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  • Hidden messagin’

    Posted on August 29th, 2009 keving 36 comments

    Programmers for 8-bit consoles, whether American, European or Japanese, stuck hidden messages — sometimes accessible, sometimes non- — in their games all the time.

    One of my favorite has always been the one thrown into Pachi-Com (パチコン), a very primitive pachinko simulation released for the Famicom in 1985 from Toshiba EMI. You can load the .NES ROM up in any hex editor to see a long message right at the top of the image, written in romaji:

    pachicom

    Nearly five percent of the entire ROM space is taken up by this inaccessible message, which I’ll take the liberty of translating:

    I’M SAYING WHAT I WANT FROM HERE ON IN !!

    Mr. GOUHARA from JPM planning does absolutely nothing but gives me all sorts of crap anyway. SHUT UP, YOU IDIOT!
    ———–
    DEG/NANA/KOYA from company “T” [presumably Toshiba EMI]
    You RETARDS say one thing, then something else later all the time. I worked ALL NIGHT working on what you told me to; don’t say to me “it was better before”! Who the hell do you think is going to play this, with its boring bonus stage and the balls that get stuck? If you use SELECT to put the JOY right, that’ll make it +1, you idiot! You’re a sound company; quit ignoring pachinko sounds and trying to put these weird sounds in instead! Do you WANT it to be this hard to hear the balls?! I’ve left the PREVIOUS sounds, so edit this if you want to hear it. Set hex address AFFC to 1FAF and AFC4 to E0EE to get decent sounds. (Tiger_V & Kugi) Company “T”, you idiots! GOU, you retard! Anyone can tell you what good sound is!
    ========
    Does company “N” develop with company “I”‘s PROS80? I’m AMAZED they can make stuff on that weird (3″ floppy disk) machine! Do they trace the holes when drawing art, too? [i.e. Do they program graphic data directly without the use of any artist tools?] If you’re sick of tracing holes, I’ll sell Bear’s art machine (ROM) and debugger for 5 million YEN… Tel 03-864-6880 That’s cheap if you want pretty art!!!
    ——–
    Why did they take out the 6502′s decimal mode [from the NES architecture]? It’s a decimal computer… Did they mess up the mask cutting or something?
    ========
    Anyone who happens across this is a pervert! There’s another message in the MSX Pachi-Com… If you’re a pervert, buy it and see! It’s in Okinawan dialect, though!
    DON’T TELL ANYBODY YOU SAW THIS!!!
    by Y.S

    The secret message attached to Namco’s Erika to Satoru no Yumebōken, however, is much more infamous these days — and it’s accessible within the game, too. A cutesy, kid-friendly adventure that used the N106 sound chip Namco included with a few FC carts, the game has a long message (seen starting in 5:20 of the above video) that perhaps sets the bar internationally for this sort of thing.

    Its presence within the ROM image was known for a while, but it wasn’t common game-otaku knowledge until 2007, when hackers finally figured out how to unlock it within the game itself. The GDRI folks have taken an interest in it lately, too, because it establishes a link between Atlus and the games LJN released for the NES — the music that plays during the hidden message is taken from LJN’s The Karate Kid, although Erika to Satoru was coded by Atlus for Namco.

    It’s a long, convoluted code you have to type in, involving waiting half an hour after the game’s ending and then inputting all sorts of button combinations on both controllers at the right time, but it’s worth it to see the message, which I’ll again translate freely:

    Mmm, that’s a nostalgic song playing. Those were good times. Meanwhile, who the hell are these people with this project? I’m so glad it’s over. You think it’s nothing but good memories? Hell no! Let’s use this space to give out some thanks.

    First off, Kaoru Ogura, who ran off with some guy in the middle of the project. Yes, you, you bastard. Don’t show up at the office without showering after having sex 6 times the previous night. Next, Tatsuya Ōhashi. Yes, you, you bastard. Don’t give me your flippant shit — coming in late on the day we ship the ROM like nothing’s amiss. You can give me all the porn you want; I’m not forgetting that one. All that fucking weight you put on. No wonder you paid out 18,000 yen and still got nothing but a kiss out of it. Kenji Takano, Namco debugger. You are a part-timer; don’t dick around with the project planner. And finally, Kiyoharu Gotō, the biggest thorn to my side in this project. Yes, you, you bastard. Once I get a time machine, I’m sending you back to the Edo period. Go do your riddles over there.

    Ahh, that’s a load off…wait, no it’s not. Kiyoharu Gotō — yes, you, you bastard. Aaaagh, just disappear already.

    Come to think of it, some people were helpful to me, too. Mr. Okada, who took all the good stuff. I know all about your abnormal tendencies. Yamagishi, who swore off soaplands until the project was over. Go ahead, knock yourself out now. Iwata, who joined in midway and gave it all he had. Sorry I yelled at you. Keep hanging in there. Fujimura, Udopyu, you probably had it the worst of all. Thanks. I mean it. Gotō’s the one to hate here. Also, Takayama, Kudō, Suzuki, Makki, Kaneko, Aihara, Sato (the angel of my heart), Iga. Thanks, everyone.

    Yoko-G, good work. This game is dedicated to your wife’s birthday.

    If you type in another secret code after this message, you get a further note:

    Kazumushi, I’m sorry I couldn’t come back home much. I love you and always have. Hidemushi

    In late 2007, someone posted on 2ch’s retro-game board claiming to be one of the men behind the message. He had only a dim memory of how to unlock the message; the hackers took it from there to figure out the exact process. Here’s what he said:

    I’ll reveal here that I was Hidemushi’s co-worker at the time (don’t pry any closer, please). I heard all the stuff [written about in the message] from the guy himself, so it’s not fake. As obscene as it is I planned to take it to the grave without announcing it, but since someone peeked into the ROM and revealed the message, I went ahead and followed up with it. [...] By the way, The Karate Kid is a NES game based on the movie released overseas. He was involved with the development of it. (Also, the girl we whined about who had sex N times the previous night programmed the mini-game events in The Karate Kid. She’s probably one of the few female programmers in the industry. Wish she didn’t have to tell me about how her boyfriend wipes the sweat off her back with a towel after every lay.)

    Aw, good times!

     

    27 responses to “Hidden messagin’” RSS icon

    • Do “Mr. Okada” and “Kaneko” refer to Kouji/Cozy Okada and Kazuma Kaneko?

    • It’s pretty possible on the Okada front as he was one of the co-founders of Atlus. Plus — and this didn’t come through as such in the translation — Hidemushi calls him “Okada-san,” the only person in the text whom he gives the “san” treatment, which probably means Okada is a superior of some sort to the writer. It’s less possible for Kaneko; he didn’t join Atlus until 1988, around the time this game was either released or in the midst of crunch time.

    • haha. this is one of the best posts i’ve read on magweasel. classic stuff.

    • A message from one of our contributors got me feeling kinda guilty about making a big deal about this message. Are we invading this man’s privacy by spreading this across the Internet? There’s something to be said about not leaving something in if you don’t want people to see it (Hot Coffee). If this man really valued his own privacy, would he have put this message in a mass-produced game or made it accessible AT ALL? On the other hand, is doing this convoluted code like cracking the password to someone’s private e-mail account? Maybe I’m making too much of it…

      Thank you for the translation of the Pachi Com message. The MSX version also has one, of course. I wonder if Mr. Gouhara is the same man who ran Coconuts Japan. I’m pretty sure company “N” is Nintendo and company “I” is Iwasaki Giken/Engineering/Electronics/whatever, makers of these emulator/assembler things, the company supposedly responsible for disassembling Donkey Kong so Nintendo could make DK Jr., and possible partner in Intelligent Systems.

      Future Double Dragon creator Yoshihisa Kishimoto was involved with Pachi Com and the original Famicom Hokuto no Ken, yet he does not list either on his website. I’ve tried asking him about Bear’s, but received no response.

    • Aw thanks for reading. I wanted to mention that I think your work is wonderfully fascinating.

      “Gouhara” is not a very common last name so it is not outside the realm of possibility.

      The 2ch thread never did get around to identifying the guy. Someone posted that he left the industry a very long time ago; there’s no way to confirm that but the thread did seem generally well-visited by old developer gentlemen. (Someone else also posted that Mr. Goto’s problem was that he tended to disappear for long periods of time without warning.)

    • Fascinating stuff. What else out there remains to be discovered??

    • CRV: I wouldn’t feel too guilty about it. Like you said if he really didn’t want this to be found he shouldn’t have made it accessible in the game, convoluted code or not. You reap what you sow after all.

      The Pachi Com one is really amusing. Even the guy making it questions who would play a Pachinko simulator.

    • This is just awesome…leaving something behind to mark your journey…better than a dairy… superb…it’s even better that this info is out after 10+ years…It gives us a very personal look at the situation they endure during those days…..great job with the translation…

    • Wonderful reading. Could you post the original Japanese too?

    • Freaking sweet. Tirades and ranting in code is much more interesting in most regards than a silly eastereggs.

    • The decimal mode for the 6502 was probably taken out because that is one of the few things in 6502 which was actually patented.

    • This was really interesting. Thanks for finding it and translating it, Kevin.

      I wonder if these kinds of things still happen in games released now. It seems like it’d be more difficult to hide a personal message like this now when there’s so many people working on a project though.

    • Someone asked why people take the effort. Simply because programmers spend very long days implementing someone else’s ideas (being in the middle when someone critizises you for implementing other guy’s requirements). On many projects the programmers just can’t win or be proud what they did. This all leads to a high stress and high level of frustration at the end of the project. Having a some way to vent one’s feelings, especially is small hacky way is OK with programmers (especially in cultures not OK with open communication).

      I did my share of games programming (from trainee to lead programmer) in the golden 80s and definitely left my finger print on few places at every project.

      Thanks for the great article!

    • I could never imagine actually checking this. I’d just play the game. You never know whats around you till you look. Classic!

    • He mentions “Takayama”, which I assume is a reference to Hirohiko Takayama who did the music for that game (as well as some more well known stuff like Bonk’s Adventure and Xexyz). He’s pretty easy to get in touch with, in fact I’ve spoken to him before, though not about this game in particular.

    • Never piss off the man who writes the code… that’s sort of elementary, really. Awesome article though, was just what I needed.

    • Chong Declouette

      Yeah, why do you have this donkey?  What is he for?  Seems like it would be fun to get him to pull a plow I guess.

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