Archive for the ‘New Old Games’ Category

So, Nintendo’s Giving Away Prototype ROMs

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros, Nintendo is releasing a lineup of special edition Wii consoles, with each of the world’s regions receiving a different pack-in bonus.

Japan gets a red Wii with a free preinstalled copy of 25th Anniversary Super Mario Bros, a modified edition of the game that changes the question mark blocks to display the number “25.”

Europe receives the same red Wii packaged with New Super Mario Bros, Wii Sports, and Donkey Kong: Original Edition, a massively important release that I’ll get back to in a moment.

The United States, meanwhile, gets a red Wii packaged with New Super Mario Bros, Wii Sports, and an exclusive batch of jack squat.

Let’s return to Donkey Kong: Original Edition. Among other enhancements, this version of the game restores the cement factory level, which previously remained exclusive to the arcade version of Donkey Kong and a handful of ports for consoles and personal computers.

Notably, the cement factory level was omitted from Nintendo’s official home console port of Donkey Kong, which debuted for the Famicom in 1983. The same game — again minus the factory level — was later released for the Nintendo Entertainment System as both a standalone cartridge and bundled with Donkey Kong Jr. in Donkey Kong Classics.

So what’s the big deal here? Well, if you watch the preview video above, you might notice that Donkey Kong: Original Edition is not an emulated copy of the arcade version of Donkey Kong, nor is it a newly reprogrammed port.

It’s emulated — note the slightly slower gameplay and music due to PAL video conversion — but it’s also obviously based on the existing NES port, complete with that particular version’s subtly unique graphics and gameplay mechanics.

My hypothesis, then, is that Donkey Kong: Original Edition isn’t an original creation hacked together for a special edition Wii bundle — it’s actually the holiest of gaming grails: an unreleased prototype of a first-party Nintendo game.

In contrast with Donkey Kong: Original Edition, the differences in 25th Anniversary Super Mario Bros. are trivial. Changing a copyright date and a single graphic is something that anybody can do with freely available ROM hacking utilities.

Expanding a ROM image in order to add an entirely new level with its own unique gameplay mechanics is a different story. The process would be extremely difficult for even the most talented ROM hacker, and it’s unlikely that anyone at Nintendo nowadays has the specific skillset needed to create original programming to add new content to a 27-year-old game.

I can’t imagine that Donkey Kong: Original Edition is anything other than an enhanced version of the game that Nintendo developed itself and planned to release during the NES’s lifespan — perhaps even as a UK exclusive.

It wouldn’t have been an unprecedented move on Nintendo’s part. In 1993, Nintendo released an enhanced version of Mario Bros. for the NES exclusively in Europe, restoring many elements from the arcade version that were omitted in a previous port. This specific version never saw release outside of Europe, and has yet to resurface as a Virtual Console download in any region.

It’s not often that Nintendo reaches into its back catalog to re-release past obscurities — Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Master Quest are rare examples — but this could be the first time that Nintendo has officially acknowledged and then released a game that was previously canceled.

What’s the next step for Nintendo from here? Wii bundles that include Earthbound Zero and the scrapped NES port of SimCity? Virtual Console debuts for the unreleased Donkey Kong’s Fun With Music and Return of Donkey Kong? Will we finally discover the secrets behind the mysterious Yeah Yeah Beebiss I???

I can guarantee that none of these things will ever happen. Sorry. But hey, at least we get to play that cement factory level now.

[via Tiny Cartridge, The Gay Gamer]

Xbox Live Indie Games: Protect Me Knight

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I’ve been talking about old games a lot on this site, which concerns me a little. I don’t just play old games. I also play new old games.

The bottomless pit of bewilderment that is the Xbox Live Indie Games service for the Xbox 360 recently saw the release of the best new old game I’ve played since Streemerz RearmedProtect Me Knight. If you haven’t bought it already, you should do so right now. It’s $3, and it’s great.

(For some reason, it’s listed in the U.S. store under its Japanese title — まもって騎士 — so you’ll need to sort the Indie Games category by title and scroll down to the bottom to find it. You can also queue up a remote download from its marketplace page.)

Protect Me Knight is the first XBL Indie Game from Ancient, a small studio managed by game soundtrack composer Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage, Etrian Odyssey, Ys…and, like, a billion other games). The premise is summed up on the title screen: “DEFEAT F$%KIN’ GOBLINS!” Choosing one of four characters, you’ll spend ten stages carving your way through thousands of monsters who want to get all up in your princess.

Protect Me Knight has been described as a tower defense game, but that’s inaccurate, because it’s not totally boring. It plays more like a mix of Rampart, Gauntlet, and…I don’t know, Arkista’s Ring, or something. There’s a minimum amount of strategy involved in fortifying your defenses, but you’ll spend the bulk of your time doing fun stuff like beating up monsters, upgrading your character’s stats, and racking up huge combos.

Be warned: Protect Me Knight is only at its most fun when you have more than one person playing. The difficulty scales to suit how many people are playing, and the action gets intense when you’ve got a three- or four-player co-op game going.

The game’s still a whole lot of fun even with just two people, but if you don’t have anyone else to play with, you’re not going to get a lot of mileage out of the single-player mode. It’s still fun, mind. It’s just not super insane fun, like it is with two players or more.