Friday, July 27, 2012

Song of the Week: Mother 3 - Black Beat Battle

This week's chosen song is one of the many battle themes from Mother 3. A slow but interesting battle theme. Perfect for the really difficult battles.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pixel Art: Pikachu and Jigglypuff

8-Bit Pikachu and Jigglypuff. Playing Earthbound and Pokemon really makes one want to play Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Any pokemans you'd like to see drawn in my style? Post that stuff in a comment below!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Itoi's N64 Mother 3 Blog

Nintendo originally made Mother 3 for the N64. It was never released, although a video of the game being played circulates online today. No rom exists, and perhaps it never will. Gamers can play the GBA remake of the game, but the N64 Disk Drive Demo remains missing.

Despite this, Itoi still has a blog online with tons of screenshots from the game that might have happened. And you can check it out here. Itoi created the Mother series, as well as inspire the most genius DS game of all time, Contact.

Pixel Art: New 8-Bit RPG Sprites

My newest pixel art; these dudes and dudettes are from a current project code-named "Ultimate RPG." Each one is animated to walk in place (similar to the Ultima games and the Japanese Dragon Quest 1). Also, each sprite has multiple pallet-swaps. Each sprite is being set up to have a variety of outfits in both black and white skin tones.

I have run into a development problem with hair color. Blonde hair looks like garbage on the yellow backgrounds (sandy areas), so those have to be changed. Similarly, I use a lot of black backgrounds so black characters don't look good with dark-brown hair.

I'm still in pre-alpha stages, just making some sprites, polishing the maptiles, and gearing up to create a full-on retro-style RPG. The battles and equipment systems will be similar to Dragon Warrior, but I want to offer some of the character customization of the roguelike genre. I also don't want to spend a lot of time animating multiple characters for battles, but perhaps that feature will get added. I'd rather spend the time drawing/creating great, memorable, and wacky monsters as well as having fun, trippy battle backgrounds.

Allowing the player to visit towns out of order will be a prime design. You could then pick up characters in the same manner as Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. Either way, I'm off to play some Mother 3 and Lufia & the Fortress of Doom as inspiration.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Phantasy Star Promo Art

I found this awesome Phantasy Star promo art piece today and thought I'd share it. I'll never get enough of the 1980s anime style. The same goes for Phantasy Star in general :D

Saturday, July 21, 2012


EarthBound is a 1994 (1995 in America) SNES RPG. It's so popular that I probably don't have to say much about it; few games achieve the kind of cult classic obsession as this original masterpiece. Known as Mother 2 in Japan, the game tell the story of a young psychic 13-year-old boy and his friends who travel across the globe fighting monsters and entering various hallucinogenic states.

Simply put, you have to play EarthBound to understand it.

The game was written and directed by Shigesato Itoi, and "brilliant" might just be an understatement. Unfortunately, purchasing a cart will cost about 80 bucks (on a good day) to 120. A complete set can easily sell for $500 on Ebay. I was lucky enough to find a copy for $6 at a garage sale, but that was without a doubt the greatest gaming bargain I've ever snagged.

It's the sequel to a Japanese game, Mother, which was intended for release in America on the NES as "Earth Bound." However, marketing fucks at Nintendo pushed Mother/Earth Bound back, and back, and back, and it was eventually scrapped altogether. Luckily the game had already been translated by Nintendo and in 1999 one of these prototype carts went up for sale on Ebay (for $400!). It was dumped by Demiforce, who hacked away the copy protection and added "Zero" to the title to differentiate it from its sequel. You can play this ROM on an NES emulator, so check out the links and the end of this post if you're interested. I haven't played this game yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

It's also got a sequel, Mother 3--released for the GBA--which fans have graciously translated for the English-speaking world. Why doesn't Nintendo want Americans to play these games? Who knows. The controversy is filled with speculation and rumor, and I'm not even going to touch it in this review except to say that Nintendo is losing money by not releasing Mother and Mother 3 in America. Hopefully they have plans for some sort of compilation in the future, but I doubt it. It's also a shame that such a compilation would probably be released for the 3DS, but fans can dream about playing all three games on the big screen. EarthBound Zero is easy--use a hacked Dreamcast, Xbox, or order a reproduction cart online. For Mother 3, your best option is running in on a hacked Xbox or using the VBACE emulator.

EarthBound (Mother 2) starts out like many RPGs, with the main character leaving his hometown in search of high adventure. But that's where most similarities end. The music is quirky, the characters are insane, and lewd and/or toilet humor abounds. What other game has the balls to name one of the main characters "Poo"?

I'd tried for years to complete this game, but I never managed to even get to the second town. Retrospectively, I know that I was simply too young to understand why EarthBound was so interesting. I hadn't played enough video games to appreciate the differences between this game and more "serious" RPGs like Breath of Fire or Final Fantasy. Interestingly enough, EarthBound's humor is quickly revealed to be quite dark and disturbing, which only serves to accentuate the nuanced world created by Itoi.

The graphics are bright and charming. The music is upbeat, diverse, and plentiful (over 10 battle themes alone!) The battle system is similar to Dragon Warrior, but set in 199X. You'll pull money out of an ATM, call your Dad on the phone to save, visit Hotels, and use your psychic powers to overcome the ultimate evil and save the world. The only complaint I could possibly make is that you'll never have enough spaces for all your items, but one could easily argue this only adds to the challenge and appeal.

EarthBound isn't the hardest game in the world, but it's no cakewake. There were times in which I suffered crushing defeats, but with a little persistence and leveling up, every challenge was surmountable. I finished the game last night, after years of playing through only the first town over and over. Somehow, this time, everything "clicked," and I couldn't put down the controller.

But EarthBound isn't afraid to push artistic boundaries; like in real life, everything doesn't always work out hunky-dory. Nevertheless, you owe it to yourself to play this game-- you will remember it forever.

----------------------------------- - A amazing fansite for all things Mother/EarthBound related.

Fantasy Anime EB Series Page - All 3 roms and the English patch for M3.

EarthBound Central - PDFs of the Strategy guide, and another EB fansite.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tony Hawk GBA Games

Every so often a game comes around which forces me to re-evaluate all of my preconceptions. Sometimes, a hardcore gamer becomes so sure of his or her discerning tastes that the mere mention of something like "Tony Hawk's American Sk8land" or "Fire Pro Wrestling" will send them reeling into a frenzy of hate. At best this hypothetical gamer will politely nod and walk away.

But at 8-Bit City our minds and eyes are open to the possibility of greatness in an unconventional form. T.H.U.G. and American Sk8land certainly qualify. There have been a long string of Tony Hawk games on the GBA, starting with Pro Skater 2, then a flurry of other titles: Pro Skater 3, 4, Underground (T.H.U.G.), Underground 2, Downhill Jam, and finally American Sk8land. Most people would be quick to dismiss the isometric action as simply "not as good as the console versions." And they'd be correct, but only in a limited capacity.

What makes these games great--and I've already started talking about all of the GBA games despite my sincere effort to focus on one--is solid isometric gameplay, a great skill/trick system, and solving all the world's problems with the power of SKATE. Instead of hate and violence, in Tony Hawk you use your trash talking and sidewalk shredding to solve any potential problem. The stories which accompany these games are nothing short of absurd, but the absurdity creates a hilariously positive world. It's a world in which the skateboard reigns supreme, and in this world the player can become like a god.

That's not to say these games are perfect, but when one is in the presence of such greatness complaints seem trivial and besides the point. For example, all of the GBA games use the exact same set of 10 boards to choose from. It would take exactly no effort to change the graphics up from game to game, yet for about a decade the GBA releases would continue reusing these boards in every single release. Not cool. However, in later games (Underground and Sk8land, for example) you can create a custom deck, which mitigates the problem to a degree.

Similarly, player models and clothing options get recycled through all the games, with occasional variation added to the genepool every so often. But so what? Are you a fashionista poseur more concerned about your slick looks that your skating skills? I didn't think so.

You came to skate, and you came to the right place. Other skateboarding games on the GBA, such as the ESPN X-Games Skateboarding, stick the player in a halfpipe and that's about it. Tony Hawk gives you free-roaming worlds in which to explore (in the later games), with skating-based goals, multiple modes, and almost perfect controls.

I should probably stress the "almost" perfect, but as far as isometric skating goes, the Tony Hawk games are the best. Consider another isometric GBA game, Jet Set Radio. Despite the potential, to skate forward you have to press "UP" on the D-Pad. This is awkward as all hell. In Tony Hawk games you hold B, the same button you use to ollie, and like the console masterpieces it works like a charm. One still has to steer with left and right based on how one's character is oriented on the screen, but for whatever reason as long as "B" is the "GO" button, everything is silky smooth.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skate 2 launched with the GBA, and stunned the world with actual 3-D models being used for the skaters. It's this little innovation which made the entire GBA series possible, and it's thankfully unchanged over the course of these games. Downhill Jam is the exception, but I haven't had a chance to really dig into it just yet.

To be blunt, the games are cheap as hell. I picked up carts of Underground and Underground 2 today for $2.50 a piece. Underground 2 was complete with the box and manual even. I really can't complain, and you've really got no excuse not to play these games. Especially considering GBA emulation is basically flawless and GBA roms are everywhere online. Just use "Virtual Boy Advance CE" and you'll be shredding this afternoon.

One of the best features behind these games is the "RPG system" by which you level up your character's stats. In the earlier games this is accomplished through collecting stat points, but in Underground it's closer to Oblivion. Want to level up your manual stat? You'll have to pull off a series of longer and longer stunts in order to increase your balance. Want to learn how to kickflip? You'll have to do 2 pop shove-its in a combo. It's surprisingly brilliant and fun.

Sk8land streamlines the formula somewhat, and levels up your stats after complete quests, but it still maintains the fun of building a skater up from nothing into a Titan of Trucks and a God of Grinds & Griptape. If the price is right, buy whichever of these games you can find. Skate to heaven on the golden rails of isometric glory.