You may have heard of Brad Smith for his contribution to 2a03 Puritans comp or his amazing complete cover of The Dark Side of the Moon on a NES cart. Clearly, Brad is all about professional grade, authentic retro experiences on the NES. He’s even written some utilities and modules for Famitracker!
Now, Brad is putting his chiptune and professional game development experience to work on a brand new game for the NES called Lizard. He’s running a Kickstarter here and it’s a project we’d really like to see succeed. Read on for details about the playable demo.
Aeon Genesis has completed their 10-year ROM translation project of Konami’s 8-bit NES sci-fi 1991 RPG Masterpiece Lagrange Point.
Lagrange Point is one of the most advanced NES games ever to come out. On a technical level, it uses Konami’s VRC7 sound chip to create FM synthesis on the original NES. The soundtrack has a character all its own and the FM Synths really lend themselves to the game’s space theme.
There’s always been place for the ROM hacking world to get some love on this site, and it’s about high time it got some of the love it so deserves. Say what you will about ROM hacking, but being able to put a new spin on a game that we have enjoyed for decades provides an incredibly satisfying experience (when done well, that is), that we have next to no hope from seeing from the big gaming companies that made these games in the first place. Sure, we have gems like Mega Man 9 and 10, but those kind of official throwbacks are not seen very often, and to remedy the situation, we have the ROM hacking community. Out of said community, came first game we will be reviewing for ROM Hack Write-Ups, The Legend of Zelda: Outlands; a completely new game that plays just like the original 8-bit masterpiece that we all know and love.
I recently completed the original Legend of Zelda’s second quest on my Famicom Disk System, and going through a Zelda experience that I never had the skills to do as a child, I was dying for more! Throughout the entire playthrough of the second quest, I did not once use the Internet to check maps, item locations, or anything of the sort. Sure, that made the game a heck of a lot harder, but it also gave me that same sense of adventure and accomplishment that I experienced when I beat the game the first time as a kid. There’s something about getting all of the answers on GameFAQs that just kind of takes all of the fun and challenge out of a new game experience.
With that mindset in my head, I came across a rare cartridge version of the game, as was created by the good folks over at NES Reproductions. Sure, I could have downloaded and played the ROM for free, but there was something about playing a brand new, classic Zelda game on my TV with an NES controller in my hand that I simply could NOT pass up. I was jonesin’ for more Zelda, and this game delivered. Oh, did it ever deliver.
Let’s start off with the story. Outlands takes place after the events of the original NES games, and takes a whole new direction that the creator of the this game dreamed up for the series. As per the official website of the game:
“The Thunderbird, a horrible guardian encountered by Link in the Great Palace of Zelda 2, has somehow survived and is out for revenge. Having lost the Triforce of Courage at the hands of its adversary, it has stolen the Triforce of Power and flown to the vast neighbor of Hyrule, the Outlands. In a world similar to yet completely different from Zelda 1, Link must track down the captured Tetrarch Fairies and, with their help, break open Ganon’s secret golden vault where the creature now resides.”
Sounds great! Now, here’s where things get really, really awesome. Take everything you know about the way the original game plays. The monsters, the items, the dungeons, the overworld…everything. It’s all different. Every last bit of it.
The way the game itself is played (mechanics and such), and Link and Zelda themselves are about the only things that are retained from the original. Every monster is this game is either completely different from their original counterparts, or has some sort of variation to them. For example, the monsters you see above sure don’t look like a Zola or Octoroks to me. You may encounter some Moblins, but I wonder if you’re going to be dodging arrows, or something else…
From the very start of this game, it’s pretty easy to to tell that the difficulty of this adventure has been jacked up, especially when compared to the original; including the second quest. I really don’t want to go into too many spoilers, as I want those of you who decide to give this game a whirl after reading this review to experience those same “HOLY CRAP!” feelings as I did. You have not nine, but EIGHTEEN new dungeons to look forward to finding and completing! That’s right folks, this game too, has a second quest, for those who are truly epic at this game.
If you cannot get your hands on a repro cart, you can download the hack directly from the main page of the game’s website. You can also read more about the changes and differences between this and the original, but I personally think if more fun to dive into it without scouring the Internet first, so you too can be just as pleasantly surprised as I was.
MAGFest, for the uninitiated, is the best place on the planet. It’s an acronym for Music and Gaming Festival, held just outside of Washington, DC in Maryland. It’s the largest festival in the world that focuses on video game inspired bands and musicians.
This year was my fifth consecutive year attending MAGFest. The music directors offered me an incredible opportunity; to forego my usual hour-long DJ set to program up my own three hour electronic music event on the main stage. For months we bounced ideas back and forth, ultimately landing on a modern spin on a classic format, the DJ Battle.
The battle format is simple enough, each DJ sets up their equipment beforehand and creates a short set that exemplifies their style. While this format has existed in hiphop for decades, it’s rarely seen in Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and had never been attempted in the video game music community. With the help of my record label, GameChops, I combed through the MAGFest DJ applicants to create an ensemble lineup that would best represent the diversity of EDM / VGM performers.
Benjamin Briggs – Electro house producer with a tendency towards chiptunes. Streams video games on Twitch.tv and takes fan-requests for remixes. bLiNd – Video game trance remixer with pumping beats and exceptional mixes, bLiNd has been producing for sixteen years. Grimecraft – Futuristic trap and bass music producer and a video game developer for Square Enix Flexstyle – Overclocked Remixer who’s contributed to countless projects on OCRemix Totentanz – World-touring DJ of hardstyle with a classical video game influence. Dj CUTMAN – That’s me.
So I had found the DJs, but preparation didn’t end there. I reached out to renown comic artist Thor Thorvaldson to create illustrated versions of each DJ in the style of a Mega Man character. I used Thor’s artwork to create a quick design like a fighting game’s Character Select screen. There was an incredible response to our artwork, so I adapted it into the poster design you see here. We printed a limited run and hung them up around MAGFest the day of the show.
Taking inspiration from the Chiptune community, which features live circuit-bent visuals, I reached out to Baltimore-based Pixel Seed to create live visuals for each DJ.
I sent him Thor’s artwork, along with Soundcloud links for each performer. The day of the show, he came backstage with a suitcase. When he opened it up, I was in awe. Video mixers, a hacked nintendo, custom controllers and feedback monitors were meticulously arranged in this unsuspecting container. He threw up up on a table, plugged in his powercord and the entire rig illuminated.
As the DJ battle approached, my heart pounded through my chest. Thankfully, MAGFest has a brilliant stage-manager affectionally referred to as “Angel” and an on-point security team who kept everything running smoothly. With low-light and a restless crowd, we hooked up all six DJs.
Pixel Seed was hooked into the massive 31ft projector screen, testing his glittering visuals and super-imposing Thor’s artwork. We had only a few minutes to perform what I call the “DJ Soundcheck”, where everyone gets about ten seconds of sound while the crowd cheered and egged us on to begin. Once we were all sound-checked, Pixel Seed was in position, we all went back stage to get ready to roll.
Once the Video Game DJ Battle began, it was a flash. bLiNd performed with guest MC A_Rival, a talented rapper and veteran remixer from San Francisco. Grimecraft also brought some surprises, a character MC known as DJ Dr Wily, 50 inflatable dolphins, and an eight foot long Orca whale were unleashed on the crowd. The DJ battle was streamed live on Twitch.tv, but during the night the convention center’s network crashed and the stream was cut off. Thanks to Will Strouse and Robert Swackhamer of 8BitX Radio Network, we were able to recover nearly all the footage and upload it to YouTube.
The Video Game DJ Battle ended up being the highest attended event of MAGFest 2014, with 2,200 attendees at the concert and over 1,500 people streaming on Twitch.
Watch the entire Video Game DJ Battle from MAGFest 2014
Each DJ uploaded a clean “studio” version of their set onto Soundcloud for posterity.
MAGFest is a hive of positive energy, from their 24-hour a day free-play arcade, to the multitude of blogs and game studios covering the event, doing interviews, and producing content in and around MAGFest. I was happy to see my Philly friends from J1 Studios conducting interviews of some of the GameChops members and other radical personalities attending MAGFest.
One of the beautiful things about MAGFest is it straddles the line between all-out 4-day long party, and a serious reflective space for those who choose to dedicate their life to the things that they love. I had an opportunity to talk candidly with a young radio DJ by the name of Game Boy about my experiences running a label and putting together the DJ battle.
Lastly, I have an archived version of the four GameChops’ DJs battle sets recorded live, complete with the tremendous energy of the room.
Thanks for reading my recap, Let me know what you think in the comments!