Friday, 24 June 2022
Alien (C64/Spectrum/Amstrad CPC) Port
A quick update to say that a new version of this Lynx port of the 1984 Alien game is imminent. GadgetUK has been working on it since 2014.
Obviously, the graphics have been updated from the C64/Spectrum/Amstrad CPC versions, but you have the option to play the game in its original form.
It's an action/strategy game which recreates the events of the first Alien
film. Version 1.3 is available now to play, but 1.4 should be out real soon. Great work from GadgetUK on this awesome game.
Wednesday, 22 June 2022
Sometimes, a prototype of an unreleased game like Full Metal Planete makes its way into the wild. There’re no manuals or in-game instructions, so you have figure a lot of stuff out for yourself. Likewise, a port to another platform may mean that controls and other things are different or even unclear, as seen in the Playstation prototypes of Urban Assault. Thankfully, other versions of these two games have enabled us to figure out a lot of these issues.
Even when games are released, some aspects remain obscure. This may be related to a plot point or character, and other games or related media may be useful for finding out more. One example is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. This came out on multiple platforms in 2008, but there were variations in levels and characters. The PSP, PS2 and Wii versions had two unique bosses: Darth Desolous and Darth Phobos. Within the game and the Star Wars universe generally, their exact natures were unclear, as both Sith Lords were supposed to have been dead for thousands of years prior to their confrontations with Darth Vader’s apprentice. Were they holograms, or some sort of Sith Spirits or Force Ghosts?
Both characters could be played throughout the game’s main campaign and in Force Duel mode. But even though they are both one-game characters, these individuals have also appeared in a number of other places. They are referenced as darkside monsters in The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force (as confirmed by the author in his blog). The pair also have their own entries in The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia. Just in case there’s any doubt about the current Disney canon, Phobos and Desolous are also mentioned in the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary. In the game Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, the design of Phobos’ lightsaber was located and offered for sale to members of the Rebel Alliance.
In the Star Wars universe, individuals who use the Force tend to be either benevolent (Jedi) or invidious (Sith). Desolous was definitely one of the latter. In a break from this dualism, Darth Phobos was a woman who became a deadly threat to both sides, so much so that they had to team up in order to defeat her.
What else do we know about Phobos? Here’s her official bio from the game:
Born on the former Sith world Korriban eons before the Clone Wars, Darth Phobos focuses on developing incredible mental powers, learning to use the force to warp the minds of the weak and control them to do her bidding. A manipulative and evil creature, Phobos murders many of her rivals in her bid of power. Eventually, her Sith brethren turn on Phobos, destroying her ship in low-orbit. But Phobos survives and flees Korriban. During the long decades that follow, Phobos secretly assembles a fanatical cult devoted to her. She sends her acolytes into the galaxy to recruit others and assassinate powerful Jedi and Sith leaders. The Sith begin to suspect that Phobos has somehow returned from the dead, and begin refering to her only as "The Hidden Fear".
Recognizing that Phobos and her sect pose a major treat to the galaxy, the Jedi grudgingly join forces with the Sith to hunt her down. She is killed in battle with Jedi and Sith warriors, but her cult remains active for many years afterwards, finally disappearing around the time of the "Fourth Great Schism" almost 2000 years before the Clone Wars. Rumors that "The Hidden Fear" and her followers have survived persist for centuries, and Phobos gradually becomes the subject of ghost stories repeated in hushed whispers by scared Padawans. The embodiment of terror, a visage of Darth Phobos is a key part of the Jedi Trials on Coruscant, forcing Jedi hopefuls to confront their deepest fears.
There’s quite a bit of information in there, but as a few people have asked on various forums, her exact era is harder to determine. If she lived eons before the Clone Wars, just how many thousands of years was that? Let’s start from the end. Her cult vanished some 2000 years prior to the Clone Wars, and they had been around for a good number of years before that. Another indicator is Phobos’ signature weapon, the double-edged lightsabre. This variant appeared during the Sith Wars nearly four thousand years before the Clone Wars, or 3996 before the Battle of Yavin (BBY).
So Darth Phobos lived at some point within a two thousand year period. That’s a lot better, but still very vague. To narrow it down even more, we can turn to another Star Wars game, The Old Republic. This approach is an interesting way of obtaining further information about a specific character, organisation, event or time period within a particular universe. Now you might say that The Old Republic is part of the new Star Wars timeline, while The Force Unleashed existed in the defunct universe. Well, Darth Phobos and her fellow Sith villain Darth Desolous are both canon due to the aforementioned book, The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary. Two of Emperor Palpatine’s Sith Legions were named after them.
Back to The Old Republic, then. The events of this game took place between around 3643 and 3630 years prior to the Battle of Yavin in the first Star Wars film. Here, we learn of a number of things about the Sith and their homeworld of Korriban. Firstly, if someone wasn’t a human or Sith pureblood (who were the original inhabitants of that world), they became a slave. During the Cold War period, Sith forces had become very depleted, forcing the Sith academy to admit aliens as students. This upset the purebloods and humans, but gave other inhabitants of Korriban a means of escaping slavery. The person who became Darth Nox was the first of these, and was still an acolyte around 3643 BBY.
Being a Theelin rather than a human or Sith pureblood on Korriban, the woman who would become Darth Phobos would have gone through a similar experience if she trained at the Sith Academy and graduated after this time. Carrying on with the story of Darth Nox, they eventually defeated a rogue group of Sith warriors called the Dread Masters in 3638 BBY. These individuals are relevant for a number of reasons. As their name suggests, they were Sith Lords who could instill fear and terror in their opponents. They served the Sith Emperor until they became renegades. The sources of their power were the Phobis devices. These ancient artefacts could drive the unwary insane, but could also be used by Sith warriors to develop sinister powers. Up until the time of their demise, they were the only ones to have successfully utlised these devices.
Considering her ability to confuse and terrify her opponents, Darth Phobos would have at least been aware of the Dread Masters and the Phobis devices. It is most probable that she used the latter to develop and enhance her own Force powers. So we can be fairly certain that she was an active Sith warrior after 3638 BBY.
We have seen that Phobos wielded a double-bladed lightsabre, and used Force lightning, telekinesis and teleportation. The last of these powers was also used by Dread Master Raptus, so there’s another connection with Phobos. Can we elucidate any further information from Phobos’ known abilities? In The Old Republic game, there were a number of classes of Sith warriors, such as Inquisitor, Assassin and Marauder. The first of these is interesting, as the signature weapon of a Sith Inquisitor was a double-bladed lightsabre. Within this class were two specialities, namely Assassin and Sorcerer. According to the official game website for The Old Republic: “Sorcerers use their mastery of the dark side of the Force to hurl Force Lightning and other dark techniques to damage and decimate their enemies.” On balance, Darth Phobos was probably a Sith Inquisitor/Sorcerer while working for the Sith Empire. As seen with the player’s character in the game, former slaves could eventually join the Sith Council and gain the title of Darth.
As of 2022, The Old Republic has reached 3626 BBY, with ongoing conflicts between the Republic and the Sith Empire. The next significant date in the Star Wars chronology would be 3522 BBY, which is ironic as this was the year that Darth Desolous was born.
Desolous eventually became the sole Dark Lord of the Sith and waged war against the Jedi. This might suggest that Darth Phobos was alive sometime between 3626 and 3500. One question remains: did Desolous and Phobos know, or know of, each other?
In conclusion, Darth Phobos probably lived around the time of the Sith Empire and became a Sith Inquisitor before turning on her fellow darkside warriors and waging war against both the Empire and the Republic.
If we use other sources within a franchise, we can learn more about a particular aspect of a game, such as a character. Researching video or computer games is not just about hacking, codes or mods, but using different techniques to find out more about a particular element of interest.
Friday, 10 June 2022
Nibiiro no Koubou - 32 Nin no Senshachou (PSX)
A new page on the website about the precursor to the Panzer Front
games. I'll add info about the game controls and menus if I can figure them out.
Saturday, 28 May 2022
Star Wars Battlefront Elite Squadron (PSP) Death Star II Mod
Obviously inspired by the prequel Death Star mod, I wondered if the second Death Star could be also moved to the Prequel Era mission. This
moon space station is only seen in the background of the Classic Endor space level. But you can just move the .SP file from the Classic Endor folder to its Prequel counterpart.
Here, the capital ships are Alliance and Empire craft, with the incomplete Death Star II on the background. The fighters/transports are Prequel Era, and all three parts of the level are playable.
Sunday, 22 May 2022
Panzerfront - Barbarossa 1941-1945 (PC)
This was an unexpected find. Besides Panzer Front, Panzer Front Bis and Panzer Front Ausf.B, I wasn’t aware of any further games with that name. But rather than Enterbrain, this game is made by Ice Bytes Game Development. So it’s Panzer Front in name only. As it came out in 2006, the graphics are obviously much better than the PS1 games.
Other than that, you get a choice of only two tanks, a T-34 if you playing the Soviet side and a Panzerkampfwagen IV for the German forces. Tiger tanks are also mentioned in the game’s coding, but do not seem to be playable.
There are only six missions for each side, making twelve in total. These are all easily accessed by using a hex editor on two files in the game’s main directory. No multiplayer option seems to be available, which is very unusual for a game from this era.
The arcade gameplay is okay, but overall, the game is fairly limited. The Playstation titles are still way more preferable, blocky graphics notwithstanding. For those of you who are curious, here's an appropriately-titled video.
Sunday, 8 May 2022
Doctor Who Games (Flash) Update
We've received some news from N64Assassin, who has looked at the Dalek Versus Cybermen
game and found that mods can be done using Flasm. This is a command-line program used to change values in the Action file. An update has been added to the relevant page on the website. Thanks goes out to N64Assassin for the info.
Thursday, 5 May 2022
Doctor Who Games (Flash)
A new page on the site, which has info from previous blog posts about a trilogy of Doctor Who games from the mid-2000s featuring the Cybermen. There is also some new modding information, although one of these mods has only limited success at present.
Friday, 22 April 2022
Neuromancer: A Cyberpunk RPG Adventure (Various Platforms)
Following the phenomenal success of William Gibson’s famous novel, it was inevitable that a computer game adaptation would emerge. Neuromancer was well received in 1989 and got good reviews. The setting and plot were based on the book, but with some differences.
More curiously, the developers, Interplay, put out a guide to the game, entitled Neuromancer Clue Book. This had a walkthrough in prose form, as told by a character from the novel, Dixie Flatline. So, like Ubik, could this expand on the content of the original book?
The first problem is that, in the novel, Dixie Flatline was dead. In fact, the character in the book was an artificial construct of the original hacker’s mind made from brain scans before he died. The game guide’s introduction also noted he was dead, but the main story was recorded when he was still alive. This presents a range of contradictions, as Dixie referred to characters and events from the novel, like Neuromancer, Wintermute and Armitage. There were also other AIs like Greystoke. At the end of the novella, all of the AIs were defeated by Dixie.
You could say that Wintermute et al may have still existed and that Dixie only stopped them from progressing in whatever plans they had. But the story in the game guide follows the events of the novel too closely and it’s clear that the two cannot take place at the same time.
Of course, it could all be a simulation created by one of the AIs for the Dixie Flatline construct...
Tuesday, 19 April 2022
Mechwarrior 2 (PSX) Demo
I came across this on a Playstation Underground disc (number 1, disc 2). Having looked at the early OPM discs for both European and US markets, I can’t see it on any of those releases. Like the German Batman And Robin demo, it may be limited to this specific disc.
The game enables you to select one of three mechs. The retail game obviously has a far larger range to choose from. You can customise your weapons and some other aspects before you go into the main mission.
There are two missions in the demo, Sable Flame (level 6) and Rust Heart (level 11). Initial impressions do not indicate any differences in gameplay. Having said that, I’m not sure about the specific level files as they don’t seem to match those in the final build.
So an isolated game demo seemingly not on any regular OPM demo disc. More if I can determine any differences in the two levels.
Thursday, 14 April 2022
Urban Chaos (PC) Prototype: More Jet Planes
More strangeness from this game. A different type of jet this time, sitting on top of a building in The Getaway level.
But that's not the end of it. I really don't know what to make of this lot. If anyone has any ideas, please leave a message.
Monday, 11 April 2022
Urban Chaos (PC) Prototype: Jet Planes
The Cutting Room Floor has a great article on the unused content in the final game. In the prototype, I was looking for the tanks on the Army Base level, but found these jets instead. They don't seem to have any textures or any real function.
I'll post more as I find it.
Sunday, 10 April 2022
Urban Chaos (PC) Prototype
In addition to a PS1 prototype, Hidden Palace have released one for the PC version of Urban Chaos. There's a ton of debugging features in this build, but it has a tendency to crash on a regular basis.
The second character does not seem to be implemented yet, and the Mission Editor and multiplayer functions still do not seem to work. The latter can be accessed via the hacked Level Select file included with the prototype. See the Readme file for more details.
Rumours of motorbikes in the game have been floating around for some years now. Well, this build has the relevant model, and you can ride it around the levels. Press K (I think) on the keyboard to spawn this vehicle.
A third version of Dragon Sword for the N64 has also been released, which is certainly worth a look.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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