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Tech Demo
Friday, 18 March 2022
Westwood Dune Games (Various Platforms)

If you’re looking for a straight adaptation of Frank Herbert’s original book, there’re the games by Cryo from the 1990s and 2000s. But the games by Westwood Studios are somewhat unique: Dune II, Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle for Dune are very different to the novel. There’s no Paul Atreides/Muad’Dib. True, the player takes on a somewhat messianic role in Dune 2000, as prophesised by the Bene Gesserit sister, Lady Elara Moray Trieu. However, she hedges her bets by saying that in only one possible future does the player become the ruler of Dune. So lose the game and the prophecy does not come to pass. And even then ...

There is some confusion about whether this is an alternate timeline to the book, or if it’s set at some other point in the Dune chronology. One clue is in the FMVs. Here, the costumes and other designs echo those of David Lynch’s 1984 film. The issue here is that there are fundamental differences between the film and the games. Firstly, both are set in 10191, with this date stated in both game manuals and on the official website. That would seem to settle the argument in favour of different chronologies. However, I came across a discussion on Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange that said the games are set two hundred years before the film. After some digging, I found the relevant interview with Chris Longpre, the producer for Emperor: Battle for Dune at Westwood Studios: “The game takes place roughly 200 years before the original movie, “Dune,” and just after Dune II. Although all of our characters, scenes and story lines stay true to the Dune universe, we’ve tried very hard to make Emperor its own game that can be enjoyed not only by fans of Dune, but to newcomers as well.” He was not credited in Dune II or Dune 2000, so the intended timeline may have been different for those games. On the balance of things, I’d say that this concludes that issue: the dates in the manual and website are wrong.

Let’s have a look at some other differences between the film and the games. Instead of Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV setting up a trap for House Atreides on Arrakis, Dune II specifically says that it is Emperor Frederick IV who sets the three major Houses against each other. This name change is repeated in the game manuals as well. However, as a side note, the endings for Emperor: Battle for Dune revert to the name given in the novel.

The winning side in the conflict on Arrakis is supposed to be rewarded by managing and profiting from the production of the invaluable Spice. Of course, like his counterpart in the book, the emperor betrays all three Houses by sending in his own troops to destroy them during the fighting.

In two of the endings of Dune 2000, both he and Elara are killed by either Atreides or Harkonnen forces. However, in the House Ordos campaign, Elara kills the ruler with a poisoned needle (the gom jabber seen in the opening scenes of the book) and seemingly escapes just before a suicide bomber destroys the palace. In the manual for the sequel, Lady Elara is still alive, which indicates that the House Ordos campaign is the canon version. With chaos threatening peace in the empire, the three main Houses once again fight it out on Dune for the opportunity to choose the next emperor.

In Emperor: Battle for Dune, both the Ordos and Harkonnen FMVs start with the arrival of a new commander/strategist to replace the old one who had failed. But what about House Ordos? If their ending in Dune 2000 is canon, didn’t they win? As noted above, although the emperor is dead, no one House controls the Spice. So they have to fight in a War of Assassins to defeat their rivals and install their own candidate on the throne. It looks like Elara’s prophecy does not come true, and the canon ending of Emperor: Battle for Dune is even less unclear.

In the House Ordos campaign for Emperor: Battle for Dune, they manufacture a clone of Frederick IV and aim to install him back on the throne if they win. In the other two endings, the leader of either House Atreides or House Harkonnen is crowned emperor. So no real clues there.

In the final mission, all three factions must battle the genetically-engineered Emperor Worm. Said worm has been created by the House Tleilaxu and the Space Guild, with support from Lady Elara. The Bene Gesserit sister is heard in the closing cutscenes, so she probably survives the destruction of the worm and its associated engineering facility at the end of the game.

There seems to be details of a proposed sequel to Emperor: Battle for Dune, entitled Emperor: Alliances. This document states that the worm is indeed dead, but House Tleilaxu has put in motion other plots to overthrow the Imperium and achieve total rule throughout the galaxy. No egos there at all. All three Houses are attacked by assassins, but each faction survives intact. Eventually, the Imperial forces turn the tide against the Tleilaxu. Among the combatants is Roma Atani, the Ordos mentat from Emperor: Battle for Dune. The new emperor is also the most successful strategist from the War of Assassins. This means that either the Atreides or Harkonnen the endings from that game could be canon, while the House Ordos ghola of Frederick IV pops up near the end of the game. No mention is made of Lady Elara in the text, and another Bene Gesserit sister is seen in her place.

So we get a series of events set in the same timeline as the Lynch film, occurring some two hundred years before. With some decent FMVs and a cast of good actors including Musetta Vander and Michael Dorn, the Westwood games present intriguing prequels to the 1984 Dune movie.


Posted by zenade at 1:09 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 19 March 2022 9:39 AM EDT
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Monday, 14 March 2022
Dune II: The Battle For Arrakis (Megadrive) Prototypes

There’s been a prototype of this game out in the wild for a few years now. But now another one has been released by Forest Of Illusion, who do great work in releasing prototypes from different platforms. This one does not have a build date, it seems, but peering into the game’s coding, we can have a guess.


Here are some details of the two prototypes compared to the final US game:


Prototype 1 – Version 0.03
Prototype 2 – Version 1.0-011194
Retail – Version 1.5-030394


You can get the build dates from the above numbers. The final is 3 March 1994, while the second prototype is 11 January 1994. So the latter is less than two months before the retail. Prototype 1 does not seem to have a password that reveals this information, but one of the menus has a build number that suggests it’s very early. In the game’s coding, the latest copyright date is 1993, which is not a surprise if Version 1.0 was early 1994.


As noted by Victor Sokolov on Twitter, the passwords for the first prototype are very different to those in the later builds (which are identical in Prototype 2 and Final). To select a level, enter the name of your House, followed by six instances of the same letter (from A to I):


ATREBBBBBB – level 2 of the House Atreides campaign
ORDOEEEEEE - level 5 of the House Ordos campaign
HARKIIIIII - level 9 of the House Harkonnen campaign


Another passwords, DENZILLONG (the name of one of the programmers of the game), loads the final level where the Emperor’s forces have joined one of the rival Houses against you. It’s unclear as to what else this does, but it may be a debug mode of some kind. Other unknown passwords are FUBARFUBAR and LASVEGASNV.


Seeing as the Sega version was based on a PC game, there isn’t a lot of change regarding the plot. But the prototypes may have some interesting differences to the retail build.


Posted by zenade at 9:28 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 14 March 2022 12:02 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 1 March 2022
Future Cop L.A.P.D. (PSX) Pre-release Demo Update
Added some bits about the Precinct Assault mode on the demo.

Posted by zenade at 12:16 PM EST
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Sunday, 27 February 2022
Future Cop L.A.P.D. (PSX) Pre-release Demo

A new page on the pre-release demo of this game, focusing on an unused level and how you can access it. I'll add more on the multiplayer levels at some point.

Posted by zenade at 5:29 AM EST
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Tuesday, 8 February 2022
Earth Defense Forces 2 Portable on PPSSPP

Darth Fandom left a comment on the blog a day or so ago, asking about running the EDF 2 USA mod and codes on the PPSSPP emulator. This is an excellent question and one that I hadn’t tested out yet. So I had a quick look yesterday, but had no luck.

However, with a bit more testing, I found that the English missions do load. You need to have the extracted archive folders as follows:

memstick->EDF2 PORTABLE->GameSequence and Mission

In the Mission folder are a bunch of different level folders:

Missions 1-71 - EDF 2 (Global Defense Force)

Missions 101-125 - EDF 1 (Monster Attack)

Missions 126-156 - Assorted missions of unknown origin

Mission 999 - Multiplayer mission

The first group is the PS2 version of EDF 2, with English mission briefings. The second group is the PS2 version of the first game, Monster Attack, but with no mission briefings.

To access the English briefings, use the EDF EXTRA MISSIONS and ENGLISH MISSION TEXT CODE cheats from the EDF 2 webpage on the main site. Activate these at the main menu of the game, otherwise the game gets stuck in a loop on the game save screen. Load a level, then exit and go back to the Mission Select screen. The briefings should be in English now.

I’m having problems with the Level Select code at the moment, which is needed to access the Monster Attack missions. I’ll post an update once I get this sorted.

Update

Okay, using different codes, the EDF EXTRA MISSIONS and the CUSTOM MISSIONS CODE (see below), the additional missions can now be selected from the main Level Select menu. A few values may not load, but the main group should be there.

The additional code is as follows:

_C0 CUSTOM MISSIONS CODE

_L 0x200D30EC 0x24B00064

_L 0x200D3144 0x24B00064

_L 0x200D319C 0x24B00064

_L 0x200EF1E4 0x26260064

_L 0x100EFD50 0x00000065

_L 0x100EFE18 0x00000065

_L 0x201B3AC8 0x316E6F69

_L 0x201B3ACC 0x64323025

_L 0x201B3AD0 0x7469545C

_L 0x201B3AD4 0x742E656C

_L 0x201B3AD8 0x00007478

This is not my code, but one from a Japanese forum thread that I linked to on the main EDF 2 page. For some reason, my Level Select cheat doesn’t work on the emulator, but the above cheats enable access to the remaining missions.

 


Posted by zenade at 12:05 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 8 February 2022 3:37 PM EST
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Gotham City Mysteries: Building On Fire

This game continues to surprise. On Day 3, the entire city of Gotham gets frozen by one of the game's main villains. Yet, there are still thugs running around and enemy vehicle snapping at your heels. Finding and acting on clues can be far more difficult at this stage of the game.

Parked police cars and warning lights are one way to locate said clues. The barriers in front on the cafe in the picture above have flashing red lights attached to them, easily drawing your attention as you drive past. But the burning building is something else. For all the explosions, bombs and whatnot in the game, this seems to be a rare event. You can't get near to the fire itself, and even with the jet boots there's not much more to see.

It's a clever way of diverting your attention away from fighting the gangs and back to some detective work. Still, it's a shame you have to deal with that timer.

 


Posted by zenade at 5:51 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 16 June 2022 4:30 PM EDT
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Monday, 7 February 2022
Gotham City Mysteries: Mister Freeze's Armored Cars

You'll see these things racing around the city, either trying to ram you or fire ice beams at you. They also like to drive into the nearest building.

Like the dudes on motorcycles or snowmobiles, you rarely get a good look at them because they're faster than the Batmobile or other vehicles at your disposal.

So when I came across one that was stuck, I got some screenshots. You can see that the twin guns on the front are able to fire the ice beams in different directions, as often happens when they stop to block the road in front of you.

The thing that is not so obvious that they're so small. Batgirl is taller than one of these things. Nonetheless, their size doesn't diminish how much damage they can do.



Posted by zenade at 11:26 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 7 February 2022 1:37 PM EST
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Saturday, 5 February 2022
Gotham City Mysteries: Sewage Works

Another potential example of window dressing. The entrance to Gotham City Water is through the main door, but there’s a tunnel next to it.

Like the ramp opposite Glitterati, you can’t drive down here but you can get in on foot. And nothing seems to happen at the far end. Was there a bigger role for vehicles at some point in the game's development?

 


Posted by zenade at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 5 February 2022 8:04 AM EST
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Friday, 4 February 2022
Gotham City Mysteries: Unreachable Room

This room is located in a building just inside one of the dodgier sectors of the city.

You can see through the window from the street, but the door to the dentist’s surgery below cannot be opened. You can use the jet boots to get up there and take a look inside. However, there’s no way to smash the window and get through.

There may be other random rooms like this elsewhere. In a previous post for this blog, I described an unreachable power-up located in the grounds of one of the Gotham City mansions, so this kind of thing is not unknown in the game.

 


Posted by zenade at 7:58 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 4 February 2022 8:08 AM EST
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Thursday, 3 February 2022
Gotham City Mysteries: Glitterati Area

Just opposite the Glitterati jewellery store is a curious area. It reminds me a bit of the stash of power-ups immediately outside the train station. There are a number of features that identify this place as somewhat unique. The first is a ramp down to an entrance. Your vehicle can’t get past the barrier, but you can get there on foot. Trying to operate the shutter doesn’t do anything.

Nearby is a panel for Bell’s Laser Alarms, which are used in the Glitterati store. Along the street a bit is a billboard, which shows an ad for city’s botanical gardens. This is one of Poison Ivy’s lairs.

Immediately next to the ramp is a door. You can get inside, and you’ll find a very rare area covering three floors. There’s a window at the end that you can break in order to get out on to a ledge to fetch a power-up.

Above this door are three emblems on the side of the building. Obviously a face of some kind, but it’s unclear as to whom it may be. Mister Freeze, perhaps? I don’t recall seeing these anywhere else in the city. Could this be the location of the Ritz mentioned in an earlier post?

Posted by zenade at 3:13 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 February 2022 3:22 PM EST
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Gotham City Mysteries: The Cinema

Unlike the Ritz, there are two specific locations identified on the Gotham City map. Both are identical, as are the other unmarked cinemas. Like Gotham City Square, the change in the camera angle suggests that you could get into one of these places, but good luck with that one.

A solitary clue points to one cinema, but not much else. There are no other indications as to what makes these two locations important. Another undeveloped idea?

Posted by zenade at 12:01 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 February 2022 12:42 PM EST
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Wednesday, 2 February 2022
Gotham City Mysteries: The Ritz

This location is mentioned in the game's files, but doesn't seem to be on the map. As noted on the main site, it's probably a reference to Batman Forever, where the Riddler had his hideout. There doesn't seem to be any further clues in the game's coding, so this one seems to be a complete unknown. One option is the so-called Developers Rooms, but this far from certain as that area looks more like an office than a hotel.

 


Posted by zenade at 2:29 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 February 2022 7:51 AM EST
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Tuesday, 1 February 2022
Gotham City Mysteries: Gotham City Square

 

As noted in AllStarGamer’s video in YouTube, this area in the PS1 Batman And Robin game remains a mystery. It’s on the game map as a distinct destination, but nothing seems to happen there.

There’s a statue of a woman pointing her sword at a building. Go up to said building and the camera angle changes, as if you can enter the place. But you can’t get in. Some clues point to a suspicious vehicle being parked here on the third day, which indicates that Mr Freeze may show up at some point. Another clue shows a newspaper headline, stating that a band parade is happening there.

The only other notable thing in the square is a billboard. You can take a photo of it, and it’ll provide a clue about a diamond at the city museum (which is a part of the first and third day missions).

Was this an abandoned or undeveloped idea? Or has it yet to be unlocked? Even after twenty years, the game has not given up all of its secrets yet.


Posted by zenade at 12:25 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 February 2022 7:50 AM EST
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Sunday, 30 January 2022
Macross VF-X Demos

There are two known demos for this game. One is a standalone disc that, as previously noted in a recent post, has most of the content from the main game. You are restricted to four missions, but you get a loading cutscene for each one where your ship launches from the carrier. 

The second demo is from Tech PlayStation 97-5, with far fewer files and a different structure. Once again, you're limited to four specific missions. However, there are no cutscenes at all. 

The mission and ship files in both demos match those of the final game, but one mission (where you fly through a cloudy sky in search of enemies) seems to lack a final boss to fight. There are other glitches, such as buildings that you can fly through with no issues. If you just want to play the missions, try the Tech PlayStation 97-5 demo. I'm sure that the other missions can be accessed in some way as well.


Posted by zenade at 6:06 AM EST
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Sunday, 16 January 2022
Spot Goes To LV-426

Some games seem to be little more than interactive ads, while others try to be a bit more subtle with product placement. However, you could say any movie adaptation is in this category. I’d argue against this latter point in many cases, but media tie-ins have not had a very good reputation over the years.
Spot Goes To Hollywood is one that I’d normally avoid. On top of the blatant product promotion, it does not have good reviews in many quarters. Nevertheless, there are some interesting aspects to this game, notably the Alien levels. While these are missing in the earlier SNES prototype, one does appear in the latter one. Furthermore, there’s also one in the unreleased Sega 32X prototype, albeit unfinished. One Alien level made it to the retail build of the Megadrive/Genesis game.


Let’s have a look at some of these different versions. The SNES prototype dated 5th August 1995 has a short level that has Alien drones and facehuggers. These are quite hard to kill, but they don’t pursue you beyond a certain distance. Resin lines some of the walls just like in the films. There are no eggs or chutes leading to other parts of this level. And the boss fight has not been implemented.

Over to the 32X build. This has a much more detailed level, with various shafts leading downwards like the Megadrive game. Collision detection is not so good here and getting into said shafts can be very difficult. But there are drones and facehuggers present, along with eggs. Said eggs spawn facehuggers when disturbed. These spidery Aliens actually latch on to Spot’s face, and if they drain his health bar, the Game Over sequence initially looks like Spot’s having problems with a chestburster. The last shaft on the level does not lead anywhere and you can’t progress without ending the game.

The next level in the 32X build is interesting. It has facehuggers and stasis tubes, just like the final Megadrive build. But an interesting addition is the presence of Alien drones, and they’re more like the dog Alien from Alien 3. This is a little ironic considering the dogs that also populate this level.

The stasis tubes contain facehuggers but these don't seem to do anything, unlike the eggs.

The final game has a boss level, with something like an Alien queen spawning eggs and facehuggers as you take potshots at her. This mission appears to be missing from the three available prototypes and may have been a late addition to the game.

So some interesting things in the beta versions of this game. There are probably further changes on the other levels as well. 


Posted by zenade at 6:09 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 16 January 2022 10:37 AM EST
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Friday, 14 January 2022
Super Full Metal Planet Story

Just a quick update to the site. The backstory for this game is virtually unknown outside of an opening text crawl. But using official materials from the PC and board games, we've been able to construct a short summary of the events before the game's mission.

There is a short story floating about online, but this is in French and may not be official. More on this if it's relevant.


Posted by zenade at 5:34 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 14 January 2022 5:45 AM EST
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Tuesday, 11 January 2022
Super Full Metal Planet (SNES) Maps
First update: all twelve of the maps have been added to the site. These give you an idea of what to expect on each level.

Posted by zenade at 11:24 AM EST
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Monday, 10 January 2022
Super Full Metal Planet (SNES) Prototypes

Not just one, but four versions of this unreleased turn-based strategy game are now available. Three have been put out by Hidden palace, and one has been available over at the most excellent Snes Central.

There's a write-up on our website, with details of the various functions, vehicles and gameplay options. It's not normally my kind of game, but I've enjoyed playing this one for some reason. It's no Dune 2000, but give it a go if you get the chance. More will be added to the webpage soon.



Posted by zenade at 12:30 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 10 January 2022 12:37 PM EST
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Tuesday, 4 January 2022
Shadow Tower (PSX) Demo
Ploughing through the PrePre demo discs, I don't expect to find any King's Field demos. But there's one for this game's successor, Shadow Tower, on the Volume 13 disc. Haven't looked at it in detail yet, but while the basic level looks the same as the final, you start in a slightly different area. 

Posted by zenade at 11:16 AM EST
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Saturday, 1 January 2022
Horned Owl (PSX) Demo

Going through Japanese demo discs, I found this one on the first volume of the PrePre series. I haven’t got through the demo as yet, but looking at the game files, there seems to be all seven levels in there. This is not so unusual for some of the Japanese demos, as Macross VF-X also has all of the levels (albeit not all accessible). The game files are about two weeks earlier than retail, and there’s minimal differences in terms of size except for the executable. And there are no cutscenes either in the trial version. I did some file-swapping and other levels load, but I could see no differences in the demo to the final build.

One thing that also popped up as I was researching this game is that various websites claim it is based on Hideo Kojima’s Policenauts. As at least one source pointed out, this is probably rubbish. There’s a clue in the designer of the mechas in the game: Masamune Shirow.

He’s famous for series like Ghost In The Shell and Appleseed. Out of the two, I’d say Horned Owl is more like Appleseed in light of the mechas and the city landscape. Metro City could be a place in Poseidon.

Just to finish up, I’ve come across the first King’s Field demo, which is on PrePre Volume 3. This is the King’s Field III: Pilot Style version. I’ll add more info on further demos as I find them.


Posted by zenade at 3:14 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 4 January 2022 11:22 AM EST
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