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  • Rising sea levels forcing jungle animals to adapt?

    Posted on May 24th, 2013 keving 3 comments

    Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is out! Let’s celebrate by watching a new TAS of the v1.0 Japanese version that goes through every stage (but doesn’t 100% it).

    Unfortunately, the thumbnail kind of gives away the best part of the video (skip to around 16:00 to see it in action, along with the setup that makes the bug possible — basically the code gets confused about whether you’re entering a new stage or restarting one after losing a life). You also get a lot of Diddy Kong tumbling forward in a straight horizontal line while the game’s ambient soundtrack plays on in the background, an oddly soothing audiovisual experience.

    Part two is after the cut.

    Expect FUN episode 5 on Sunday. Happy Memorial Day!

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Doing Genpei Toumaden the score-thrifty way

    Posted on April 24th, 2013 keving No comments

    I figured out how to embed Nicovideo files into this site again! It’s a world-class party for all of us!

    Genpei Toumaden is one of the most artistic games of the ’80s, one that still resonates with a lot of gamers over there. Impenetrably Japanese in a good way (as opposed to the possession-of-underage-material kind of way), it covers the exploits of the reincarnated Taira-no-Kagekiyo as he tries to recover the three sacred treasures of Japan and defeat his historical nemeses — Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (the laughy guy who jumps around and throws knives), Benkei (the huge guy), and Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (the last boss).

    It’s trivial to get a high score in Genpei, since the game’s packed with little bugs and exploits you can use to play forever and vex the arcade operator. Instead, some gamers have gone on a quest to finish the game with the lowest score possible, an effort that’s been going on for a couple decades now. (These efforts are further inspired by the fact that a lot of things you’d expect to award you points don’t, such as taking energy-recovery candles and defeating Yoritomo.)

    The human record is more-or-less 8200 points, which has been refined to the point where the ReplayBurners video posted a couple weeks back includes a table of every point in the game where Kagekiyo has the terrible misfortune of scoring some points. With the power of tools, however, the TASser above has brought that down to 5800 points — scoring points only for nabbing the three required treasures, defeating Benkei three times, and slashing a frog. (He claims that he’ll try getting rid of the frog later, but ran into desyncing problems midway this time around.)

    Along the way, he dodges every other major enemy in the game, gets within one candlewick’s length of dying multiple times, and generally makes the numerous denizens of Japanese mythology look like idiots.

    Even if you don’t get what’s going on, you gotta love the music, penned by the incredibly prolific Norio Nakagata.

  • Earthbound finally coming to Wii U Virtual Console

    Posted on April 17th, 2013 keving No comments

    Happy “now we can all play EarthBound cheaply and legally” day! I doubt this will do much to lower the price of complete-in-box examples of the game — collectors are always going to be loons that way — but the days of your beat-up loose cartridge with the ripped label fetching you $120 will hopefully be over for a few years, at least.

    To celebrate, here’s a TAS from a couple iterations ago. This is no longer the fastest, but I find it the most entertaining in terms of the rather surprising turn it takes just before input ends.

    Note: Of course, don’t watch this if you care about having the ending spoiled to you. Mother fans are anal that way.

  • Yoshi’s Safari (Nintendo, 7/14/93)

    Posted on April 8th, 2013 keving 2 comments

    Called Yoshi’s Road Hunting in Japan, which is a much apter name I think. The landscape is so flat and barren, I’d be hard pressed to call it a safari really, any more than I would call a trip across I-70 in Kansas that.

    Yoshi’s Safari, that most whimsical and cartoony of the games that supported the Super Scope 6 TV-bazooka, is pretty easy. With a real-life rifle, anyone of average coordination can beat it in two or three hours. Yet the TAS (freshly posted today) takes distressingly long to get all the way through. Ah well.

    The game is also worth noting because the American release in the fall of ’93 marks the first time Nintendo of America called Princess Peach “Princess Peach”, a fair while before Super Mario 64 cleared the air once and for all. She had been called that in Japan since ’85, but you know the sort of goofy stuff NES manual writers came up with all the time…

  • Spelunker (Irem, 12/6/85)

    Posted on April 27th, 2011 keving 4 comments

    Spelunker is infamous (in Japan, at least) for featuring the wimpiest hero in video games, a guy who cannot survive a fall of half his body length and who blithely falls right off of ropes and ladders unless you specifically order him to jump off instead. In the hands of the right TASser, however, the dude suddenly acquires Mario-like powers.

    The main trick to this updated run lies in an obscure bug involving the “drug,” the hidden bottles of red liquid that are revealed when your explorer passes through certain points in each map. Drugs double your speed for a limited time, but it turns out that if you pick up a second drug just before your current one expires, the timer will go offline and you’ll keep the speed boost for the rest of the game.

    There’s a side effect to this, however: You cannot board the left-right moving boat in the third section while in double-speed mode, effectively preventing you from going any further. The workaround involves exploiting another obscure bug: If you tap A repeatedly to climb a rope or ladder quickly, the game (for whatever reason) will not reset the Y coordinate it uses to determine whether you’ve fallen to your death or not. As a result, as long as you get the A-button timing right, you can jump off the rope and fall as far as you want as long as you don’t tumble below the starting point where you first “boarded” the rope.

    This TAS uses that bug to essentially force the explorer into the boat. In the process, he also shatters everything I thought I knew about the Spelunker. Maybe he deserves to be treated seriously as a video game hero after all…

  • Atlantis no Nazo (Sunsoft, 4/17/86)

    Posted on April 26th, 2011 keving 1 comment

    A full TAS run of the mid-’80s Famicom platform game, one that has a remarkably detailed English Wikipedia page. It’s so detailed, in fact, that I’d like to meet the guy who decided that translating all the info on the Japanese wiki-page would make for a fun afternoon. I have the impression that he (let’s just assume he’s a gentleman) and I would have a lot in common.

    Atlantis no Nazo is a famous game in Japan for a number of reasons — it’s incredibly hard; your hero controls very wonkily and his weapon is extremely difficult to control; there are warps that’re found only by deliberately committing suicide; a couple of stages flash constantly; there’s a “Black Hole!” stage that is an immediate Game Over if you are unfortunate enough to visit it; and so on. Activision contemplated releasing the game for the NES (under the title Super Pitfall II) seriously enough to create a full-on preview version that even included a few upgrades, but the game was really just too old hat for the US audience by 1989.

    A “full” or “warpless” run of Atlantis no Nazo, as defined by the creator of this TAS, follows two rules:

    – Do not take any doors that are not in plain sight (except for the door between 99th Stage and 100th Stage)
    – Do not take any doors that bring your intrepid hero five or more stages ahead of where he previously was

    Beating the game this way is pretty much impossible for a human being. I tried it back in the day (i.e. 1998), and I couldn’t no matter how much I tried. It’s not a title for weak sisters, or really for anyone besides hyperactive Japanese children, assuming it was still 1986. But nonetheless there’s a certain charm to this title, perhaps because of the hero’s proud, exaggerated marching gait.

    Note that pausing and unpausing the game right after finishing the stage cuts down the length of the little inter-level display, hence the odd sound after going through a doog.

  • Contra (Konami, 5/26/89)

    Posted on March 28th, 2011 keving 4 comments

    Just a short update as I’m fighting allergies and mainly want to go to bed at the moment.

    Konami is undoubtedly the most important maker who worked on the MSX. The things they did with that machine were, and are, out of this world, and the developers used their technical wizardry to craft some killer games that worked around the system’s limits. (Vampire Killer is the classic example of this.)

    That’s why I’m unsure what happened with the MSX2 port of Contra Konami released in mid-1989. It’s one of the few real failures Konami released on the platform. The controls are weird, the graphics strangely undetailed, the original stages completely uninspired. The flick-screen scrolling is particularly confusing because Konami made smooth scrolling happen on the MSX2 only three months later with the baseball game Ganbare Pennant Race 2.

    The game gets only two things right: the music, and the way the 3D stages feature your guy moving left/right in addition to forward after completing a room (a little detail in the arcade version that got dropped from all the other 8-bit ports).

  • Pilotwings (Nintendo, 12/21/90)

    Posted on March 18th, 2011 keving 4 comments

    Pilotwings Resort is coming out pretty soon, but why not concentrate instead on the only game among the SNES launch titles that got me really, really excited? (What can I say — Mode 7 was really amazing to me, in a way that the PlayStation wasn’t somehow.)

    This game, featuring music by my beloved Soyo Oka (who must have really like that “blaaa” instrument because it’s used in two tracks), is one of several to use a DSP-1 coprocessor in order to speed up the trigonometric calculations required for the quick scaling/rotation seen in-game. F-Zero does not use this coprocessor despite having even faster scaling/rotation moves. This is because — and I forget who told this to me, so I can’t give a source — something like half of the game ROM is composed solely of precalculated cosine tables, obviating the need to come up with the figures in realtime.

    Japanese Wikipedia claims (unsourced) that the first shipment of Pilotwings in Japan did not include a DSP-1, something which I don’t think is actually true. What is true is that the game may have either the DSP-1, DSP-1A, or DSP-1B chip onboard. The 1A is a simple hardware revision to make the chip smaller, while the 1B is the same as the 1 except with a few bugfixes to the microcode that drives the device. You can tell which chip is inside your Pilotwings without opening up the cartridge because the 1B revision actually triggers a bug that’s easily demonstrated. Start up the game and keep it running until you get the gameplay demo with the light plane. If the plane lands correctly, the game’s running on a DSP-1 or 1A; if it crashes well in advance of the runway, you’ve got a DSP-1B.

    Neat, huh? And until I started researching this, I didn’t even realize there was that “secret” side pool you could hit with that one bonus stage.

  • Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally (Nintendo/HAL Laboratory, 4/14/88)

    Posted on July 12th, 2010 keving 4 comments

    Nintendo’s shot at copying Out Run…or perhaps Victory Run, more accurately speaking. Japan was going through something of a rally fad during the late ’80s, mainly because on-board rally computers got cheap and kei cars became powerful enough to be useful for racing under rally conditions. Nintendo also did a reasonable job simulating hills and winding roads with the engine behind this game, better than Yuji Naka managed with the Master System port of Out Run, although it’s still a little jerky.

    This game isn’t exactly a simulator — you can choose from one of three cars at the start, and picking up enough ! marks on the road lets you unleash the “Hot Dash” turbo mode. Hot Dash keeps your car from slowing down in snow or desert stages, which is important because the sports car (the fastest in the game) performs pretty poorly in these conditions.

    3D Hot Rally also marks the game debut of Soyo Oka, a female musician (there were a surprisingly large of these in the Japan industry from the very beginning) who worked at Nintendo from 1987 to 1994. Her contributions to Pilotwings, Super Mario Kart and so on are probably better known, but the little ditty that plays during the races here is remarkably catchy as well.

  • Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (Technos Japan, 4/25/89)

    Posted on July 1st, 2010 keving 3 comments

    There’s been a lot of activity in TASsing the Japanese version of River City Ransom lately. The current top TAS for the US port beats the game in six minutes, 53 seconds, but for Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, that time’s gone down to 5:53:32, just over a minute quicker.

    A few of the tricks you’ll see in the video above:

    – Riki (aka RYAN) is picked instead of Kunio (aka ALEX) because that makes the conversation with the girl on the bridge go quicker, to the tune of about 8 seconds.

    – Previous TAS runs involved Riki earning enough cash to buy Stone Hands, which lets him rapid-fire punches — a good, relatively cheap way to power up your character. This time, though, Riki instead purchases the Isis Scroll from the hidden shop in the tunnel. This bargain-basement ($20) item upgrades how much damage you cause when you throw objects at people.

    – Pressing left and right at the same time causes your character to do crazy things in this game, usually resulting in him falling off the screen and dying. This TAS uses that to kill off Riki after buying the Isis Scroll; this puts him back at the last mall visited, which is faster than actually running back there.

    – It turns out that your throwing stat is used to determine damage not only when you throw a weapon or item, but when you kick it as well. To be more exact, when you kick an item and it strikes an enemy, it causes the same amount of damage as the last time you threw an item and struck an enemy. Therefore, you can do a jumping-dash-throw weapon at an enemy for max damage, and then spend the rest of the game kicking garbage cans at guys and one-hit killing everyone except for bosses…which, wahey, is exactly what happens here!

    I hereby rename this game The Adventures of Ricky Rude and His Magical Garbage Can.