I was going to make a joke about how a clone of The Great Giana Sisters had been released on the C64 a few weeks ago, but I would hazard a guess that only a handful of my readers will have the faintest idea what I’m talking about. Instead, you’ll probably remember that most gaming sites were abuzz with the news that Super Mario Bros had been released for the C64. That excitement then turned to fear and anger as Nintendo issued a takedown notice to one blogger who had a download link on their site. They have to protect their IP but the game is still available in several places including the Internet Archive and should be easy enough to find in the future.
If you’re at all interested in Super Mario Bros then grab your copy as quick as you can, just in case a massive database of copyright works is unleashed on the Internet blocking everything no matter how old it is.
The conversion of the game to the C64 is more than just a direct port. Both machines use the same (or similar?) CPU, a modified 6502 in the case of the NES and 6510 in the C64. The developer ZeroPaige spent 7 years modifying the raw assembler from the NES so it would work on the C64. He had to modify the graphics system to use C64 sprites and the sound system had to be reworked to use the SID chip of the C64. The port also takes advantage of any extra hardware you might have plugged into the C64, or even uses the extra power of a Commodore 128 if you’re using that. Here are two videos showing the game off on a C128 and also on a Turbo Chameleon V2, an FPGA based C64 machine. The game suffers slowdowns on an original C64 so it’s best played when the machine has some help, or in an emulator. I have a C64 DTV. I wonder how hard it would be to get it running on that?
Rainbow Arts apparently did the same and were rebuffed but they reused their code and cheekily created The Great Giana Sisters. Nintendo promptly came after them at the time and the game was taken off the shelves within weeks. Pirated copies are simple to find but the original must be very rare. A version of the game with the main character changed to Mario did find it’s way online but it’s basically Giana Sisters. No bad thing since The Great Giana Sisters is a great game. It’s one of my favourite C64 games.
After that detour down Nintendo lane, let’s get back to reality. If you want your very own physical copy of The Great Giana Sisters then check out this Ebay auction. Priced at an eye watering £199.99+postage I don’t think it’ll be an impulse buy but some collector is sure to snap it up.
As a historical note, there are two conversions (Atari and Ocean) of the original Mario Bros for the C64 if you really want to play it. I haven’t played either of them. I didn’t even know they existed until a couple of years ago!
The death yesterday of Keith Flint left many shocked and reaching for their CD collections but I remembered that one of their songs was featured in a Commodore 64 demo.
Censor Design sampled Prodigy’s “Smack my Bitch Up” and used it as the sound track to the final part of their excellent demo Wonderland XIII. Click play on the video above to see it in action. It’s really amazing!
It’s worth watching the whole video but if the embedded version above doesn’t load at 7:33 then load it from here instead or here’s another video of the music played back by two SID chips which IMO sounds even better!
For those at the back who don’t know, the C64 was released in the early 80s but developers made it work magic and do things thought impossible, such as in this case playing sampled sound!
Edit (2019-03-22): Here’s a version of Voodoo People from Bad Boy by Samar Productions. Amazing what the SID can do!
Can you tell me why the very short BASIC programme above has a syntax error?
But then the one with a slightly renamed variable name is perfectly ok?
It turns out it’s one of the limitations of Commodore BASIC V2. As explained here:
Variable names were limited to two letters. Or, specifically, any variable name longer than two characters was truncated, so that MARKUP and MAINTOTAL would both point to a single variable named MA.
Can somebody confirm this? IIRC, the C64 could handle longer variable names, but it’s a long time ago so I could be wrong.
Correct, the first two letters of a variable name must be unique. Also, your example variable MAINTOTAL contains the reserved word INT which would produce a ?SYNTAX ERROR. —CarstenKlapp
The word BORDER contains the BASIC commandOR that cannot be used in a variable name!
I have no idea if I knew this back in the 90s. I presume I did but it had me scratching my head for 10 minutes last tonight trying to figure out why my BASIC programme wasn’t running.
The (re)discovery that variable names shouldn’t be longer than 2 characters long also explains the terse variable names I used in the BASIC portion of DMSREADER. We’re spoiled these days.
I also discovered that petcat doesn’t like uppercase BASIC commands but I have a nice Makefile now to compile BASIC and ASM portions of Disk Masher and copy them into a D64 for testing so it was a productive night.
Follow along from “I Go To Rio” to “Ritmo De La Noche” to “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” by Coldplay. I had no idea Ritmo De La Noche had such a history!
Of course there’s a C64 version! Maduplec of BUDS/NATO/Crest fame created a SID version of Ritmo De La Noche for his 1992 Glober demo. Every time I hear that song I think of that demo. I couldn’t find it on Youtube so you’ll just have to fire up an emulator to watch the spinning globe but here’s the SID tune!
You can be nostalgic about something for a lot longer than that thing was current. So it is with the Commodore 64, the Speccy and early computers in general.
I had a rubber keyed Spectrum 48K for a couple of years followed by a C64 that I used every day for another 4 years or so and here we are in 2019 and I’m reading about those ancient computers. I’m not the only one. There are vibrant communities around both computers and it’s great to see!
Somehow I can’t see myself feeling the same way about Windows 3.1, but I have to admit I have maybe not so fond memories of tuning autoexec.bat to get a few KB more memory in the DOS days…
What are the books I’m reading and where can I get them?
If you had a Commodore 64 in your youth, or you’re simply curious about the games produced for the system then Gamebase64 is for you.
Gamebase64 is an effort to catalogue every single Commodore 64 game, along with associated media like music, tape or disk covers, adverts and magazine reviews
It’s huge! The latest version is V15 and was released in 2016 holding 25,700 games. The games themselves don’t take up too much data but the artwork, music, and associated material really take up a lot of room. The whole collection is available as 3 ISO files and an artwork zip file. You can find download links to all of those in this thread, but if you don’t want to download them you can browse the collection here (or here) too. You’ll need to download the GameBase frontend to view everything as well as the V15 database files. I use Vice to emulate the Commodore 64.
GameBase itself is a database frontend for Windows that supports multiple databases. Many systems from the Commodore Vic20 to the Amiga or the Speccy and Amstrad CPC range are covered. You can find links to them on the GameBase website as well as many other databases.
I mainly use a Mac so I use Gamebase64 Browser. It’s a very slick frontend but if you search around you’ll find frontends written in a variety of languages for various modern platforms.
Installation was as simple as copying everything out of the ISO files into a directory, installing GameBase64 Browser in the usual way and when first run, pointing it at the directory where I had copied everything else.
Single disk and tape games work perfectly fine but I’ve had trouble with multi-disk games. To play Retrograde I had to manually unzip both disks into a temporary directory and load them in Vice outside of GameBase64 Browser. Not difficult at all but worth remembering when your favourite game asks you to insert disk 2. 🙂
If you’re at all interested in retro computers then GameBase is definitely worth checking out!
Ah Retrograde, a Commodore 64 game released by Thalamus in 1989. The Rowland Brothers, of Creatures, Creatures 2 and Mayhem in Monsterland fame created this game and it shows. Presentation is top notch. Some would say that this is a repetitive shoot ’em up but I love it. Nice mix of flying around shooting aliens and then a bit of a break with the underground bits. I love the graphics and the sound is a delight.
The gameplay is very simplistic, especially underground but the flying weapons are super! Just make sure you have an autofire on your controller. My thumb was sore from two levels when I remember Vice can do the hard work for me. I’m also glad Vice can save a snapshot of the computer state to save my progress as this game takes some time to complete.
What game? No, that’s the title of a free game on Steam and on the Commodore 64!
The C64 version can be found here on CSDb while the Steam version is here. The Steam version works on Windows, Mac and 32 bit Linux! A comment on the original announcement post links to what could be a port to something called FreeBASIC which is available here.
The game is a very hard platform game where you have to collect all the items in the game to complete it 100%. The CSDb page has some spoiler comments so beware of those if you want to avoid them. Then again, this game came out in 2012 so you probably know about it already.
The game is great, but the the stand out thing for me is the flawless C64 port. It looks very much like the modern Steam version, with the same sounds and graphics which isn’t surprising as they’re fairly basic. The game plays the same, at least as far as I’ve got to!
Many people love this game for the CGA colour palette but it’s a reminder that the PC had humble beginnings comparable to the Commodore 64. The Commodore Amiga released in the mid-eighties blew away anything produced on the PC for many years.
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