Latest Entries »

Modding Madness!

Anyone who knows me knows that I love me some retro-gaming goodness.  As I child, I was enraptured by the growing video game scene, but I was pretty much restricted to handheld consoles in my home.  Most of my gaming was done vicariously, reading gaming magazines like EGM, watching and playing at friend’s houses, etc.  As a result, I developed a deep love for the early eras of gaming, wrapped in mystery as they were.  The rise of emulation in the late 90’s allowed me to play (and re-play) a host of games that I had never been able to get at before, and to a history buff, it was a treasure trove.

I’m very pro-retro gaming, but there are certain points in gaming’s evolution that it’s hard to jump into, particularly the early 3D titles.  While sprites can be easily categorized into a kind of artwork, the low-poly counts and jilted movements of early 3D titles tend to just be written off as ‘bad graphics’ in this world of 4K, FXAA, and high-quality shaders.

There’s definitely a certain charm to be had with early 3D, especially when it’s used with non-realistic art design.  Blockyness and and low color can be used like cartoon cells, making them almost like sprites in their own way, but early attempts to create ‘realistic-looking’ characters usually fall flat in the hardest way possible.

I was always more of a console guy.  Despite a computer being the only gaming machine in my home for many years, it was generally underpowered, far below the system requirements that kept shooting up year after year.  Consoles called to me for several reasons, the prime reason being their simplicity.  A game either worked, or didn’t.  1 or 0.  No system requirements, graphic settings, drivers, issues with hardware, or anything else that plagues PC gaming.  I’ve long preferred some sort of gamepad to a keyboard/mouse setup, although I do admit that K/M has it’s place in certain genres.  Also, genres I preferred (like JRPGS and platformers) tended to have a greater foothold in the console world.

The infuriating lack of backwards compatibility for old games was also a stopping point.  With an old console, you just dig out the console, or if you’re lucky, backwards compatibility is built-in to some extent.  Regardless, if you keep old games around, you usually keep the console, too.  But how many people had an extra computer kicking around for DOS games?  Virtual Machines and DOSbox were hit-and-miss, and even when they worked they gave mixed results.

For a while there, my passion was source ports. Stuff like Doomsday Engine or DarkXL brought classic games to current OS’s, with engine and graphics updates that made them way more playable than before.  Later, stores like GOG.com would start packaging classic games with pre-configured DOSbox installations and the like, removing even more barriers to entry for old games on current systems.

Graphics are generally pretty secondary to me, but one of the big things that allured me to the PC scene was modding.  The ability to go into a game and change mechanics, make additional content, and upgrade graphics was pretty enticing, but I never really got into it until I discovered the mod scenes for Morrowind and Baldur’s Gate.  Two seminal CRPG’s that I’ve started countless times and never finished.  Maybe this, these modernized versions would give me the push I needed to finally complete them.  As it turns out, not so, but they definitely added some enjoyment to the time I spent with them.

Still, the obtuseness of the mod scene is highly reflective of PC gaming as a whole.  Untethered by the devs, the sheer amount of options available can be extremely off-putting, and can turn what was supposed to be a simple load-up of an old game into a time-consuming and patience-draining process.  As a result, I’m hoping to log most of my setups here on the blog, both as a resource for myself and for anyone else who would like to give an old game a fresh coat of paint.

Been trying to figure this out for a while, and I figured I’d make a blog post about it, both as a resource for myself and as an answer to anyone with the same question.  So here’s the situation:

I have an old Falcon 360 with a classic JTAG hack.  It’s pretty amazing and does all sorts of stuff I love, like letting me control the fan speed (after 2 previous Red Ring boxes, I’m not having any of that) or use it as a devkit.  Some time ago it stopped running certain games freezing at specific points, and always at the same place.  In Batman: Arkham Origins, it stops as soon as the intro cinematic is over, before the game loads the actual engine and hands control over.  In Split/Second, it checks for DLC, then moves to a loading screen and stops there, never getting past it.

There are a number of others, but most of them have the same problem, freezing before the ‘game’ itself starts.  Some make it past the main menus (like Fist of North Star: Ken’s Rage), while some stop during the initial loading (like El Shaddai or the aforementioned Split/Second).  All of these games have worked in the past, both on disc and loaded onto the hard drive, but now they all consistently freeze in the exact same place every time, no matter what format I play them on (disc, internal, external, extracted, GOD, etc).  In all cases, when I press the Guide button on the 360 controller, I can *hear* the sound of the Guide opening, but it doesn’t show on the screen.

Meanwhile, the majority of my games work flawlessly, no issues at all.  Since they all *used* to work at some point, I’m fairly certain that I fucked something up somewhere along the way, possibly during a dashboard update to the JTAG at some point.

My NAND is clean (no bad blocks), and I’m running on Dash 16202 without any overt ‘errors’.  I’ve tried running both my original JTAG’d NAND and a recent ‘working’ backup through the latest version of xeBuild, and each time I’ve been given an E71 error on boot.  Getting pretty frustrating.

Originally I was having trouble flashing my ‘working’ NAND back to the XBox via XeLL-Reloaded.  Tried a bunch of USB sticks, a bunch of differently named NAND backups, bunch of different ports, and XeLL wasn’t having it.  Wouldn’t even see the drive, let alone the file.  That was both frustrating and scary.

Eventually found I needed to use a specific USB stick in a specific USB port (front top-most when the box is horizontal) for XeLL to find it, and I managed to recover back to ‘working’.  ‘Working’ meaning that it’s having the same problem with the same games, but the majority are still fine.

Eventually, I found that I had a plugin enabled on my Dashlaunch, a dev kit plugin.  I removed that, saved the dash.ini, and ended up using that file with xeBuild (2.096) to build it into the new NAND flash.  I also removed a weird $Titleupdate folder from the root of my 360’s hard drive, no idea what that was.  Went back in with Flash360, flashed the new image, and lo and behold, success!  I had updated to the newest dash.

Full of trepidation, I attempted to load one of the ‘problem’ games off my internal HDD… and it worked!  Yeeeeaaa~!  Tried a few more off disc and external, and again, they worked!  Solved the problem (although I’m not sure how, exactly), and got my games back!  Now to see if I can get the dev kit back, I was enjoying that.

BKClickClock

The entrance to the final world: Click Clock Wood!

Click-Clock Wood is pretty unique, in that it’s one level with four different ‘seasonal’ forms.  The beginning of the level functions as a hub to the various seasons, and let’s you move between them.  It’s a lot of cause-and-effect gameplay, with some areas and things only accessible in certain seasons, but for now we only have access to Spring, so here we go!

Again, I started by exploring the perimeter of the level, checking landings and platforms thoroughly.  We collected a bunch of Notes, but no sign of Jiggys or Jinjos anywhere.  There is, however, a Mumbo Hut, where we’re turned into a fairly ridiculous-looking bee.  Luckily, the bee can bumble-fly indefinitely, and give us access to a few higher areas that we couldn’t get to before.  We found a squirrel inside the main tree who seems to want more acorns, a Jinjo trapped in a plant, and even a Jiggy at the very top of the tree!  I also found the switch to open the Summer aspect of the level, but being a bee, I can’t pound the switch.

BKBee

A very pleased looking me… I mean ‘bee’

There’s a large beehive attached to the main tree that we couldn’t get inside as a bear, so we try again as a bee.  We managed to get in and see a Jiggy sitting there, but it looks like it’s encased in something and we have no way to get it out.  We do collect another Jinjo, though, and then head back to Mumbo to get changed back.  Now that I have an idea of the layout of the level, we do some double-jumping back to the Summer switch and pound it, opening the way to the next part of the level.  Continuing up, we pound a large egg that we saw earlier and release a baby eagle from inside, and at the very top of the tree, find a doorway which leads to another Jiggy!

I feel that’s it for here, so it’s back to the hub and we head through the Summer door.  A Jinjo makes itself known right near the entrance, so we snag that and set about collecting caterpillars for the eagle from earlier, as well as hunting for new Notes and Jiggys.  We help a beaver, Gnawty, get back inside his home, but can’t make it past the doorway as there’s a steep slope stopping us from continuing.  Hmm…

BKHive

I don’t know how to get this Jiggy!

 The Autumn switch is easy to find, and after some more running around we discover a new path that wasn’t available in Spring, leading to another Jiggy.  We’re still a few caterpillars short, though, so we press onwards and grab another one, while finding another Jiggy hidden inside the treehouse which is getting more complete with each passing season. We’re able to get inside the beehive as a bear this time, but we still can’t get the Jiggy and the guard-bees are vicious and pursue you until you leave the hive, so we’ll hold off on that one again.  We manage to feed our collected caterpillars to the eagle chick who thanks us and goes back to sleep, but doesn’t hand out any collectibles, and the top of the tree has nothing new to off, either.  I guess it’s over to Autumn to see what’s in store over there.

BKBird

These guard-birds are extremely annoying

Autumn seems heavy on the Notes, but that’s a good thing.  The eagle wants a bunch more caterpillars as well, so while we’re already looking everywhere in the level, we might as well collect what we can.  We picked up another Jinjo on top of a pile of leaves, and noted that Mumbo is still closed for business in this season.  Looks like we’ll have to take some risks to get the rest of these Notes.  We climb the tree again, grabbing what caterpillars we can find, and the squirrel ropes us into collecting acorns for him, as well.  Man, Banjo’s delivery service.  We dropped off the caterpillars with the eagle (still for no reward) and hit the Winter switch before we went back to collect the acorns.  Luckily, they were all pretty close to the squirrel, except for one which I’ll probably have to be in Bee form to grab.

BKWinter

Soooooo treacherous.

Winter’s last on the list, and we’ll give it a thorough look-over before we start bouncing between areas.  It’s probably the area that allows the most freedom, since there are Flight Pads scattered around the level for us to use, and use them we do.  First it’s straight up to the eagle, who finally gives us a Jiggy for feeding him all this time.  During the flight, I also notice the last Jinjo on top of Mumbo’s Hut, so we grab him and get our Jiggy for collecting them all.  There are notes scattered all over the place as well, so we grab as many as we can, which leaves us only 5 short of having them all.  There’s not much else in Winter besides a Grunty Switch for a Jiggy in the hub world, so it’s time to hoof it back to Spring, switch back to Bee mode, and then explore the others worlds in the insect state.

BKAcorns

Lazy squirrel is too lazy to collect his own nuts.

But first, we head back to Summer, smash the rock preventing the beaver from getting back into his cave, and then head to the same place in Autumn.  We can finally swim up the area and claim a couple of Notes and another Jiggy!  Only a couple more to go!  It seems like we can’t take our Bee form to the other seasons, so I have to rethink my strategy a bit.  We finish collecting acorns for the squirrel, and that gives us the 8th Jiggy, and one’s in the beehive.  I decided to investigate the one other suspicious area in the level, and after planting some eggs and watering it throughout the seasons, the plant blossomed and gave me the 9th Jiggy!

BKFlower

This huge flower had to be watered through each season, and took me forever to figure out.

Just the one in the beehive left!  And Jiggy was actually easy, once I realized I just had to kill all the attacking bees in the hive.  I was just so sure it had something to do with being a Bee, or that giant flower.  Looking in all the wrong places, I guess. Well, that’s it for Click Clock Wood.

I grabbed the last Jiggy from the Grunty Switch outside the level (had to stay in Bee form to fly up to it), and headed to the finale!  I opened a Note Door earlier in the same area as Click Clock Wood, so I figured that should be the next area.  It only needed 760 or something, but it feels good to have all 900.  I don’t know why I do these things to myself.

BKBoard

The final world has more in common with Mario Party than Donkey Kong Country.

It’s… a quiz show/board game?  Yea.  That’s exactly what it is.  What is this place?  It plays like a board game, forcing you to complete a challenge on each square as you make your path towards the end.  Squares have various challenges, like questions about visuals or audio from the game, little trivia bits about levels, questions about Grunty (to which her sister was providing answers throughout the game), or boss-rushes and mini-game challenges.  It’s totally nuts, and infuriating, but kinda awesome!  Also, Grunty is now a star player, and her poorly and hilariously-wrought rhymes pervade the whole thing.  It’s pretty trying, since it’s such an odd mixture of gameplay and obscure observation skills, but eventually we make it to the end… and don’t fight Grunty?  We just rescue Tooty, and Grunty says she’ll escape while we’re forced to sit through the credits.  That’s brilliant.

BKFinalBoss

This crazy witch took a few tries, but we prevailed in the end!

In any case, once the credits are over, I decided to go check it out one more time.  This time, the board was wide open, and there was a passage into another area off to one side.  A Note Door barred our way, or would have if we didn’t already have all 800 Notes.  Through the pasageway up to a final area where we’re able to face down with Grunty and put and end to her mischief.  She’s a pretty intense boss with a number of forms, so it takes some time to finally kill her off, as I memorize each pattern and counter it.  She finally loses though, and we blast her out of the mountain and run off for a final credits sequence!  That’s it for Banjo-Kazooie, finally off the list!

BKEnd

Where’s Grunty? You see that rock on the bottom of the screen? Somewhere under there.

29-04-13

Sweet, now that we’re done Mad Monster Mansion, it’s off to… oh no.  RUSTY BUCKET BAY!!  Noooooooooooo!

BKShack

This will lead us to the next world… eventually…

Rusty Bucket Bay is probably one of the more infuriating worlds I’ve ever played in a platform game.  It’s just mean.  And of course, before I can willingly subject myself to it, I’ve gotta figure out how to open it up.  I manage to open the gate behind Mad Monster Mansion and found a small house in behind it.  Banjo can’t get in though, so it’s back to Mumbo in the Mansion, and Pumpkin-Banjo lives again!  After sneaking into the house through a crack, I find a switch in a coffin in the shack.  Hitting it raises the water level in a previous area, and starts a search for the next switches.  After finding the rest of them to raise the water level the rest of the way, and activating another Cauldron for quick access, we head into the level.  God help us.

BKRusty

Pleasant, right? Almost picturesque.

One of the big reasons that Rusty Bucket Bay is such a pain is because the oily water uses up your air twice as fast when you’re swimming, and of course, a lot of switches and items are underwater.  You even lose breath from swimming on the surface of the water, and don’t regain any of your Breath points until you’ve been out of the water on dry land for several seconds.  We hopped around and collected some Notes and our first Jinjo of the lot, hidden underwater beneath a grate near the beginning of the level.  We continued to explore the perimeter, found a couple more Notes, and made the dumb mistake of jumping into a caged area to rescue another Jinjo.  We got the little guy, but there’s a shark prowling in the caged area, and we don’t have much time in the water before he snacks us down.

There was a hole in the wall that led to a secret area with a Honeycomb Piece, so that’s awesome, but still no exit.  The shark ended up lunching us to death once we came back out, so I guess that’s one way to escape that are?  Argh.  On the way back to where we were, though, I saw a window that looked out of place, so we smashed it and dropped to another area… with a Jiggy!  That’s one down!  Another few Notes, plus a 1-Up, and we exited through the water and swam to dry land.

BKToxic

How did that guy get over there?

As we continued circling the level from the outside, we found a toxic waste pit with another Jinjo trapped at the edge.  How do these little guys get themselves into these messes?  We grabbed him, despite crappy camera angles costing us some damage, and headed into a nearby storage container to grab some more Notes.  Other containers had another Jinjo and another 1-Up, so none of it was for waste, but at that point we hit a wall and had to go back.

BKRotor

Totally not-suspicious switch.

Back to the beginning of the level, we headed up the ramp onto the boat.  We have a few Jinjos, one Jiggy, and about a third of the Notes in the level already, so this is probably where the meat of the level lies.  I explored the upper decks first, grabbing some more Notes and finding a pipe to jump down.  Inside, there was a switch to change the speed of the rotors in another room, so I’m glad I hit this first.  We found a Jiggy at the very top of the ship, then jumped down the rest of the pipes on deck to see if there was anything below.  A few more Notes and a Jinjo later, and we’ve explored all the pipes, too.  I seem to be running out of places to look, but I notice a door in the bottom of one of the smoke stacks, and Beak Bash it open to find some more unexplored territory.

BKEngine

The guts of the ship. Oh, and did I mention that’s a bottomless pit beneath us?

Inside is the engine of the ship, and the reason I hit that propeller switch earlier.  Several sets of rotors and spinning platforms are all over this area, but I navigate through them an score my third Jiggy, along with another bunch of Notes.  Over 80 Notes now, but not even half the Jiggys.  Another switch reveals a Jiggy outside the ship on the other side of the engine (which will be a gigantic pain to get to), and I’m pretty sure a dolphin that we saw earlier, trapped by the anchor, has one.  We hit another propeller switch, and the engine stops completely… for a set time period.  Luckily, we have everything in this area, so we boot it out of the engine room and to the back of the boat, grabbing the Jiggy with seconds to spare.

BKSteam

I wonder if there’s an area that tells you what switches to hit? I just guessed and got lucky.

Trail and error net me my fifth Jiggy at the top of the ship, with a code-entry puzzle involving steam horns.  Every mistake costs a life point, but a few lucky guesses net me the proper combination and we claim the prize.  The angle also affords me a new view of a crane from earlier, and I see how I can use the ladder on it’s side to claim grab another Jiggy that’s been sitting in front of me for a while.  There’s still one area that I can’t seem to get to, but I’ll look for a way to move the anchor in the interim.

Some more poking around revealed that some of the portholes on the side of the ship were also breakable, so we explored another couple of rooms, nabbed ourselves another Jiggy and a Stop’n’Swap Egg, as well as some of the last of the Notes kicking around the level.  Some random exploring sticks me to a rope near the top of the ship, which I climb up to access the crane I’ve been missing.  From here, I can access the last Jinjo and it’s Jiggy, as well as a few more Notes, and I can open up the last area of the level.  Woot!

BKBoxBoss

It’s a boss-in-a-box. Well, a bunch of them, I guess.

It’s a boss! Luckily, this box is kind of a pushover.  Three hits is all he takes before he splinters into two smaller boxes, which split into smaller boxes, etc.  It’s a little frantic, but we clear out all of the bits, and claim our ninth Jiggy!  But where’s the last one?  How do I help that dolphin?  And where are the four Notes that I’m still missing?  We continue to poke around the level, and although I think I’m looking for a Flight Pad, we end up finding the Grunty Switch for the level, so we’ll collect that Jiggy when we get back to the hub world.

I swam around the dolphin for a bit, and finally found that we could go inside the ship through the anchor hole.  Inside were a couple enemies, the last four Notes (that’s all 100 of them!), and a switch to bring up the anchor.  The dolphin leaves behind the last Jiggy, so we grab it and exit out of this awful level!  Finally!

We pick up the Jiggy from the Grunty Switch is Rusty Bucket Bay, and with the 33 Pieces we still have, we should have no problem unlocking another level… if we can find the platform.  Luckily, I unlocked a Note Door earlier right near here, but didn’t explore it too deeply.  Guess it’s time to do so!  It leads into a meadowed area, with the entrance to Click Clock Wood at the top.  We hit a switch to activate the Puzzle Platform needed to unlock the level, but it’s back at the beginning of the hub world.  Ugh.  Well, a couple of Cauldron teleports take us back to the beginning and we push the pieces into place, before teleporting back to the same room we were just in, now housing the entrance to the final(?) world.

27-04-13

I know, I haven’t been updating at all lately.  Family stuff and work have devoured my life, and I haven’t been gaming solo at all.  Ed and I have been pouring mucho hours into Chrono Cross, but I don’t feel like blogging through that one at all.  I just want to sit there and be blown away by it’s awesome.  In any case, I’m on my way back, and should start updating again in the next little while.

BKTitle

YEA, one of the premier platformers of the generation!

Since I seem to be on a Rare(ware) kick, and still need to clear one more thing off of my backlog, I’m gonna pick Banjo-Kazooie back up and finish it off.  It’s been a while since I’ve played, but I know I’m already fairly far.  The game states I have 63 Jigsaws and 600 Notes, and tells me I’ve maxed out 5 of the 6 Worlds I have access to, missing 1 Jigsaw in Freezeezy Peak.  Let’s head there first and grab the one we’re missing!

Since I can’t remember any of the moves, or where to go, I ran around the overworld for a while getting my bearings, and figuring out why my Jigsaw total is wrong.  I forgot that you spend Jigsaw Pieces to unlock worlds, so 31 is my Jigsaw total, minus the ones I’ve spent to unlock various worlds.  It’s all making sense now, but I’m still missing a few!  I managed to find Grunty’s sister again, and confirmed the following about our evil hag opponent:

  • She wears a Flea Circus under her girdle
  • She brushes her teeth with Moudly Cheese-flavoured toothpaste
  • She washes her hair with rancid milk
  • She gets her clothes from Saggy Maggie’s Boutique
  • She was called Jelly Belly at school
  • Her favourite sport is Belly Barging
  • She attended St. Dungballs’s School
  • Her party trick is blowing up balloons with her butt
  • She sleeps in a dumpster
  • She won the biggest butt competition
  • She posed in her longjohns of the cover of Fat Hag Monthly
  • Her bedroom has smelly socks hanging from the ceiling
  • She has a loogie bush growing in a pot beside her bed
  • She has enormous streaky brown undies
  • She keeps a Dragon’s Foot in her pocket for luck
  • She cuddles her dirty undies in bed at night
  • Her broom is a Lardmaster 2000
  • She has rat bagels for breakfast
  • And dog dung burgers for dinner
  • Finishing with cockroaches and cream for desert
  • Her favourite pastime is flying radio-controlled bats
  • Greasy Grant was her first and only boyfriend
  • She used to have a greasy warthog for a pet

These will all factor in to a mini-game later, but for now they’re just fun lore.  I also found the Picture for Click Clock Wood, but no Jigsaw Platform to use in order to unlock it.  What the hell, Rare?  I eventually found my way to Freezeezy Peak, and searched around for the missing Jiggy.  It wasn’t too long before I found the Walrus at the start of the race section again.  He wanted another race, and it looked like I needed the Running Shoes ability in order to beat him.  Luckily, I picked that up in the last level, so after grabbing the Running Shoes we handily beat him in a race and collected the final Jiggy for this level.  Now I guess it’s back to figuring out where to go next?

BKFreezeezy

Freezeezy Peak is COLD!

After pressing on past Freezeezy Peak, we ended up inside a volcano which contained the Puzzle for Gobi’s Valley.  I’ve already unlocked and beaten that one, so I guess we keep going?  I found a suspicious-looking graveyard area just beyond the Puzzle, but no open doors, so we headed back into the volcano and headed deeper into it, looking for the next Puzzle.  I hit a dead end, blocked by a tunnel that was too small for Banjo to fit through, so we headed back.  In the area prior to the volcano, I found a couple teleport cauldrons that hadn’t been activated yet and activated them, and also found a Note Door, asking for 450 Notes.  Luckily, I’ve got 600, so we pass through the door and head through a few small areas connected by underwater tunnels.  At the end, we finally find the Puzzle for Mad Monster Mansion, and throw some Jiggies at it to activate it.

BKMonsterPuzzle

Alright, next world unlocked!

We head back to the suspicious graveyard, which holds the entrance to the latest world, Mad Monster Mansion.  We’re greeted by a large, dilapidated house as we arrive in the level.  Some initial recon around the house give us a bunch of Notes, and upon inspection I find that we can break lit-up windows and enter rooms in the house.  After plundering the various rooms for a number of Notes, and a couple of Jinjos, we head through the Chimney and are confronted by a large green ghost… who’s sleeping on a Jiggy and a Flight pad.  We take care to maneuver to not touch the floor as we head to him, and we’re rewarded with our first Jiggy of the level, and a third of the notes already.

There was big hedge maze to our left as we entered the world, but I also remember seeing a cellar behind the house.  Leave no stone unturned and all that, so we head around back into the cellar.  There’s a ghost and a few Notes, but we also find another Stop’n’Swap Egg, a Jinjo, and another Jiggy hiding inside various barrels once we crack them open.  In a courtyard to the right of the haunted house, there a few Notes and another Jinjo, and behind the house there’s a strange shack with light coming out of it.  We collect the Notes from on top, then bash in the door and head inside.

BKCellar

Video Game Rule #3: Always check inside barrels

Inside, there’s a picture of Banjo and Kazooie on the floor, and a Jiggy in the center with what looks like an upside-down shot glass over top of it.  Around the border of the picture are a number of tiles, some with Grunty’s face, others with letters.  The shot glass talks to us and tells us it’s a puzzle, and when we jump on top of it a ghost appears.  At this point, we can surf around with the shot glass, and it looks like there’s enough letters on the tiles to spell BANJO KAZOOIE, so we surf around and light up the tiles to spell it out, avoiding the ghost.  We claim another Jiggy, and exit this shed.

BKShotGlass

Whatever drinking game this is modeled after, I like it!

Heading past the shed, we note another locked gate on our way and eventually end up at a well.  We grab the Notes and powerups from around the well before jumping in.  We collect another Jiggy and a bunch of Notes from inside before jumping out and heading back to the hedge maze from the beginning of the level.  Inside the maze, we find the last Jinjo (and the resulting Jiggy), as well as a few Notes and powerups, although we’re again blocked by a gate preventing us from exiting into another area.  Need to figure out how to unlock these.

BKHedgeMaze

Those ghosts are damn hard to avoid, too.

The maze is still kind of a dead end, with another gate blocking us from getting into another area with a large church and graveyard.  We find another way across from the roof of the haunted house, and collect the Notes on the roof of the church, as well as the Jiggy from the spire on top.  There are a bunch of pots in the graveyard, too, and once we drop some eggs into them, flowers bloom.  Of course, once we get flowers in all the pots we’re given another Jiggy.

There’s also access to one of Mumbo’s huts, so we jump in there and have him turn us into the new animal for this level.  It costs us 20 tokens, but he turns us into a… pumpkin?  The pumpkin form allows us to fit through tiny passages, and I think we’re supposed to use it inside of the haunted house… except that I lost a life somewhere, and all of the windows aren’t broken anymore.  Grr.  We do find a small drainpipe that we can fit down on the roof’s gutters, though, and it drops us onto another Jiggy and a few Notes in a small area I noticed.

BKPumpkin

Cutest pumpkin EVAR!

So we’re down to our last Jiggy, and I know exactly where it is.  It’s inside the church, but I’m not sure how to get in.  There’s a switch that opens the door for a limited time, and a pair of Running Shoes to get me there, but these gates are still in my way, and I’m stuck on getting rid of them.  That’s until, cursing myself for a fool, I try attacking one and knock it open.  Turns out there’s a lock on one side of the door, and if you attack the locked side it’ll open.  I’ve been doing this level the long way all along.  Kill me now.  In any case, I hit the switch, grab the Shoes, and dash into the church.

BKHand

Seriously, worst organ player ever. Have some enthusiasm!

Inside, it was a giant-sized church, with ghosts haunting and a disembodied hand playing a tone-deaf organ.  After collecting the notes ,we talked to the hand and had to follow him along the keyboard, stomping the keys he played.  This was no game of Simon, though, we just followed him along and stomped the keys right after he finished playing.  We’re rewarded with our final Jiggy for the level, and after grabbing the last 4 Notes, we were clear and moving on!

26-03-13

Still in World 6, we hit up Misty Mine.  Again, I’m filled with trepidation that it’s a mine cart level, but it to be just another platforming run, and it falls with ease.  The next level however, Loopy Lights, almost gives me an aneurysm.  It’s using the lights-out gimmick again, but this time you have to hit switches to turn the lights back on.  With switch placement, deliberate stretches with no light, and enemies ready to kill you the first misstep, I lose more lives to this level than any before it.  Such rage…  Platform Perils isn’t bad, a level using moving platforms that fade out after a short period.  A few tight spots, but nothing that we can’t get through.  Necky’s Revenge is the boss, and it’s just an amped up re-hash of the earlier Necky boss.

DKCLightswitch

Loopy Lights, you are infuriating. Thank god levels like you exist.

The final world, Gang Plank Galleon, is… oh, wait.  It’s just King K. Rool?  But he’s the last boss!  I thought there was a world to go with him!  Huh.  Well, I guess not!  He’s actually not that difficult either, and after sitting through his fake ending, designed to lure us into a false sense of security, we beat the last few hits out of him and clear the game.  That was… anti-climactic?  Oh whatever, it’s a 1994 platform game.  What am I expecting, Shakespeare?

DKCKRool

GET SOME DONKEY KONG!!

24-03-13

Continuing into the snow-covered fourth world, we hit Slipslide Ride, which proved the first genuine challenge of the game.  Quite a few lives were lost to the slippery slopes and self-climbing ropes of the second level, which served as a reminder of how the difficulty in the game ratchets up as you hit the fourth world.  Ice Age Alley proved less of a challenge as a more traditional platform level, populated by tight jumping challenges and carefully placed enemies.  Croctopus Chase! ended up being an underwater chase level, and the slightly slower pace helped me blaze through it in one go, despite a few rough spots.  Torchlight Trouble, despite being the introduction of Animal Buddy Squarks the Parrot, was a piece of cake, so it was off to Rope Bridge Rumble.  It turned out to be a treetop level populated by jumping tires and BuzzBees, with a few Kremlings thrown in to mess you up.  A life or two claimed to jumping puzzles, but not as bad as the first level.  The boss, Really Gnawty Rampage, ended up being an amped-up version of the first world boss, and despite his new moves, his predictable patterns led to his downfall.

DKCIce

Those ropes proved tricker than most of the bosses in this game.

The fifth world, Kremkroc Industries Inc., fills me with fear.  I have a slight memory of this place being balls-difficult compared to earlier levels, but I guess we’ll jump in and see what’s happening.  Oil Drum Alley introduces it’s namesake, a flaming oil drum, with a fiendish series of jumping puzzles which end up getting the better of me a couple times.  Trick Track Trek ended up being a moving platform level, with a number of obstacles and enemies being dumped onto the platform with you.  Elevator Antics, despite it’s name, was only hanging rope puzzles for the first half of the level before the elevators came in.  I’m noticing an ongoing trend with vertical platforming in this world as well, which I’m not as good at.  Poison Pond was a step forward for the underwater levels as well, a tip-toe careful maze of enemies and buzzing blades ready to kill you the second you stray off-course.  Mine Cart Madness, the name of which sends a slight shiver of terror down my spine, surprisingly falls in one attempt!  I even accidentally jumped and missed the Checkpoint Barrel, so the last half of the level was sheer luck and nerves getting me through it.  Blackout Basement would be a fairly generic level, if it didn’t black out the screen for two seconds every two seconds.  The addition of limited visibility again turns this level into a creep-forward piece, filled with tight jumps and platforming guesswork.  Boss Dumb Drum was super-easy, just a gauntlet of regular enemies to kill with no twists.

DKCBlackout

Y’see that level? Neither can I. Welcome to Blackout Basement.

World six is Chimp Caverns.  I have a distinct memory in my head of a mine cart level that almost drove me to drink during this game.  I’m not sure if I’ve already passed it, but every time I see a ‘cave’ name level, I tense up.  Maybe it was Mine Cart Madness, and I already beat it through fluke?  The first level, Tanked Up Trouble, was a moving platform level with a twist, needing me to collect fuel power-ups to keep the platform moving.  The power-ups, of course, are in highly dangerous areas, but I manage to get through on my second time.  I’m seriously running low on lives now, too.  Manic Mincers uses more buzzsaws to create some tricky jumps, and they give you Rambi right at the beginning of the level.  He’s pretty useful in keeping ground enemies from killing you while you’re avoiding saws.

23-03-13

Chrono Trigger (1-4) [SNES]

CTTitle

Need I say more?

Holy fuck we’re playing Chrono Trigger!  We kinda picked this one up the other day, and have been burning through it whenever we get the time.  As a result, I haven’t been very good at blogging our progress.  I considered skipping it entirely, but hey, why wouldn’t I want the chance to quickly chat up one of the greatest games of all time?

Ed’s never played Chrono Cross, my favourite game of all time, even though he hears me rave about it all the time.  I’d like him to play Chrono Trigger first, to get a sense for the series and enough backstory that he understands some of the subtler plot points of Cross.  I gave him the DS re-release some time ago, but he never got past the first time-jump.  He said it just didn’t appeal to him, and I say that’s because he didn’t even make it to the beginning of the game.  After cracking off Lunar: Silver Star, his favourite RPG of all time, I decided to press for turnabout, and we started playing Chrono Trigger together.  I was hoping we could play the DS verison, but I couldn’t get an emulator to look good enough to play together.  I grabbed the PSX version too, but had completely forgotten about the horrendous loading times for everything.  After a few minutes it was more than I could stand, so we whipped out a SNES emulator and decided to go for the classic version.  It’s superior to the PSX version, in any case.

Oh, and Ed’s addicted now.  We’re both loving it, and we’re using every spare minute to rip through it, so we’re… pretty far.  Apologies for the lack of screenshots, I just figured out how to use the function effectively today, so most of this is just me summarizing Chrono Trigger in a wall of text, for reasons I myself don’t entirely understand.

Recap time!

DKCTitle

This blew up the eyeballs of every kid who booted it up in their SNES

Because I don’t know what’s good for me, I’m picking up Donkey Kong Country to play as a time-killer.  I just love me some platforming, and I’ve been getting this urge to play a DKC game.  I’ve beaten the first two with friends, but come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever actually beaten them by myself.  Now’s as good a time as any, I suppose.  Also, as the first 32-bit game for the SNES, it’s a little piece of history, and proved that the system still had some kick left in her.  Other 32-bit games would follow suit, and they were just one of the several technical marvels of it’s time the SNES was host to: true 3D implementation in StarFox, 32-bit games in Donkey Kong Country, and even fully voiced sections in later SA-1 chip games.

I’m always a little blown away by the graphics on this one.  I mean, this was Super Nintendo!  It didn’t have 3D graphics!  Those are sprites?  But they look like models!  This game was such an awesome technical achievement for it’s time, and the fact that it’s a kick-ass platformer with excellent level design only makes it better.  Also, the slightly irreverent sense of humour and attitude towards video gaming and the Donkey Kong franchise as a whole is a cherry on top, and Rare proves for the first time that they’re capable of taking a franchise, populating it with rich, fun characters, and pushing it out to a new generation.

DKCNinjaKong

3D sprites, weather effects, awesome level design… what’s not to love?

The first world, Kongo Jungle, falls with no problem at all.  That’s probably because I’ve started this game a dozen times only to have it fall by the wayside before the third world.  Still, it’s fun to play through, and see how many of the secrets I remember from previous runs.  The colors and sprites remain lush and fluid, and the soundtrack continues to kick ass, so the first bunch of levels are a romping jive of speedrun as I whip through them.  No deaths though, and I took the opportunity to stock up on lives for later areas.  We also meet Rambi and Enguarde for the first time, and do an Expresso bonus level for a bunch of lives.

DKCUnderwater

Some of the best underwater levels EVER

The second world, Monkey Mines, starts to offer a few challenges, pushing some minecart levels that basically require memorization.  I died once on Mine Cart Carnage!, but recovered handily and finished the rest of the level without issue.  The next level went down easy, but it’s the Stop & Go Station that always throws me.  Like the Eel in Jolly Roger Bay in Mario 64, I seem to have a deep-seated fear of this level.  I don’t know what it is, maybe the mindless rampage of the enemies, or their indestructible nature, but this level gives me the willies.  We burn through it, but I’m screaming inside the whole time.  Millstone Mayhem is much easier, and we manage to pick up a third Enguarde token and grab another 10 lives from his bonus stage.  The world boss, Necky, is a giant buzzard that spits nuts at us.  He kills us once before I cotton to his pattern, but the next time we burn him without getting hit.

DKCMillstone

Millstone Mayhem gets a little hairy towards the end, but Winky’s there to help us!

The third world, Vine Valley, is where the difficult starts to ratchet up.  Now that we’re getting into the meat of the game, it’s fair to start throwing some tricky levels at us, and force us to think our way around them.  Vulture Culture chucks a bunch of blast barrel puzzles our way, but we manage to get around them and even score the KONG letters, some of which are hidden in secret areas.  Tree Top Town gives more blast barrels, but we miss getting both the complete KONG letters and Winky!  How did we miss Winky?  Forest Frenzy uses rope as it’s primary mechanic, making us scoot up and down a rope that’s constantly moving forward to avoid various flying enemies, and Diddy, being faster, is way better at it then DK.  Temple Tempest brings us back to Millstone Mayhem from World 2, but these millstones are after you!  We burn through the level, losing a life, but making it to the end without too much trouble.  Orang-utan Gang heads back to the treetops, and introduces some mean barrel-throwing monkeys, but not before it gives us the keys to the Ostrich!  Expresso rules this level, and once on his back it’s a quick run to the end of the level.  Clam City! is a typical water level, but with a lot more focus on avoiding attacks from enemies.  We managed to score a third Winky token, though, and grab a bunch of lives in his bonus stage.  The world’s boss, Bumble B Rumble, is a giant bee that we have take out.  Luckily, the level provides us with barrels to throw, but we still have to avoid it’s erratic attack patterns long enough to kill it.  We manage it one go, though, so it’s off to the next world!

DKCRope

Please don’t cut this rope…

Gorilla Glacier is the fourth world, and surprise surprise, it’s all snow and ice.  Despite the whole mechanic of ice messing with mobility being a little bit tired, it trains your platforming to be more precise by necessity  getting you ready for the later worlds.  Snow Barrel Blast starts us off on the wrong foot immediately, killing us three times with between sliding on ice and barrel blasting into enemies.  Guess we’ve gotta take this one a bit slower… what was I saying about precision platforming?  It takes a few tries to get through the blast barrel section at the end, with the fast barrel rotation and quick enemies heightening the tension, but we manage to make it through in the end.

21-03-13