Come On, Let's Go.

She’s A Harbor Chick

I was watching Ghostbusters 2 the other day when I saw something delightful: the Statue of Liberty was controlled using a hacked NES Advantage:

...and, why not, here's a Boards of Canada's "Statue of Liberty" off a Few Old Tunes Vol. 2.


Ghost Hardware

I previously described tool-assisted speedruns in this post. To summarize, this breed of speedrunners use special emulation tools which alter the speed of the game; anything from slowing the game down to play it frame-by-frame to rewinding a live game is possible -- the latter mechanic has been adapted into games like Prince of Persia and Braid. Combining these abilities with glitches let the user create a speedrun far faster than any human being playing the game in real-time.

Co. Instructables/pjgat09

These speedrun is not recorded as a video, but rather a series of button presses timed to the game. These recording can be used to replicate the speedrun on any computer with an emulator capable of reading it. Now, an Instructables member named pjgat has taken speedruns into the real world. Using an Arduino board wired into the controller, the speedrun's button presses are sent directly into the NES hardware. The game is in no way modified; there's just a robot at the wheel.

Co. Instructables/pjgat09

As you can see by the comments, there is some talk about this being a hoax. Most of the weirdness can be attribute to faulty collision detection -- it is, in fact, a game from 1985, a commenter helpfully points out -- but I'm still not sure why the NES boots so fast. So here is the video:

...and a Super Mario Bros. 3 which is slightly faster than the one mentioned in the previous post:


Super Mario XXV

Today is the 25th anniversary of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. franchise. So let’s take a quick look at the Super Mario games we all know and love… like Mario Clash for the Virtual Boy. Can you remember that first time you took your Virtual Boy out of its box? The long Sunday afternoons you spent with that red doohickey strapped to your face? Playing it in the schoolyard while all your friends looked on? Taking it on those long family vacation drives? Yeah, those are the Mario memories I’m talking about.

And who can forget the classic Mario is Missing? That NES adventure every kid has nothing but the fondest memories of. I sure should’ve put more hours into studying than I did into this game, but how could I resist its charms?

Remember how sad you were when you found out that Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds got cancelled? That CD-i of yours (and don’t forget about your friends, that CD-i was as much a household staple as the microwave) sitting empty, robbed of anticipation for another amazing CD-i classic?


It’s The Hardware That Got Small

After divesting myself of my Atari 2600, the next console in my life was the NES. Eight bits of joyous and unstoppably cruel gaming. That was almost twenty years ago and five years into the system's release date. And yet, new developments for the console are sprouting up more than ever. This retro-innovation is abetted by the growing chiptunes scene. Here's a couple of chiptune-related NES projects:

Neil Baldwin, a composer for NES games during the system's downward trajectory in the 90s, is actively working on the NTRQ, a tracker (sequencer) that runs on the NES. This is, potentially, a chiptune instrument which runs on the native hardware (it currently only exists in code/ROM form.) It may not be as expansive as the sequencers for PCs, it is fully-functional and even controlled via D-pad. Tracks are saved on an internal battery, like a Legend of Zelda save game. Below is a video of Baldwin playing 'live' with a loaded backing song. You can read all about the UI here.

Brief Aside: I am miserable at rhythm games. Have you ever watched someone practiced play Guitar Hero? How impressively flawless it looks? That is as good as I am bad. I flail at the thing like it's an electric eel. I lose all hand, eye and ear coordination. Plainly, I suck. That being said, I'm still excited over Kent Hansen and Andreas Pedersen's NES ROM-based D-Pad Hero. Using button, arrow and simultaneous button-arrow combinations, you thumb out one of the six included hit songs tolerably translated to the medium. The cover of Daft Punk's “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” is especially good.


Everything Under The Sun Is In Tune

Much like most “innovative” forms of electronic music, I like chiptunes more as a concept than an actual sound. Honestly, my nostalgia for the 8-bit systems isn't particularly vivid as compared to, for instance, my nostalgia for the old Apogee shareware games. I find most compositions to fail at pushing the medium into genuine recognition outside of, say, PAX and the backing track to Ke$ha songs.

Brad Smith's MOON8 project is a complete success, however. Covering Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd's best album and one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time -Smith holds an electronic mirror up to the original instead of attempting to adapt it to some video-game nostalgia-ethos. He treats the source material with meticulous respect and the NES chiptune medium as independent of its context inside old Japanese hardware. Although some references - the use of the standard Mario coin blip in “Money” for instance - are a welcome sound (thanks to the crew over at Metafilter for that heads-up.)

You can find the entire album available to download (as two MP3s, one for each side of the LP) here


Nothing New.nes

This is a guest post by CJ of One Hour Empire

It's absolutely no shock to anyone reading this that I like old video games. This is because I am writing with what can at least be reasonably presumed to be full sentences on the internet, but have no interest  in keeping you updated on the libertarian truths that will undermine the Zionic World Order or sharing my theories on the latest episode of ABC's hit show LOST. That being said, the Web 2.0 Bill of Rights (The basic human dignities that anyone can edit!) dictate that I need to talk about old videogames right about now, possibly even by linking to an etsy account where someone puts their 43,000 dollar BFA to work selling NES Controller Belts.

Quit while you're ahead, guy.

There's also some sort of unspoken internet rule where by and large we are required to solely remember the good times (in the enjoyable-memories-with-friends sense) that the Nintendo Entertainment System (controller pictured b/w some thirty-something's Casual Friday crotch) provided. This is a feeling mostly engendered by Nintendo's formidable and ingenious marketing division, whom used the company's considerable brand name recognition to get themselves through the Good Times (in the Maude-spin-off-about-a-destitute-black-family sense) before the Wii. And that's good enough in a way. At the risk of sounding like someone who lives in a house of 2600 cartridges and carefully tucks his beard into his shirt before sitting down for a nice froth, most video games in this day and age are too much of a hassle. I've spent enough of my (theoretical) adult life avoiding the military that I don't especially need to pay sixty dollars  for the privilege of being surrounded by virtual bald men and casual homophobia.

But problem with the best of the 8-bit era being a common cultural cornerstone is that it really doesn't stand up to introspection. Pop-Intellectuals of the eighties bonded over idle speculation towards Morrissey's sexuality and a mutual fear of the Tag Team of Terror in Reagan and Thatcher, we just have the fact that Hitler's head blows up if you beat Bionic Commando as the common knowledge we use to share and grow. There's nothing more to be said about Super Mario Bros. and no matter how many ostensibly humorous Top [multiple of five] lists you slam out about the copious drug references or the negligibility of Mario's plumbing license, you are just simply incapable of saying anything new or funny about the game.

But that's ok, because it turns out there is a rich bounty out there, just beyond your nose.  I love Mega Man 2 as much as you love Mega Man 2, but we can move on. There's a wide range of games even just for the NES that are just ripe for a humor harvest. For example, have you ever considered the concept of sending an American marine to conquer a tiny island or bulking up mechanic of American Sammy's semi-justifiably forgotten action game Amagon to be a response to American foreign policy of the eighties? If not, congratulations! You are more tolerable than I am.  But if you've never heard of Amagon, it's a solid C list game that you can pretty much pirate entirely guilt free because it will never see the light of day again. There's a rich bounty of all sorts of mediocre crap out there that is by and large forgotten,  and some of it is even secretly worth your time.

8.png picture by shadax6659.png picture by shadax665

Japan's rich bounty: Dio's Holy Diver and Portopia Serial Murder Mystery

The reason I picked on an American Sammy game is because the absolutely inscrutable publisher bonds the common link between the four people who submitted to Come On, Let's Go this week. Between American Sammy (To quote Drinky, "Who did they think they were fooling?") Taxan, Irem, and a cornucopia of other mostly forgotten names forged from the gibberish of two languages, we forged a proud legacy of burning through fly by night FortuneCity rom sites and giving just about anything a fair chance. Partly out of nostalgia, but mostly out of the fact that my financial situation hasn't improved that much since my teens, I continue to plow away at any given romset,  digging up interesting nuggets where I can. Sometimes, I can even eke something interesting out of the whole ordeal.

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There is Time Now

As far as generalized statements go, people tend to have hobbies. Amateur taxidermy, the Society for Creative Anachronism, and arts and culture blogging all fit in that special category. The category that lets you know you’ve really accomplished something that doesn’t immediately involve formal schooling or your current occupation.

…and then there are the individuals, g’bless ‘em, who take precious time, Herculean effort (assuming Hercules’ thirteenth labor involved the Nintendo Entertainment System) and specialized software to see how quickly they can beat a videogame. You’ve probably seen (or attempted!) speedruns in the past. During our early teenage years, my cousin and I spent an afternoon attempting to beat the first level of Sonic the Hedgehog in under a minute. We had a blast doing it and watching the super-extra-humungo-bonus rack up after getting in at 0:5X felt like getting the gold in the Lazy Sunday Olympics. These sorts of amateur affairs are not at all what I am speakign (writing?) about. Dig on this and note the fluidity. Nearly every move is flawless and any idle time is used for to attain goals that aren’t central to advancing the level, but look damn cool (e.g.: the chained 1ups):

If you’re interested in the more technical details, Wikipedia has a rundown of all the different sorts of tool-assisted speedruns. And, as usual, YouTube is an infinite repository of them.


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