A Quest for the Secret Origins of Lost Video-Game Levels

This story focuses on Sonic 2, but there are other stories out there. People are still looking for secrets in Shadow of the Colossus.

In 2nd grade there was a boy in my class who told me there was a boxing level in DuckTales for the NES.

Other video game rumors I remember:

The New Playlist For More Productive Work: Video Game Soundtracks

Karltorp has found that music from games he used to play as a kid, such as StarCraft, Street Fighter, and Final Fantasy, work best. Because the music is designed to foster achievement and help players get to the next level, it activates a similar “in it to win it” mentality while working, argues Karltorp. At the same time, it’s not too disruptive to your concentration. “It’s there in the background,” said Karltorp. “It doesn’t get too intrusive, it keeps you going, and usually stays on a positive tone, too, which I found is important.”

I do the same thing at work – but to say that video game music is designed to help you get to the next level simplifies what’s really going on. In many instances, I think the music was there to stop you from giving up. Consider EVERY Mega Man game.

I haven’t found a good way to articulate what I think most people mean when they say “video game music.” I think they’re talking about music from the ’80s and ’90s (and the indie games of today) when games had catchy, upbeat, driving melodies instead of the orchestral music of a Halo game.

In a Halo game, the music often served the game by withdrawing its presence from the moment, only playing to further plot points. But in a Mega Man game, and in many games on the NES back in the ’80s and ’90s, there wasn’t that same care – the music was IN YOUR FACE all the time. But those games were better for it.

Although both are technically “video game” music – one feels more like video game music and another feels more like a movie soundtrack for a video game.

The Genesis Mortal Kombat Blood Code Is Because of Genesis

Abacab.

In 1993, when the video game Mortal Kombat was ported to the Sega Genesis, the development team made a secret code in the game that spelled out “Abacabb” (with two “B”s) on the controller pad. When activated, it would enable uncensored blood (Game Informer #230 Dan Ryckert p.98). This was a deliberate reference to Genesis, one of Ed Boon’s favourite bands, which happened to share the same name as the console to which the code was exclusive.

More Than You May Ever Want To Read About The Nintendo GameCube

If you’re at all interested in the video game business you’ll want to take a look at this article about the design and business decisions that went into Nintendo’s GameCube, from hardware decisions, software developer acquisitions, marketing campaigns, and the approach to multi-platform games.

This was said over 10 years ago, but man it seems poignant now.

On February 7th, 2001, former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi strongly criticized the industry for creating one game and then porting it to all three consoles.

“Now software companies are going multi-platform, running one game on lots of consoles, just to sell that little bit more. Even Sega. I can understand why the industry’s flowing this way, but, speaking for Nintendo, I can hardly welcome it,” said Yamauchi. ”When a user chooses a game, he always searches for something new and fun in a way he’s never seen before. If games on Nintendo machines are do-able on other companies’ consoles, then we’ll lose those users’ support. If we can’t succeed in separating ourselves, then we won’t win this battle. And that’s the reason why I’m not overjoyed about multi-platform tactics.”

IGN is full of videos comparing PS3 and Xbox 360 games. It’s beginning to happen with PS4 and Xbox One titles. Meanwhile, Wii-U is tanking.

The “Turnerization” of Video Games

A new wave of “Turnerization” is tearing up video games’ artistic legacy:

Game preservation’s worst-kept secret is that piracy has done the best job of keeping classic games available and relevant. Since the mid-’90s, the Internet’s vast and varied emulation scene has made the history of video games available to anyone willing to skirt the law. And unfortunately, playing some of the best games ever made requires a disregard for copyright. Take Maniac Mansion. An icon of the LucasArts studio’s golden age, it’s one of the most important adventure games ever made, and it’s still entertaining today. If you want to play in 2014, though, you’ll need to download it illegally and run it through an emulator, since it hasn’t been in print for close to 20 years.

I don’t like buying re-releases because somehow they’ll get screwed up. HD remakes are another story and, if done right, can work very well.

But many games should be left the way they were. That’s hard to do when nostalgia is so profitable.

There Is No “Good” Ending

I finished Mass Effect 3 this morning and I’m just now understanding what people’s problem was with the ending.

On Kotaku, Luke Plunkett writes:

I had no idea which was the “good” ending I was after. All three choices I’d been presented with seemed ambiguous.1 Which was surely another creative decision on BioWare’s part, but a poor one, because this one interfered with the trilogy’s most basic assumption: that you can build the story the way you want to.

I have mixed feelings about this because in real life, no matter how well you plan or behave, no matter how you build your own story, sometimes you just gotta play the cards you’re dealt. There is no good ending. If you wanted a good ending then you should play games that are linear and don’t allow you to craft your character’s story.

I prefer games like that, by the way. I dislike open-world type games that try to make you believe you have ultimate control. I dislike seemingly endless side missions meant to make you think you’re crafting your story, but end up feeling like filler. If there’s a regret that anybody should have with the entire Mass Effect series it’s that they were tricked into wasting time doing side missions because they thought it somehow mattered.

They didn’t. After 20hrs over the past 6 months on ME3, not counting all the times I died that didn’t get logged, I’m glad it’s over. I liked the game a lot, but I’m glad I didn’t invest as much time in it as some of these people did. Even 20 hours is too much.

It’s not the ending that’s the problem. It’s the illusion.


  1. I also didn’t know which ending I picked. I just walked around until I saw an option present itself to me. This cleared it up for me. 

Polygon Profiles the OneUps

But word about the band started to spread, and The OneUps began accidentally getting gigs: local bars, barbecues and community events.

One of those was a gala, a local gathering of the wealthy Fayetteville elite — not exactly the venue you’d expect for a video game cover band.

“We were pretty confused as to why they invited us at first,” Mustin says. “We played video game music, but we kind of made it a little more formal, you know, for where we were.

“It was hilarious, because after the show, people were telling us how refreshing it is to see young people playing such sophisticated music. But then one of the waiters from the catering company came up and said, ‘Dude, did you guys just play the Zelda theme?'”

Nintendo in Crisis

John Siracusa writes about Nintendo’s current mess.

My doubt is that I think we’re moving away from the age of dedicated hardware for games. I think people want less hardware in their homes, especially after a Guitar Hero fad that created corners full of plastic guitars that haven’t been touched in six years.

Video Games Live and Classical Music Cultural Relevance

The San Francisco Classical Voice takes a look at Video Games Live and talks with Tommy Tallarico about the show.

“I think it was in Pittsburgh. Big symphony. Woman comes up to me and she has tears in her eyes. ‘I just want to let you know that I’ve been playing in the symphony for 20 years I’ve been trying to get my 17 year old son to come see me just once and he never has. But tonight not only is he here to see his mom but he’s brought all his friends. It’s huge deal and he’s bragging to all his friends, my mom’s going to play Halo. Thank you so much for what you’ve given us.’”

Video Games Live is going to be in my area this fall and I have second thoughts of going? Why?

Because it’s going to be like a rock concert.

I don’t mean like a big summer festival, but Video Games Live tries encourages their audience to be disruptive in an attempt to be hip. Try listening to their Volume 2 album featuring the recordings of tons of fans screaming. There’s also music in their somewhere.

Purveyors of classical music have been trying to figure out how to become culturally relevant again. Some suggestions include letting audience members come and go during concerts, encouraging screaming and other audience participation, and costume contests.

I know this stuff is fun for many of the attendees. Maybe when I was a kid I would have felt the same way. But isn’t this another example of trying to become culturally relevant through teenagers? Shouldn’t the music be enough? If you need to let your audience come and go during your performance, maybe the content of your performance isn’t…good.

“Shadow of the Colossus’ controls are an exercise in art”

I finished Shadow of the Colussus this week. If you wish that Zelda boss battles could last for an hour or so, then this is up your alley.

Part of the reason the boss battles can get difficult is because the controls are so finicky. The horse steers weird, climbing the Colossi can feel laborious (you’re holding R2 while climbing and stabbing).

I have never ever read an article like this that reads more like an apology for controls than an explanation. “Exercise?” Yes. “Art?” Ehhh.

Rewriting history with ‘DuckTales Remastered’

Only problem with this is the use of the word remastered. I wish they had just called it “DuckTales.”

If this were truly DuckTales Remastered then it would be the same DuckTales game from the NES updated for modern consoles. But this appears to be a new game in the same spirit and style as DuckTales.

Ducktales Remastered implies there’s going to be an awesome version of the moon level (and music) in this. We shall see.