Unexpected Pinball Cow

Cows have had a long history associated with pinball. Not that long compared to the whole range of pinball, going back to the Great Depression, but in the days of games with dot-matrix displays, it became a tradition to hide cows in pinball games in some way.

Just one example. In Attack From Mars, if you hit the Big-O-Beam ramp, sometimes the animal being enlarged is a cow. (If you can’t take your eyes off the game, listen for the woman saying “Would you look at the size of that cow?!”) Further, if you press the start button several times during this animation (each press will be punctuated by a MOO), it’ll turn the Saucer Attack minigame into Cow Attack, which is actually slightly easier I find; the hit detection is pixel-accurate, and the cows make for bigger targets. Here’s Cow Attack in action (one minute):

A history of pinball cows would take quite a while to explain, and that’s not the purpose of this post. No, what I’m here to tell you is that the legend of the Pinball Bovines has crossed to the makers of Metroid Prime Pinball on the Nintendo DS, which contains a cow! Here is video proof (33 seconds):

It’s explained in a saved interview on the Metroid Fandom wiki:

Remrod: “Indeed I am. I am renting two squash courts to store about 100 machines. But our DS version of pinball is more fun than the real thing!” (laughter)

Terasaki: “That’s right. There’s even an unexpected appearance from a cow.”

NOM: “A cow? What’s that got to do with Metroid?”

Barritt: “There was a pinball game in the 1980s called ‘Fire!’ in which a cow puts in an appearance. The game is about a huge fire that once broke out in Chicago. The cause of the fire was a cow kicking over a lantern. Ever since then, cows have become a fixture as hidden characters in pinball machines. This is well-known among pinball aficionados in Europe and the States, and perhaps around half of the pinball games released since then have featured a cow concealed in them. Naturally, we also put one in Super Mario Ball…” (laughter)

Terasaki: “If you do happen to find the cow, please leave it in peace!” (laughter)

The cow in the game has wings and flies around. Please, if you play it, respect this noble beast.

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)

The Secret of SMB’s Hidden 1UP Blocks

Super Mario Bros. has 10 “1UP” blocks throughout its eight worlds. One of them is in World 1-2, and another is in world 8-2. These are visible (although they appear to be ordinary bricks when hit), and always produce a 1UP Mushroom when hit.

But also, there are a total of eight other 1UP Mushroom blocks in the game. These are hidden, invisible and intangible unless struck from beneath. That causes them to appear and produce a 1UP Mushroom… sometimes.

The 1UP blocks are always in the first level of each world (1-1, 2-1, 3-1, and so on.). They also always appear if you start on that level (say, using the level selection feature unlocked after finishing 8-4) or if the player has just warped to that level. But in other situations, the block usually doesn’t appear.

Image from Stephen Lindholm’s website. Text is from Nintendo’s “How to Win at Super Mario Bros.”

What causes them to appear? Even Nintendo’s guide authors at the time didn’t know. Depending on the source, it either had to do with whether Mario was big when he hit it, or whether he found all the coins in the previous world.

Stephen Lindholm’s website has the details on the true criteria, and you should read it there, but to summarize:

  • There is a flag in the game that is set when a game is begun, when the player warps, or if the player has collected a certain number of coins in the third level of the previous world. 1-3, 2-3, 3-3, etc. That is the deciding factor.
  • How many coins is needed? In World 1-3, it’s all but two. In all the other X-3 levels, you must collect every coin! The game has a short table in its code for the minimum number of coins necessary to earn the mushroom on each level.
  • If you do this, the flag is set. When you get to the following world’s first level, when the 1UP Mushroom block would be generated by the game’s world building code (which operates off the screen to the right of the player’s location), if the flag is set, the invisible block is placed and the flag is unset.
  • If the player dies before collecting it, or never hits it, either way the mushroom is lost.

Weird Moments in Video Games: Star Force and Cleopatra

The Museum Monster presents:
a WEIRD MOMENT IN VIDEO GAMES.

About halfway through the arcade version of Star Force, a prominent early shooter made by Tehkan (later renamed Tecmo, and now half of Tecmo-Koei) something weird happens.

Whatever could it mean??

Shooters were in a kind of odd phase right then. The enormously influential Xevious was fresh in memory, and it presented, as a striking and memorable background element, the Nazca lines from Peru. It lent the game an air of mystery that impressed many Japanese players.

Perhaps inspired by that, Tehkan’s developers put something similarly bizarre in Star Force, but it’s a lot better hidden. First, you have to get about halfway through the game. Once there, on the ground of the weird space continents that float by serenely beneath your craft, you can spot a coelacanth, a whopping-great space fish.

You don’t see that every day Chauncy.

Then, if you aim your ship’s guns at the spot at the right side of the screen that it’s looking at, and fire your guns a whole bunch of times, you’ll make the golden head you can see in the above screenshot appear. Then, fire at it a whole bunch more. If you’re relying on autofire it won’t do, you must actually pound away at the fire button yourself to have any hope of unloading as much firepower as needed to destroy it. If you do, this happens:

CONGRATULATION!

Here is a recording I made of this being done in gameplay. Note, I had an invincibility cheat on, because not only is the game extremely hard at this point, but unloading enough shots into it requires you to stay in one place for a while. In a real gameplay situation your only hope is to encounter Cleo during the lull between enemy waves.

Huh. So, what is that about anyway? It like triples your score! There is no mention of Cleopatra anywhere else in the game, and no hint as to what she’s doing sleeping on a big purple island floating out in deep space. This doesn’t occur anywhere else. It just a thing that happens.

A VERY WEIRD THING!