Super Pitfall II
Do you like roms? I like roms. Have a rom. It’s Activision’s unreleased Super Pitfall II.
Atlantis no Nazo is kind of awesome. It has terrible controls, and any expert playthrough you watch will be mostly inexplicable, but once you get a sense of how the game’s logic works, it’s actually a whole lot of fun to play.
It’s also really weird and mysterious, which is what I love most about it. Atlantis no Nazo is full of hidden secrets, balance-breaking power-ups, and obscure warp zones. Some of the game’s biggest secrets require you to commit suicide, explore outside of the screen’s borders, or chuck bombs at nondescript background tiles.
It’s not for everyone, sure, but I like it a lot. The changes made to the unreleased North American version make the whole thing even more interesting.
The zone numbers have been cleaned up, for one thing.
Oops, spoilers. The ending text (well, word) has also been fixed.
And yet the intro text remains unchanged, for whatever reason.
Here’s one of Atlantis no Nazo’s more infamous levels. Zone 20 contains no enemies, obstacles, or items. Upon entering the level, all you see are three moai statues, a pyramid with no entrance, and the text above. There’s a puzzle here. Can you solve it?
Give up? The solution is based on goroawase — it’s a series of numbers that match up to the syllables in “Nagoya” (nana, go, yattsu = 7 5 8).
What you need to do is to stand on top of the first moai head and throw seven bombs. Then stand on the second head and throw five bombs, and then jump on the last head and throw eight bombs. Duh, obviously.
Admittedly, the puzzle loses some of its charm in Super Pitfall II.
Completing the puzzle in both versions of the game warps you to a secret alternate version of the final zone, in which you’re rewarded four million points. In Atlantis no Nazo, you then simply leave the pyramid and continue your adventure.
The secret final zone in Super Pitfall II also maxes out your lives and gives you every power-up in the game.
This is pretty much insane. Given the intensity of the game’s power-ups and their rarity during normal gameplay, having all of them at once shifts the game’s balance heavily in the player’s favor.
Until you fall into a pit or blow yourself up with one of your own bombs, your character is otherwise completely invincible. In addition, all on-screen enemies are damaged or killed by your bombs, and all treasure chests are worth double their normal value. It’s fairly easy to max out your score soon after entering the secret final zone in Super Pitfall II.
Not all of Atlantis no Nazo’s power-ups seem to be in Super Pitfall II, though. The prototype doesn’t include the item that allows you to yell into the microphone on the Famicom’s second controller to freeze enemies, for obvious reasons.
Another item exclusive to Atlantis no Nazo allows you to earn three points every time you press Up on the d-pad. While it may still be in Super Pitfall II somewhere, I couldn’t find it, and it’s not part of your reward for finding the hidden final zone.
Atlantis no Nazo’s worst dick move is the “BLACK HOLE!” zone. Take a wrong turn during your adventure and you’ll end up in zone 42, which contains only an endless abyss. Here, your character will fall to his death over and over again, and your life counter will slowly drain until the game is over.
Super Pitfall II is kind enough to kick you back out to zone 29 when you have one life remaining in the Black Hole zone, long after you’ve lost all of your power-ups from repeated deaths. Gee, thanks.
There are also a few technical differences between the two versions. Super Pitfall II uses eight banks of graphics compared to Atlantis no Nazo’s four, though the extra banks are just duplicates of the originals. None of the graphics data seems to be changed, either, except for the title screen.
Anyone notice any other differences? Let me know! I’m curious.