The Nintendo Font

Youtuber T2norway educates us on a very commonly used font for Nintendo products from around the Gamecube era onward, especially remembered for its use in Wii Sports and other Wii software:

New Rodin

The video’s only four minutes long but the basic gist is that it’s actually two closely-related fonts, New Rodin and Shin Go, both based on a typeface created in 1975 called Gona. They have been called the Japanese version of Helvetica. They see frequent use in Japan in media, on signage, and of course in games too!

What’s the deal with this font? (Youtube, T2norway, 4 minutes)

Sundry Sunday: Christmas Nights Into Dreams

The Sega Saturn was one of the first consoles to feature a built-in real-time clock. Most systems now have one, so I’m kind of surprised that very few games make use of it. Animal Crossing does, sure, and some Pokemon titles have time-of-day features (which they had to include their own clocks in the cartridge hardware to support), but few other games bother reading the date.

One prominent example of a game that did was the Christmas demo version of Nights Into Dreams. Ordinarily just a single-level of the full game, the disk had a number of special modes that would crop up at different times. December was one of them, which triggered Christmas Nights mode, with special cutscenes and graphics. But it also had special events for playing during November or January (“Winter Nights”), New Year’s Day, and April Fools’ Day. Especially notable was an unlockable mode that allowed playing as Sonic the Hedgehog, in what is his first true 3D outing!

This video shows off all of Christmas Nights Into Dreams’ special modes, and you don’t have to fiddle with your computer’s clock to see them!

News 11/9/22: Lego Zelda, AI Art, EA Software Patent

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

Lego is banning new Ideas projects based on The Legend of Zelda, according to Chris Wharfe at Brick Fanatics. The reasoning given is a bit vague. It could either be because Lego is working on their own Zelda sets (and they already have a working relationship with Nintendo, making the popular Super Mario sets), or it could be that the rights to Zelda models were sold to someone else. Either way, it may mean we get Zelda models through some company eventually.

A pretty good Link model from Lego Ideas! From its project page.

PC Gamer, Andy Chalk: Final Fantasy XVI’s using excuses to not have Black characters. Specifically, by claiming the game’s world is based on medieval Europe, despite Black people existing there. Grumble, grumble!

Old school blogger Mark Frauenfelder of good ol’ Boing Boing mentions illustrator Hollie Mengert discovered her work was used without her permission to make AI-generated work, and the model that utilized her work released as open source by MysteryInc152. It links to an original article by Andy Baio at Waxy. Someone explain to me how AI-generated work isn’t legally a derivative work based on every work it’s trained on? That seems like it’s just obvious.

From Andy Baio’s article-the left is Hollie Mengert’s work, the right, the output of the AI model trained from it.

Rich Stanton at PC Gamer writes that EA’s been granted a patent on game controls that change based on how well the player does. Software patents are bad on principle, that is a horse that I will always flog despite this awful situation having existed for literally decades now, but getting past that, for now. This seems at first like just another version of adaptive difficulty, which is also something that seems like it’s kind of a problem when it happens without notifying the player or giving them a say in it. I know I know, “Kent Drebnar, get with the 21st Century.” Maybe I’ve been hanging out with the Gripe Monster too much lately. The article goes back into the history of these kinds of effort, going all the way back to Compile’s Zanac, although I would argue that’s not so much adaptive difficulty as a system that the player can strategize to manipulate. Zanac is terrific, by the way.

Bryan at Nintendo Everything mentions that Sega is hiring a Sonic “loremaster,” presumably someone who knows the history of the many forms of the character. Said role will assist in creating new content and characters in the Sonic universe. Sounds like a tall order given the many varied and contradictory versions of the property there’s been, but I’m sure there are people out there who are up to it. Good luck, whoever they pick!

Sonic 2 Boss Hit Box Bug

While we’re on the topic of 16-bit Sonic, revealed last year by Lapper on Twitter, and recently boosted by Classic Sonic Deconstructed, it turns out that, because of a misplaced hitbox, you’re completely immune to the bomb attacks of the boss of Chemical Plant in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 if you’re crouching.

This is the boss’s only attack. If you’re standing on the middle platform and just duck when he’s attacking, you’re completely safe.

Original tweet.

Sonic Retro’s Physics Guide

tl;dr: The description of the physics and implementation details of the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games hosted at Sonic Retro is complete and amazing.

This is one going out to all you developers out there, either current or aspiring.

It’s amazing to me how fussed, nay, obsessed-over the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games are even to this day. There are a lot of good things about them, and arguably the best is their platforming engines, which are among the best in the field. They take advantage of the processing power of the Genesis/Mega Drive, fueled by a Motorola 68000 processor, the same processor as the classic Apple Macintosh, clocked only slightly slower. This was basis of Sega’s infamous “blast processing” slogan at the time, touting how much faster the Genesis was than the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This was somewhat unfair, as SNES carts often came with supplemental chips in them that acted like co-processors, and was of a completely different architecture as well with different characteristics, but it did make the Sonic engine possible. A lot of the credit also goes to Sonic programmer Yuji Naka, who is legendary in game coding circles for a very good reason.

If this is the kind of discussion that makes your heart race, we’re glad to have you reading Set Side B! If it’s not, that’s okay. I’m a bit stymied myself, even though I love dives like this.
(All images in this post from Sonic Retro.)

The result of the Genesis’s power and Naka’s expertise was a game engine with, yes, raw speed, but also a lot of nuance. If you jump and land on an enemy or monitor, you can control the height of your rebound, no matter how fast you were going when you hit it. If you jump while on a slope, you don’t jump straight up but away from it, which takes some getting used to at first but can be taken advantage of. There’s lots of fun little cases like these, and figuring them out, and their implications, is the source of a lot of the joy of playing Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time.

Those two places where the slope only intrudes slightly into Sonic’s ground tile are what get me.

I’d even argue, without the solid engine, and great level design taking advantage of it, all of Sega of America’s marketing efforts, which formed the foundation of the media juggernaut that Sonic has become today, with several cartoon series and comic books, and two successful movies and a third one in the works, would have been for naught.

Judging by the later 2D adventures, the nuances of Sonic the Hedgehog’s engine are difficult to grasp without a good amount of effort. It is likely that Sega themselves don’t have the institutional memory to understand how they worked, which is why they went to Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead, and others from the fan game community, to make Sonic Mania, which has a faithful recreation of the original games’ physics.

Why has no one made a Sonic half-pipe trick skateboarding game?

Bringing it back around, the obsession of the Sonic fan community has produced a number of disassembles of the game’s code, which have served as the basis for a wide array of romhacks of rather shocking levels of quality. I wrote about many of those in the Someone Set Up Us The Rom ebooks (ahem).

They also served as the basis for the subject of this post, the physics descriptions at Sonic Retro. Here is basically all you need to make a Sonic-style platformer. Synthesizing this and putting it into practice is a formidable task on its own, but it’s a doable one, and you don’t have to read source code (other than your own) to do it. To those who attempt this task, we salute you! And let us know how it goes!

Sonic Retro: Physics Guide

News 7/4/2022: Gilbert’s Sonic Pac-Mom

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

Jay Peters at The Verge reports that, sadly, personal attacks from griefers have caused Ron Gilbert to stop posting updates on the development of his upcoming Monkey Island game. Booo! Don’t be a Gripe Monster, friends!

On NintendoLife, Damien McFerran mentions an piece in the next issue of pay fanzine Lock-On by Undertale and Deltarune creator Toby Fox, about the impact of the Japanese series Mother, known in the US as Earthbound.

Destructoid’s Chris Moyse mentions the remake of Pac-Man World mentioned at Nintendo’s indie-focused Direct has Pac-Mom instead of Ms. Pac-Man, pushing her further down the memory hole. The issue seems to be a rights issue around the character, who was not created by Namco but instead by classic indie arcade designer GCC, who has licensed her exclusively to AtGames.

It was a few days ago, but at Kotaku Jeremy Winslow posted about Simon Thomley, a.k.a. “Stealth,” of Sonic Mania developer Headcannon, about how he has complained that their work on Sonic Origins was done under time crunch, and they were not allowed to debug their work before release, and even that integration with the final product introduced new bugs they were not responsible for.

News 6/26/22: Path of the N64 Controller Minecart

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

Graham Smith of Rock Paper Shotgun lets us know that the team who made AM2R, which infamously Nintendo sent a cease-and-desist, are working on a new game that’s a Metroidvania, but has nothing to do with Metroid, called Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus. It’s awful that Nintendo did that, and it’s great that they didn’t let the experience sour them!

Over at wccftech, Aernout van de Velde writes of an N64 emulator plug-in that supports many advanced graphics features, such as ray tracing and 60 fps output! Ocarina of Time ran natively at just 20 fps, seeing it at 60 is like opening your eyes opened for the first time. Here’s the announcement tweet, with embedded demonstration video:

At Ars Technica, Sam Machkovech reviews Sonic Origins, and notes a discomfiting thing about it: it costs $40 for many fewer games than a standard Genesis rom collection, yet on top of that also locks features and music behind DLC charges. Boo!

Matt Purslow of IGN tells us that Microsoft is confirming shortages of Xbox controllers. I’m sure some people are already trying to figure out ways to blame this on Joe Biden.

Ollie Reynolds writing on Nintendo Life relates an interesting discovery about Super Mario RPG back on the SNES: during its minecart section, if you don’t touch the controls at all, the game will play itself, and complete it for you. They found the news from the Twitter feed of splendid Mario arcana site Supper Mario Broth!

Sundry Sunday: MST3K & Rifftrax Gaming Clips

You’ve made it another Sunday! For making it this far, why not take a break with some fun things? The whole point of Sundry Sunday is to be a low effort thing for the end of the week, but to be honest I couldn’t resist putting in a little extra work on this one.

It might not be evident on the surface, but the classic riffing show Mystery Science Theater 3000 has roots deeply entwined with video games. The show’s staff were known to spend off hours playing Doom against each other on a company LAN they had made for that purpose. During the show, they produced a clip that was distributed on the PlayStation Underground magazine CDs in which they riffed on some of Sony’s artsy commercials from that time (above).

After the original run of the show ended, some of the cast and crew drifted for a bit, doing various projects. One was a short-lived web comedy magazine called Timmy Big Hands, which we might look at some day. Show leads Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett did a couple of other things together, like a four episode movie riffing project called The Film Crew, before they eventually settled into doing Rifftrax, a project the three of them work on to this day.

While at Rifftrax, they’ve produced at least two game riffing clips. The first was made for sadly-departed gaming site Joystiq, and riffs on Mega Man, Final Fantasy X, Sonic the Hedgehog and, especially, something from the Metal Gear Solid series, which I would think is the perfect fodder for such video merrymaking:

Afterward they made another short clip for IGN riffing on Gears of War 3:

Rifftrax makes their living producing and selling clips making fun of shorts and movies, and one of those is the 1993 schlockfest Super Mario Bros. I call it schlock, but it’s one of those movies that critical opinion has slowly been coming around on over the years since its release. More and more it’s being seen as a competently-made and entertaining kids’ sci-fi fantasy movie perfectly of a piece with the era in which it was made-it’s just not a very good adaptation of the games with which it shares a title.

Rifftrax sells the whole Super Mario Bros. riff, complete with the movie on which it’s based, on their site. I highly recommend it, but IGN presents a nine-minute clip teaser from it on YouTube:

Link Roundup 5/10/2022

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

Greetings, humans! Here is the gaming news I could glean from decrypting your internet broadcasts from my flying saucer floating above your atmosphere!

Jordan Devore, Destructoid: Rogue Legacy 2 Drops Vertigo From Its Traits List. You see, each character you play in that game is part of a lineage of characters, and they have semi-random traits. One of those traits flipped the screen upside-down during play. Or it did. Now it’s not in the game anymore!

Oisin Kunhke, Gamebyte tells us about a word-in-progress Breath of the Wild Randomizer mod!

Brad Linder of Liliputing notes of a new version of a three-key keyboard made by Stack Overflow.

Wololo (?) of Wololo (??) tells us that homebrew fans are reviving Playstation Home!

Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica lets us know that Nvidia is facing scrutiny from the FCC for inaccurately representing how cryptocurrency mining boosted the sales of their graphics hardware.

Sam Medley of NotebookCheck tells of AltStore, a sneaky way around Apple’s App Store for distributing software they’d rather you not use. I hesitate to speculate on how long this loophole will last, but I’m no fan of hardware lockouts and use limitations, so it’s nice while it lasts!

More news from the orchard. MacRumors talks with Feral about porting games to Apple’s new M1 hardware and the difficulties it has faced with their graphics.

Always awesome Kyle Orland at Ars Technica has an article with a headline too fun to paraphrase: Eve Online fans literally cheer Microsoft Excel features at annual Fanfest.

Ian Evenden at Tom’s Hardware talks about HoloISO, a port of SteamOS 3 that fans have gotten to run on devices other than the Steam Deck. Valve hasn’t released it officially for other hardware yet!

Jay Fingas at Engadget tells us about an auction for a gold-played Wii originally intended for the Queen of England. Seems she was denied the shiny unit due to rules against gifts.

Trent Cannon of Nintendo Life reviews Prinny Presents: NIS Classics Volume 2 for Switch.

Alex Donaldson at VG247 warns us that Sonic Origins probably won’t have Sonic 3‘s original soundtrack, due to rights issues related to Michael Jackson’s involvement with the project. Sega has been hampered with music rights across several games, including the soundtrack for some ports of Crazy Taxi.

More from Ars Technica, Sam Machkovech tells us about Rifftrax: The Game!

Zoey Handley at Destructoid on Famicom Wars, the game of which the upcoming Advance Wars Reboot Camp is a distant sequel!

Rebecca Stone at Twinfinite tells us about the 10 highest-priced used Gamecube games going! Sadly none of those I still own are up there, drebnar, not even Kirby Air Ride!

Mike Wilson writing at Bloody Disgusting celebrates the 30th anniversary of Wolfenstein 3D!

Back around to Engadget, J. Trew tells us about the lengths to which players are pushing NES Tetris.

And Zoe Sottile at CNN (swanky!) notes that Ms. Pac-Man and The Legend of Zelda are being inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

Link Roundup 5/1/22

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

Late submissions for juried independent game festival Indiecade are open until May 15th.

C.J. Wheeler for Rock Paper Shotgun: Perfect World Entertainment absorbed by Gearbox Publishing.

Mitchell Clark for The Verge tells us that Apple claims right to remove software from App Store if they aren’t downloaded recently.

Brian of Nintendo Everything reports that Aspyr is open to ports of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, including unreleased Wii versions. The source is this tweet.

“Dreadknux” of Sonic Stadium writes of fan art that adds the movies’ Agent Stone to images stills of other Sonic properties.

Brendan Hesse of Gamespot, speaking for site staff, offers a ranking of 14 Final Fantasy games. From worst to first, the ranking, all according to original Japanese numbering and not including the MMORPGs:
2 < 15 < 13 < 3 < 1 < 9 < 4 < 8 < 7 < 5 < 7 Remake < 10 < 12 Zodiac Age < 6

This is a little towards the technical end of things, but Sudden Desu on Twitter has created a framework for developing Mega CD (a.k.a. Sega CD) games, available from GitHub.

I’ve seen it elsewhere, but I’m linking to Eric Van Allen’s report for Destructoid, on Disney Dreamlight Valley, a lifesim with Disney IP. I’m imagining it as being like Animal Crossing, but with Disney characters. Do you know how annoying a neighbor Tigger would be?

Dennis Payne of Gaming On Linux tells us of a Dungeon Crawler Jam hosted by dungeoncrawlers.org, with some interesting output!

Ian Walker of Kotaku tells us of a mod for Final Fantasy VII Remake that brings Yoshitaka Amano-like designs to the generally un-Yoshitaka-Amano-like Barrett!

8 Eyes (image borrowed from MobyGames)

Alex Donaldson of VG247 snidely and suitably mocks the Denuvo DRM in the upcoming Sonic Origins for protecting the digital virtue of the original Sonic games, which have long been widely traded on the web.

Adam Conway at XDA lets us know of Skyway, a work-in-progress Nintendo Switch emulator made specifically for Android.

Christian Donlan, writing on Eurogamer, lets us know of Playdate games available on itch.io!

It fell to Sean Hollister at The Verge to inform us of a hack of a Fischer-Price toddler game controller to make it suitable for playing Elden Ring. Was it made by foone? It wasn’t, it was Rudeism? Cool.

And Steve Watts, writing for Gamespot, has, to mark the 35th anniversary of the release of the original Castlevania (the game not the anime), a listing of games not-too-subtly inspired by it, like 8 Eyes for the NES. Although this reviewer feels compelled to note they left out The Transylvania Adventure of Simon Quest!

Link Roundup 4/29/22

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

Cian Maher for IGN, on players who obsessively chase rare “shiny” variants of Pokemon.

Ted Litchfield for PC Gamer, on the disappointment of FFXIV‘s producer on player taunting.

Morgan Park of PC Gamer tells us Call of Duty has lost 50 million players in a year, a third of their base

Andrew Kiya of Siliconera noticed a tweet in which Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai revealed facts about the origins of the Kirby Dance (what dance? this dance).

Keith Stuart of The Guardian (wow, drebnar!) on why Sonic the Hedgehog is great.

Michael McWhertor for Polygon tells us that Yuji Naka was kicked off the Balan Wonderworld project six months before it finished, partly for bringing up quality issues. He mentioned possibly retiring from the games industry.

Steven Blackburn of Screen Rant informs us that some fans are working on a third season of the old Saturday Morning Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon show. That’s the “darker” one, with Princess Sally and Bunny Rabbot. The other one from the time, made for syndication, was sillier, and the podcast What A Cartoon did an episode on it with Ian Jones Quartey.

Jody Macgregor for PC Gamer on the D&D Gold Box games coming to Steam, and why they’re great.

And Jason Fitzsimmons of Ghostbusters News points us to a tweet about a fan project to hack the character of Winston Zeddemore into the Sega Genesis Ghostbusters game, where he had been originally excluded.

Link Roundup 4/27/22

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

Gavin Lane of Nintendo Life: Playnote gets a Flipnote Studio-style art app.

Jay Peters of The Verge, also on Playnote. Its makers wonder if its seasonal distribution model will be appreciated by purchasers of its becranked yellow joybox.

Ollie Reynolds of Nintendo Life: UbiSoft to shut down server support for a number of older titles.

Florence Ion (cool name!) of Gizmodo: Google Play is getting data safety settings.

Ollie Reynolds of Nintendo Life, again: Lego to release a huge new Super Mario set.

Thomas Whitehead of Nintendo Life (lot of items from them today): Game Freak to offer employees option of four-day workweek. Awesome!

Wes Finlon of PC Gamer: Moneyfarm Square-Enix unveils a new $11,600 statue of Terra from Final Fantasy VI riding Magitech armor that caused series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi to basically go WTF. Remember, back when he designed the first game in the series, Square was facing issues whether their little game development operation could survive.

“Master Blaster,” if that is their name, at Sora News 24, on Sega trying to bring eSports into Japanese high schools with a Puyo Puyo Boot Camp. “Listen up maggots, you’re going to spend the next hour setting up combos and fighting Draco Centauros until you get it right and I don’t want no backtalk or I’ll bust you down to facing Nohoho again!”

Rhys Wood of TechRadar: An Elden Ring demake for Game Boy is in the works.

Luke Plunkett of Kotaku: Super Mario movie delayed, Miyamoto promises it’ll be worth the wait. Aww, it’s just like that apocryphal quote often attributed to him. This reporter is overjoyed, the last one ended on that cliffhanger, Daisy was back from Dinohattan and needed Mario and Luigi’s help again, no doubt because of some scheme hatched by Koopa. I wonder how they’ll manage to bring Dennis Hopper back from the dead to reprise his role?

Alana Hauges, also from Nintendo Life: Sega plans to delist classic games from some platforms (but not Switch) in anticipation of the release of Sonic Origins.

And Ryan Dinsdale of IGN tells us Sony is creating a game preservation team, of which this reporter can only say, IT’S ABOUT FREAKING TIME.