Release date: January 20.

A crossover between Fitness Boxing and Fist of the North Star, the anime property no one’s been clamoring for. “Box with familiar characters.” Sure, like, um, that guy. Hatatatatatatata! I’d explain more, but you’re already dead.

OddBallers, a party game for up to six players. Tunic makes it to Switch, where it should probably have debuted. Remakes of Front Missions 1 and 2 (first time out of Japan for the second), with 3 coming in the future.

New release Splatoon 3 (what, it’s out already?) is getting its first Splatfest. Mario Strikers Battle League is getting new characters Pauline and Diddy Kong.

Octopath Traveler 2 is coming and it looks the same, and a new Final Fantasy Theatrhythm (with a ton of DLC of course).

The original Mario + Rabbids took a lot of people by surprised with its deep gameplay, and it even somehow made the Rabbids more fun than annoying. Other than a couple of minor gameplay features (exploring, Sparks), and maybe playable Bowser, the only really new information was its release date of October 20. I mean, there’s pre-order bonuses and a season pass, but it’d almost be more news if those weren’t going to be offered.

Let’s keep rolling with that farming theme. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is getting remade as Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. Why change the brand? Are there rights issues around the original? Turns out, yes. Jessica Thomas lays it all out for us at thegamer.com.

More farming! New games called Fae Farm and Harvestella. I guess if you’ve completely exhausted all of Stardew Valley’s many many features and updates and are still not farmed out, there you go. You could also go out and get some seeds and plant your own garden, unless you live in the city, you poor soul. Still, this way has far less back-breaking labor, and you don’t have to smell manure.

Even more farming! Your feed trough runneth over! Rune Factory 3 is being remade, and another Rune Factory series is coming.

Playing these things since the Atari VCS days has inoculated me against a lot of hype, but the me that played Goldeneye back in college would have been thrilled by this.

A bevy of new N64 games is coming to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, including, Pilotwings 64, Mario Parties 1-3, Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2, 1080 Snowboarding, Excitebike 64, and, amazingly, Goldeneye 007 with online multiplayer. I am practically certain that rights issues will have required that it be modified in some way, but that it has managed to come out at all is amazing considering the James Bond property’s owners, and that Nintendo and game creator Rare are nowhere near as close as they were back then. I’d like to know the story behind its rerelease. Honestly, the original came out twenty-five years ago. If this had made it out on Gamecube or even Wii it would have been a sensation, but FPSes have advanced so much since then. Well, nostalgia is a powerful drug. (Yeah, I said it.)

Along those lines. In addition to Octopath Traveler 2, the fandom dairy farm department of Square Enix is rereleasing Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core on Switch. I am apparently the only person in the gaming world without an abiding affection for Final Fantasy VII (the load times put me entirely the hell off the original game when it was new), so I can only watch from the sidelines. S-E also released (yesterday) the oddly-titled Various Daylife. I’m Somewhat Minuteinterested!

Speaking of fandom milking, prepare to low mournfully at the news that Mario Kart 8 is getting still more DLC tracks! And Capcom is releasing cloud versions of various Resident Evil games. Moooooo.

Wii Switch Sports is finally getting its Golf mode, released in a free update, before the end of the year, with 21 holes. I don’t know why they just didn’t wait to release it when it was finished, especially since Golf was the standout mode in Wii Sports, but I guess it’s common practice to delay a major feature or two on release now so a game can get a sales boost by announcing that feature later. There’s a spreadsheet deep in Nintendo’s marketing department that lays out the financial advantages of doing so. They keep it in a folder next to all their demonic contracts.

Shigeru Miyamoto appeared for a moment to hype the animated Mario movie releasing in the Spring, and the Nintendo World amusement park in Japan, and a new one opening soon in Hollywood, California. It’s kind of amazing to think that this is the very same Miyamoto who designed Donkey Kong in the early 80s, at a very different Nintendo. He devoted a lot of time to explaining the smartphone ARG Pikmin Bloom, even though it’s not particularly new. He mentioned that Pikmin 4 is coming out, but very very little about it.

Radiant Silvergun is being remade. Actually, has been remade, and should be out by the time you read this. It’s being released by “Live Wire Inc.” The word Treasure wasn’t mentioned at any time during the game’s brief appearance in the video.

Finishing up. Intrinisically co-op 3D platformer It Takes Two comes to Switch two, er, too. Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. Another Xenoblade Chronicles 3 DLC update. A new Spongebob Squarepants game, sure why not. Factorio is coming to Switch. Ib. (Ib? Yeah, Ib) Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key (what the hell is an atelier anyway and why do so many JRPGs have them?), Just Dance 2023 (sadly not for the Wii), Bayonetta 3, Master Detective Archives: RAIN COODE, Sifu, Endless Dungeon, a remake of Tales of Symphonia, Life is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection, Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song Remastered, Lego Bricktales, Disney Speedstorm, and Fall Guys: Season 2. Kirby Return to Dreamland Deluxe returns to the classic 2D-style Kirby gameplay.

This Direct’s hype score: 3/10. The only substantive announcements were Fire Emblem Engage and N64 Goldeneye 007! We knew Zelda was coming already, and all the other Nintendo things were either brief teasers or we already knew they were coming.

Wake me when it’s May.

Masahiro Sakurai’s Game Design Series

Sakurai’s fifth video, on frame rates.

A lot of the gaming web has been fawning over Kirby and Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai’s design videos. I haven’t had the chance to look at them yet, but they look interesting at least. They’ve been coming out at a good clip, like one every two days.

Sakurai’s star is so high right now, that it’s worth noting that (going by memory) he left Nintendo with a bit of a cloud over his head, after Kirby Air Ride was seen as something of a failure. Nowadays KAR (nice acronym!) is seen as an underrated classic, and I have put many hours into its City Trial mode, which is terrific, a tiny open-world high-speed racing/party game. More people should have the chance to play it; it is unique, which is something I can’t say about many other games. While the 3DS version of Smash Bros. has a mode inspired by it, in versus mode human players cannot interact with each other during the exploratory portion of the game, which harms it somewhat.

At the height of his abilities, Sakurai can make really interesting and new kinds of games, like Smash Bros. was, and like Kirby Air Ride and (the sadly neglected these days) Meteos are. It’s a shame that Smash is so popular, one of Nintendo’s biggest tentpoles, enough to crowd out his other work. I’m really interested to see what the next crazy idea he comes up with will be!

Sakurai’s Game Design Videos, on YouTube

VGDensetsu: The Work of Yōichi Kotabe

VGDensetsu hasn’t appeared in these pages yet and it’s high time we remedied that. This particular link is to a five-part series about an animator who switched careers to doing illustration for Nintendo, and played a major role in determining the look of many of their most popular characters, including Mario and Link.

Mario characters influenced by the work of Yōichi Kotabe
While often at the time illustrators went uncredited, it’s considered likely that Yōichi Kotabe did these illustrations of Link from Zelda II, and the island of Koholint from Link’s Awakening.

VGDesetsu: Yōichi Kotabe — 60 Years of Animation and Video Games
1. The Toei Era2. From One Studio to Another3. From Animation to Nintendo4. Diversification and Transmission5. Towards New Horizons

Video: Identifying Luck in Mario Party

We just had a post on a long series of videos about Super Mario 64‘s the A Button Challenge, so why not do another? I’m sure this won’t abuse your willingness to put up with what scientists call “all my crap.”

Mario Party is a series that skill will only carry your so far into. After a certain point, only the favor of The Lady (not Peach or Daisy) can ensure your victory. But, how much of the game is up to the rolling of virtual dice? And to what lengths are people willing to go to find out? Well at it turns out, lengths of over 16 hours:

This series is not yet complete, in that creator ZoomZike has yet to produce one on Mario Party 7, or later games, but the one on Mario Party 6 is over five hours long all by itself! This is truly a level of obsession with which my own petty focii cannot hope to complete.

News 8/23/22: Falcom, DLC, Playing Cards, Shipping

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

News posts has been light lately. I’ve been worried I’ve been starting to congeal. Even alien blob creatures get older. Well let’s go with what we have–

Kerry Brunskill at PC Gamer breaks the news about Startrader, a shmup made by Falcom for the PC 98. Falcom was mostly known for its classic and unique RPGs, while the PC 98 was mostly known for its erotic anime-styled games that could somehow make full-color pictures (yes, often of naked women) often with only 16 colors and a whole lot of dithering. Startrader went against both the RPG and eroge trends, but still managed to host some amazing artwork.

How did they do that in 16 colors?

At NintendoLife, Kate Gray suggests 3DS and Wii U DLC you should get, if you can, before their eShops shut down. Games discussed include Fantasy Life, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice and Dual Destinies, the many songs of Threatrhythm Final Fantasy and its Curtain Call sequel, and Fire Emblem Fates.

Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett brings us a sad story of a couple of packs of Nintendo playing cards from the 50s, that were bought at auction but, once opened, turned out to have been ruined by age. The arrow of time is one-way, sad to say. Ow, my nucleus!

And it’s not game related, but a friend-of-the-blog suggests, from Benj Edwards at How-To Geek, this guide for shipping fragile electronics.

Hyrule Interviews

It’s a big searchable database of a lot of interviews the people who have made Legend of Zelda games! You can browse by selections of quotes, by game, by publication, by interview topic, or by job rule. It’s a pretty plain site to look at, but there’s a lot of gold to find there if you’re at all curious about this long-running and immensely popular series.

One useful feature the site offers is pre-made images of some quotes (sadly, not all) suitable for including in Twitter posts! Here’s a few:

Hyrule Interviews

Arcade Mermaid: Vs. Castlevania

Arcade Mermaid is our classic arcade weirdness and obscurity column! Once a month we aim to bring you an interesting and odd arcade game to wonder at.

You are reading the words of a Castlevania fanatic. Your standard fan who came into the series with the Igavanias will tell you its pinnacles are Symphony of the Night or, if they’re really trying to impress, Rondo of Blood. Truthfully, both of those are fine games. But I am of the opinion that the best the series has ever been was the first and third Famicom/NES games, and that series creator Hitoshi Akamatsu got a raw deal. The first game particularly is an especially brilliant gem among the jewels of the early Famicom’s library. Every moment of it shows care and attention to detail.

Just a few examples. While many people curse the stream of Medusa Heads that harry Simon Belmont at several places in the game, the game is actually quite sparing with their use, easing up with them at certain telling moments. One particular place this happens is climbing the staircases in the second stage of Block 3: while you’re on the staircases there, interestingly, the Medusa Heads don’t attack.

Also, the Fish Men in the first and fourth blocks, on the first loop, are kind enough never to jump from beneath the player’s location. And while on the second and later loops through the game they will happily emerge right beneath your feet and bump you into the water, there is a tell even for this: except for a brief section where there are no candles, Fish Men only emerge from the water directly beneath candle locations. (I gained a small amount of internet notoriety when an online friend pointed out where I had observed this fact in a Metafilter thread.)

I could go on, and will for a few more sentences, even though this kind of stuff makes for boring writing. The subweapons are very precisely designed, each filling a specific role in the game. All of the game’s platforms are supported by background elements, and when the player climbs stairs to a new area, background pillars in the upper area mostly line up with those from the lower area. You can see the crumbling spire that’s the site of the Dracula fight far in the background in block 3, half of the game before you get to climb up there yourself, and it’s such an iconic piece of level design that almost every Castlevania game that follows includes it. Much of its brilliance is recounted by Jeremy Parish in his book on the NES Castlevania games. (An earlier version of the Castlevania material can be seen linked here on the Internet Archive, but please consider his book if you are able to buy it.)

All of this is just preamble though, to the true subject of this post: the port for Nintendo’s Unisystem arcade hardware, Vs. Castlevania.

Castlevania is renowned as a tough game. While it only has six “blocks,” broken down into 19 stages, the game ramps up in difficulty pretty quickly through that thin territory. I’ve played through it all dozens of times. I’ve completed the game on one life before, but I still find the last level challenging. Even so, I’ve rolled both the score counter and stage counter. I’m good at Castlevania, not speedrunner-level, but, no offense intended to those who are, I have other things that I have to do. I cannot devote huge blocks of time to mastering individual games like I could as a teenager.

If you enjoy the original Castlevania, you might want to have a look at the Vs. variant, which is available via the Arcade Archives series for current consoles. Especially if you count yourself a master at it, this version will probably put you in your place.

In terms of hardware, the Unisystem is very close to a NES, and Vs. Castlevania doesn’t use any tricks that its home version doesn’t. Here is video of me playing through the first level:

The first block of Vs. Castlevania (Stages 00-03)

People familiar with the original will notice that the game looks slightly different. The colors are different, which is something that was frequently the case of the arcade versions of NES software. It’s likely that the Unisystem’s hardware is responsible for this: as a protection against bootlegging, which was rife in the arcade industry, each Unisystem arcade board had, in addition to the ROMs with the code for each game, a specific, custom PPU chip with the palette for that game embedded within it. People who copied the ROM chips into EPROMs in order to run a game without buying it from Nintendo would have something that could technically run, but the palette would be for the original game, not the copied one, and make the colors look funny. While I don’t know if this is true for Vs. Castlevania, it might explain the difference if the whole game had to use a single palette set.

Two major differences between Vs. Castlevania and its home version are immediately evident. One, in the first level enemies do four bars of damage on each hit to protagonist Simon Belmont. The first couple of levels of NES Castlevania are mostly just a warmup. Enemies in both blocks only do two bars of damage, meaning even without health powerups Simon can take seven hits without dying. The increased damage is the same as on the game’s second loop, after finishing the whole thing and starting from the beginning. The arcade sensibility, to keep players putting in money in order to learn the game and see its later stages, means it doesn’t have time to let the player acclimate themselves to its heated waters. The fire is lit; the soup is boiling.

Block 4 (Stages 10-12)

Even worse though is that, for each of the first three blocks of the game, the player only has 170 seconds to finish. It’s quite a shock if you’re used to the original, where time is practically never an issue! Even if you’ve mastered the levels on the NES, you’ll find, if you don’t constantly work towards reaching the door of each stage, you will easily run out of time. Expect the warning alarm to be ringing through the boss fights until you get used to the constant progress the game demands.

I don’t know what it is about the later blocks, but they have much more generous time limits, along the lines of the NES version. For these levels, the challenge goes back to surviving enemy attacks. Starting with Block 3, the game increases the damage done by enemies to levels never seen in the NES game even at its hardest: six bars, enough to kill Simon in just three hits. This makes Dracula at the end of the game quite a challenge.

If you manage to loop the game, you get to see something quite amazing. Desperate to end the player’s credit now, the game increases the damage done by enemies to eight bars, killing Simon Belmont in just two hits. More than that, the game pulls off the stops with nuisance enemies. You even have to face bats in the outside area before entering the castle! Take a look at this:

Block 1 revisited and the beginning of Block 2 (Stages 19-23)

The extra nuisance enemies are an especially interesting addition, since NES Castlevania never uses so many, even on the second loop and beyond. It’s exactly the kind of ludicrous challenge that people who have mastered the original game should seek out!

Castlevania is not the only Vs. game with substantial differences from the arcade version. Vs. Excitebike has many niceties over the home version, including some clever bonus stages. Vs. Balloon Fight in the arcade is a vertically-scrolling game, that played with two players gives each its own monitor. There’s lots mot to say about these games, but I’ve got to save some material for later.

Long Hidden Two-Player Mode Found In SNES Super Punch-Out!!

The Twitter account Unlisted Cheats searches for and reports on undiscovered codes in classic games. They found a real doozy yesterday, about a secret two-player mode in the SNES game Super Punch-Out!! The news hit Reddit and has gotten up to 4,400 positive votes, so, folk seems really interested.

Bald Bull is one of those memorable characters who’s been in several games, but doesn’t get the respect he deserves. The crowd loves the Turkish Titan! And now you can play as him!
(Image credit: Mobygames)

(Note, for clarity, you have to say the SNES game Super Punch-Out!!, because Nintendo made a different arcade game that they also called Super Punch-Out!! Also, the exclamation points are part of the name. I’m not just really excited.)

To do it, Y+R must be held on controller 2, and Start pressed on controller 1. This loads a screen where any opponent may be selected

The opponent select screen. (Image credit: Unlisted Cheats)

Then, on the character info screen, hold B+Y, again on controller 2, and press Start on controller 1 to allow player 2 to control the opposing boxer.

The code even works on the version of the game on Nintendo Switch Online, so if you have an account there you can try it out without setting up an emulator or digging up an old cartridge.

It’s interesting to note the times that the big gaming sites reported on this. As of this writing (yesterday) and according to Google, Ars Technica reported on it 18 hours ago, followed by IGN (16 hours), Kotaku (15 hours), and then Eurogamer. Reddit says the post went up there 19 hours ago, and Unlisted Cheats posted it 20 hours ago. News travels fast in the videoscape.

The phenomenon of the cheat code has gone kind of out of fashion these days. They still exist, but tend to be more for debugging than anything, especially since interesting features can conceivably locked behind paid DLC gates and bring in more lucre to the mothership. I know of a particularly interesting code that news broke about some time back, but let’s give that its own moment in the sun, tomorrow….

Things That Could Get A SNES Game Rejected

The complete official SNES Development Manual, from Nintendo of America, is up on archive.org. This document contains a wealth of technical information on the system, its peripherals, and extra chips like the DSP-1, the Super FX and the SA-1.

The book also contains interesting information on the licensing and approval process! Some things specifically listed as potential issues for approval (page 1-2-4 to 1-2-5) are the player being able to get somewhere without hope of escape, the inability to pause somewhere during gameplay, “inconsistent scoring methods,” calling the controller or cartridge by unacceptable terms like “joystick” or “cassette,” accidentally leaving Super Famicom-style colored buttons in depictions of the controller, and whether there are vowels in the password system.

Video: The History of the A-Button Challenge

It’s now been some years since pannenkoek2012’s “A-button challenge” videos hit the scene, introducing the internet to hyper-obscure Super Mario 64 glitch concepts like the HOLP and Parallel Universes. For the record, those videos can be seen here and here, and if you haven’t seen them before, you are in for a ride. Videos like the Walls, Floors, and Ceilings series (37 minutes, 32 minutes and 37 minutes) are not only interesting in their own right (to people of a certain mindset) but are a good introduction to concepts for writing your own 3D platforming engine.

These videos are all ultimately in service to the A Button Challenge, a long-running quest to try to complete Super Mario 64 with a few presses of the A button as possible. What may seem like a completely spurious pastime, it turns out, has been an obsession with some players since not long after the game first came out!

The origins and history of the A Button Challenge are explained by a surprisingly long and deep series by YouTube user Bismuth, totaling over four hours of video and, as I write this, isn’t even complete. I’m not sure how many people would be interested in watching so much on such a niche endeavor, but pannenkoek’s videos have been popular enough that I figure they must be out there, and some of them may even read this blog, so here goes!

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.