Sega’s Amazing Island for Gamecube

I remember seeing this game for sale back then. It looked, on store shelves, a whole lot like a Pokemon clone. It’s not like we had any lack for them at the time.

Reading the back of the case made it clear something else was going on. Amazing Island was actually an early form of creativity game, like Drawn to Life, or Spore for that matter. Instead of collecting pre-made monsters, you made your own! Starting from one of a number of skeleton types, you used the Gamecube controller to draw shapes around it, that the game would then animate to bring your creation to life. Not a bad concept!

Worse was the execution, what you’d actually do with your creatures after they were made. Ideally the game would somehow use the contours and colors you attached to your newborn monstrosity to give it statistics, and then you could command it into full-animated battle against other monsters. Instead, you were given a variety of minigames to use your monster in, which didn’t have the same appeal. Rather than having Pokemon-style moves, they played a number of variations on volleyball, or racing, or some such.

Youtuber Camobot put the game through its paces in a 14-minute review. Here it is:

I think the video has its faults, but it mostly serves its purpose of presenting a noble experiment that never got a rerelease, and might earn a cult following today if it were. I wonder especially, if the Dreamcast hadn’t failed, if Amazing Island might have seen release on it, or on its successor if one had happened. It didn’t seem to sell too well on the Gamecube, and it probably would have done even worse on the PS2 or Xbox.

The failure of games like Amazing Island at market is why most games are largely similar by-the-numbers products nowadays, that don’t take risks but are made to ensure a modest yet predictable profit. This is why, when you see a game that you might like that looks like it might really try something different, you should take the plunge, if you are able, and check it out. Until developers are better incentivized for taking chances making novel and unique games, they’ll have to stick to churning out the bland gruel that still moves copies, and no one really likes that, not the players, and not even the devs.

Sundry Sunday: Brendoon’s Live-Action Earthbound Videos

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

They’re strange ones this week friends. This person on Youtube has made a handful of short videos depicting moments from the classic Super Nintendo JRPG Earthbound in real life.

The best ones are “For Sale” Sign (37 seconds) and Arms Dealer (49s).

Go out into a field and hold up a sign that reads “For Sale.” Someone will soon come running up and offer to buy practically anything you’re carrying. Advertising works!
That guy, standing in the middle of that desert. He’s got what you need, if what you need is extremely dangerous. Seems pretty sketchy.

Earthbound is full to bursting with weird situations like these. Brendoon could keep making videos for some time. Maybe concerning the Insignificant Item? Or having pizza delivered to you in the dungeon? Or beating up fire hydrants? Or running from dinosaurs? Or automatically putting ketchup on food items you eat? Or being spoken to by cups of coffee? Or the world being threatened by an 11-year-old boy? Or anything having to do with ᨓꭱ. یƌ⍭⊔ꭱη? The list is nearly endless!

AsumSaus on Smash Melee

I’d been wondering why I hadn’t seen AsumSaus, that Smash Bros. person, post anything lately. So I search his account and it turns out yeah, he’s been posting, Youtube just didn’t deign to show them to me. He just put something up that’s 27 minutes on on Smash Melee.

I’m still compiling notes on the Digital Eclipse Wizardry remake! It’s a whole log! I beat Werdna! Maybe the fruit of that will start being editable tomorrow, it’s still a little underripe now, to extent an already strained metaphor. See you tomorrow!

Noneuclidian Doom

Found by cortex over on Metafilter was this 2022 talk where someone noticed that the value of the constant pi in the source code of Doom was slightly incorrect. It’s a very tiny difference, and the results aren’t really visible in the game. So Luke Gotszling got the idea to compile the game with different values, and to see what the results are. They gave a talk about it! It’s 19 minutes long, and may be interesting if you’re of that frame of mind.

Non-Euclidian Doom: what happens to a game when pi is not 3.14159…. (Youtube, 19 minutes)

Sundry Sunday: Cooking With Vibri

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

Vib Ribbon is a semi-obscure rhythm game made for the Playstaion by NanaOn-Sha, who also produced Parappa the Rapper.

Vibri is the vector-graphics rabbit protagonist.

Cooking with Vibri (not to be confused with Cooking with Louie) is (currently) a couple of whimsical fast-moving shorts starring that rabbit, made by P. Carredo, in which various things explode, or fail to, depending on the circumstances. They move fast: together, they’re less than two minutes long! They get to the point, such as it is, and get it over with, and so won’t clog up your day with intros or sponsorships or ads or subscription prompts or long narrations or intruding, gesticulating hands, or sanity for that matter.

Episode 1:

Nothing exploded?

Episode 2:

A couple of things do explode this time.
Features vector-graphic mafia (with photo-realistic cat) and IRS agent

Yesterday there appeared a third episode, which is three minutes long. It’s basically just an extended homage to a scene from Yakuza 0. I don’t like it as much (there’s no cooking!), but you may disagree? Here it is:

Sundry Sunday: Ending Animation for The Mystery of the Druids

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

I forget exactly where I saw it, but I observed, in pieces, a playthrough of the 2001 adventure game The Mystery of the Druids. It may have been during Awful Block at an earlier GDQ, or on some other stream. it was something. Actually, a thing. One thing. Just one.

(Amazingly, you can buy the game on Steam, and as I write this it’s like a dollar. One dollar. Just one. But the reviews indicate it has really serious bugs, so even that is probably too much.)

Besides constantly pronouncing the word druid as drood, the game’s notable for starring a police detective, Halligan, who frequently does things one might think unworthy of law enforcement. Not a great pillar of virtue, that Halligan.

The game itself doesn’t have a great ending, so someone on Youtube made their own version. It’s two minutes long, and it follows below. It is much more enjoyable than the actual game.

Wolf Link’s Tears of the Kingdom Minimalist Playthrough

I’ve been waiting a while to post this one. Right now SGDQ 2024 is acclimating everyone to games being played very quickly, but this post is about a game being played over a long, long period, so by comparison, it should feel even looooonger. Longer than you’d expect maybe from the run being called minimalist.

Wolf Link has, for ten months, been trying to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in a minimalist fashion. By their definition, minimalist means getting a 100% map completion. That doesn’t seem too obvious, does it? But 100% map, which is the closest the game has to declaring you’ve finished 100% of the game. There is no 100% game completion counter. Filling out all of the map is as close as it gets.

That’s still a whole lot of things. It means unlocking all the towers, getting all the Korok seeds, and doing absolute everything need to get everything to appear on the map. What Wolf Link means by minimalist is going as little as possible beyond that, regarding to changes in world and game state.

For example. There’s a sword on the ground. You pick up the sword, and it makes the little item-discovered jingle for finding a type of item the first time, and putting its name up in a little description box. That’s not okay, because now Link knows about that kind of item, so go back to your last save.

Discovering a few types of items like this is unavoidable. Anything that has to be discovered in order to fill out all of the map, well, that can’t be helped, right? But what actually has to be done to get to that point? Are there sneaky ways around collecting essential items? And there are a lot of items that, the first time they’re collected, mark themselves on the run in an indelible way. Most items, in fact. Getting items out of chests that don’t respawn is also outlawed if there’s any way to get to 100% without it. Completing shines is also forbidden after the first four, so the whole game is played with four hearts and one stamina wheel, or later, possibly, three hearts and a little over one stamina wheel.

In Tears of the Kingdom, however, there’s still lots of things you can do. All of the powers you pick up in the first shrines, as it turns out, are essential to getting 100%, so all of those abilities are open. Meaning, especially, you get Ultrahand and the ability to glue things together. Getting Zonai items in capsules isn’t allowed, but using those that are found around Hyrule in the field is. The precise rules are laid out on the Rules tab of the document here.

Another interesting thing, it turns out, that you can do, that turns out to be essential in this challenge, is [spoilers]: unlocking Mineru, the Sage of the Spirit Temple that players aren’t even told about until finishing the other four temples, can be done first. She can be the first sage you get! And the useful thing about that is that Zonai devices can be attached to her, then she can be ridden to use those devices at will. Unlocking her early though by the rules of the Minimalist Run requires doing the Thunderhead Isles in the Sky without clearing the thunderstorm, which is no mean trick.

Over ten months the series has gotten up to 34 videos, and there’s quite a ways to go. The journey already is a long one, but here it is as it stands:

Sundry Sunday: Zelda and Link are Gremlins Actually

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

I thought the colloquialism was goblins? Gremlins fits pretty well for these videos though. Take a look. They’re all from Youtube animator RibbitSpell.

The first (1 1/2 minutes) is where the post title comes from, positing a time after all the adventure stuff is over and Link and Zelda are just hanging out and doing whatever. What did they get up to after Tears of the Kingdom? Why don’t we ever see them just hanging out? The games rarely tell us, so a lot of room is left for fans to fill in the gaps:

The title of the second (1 minute), “Zelda but you play as Zelda,” leaves out that you play as gremlin Zelda.

And one more, Ganon’s Rude Re-Awakening (30 seconds).

We get versions where Link is a cartoon character, where there’s four Links and where Link dies over and over and where he’s a train conductor, and now (at last) where we play as Zelda. Why don’t we get an official take where Link and Zelda canonically team up to cause random silly trouble all across Hyrule? Probably leaving Old Man Ganon to shake his fist at them as they run away, having left flaming sacks of dog crap on the doorstep of his big evil castle.

Mattel’s Handheld Dungeons & Dragons LCD Game

This little pocket-sized unit was released in 1981, three years after the VCS/2600, but as the Gameboy proved years after, pocket-sized gaming can get away with less complex hardware than consoles. They called this their D&D “Computer Fantasy Game.”

Mattel made pretty good use of the D&D license. They also released the “Computer Labyrinth Game,” which was a mixture of physical and electronic components. This version is wholly electronic, and has the same kind of feel as a Game & Watch title. It has the old-style of LCD components, black shapes that are faintly visible at all times, but can be made much darker to “display” images.

This 13-minute unboxing and demonstration video is by Youtuber Nerd Mimic. If their gameplay description sounds a bit familiar, it seems that this game is mostly a handheld port of the older (yes, even from that time) computer game Hunt The Wumpus, which is played on what the math people call a graph of nodes. The idea is to use clues given by the game to deduce the location of a monster and to kill it by firing an arrow at it from an adjacent space. Stumbling into the space of the monster or a bottomless pit is lethal, and there are bats wandering around that can drop you into a random space. It’s a classic of early gaming, and a pretty good choice for a pocket-sized version.

Mattel made two console D&D games for the Intellivision, both of them interesting and thought of well today: Cloudy Mountain and Treasure of Tarmin. None of these games made use of the true AD&D ruleset, as it would have been called at the time. They’re original game designs with a vague sort of fantasy theme, but they’re still interesting to play.

Displaced Gamers on Mega Man 3 Glitches

A bit of scanline flickering is a fairly common problem on the NES. Even Super Mario Bros. 3 had it, and that game was made by Nintendo themselves.

Game graphics in the 8- and 16-bit ages often came down to tricky hardware manipulation. The art of doing raster effects, changing the registers in the video hardware so as to divide the screen into different sections, ultimately comes down to timing. On the Atari VCS/2600, nearly all the graphics had to be done that way, but it was still a useful technique for over a decade after that.

A lot depends on the specifics of the video chip, a custom-built piece of silicon developed for the express purpose of taking graphics defined in memory and folding it, like electronic origami, into a shape that the TV would perceive as a broadcast signal. At that time, while it might still have been possible with clever coding, CPUs weren’t nearly fast enough to do that job themselves and still produce acceptable graphic quality and run game logic. (If you want to see what it would be like, I refer readers interested in doing it the very hard way to the amazing Freespin demo, which runs on a 1541 disk drive, and no video hardware at all.)

Older NES games used a supported bit of hackery called the “Sprite 0 Hit,” a signal the PPU would send at the moment the first of the system’s 64 sprites began to be drawn. By watching for it, games could do rudimentary raster effects on a system not designed for them. The issue there was processor time: the Sprite 0 Hit feature wasn’t hooked up to an interrupt line, so the program had to continually watch for it, checking a memory location repetitively over and over until it changed. Some games spent large portions of their runtime in a tight loop checking for the Sprite 0 Hit. Since, from the program’s perspective, the signal might come at any time, the loop needed to be tight, meaning the game couldn’t spend that time doing other work or else it might be delayed in responding to the extremely time-sensitive signal.

The MMC3 mapper had a special function though that could time out when a programmable scanline was reached, and send the processor an interrupt request at that time, greatly freeing up the processor for doing other things with that time. But not all programmers understood the best way to use it, which is why Mega Man 3 has some scanline glitching in a couple of very visible places, in the pause window and on the level select screen.

Displaced Gamers’ Behind the Code series, which we’ve linked to multiple times in the past, has done an exposé looking into how Mega Man III’s glitches happen (28 minutes), and even wrote some code that erases all trace of them. As usual for Behind the Code, the explanation is fairly technical, especially of the fix, but the first half of it is fairly comprehensible. No one says you have to watch the whole thing. Or, indeed, any of it, but I always enjoy them!

Dan Olson Discusses James Rolfe

Dan Olson is the brilliant documentarian behind Folding Ideas. He’s covered a range of interesting topics ranging from Decentraland, gamer culture, NFTs, financial scammers and Minecraft.

James Rolfe plays the Angry Video Game Nerd, that long-running game commentary and comedy series, and to some degree he is the nerd, even though the character doesn’t reflect his own views or personality. Although he plays a character, playing it has become his career. He does other videos too, but it’s what he’s known for, it’s his mark upon the world, and so it’s how he’ll be remembered.

Rolfe is the head of a little empire called Cinemassacre. Rolfe was really popular at one point, but over time his subject became less relevant. Time is unkind. By the time the mechanisms became available to effectively monetize what he does, his fandom had diminished, although he keeps plugging away, and it sustains him. Cinemassacre partnered with an outfit, Screenwave, to help him monetize it, which involves making five videos a week. It’s provided him with an income to support a family. That’s the same tradeoff most of us make, only he gets to do something he likes doing.

Dan Olson did a video on James Rolfe (1h 17m). Here, I’ll embed it:

It makes the case that James Rolfe was a victim of his own success. The Nerd character was extremely popular for a while. If you have three things you do, and one of them turns out a popular as the Nerd was, you’re naturally going to focus on that, and the others must suffer.

Dan Olson’s video is not against James Rolfe, but it’s also not in favor of him. It presents him as a hack, a jobber, a person who, when he finally has the chance to do something with his own ideas, they end up half-baked, iterations over things he made as a teenager. These things are probably true, but they’re also better than what most of the rest of us get.

I have never really been a fan of the Nerd. I think that the relentless negativity has fed into a culture that tears things down. But there is effort in how they’re made. There is a weird skill in coming up with so many distinct ways to insult things. I don’t agree with all his videos, which don’t leave much room to consider things noble attempts or failed experiments. But they’re just games, after all.

James Rolfe isn’t a bad person, far from it. Even so, Olson’s video tells us that Rolfe has an anti-fandom, a band of people who just hate him and what he does for no reason, for the crime of having a family and doing what he needs to survive. What an awful thing to exist. To think that there’s a category of person so petty. But also, this kind of pettiness is a great invisible sea. It is one of the worst of the early internet’s many legacies, and it’s largely the result of most people having no real, I’m not going to say life, but I will say stakes in life. When people’s lives are devoid of real meaning, they find what little meaning they can, and sad to say, there’s a lot of people who, to put it in Balatro terms, the best card they’ve been given is a five of clubs, and the rest of their deck is mostly twos and threes. (Can you tell what I’ve just came from doing?)

I’m rambling a bit, and part of that is due to the fact that Olson’s video rambles too. Dan Olson became obsessed with James Rolfe and his legacy, due in part to the similarity between their lives, and it feels like the video was released partly to exorcise James Rolfe from Olson’s mind.

I hope that Olson has successfully evicted the nerd from his brain attic. And I hope that Rolfe continues to be successful, even if I won’t watch his videos. It’s a hard life for all of us, far too hard to spend it tearing others down.