Archive for the ‘NES’ Category

News of the World: Updates

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

In this fast-paced digital world, things can change in the blink of an eye. Dream and Friends would like to share with you these recent updates to our late-breaking coverage. This is news you need, when you need it.

When I theorized that the “original edition” of Donkey Kong bundled with European Wii consoles was an unreleased prototype game, I was making an assumption based on the likeliest case among a series of unlikely scenarios. I was wrong. Donkey Kong’s reality is, somehow, even stranger than what I’d suggested.

After examining the ROM’s code, NES hacking wizard BMF54123 posted the following analysis at Lost Levels:

Guys, I don’t think this is a prototype at all, but an official Nintendo ROM hack.

The first half of the PRG ROM contains all the new data for the cement factory level, a copy of the title screen with the updated 2010 copyright, and a lot of code patches. The second half is identical to the US PRG1 ROM, except various routines have been hijacked to point to the new patches.

A lot of them do really hackish things, like manually copying the entire sprite data page to unused RAM and shuffling it around (so the cement pies don’t disappear), checking Mario’s current animation frame to see if he’s climbing (for the moving ladders?), and shoehorning in new data if the current level number is 02. It’s also coded pretty sloppily in places, jumping to the same subroutine 5 times in a row, for example. This might explain why it glitches occasionally.

A true prototype would have certainly been built on the original source code, as Mario Bros. Classic was, not split into a bunch of patches. Whoever did this either didn’t have access to the original source, or no longer had the necessary tools/knowledge to compile it.

I had assumed that Donkey Kong: Original Edition was an unreleased special version coded during the NES’s lifespan. And yet we have proof here of something even more unlikely — Nintendo apparently still employs the rare breed of individual who is familiar with the inner workings of a console that hasn’t seen a new first-party release in 15 years. Let us never doubt Nintendo’s power ever again.

Another unexpected discovery was made during Wizard Week — specifically, the mid-week break in which I focused on a series of strategy guides published by Bantam Books.

Doing some Internet sleuthing, readers Madeline Henry and Michael Stearns identified the cover artist as Bill Mayer. The surfing cat featured in “Ultimate Unauthorized Nintendo Game Boy Strategies” is actually the mascot for the smooth jazz outfit The Rippingtons — he appears on several album covers, and even stars in one of their videos!

Mayer himself later found the comments thread and left a reply:

Too funny…Where the hell did you find these? I am the illustrator responsible for those little diddies, all of the picture Nintendo Strategies were originally done for other clients and uses. They were not allowed to use any of the copyrighted material so they looked around for images of monsters. eventually ran out of monsters and started just looking for anything bright and colorful to stick on the cover. These books were done in ,I am guessing the 1980’s? Can’t believe they are still out there haunting the halls of used book stores in small quiet unsuspecting small towns all across the country Beware…

These books have been in my collection since I was a kid, and finding out more about them after all these years was a real treat. Thanks for the comments, guys!

Finally, Kotaku picked up on the iPhone smash hit My Virtual Girlfriend a full eight months after I’d originally featured it here. Somehow, the fabric of time itself was altered so that the game could be released “just in time for Valentine’s Day” in the year 2011. This serves as an important reminder to always trust Dream and Friends as your first-on-the-scene source for video game news that matters.

Video Games [Heart] Prog Rock

Monday, February 14th, 2011


Aliens Walkthrough, The Shocking Finale

Friday, January 14th, 2011

[This is the final entry in a quick walkthrough for Square’s unreleased Aliens game for the Famicom Disk System. Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.]

Before I finish things up here, let’s have a look at the only version of Square’s Aliens that saw a commercial release. Above is a video from the MSX home computer edition of Aliens, released in 1987 in Japan and in Europe.

Though the game’s structure is largely the same in both the FDS and the MSX versions, there are some key differences between the two. Weapons have limited ammunition in the MSX game, for one thing — a somewhat pointless change, since new gun pickups are so plentiful. If anything, it would’ve prevented players from holding on to a favorite weapon for too long. There’s also an enemy radar that isn’t present in the FDS game — another inconsequential addition, as it doesn’t show off-screen enemies.

On the other hand, the MSX version of the game is made much easier by the fact that enemies don’t spew life-draining acid after you kill them. The gameplay mechanics appear smoother, too. The jumping is less awkward, and there’s an actual rolling mechanic — with dedicated frames of animation and everything! — eliminating the need to jackhammer the jump button to crawl under low ceilings.

It’s difficult to say which version of Aliens was intended to be released first, or if both editions were developed concurrently. It’s likely, though, that the FDS version was incomplete when it was scrapped, and the MSX game’s enhancements resulted from additional development time.

Anyway, to level 3!

Sorry to say it, but level 3 is mostly unremarkable. There are far fewer doors here than in level 2 (thank god), and it’s much more action-focused.

…which, in this game’s case, means that enemies now spawn in groups of three or four at a time. It’s pretty annoying, but nothing that can’t be overcome with rampant savestate abuse.

Hey, a fellow human! What’s up man!

Well. This is awkward.

(Side note: if you die while a chestbursted human is on-screen, a glitchy chunk of his flesh will follow you back to the beginning of the level, and will float in front of you until you enter a door.)

No level would be complete without at least a few doors that take you back to the starting point. Hopefully you know better by now.

This is where the game really changes things up and delivers something unexpected!

Nah, just kidding.

The same strategy applies here as in level 2. Rush behind the queen, and shoot her until she’s dead.

And now, the final level.


Aliens Walkthrough, Part 2

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

[This is the second part of a quick walkthrough for Square’s unreleased Aliens game for the Famicom Disk System. Part 1 is here.]

Welcome to level 2! Before we continue, here’s another bit of trivia discovered recently at Lost Levels — the background music in Aliens was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who would later create music for first dozen or so games in Square’s Final Fantasy series.

(NES-wise, he also wrote the catchy main theme from 3-D WorldRunner and the excellent “track 3” from Rad Racer.)

Shortly after starting level 2, this is what you’ll see. But wait! It gets better.


First of all, note that Ripley enters the room on top of a wall-mounted alien for some automatic and unavoidable damage. The bigger problem, though, is oh my god so many doors.

Might as well get started.

Remember to keep holding up on the d-pad when you exit! This is instant death, otherwise.

The remaining doors offer a random combination of progress, backtracking, and death. The one you want is this one.

You’ll end up here.

And you’ll want to take this door…

…which leads to here. After that, all you need to do is jump over to the door on the left.

And that pleasant little slice of hell is now over with. At least, that is, until you lose a life, in which case you’ll have to do it all over again. Don’t take that next door, by the way — it leads right back into the maze.

Halfway through the level, you’ll find a 1-up. This is where I discovered that, for whatever reason, there are multiple 1-up icons. Here’s the space fish, previously seen in level 1.

Then there’s the space puppy.

And finally, the space snail. Space is such a fun place.


Aliens (Square/Activision, Unreleased)

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Did you know that Activision and Square once partnered to release a game based on James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi action movie Aliens? Are you aware that it was released for the MSX home computer, and that a port for the Famicom Disk System was completed but never released? Do you care that a prototype copy of this unreleased FDS port was recently discovered and is available for download here?

Honestly, this is something I never thought I’d get to play. The world’s only known copy of Aliens for the FDS popped up in a Yahoo Japan auction a few months back, where it was bought by a private collector for a stupidly large sum of money. In many similar cases with unreleased prototype games, this is where the story would end.

A few days ago, however, “Yuki” at the No-Intro forums released a disk image of the game, commenting later that “I bought this FDS from the collector who went mad.” How much was paid? “Oceans of money.” Yikes.

(Yuki also regularly tracks down and buys sealed copies of FDS games, just to ensure clean disk image rips [trivia: an FDS game is automatically corrupted in some way once it’s been played for the first time, as save files and other changes are permanently written to the disk]. It’s a ridiculously expensive undertaking for an act of preservation that very few people know about or appreciate. Yuki is awesome, basically.)

The game itself is gloriously bad. It’s not so overwhelmingly awful as to be no fun; it has just enough quirk to inspire you to keep playing, just to see what bad design decisions await you in later levels. It could have easily stood alongside Predator, Rambo, and other not-unplayably terrible games that were released for the Nintendo Entertainment System during its lifespan.

For your consideration: this is how high your character is able to jump. Note that this is only possible with a deep, full press of the A button — tapping it only scoots Ripley across the ground. You’re eventually able to upgrade your jump by collecting power-ups…which disappear every time you lose a life. And losing a life is really easy to do, because…

…every enemy sprays acid all over the damn place after you kill it, damaging Ripley if she’s in close proximity. Problem: enemies appear so suddenly that they’re always in close proximity. It’s not uncommon to be damaged by an unexpected enemy and to then absorb another couple of hits after killing it.

So, after losing a few lives, you start blasting every single enemy and egg you see, leaping away in panic after firing every shot, so as to not to be showered with acid from exploding aliens. You soon discover a few new power-ups.

There are several different kinds of grenades. You can throw them by holding up and pressing the B button. In any other game, you might use them to take out faraway groups of enemies.

In this game — in which many aliens introduce themselves by teleporting in front of your face — grenades are basically worthless.

The invincibility item is more useful, especially since you can collect and store up to three of them at once. Activating it is easy and intuitive — simply hold up, then hold A, and while you’re at the top of your jump, tap B.

(By the way, the Select button? It does nothing.)

Here’s the game’s first major obstacle. Even if you collect every single jump upgrade available to this point, you still won’t be able to jump over this wall.

The solution? Hold A, then hold up on the d-pad. You’ll do a silly-looking somersault and appear at the top of the cliff. This move is required throughout the game, and even when you know how to pull it off, it only activates a fraction of the time. The real fun is when you have to do it over a bottomless pit!

Equally fun is the crawling mechanic, which is required to pass under low ceilings. You can slowly crawl by ducking, holding left or right, and rapidly tapping the jump button. Like, really rapidly, to the point where it feels like you’re doing something the game doesn’t want you to do.

You’re almost there! Did you remember to collect all three jump power-ups? If not, you will die here, and you’ll have to start again from the very beginning.

Soon, you will learn to hate doors.


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]

Super Pitfall II

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Do you like roms? I like roms. Have a rom. It’s Activision’s unreleased Super Pitfall II.

Super Pitfall II was a planned localization of Atlantis no Nazo, a Sunsoft-developed platformer that, thankfully, is completely unrelated to the original (and god-awful) Super Pitfall.

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.


Takeshi’s Challenge

Monday, May 17th, 2010

As a kid, I had dreams. Nothing big. Nothing unachievable. I just wanted to be a race car driver. I figured there were so many professional drivers out there racing in so many leagues that I’d fit in somewhere, anyway.

It sounds weird to say now, but I spent years mentally preparing myself to be a mediocre race car driver. I didn’t need to grab the checkered flag every time, I figured, but if I could manage to be just good enough to keep my sponsors happy, I could probably race cars for the rest of my life.

Do kids usually think about things like this? Maybe I’m weird.

Today, I work in the sales department at Niko Niko Loan.

It only recently sunk in that, at my age, I’d never be a race car driver. As a result, my performance this quarter was…well, let’s just say that it could’ve been better. I wasn’t exactly a model employee to begin with, but when the layoffs started, I just couldn’t make myself care anymore.

My boss called me into his office today to give me my performance review and my annual bonus. The last few months had been especially rough, and I was really looking forward to that bonus. I figured it would raise my spirits enough to coast me through the next few weeks, at least, until reality caught up to me.

My boss greeted me with a severe look.

“Son, you’ve been slacking off lately,” he said.

I swallowed. Seconds passed. I tried to think of something to say that would lighten the mood, but nothing came to mind.

“And sorry to say it,” he continued, “but we can’t afford to hand out big bonuses to people who can’t pull their own weight around here.”

“From now on, I hope to see better results out of you.”

I took the wad of cash he thrust at me — my bonus.

It was 200,000 yen.

Two thousand dollars, as thanks for a year’s worth of sheer hell. So much for that family vacation. And I guess those credit card bills are going to have to go unpaid for another few months.  How am I going to break this to the wife?

I left the room in a daze, not really knowing how to react. After a few seconds’ thought, I knew that whatever I was feeling right now, I needed to say it to my boss’s face.