A SNES Mini found a new home

The first Nintendo console I owned was the Gameboy Advance. The earlier Nintendo machines passed me by as I was busy coding on the C64, messing with the Amiga and PCs and college then kept me busy!

I never owned a SNES and Nintendo 64 and rarely even used the real hardware. The only game in the SNES Mini collection that I’m nostalgic about is F-Zero as I loved playing that on the Gameboy and it plays perfectly on this diminutive machine.

This is a lovely piece of kit though. I like the menu system and the two controllers are wonderful. Now I know why people go on about these and seek out their modern equivalents in 8bitdo equipment.

Apart from games I’m looking forward to tinkering with the machine, and maybe adding a C64 core although the lack of a proper keyboard can cause problems..

The Great Giana Sisters on Ebay

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?

Super Mario Bros on a Turbo Chameleon V2
Super Mario Bros on a Commodore 128D with SuperCPU

It seems Nintendo aren’t really interested in the C64. Many years ago Gary Lidon and Gary Penn created an SMB demo for Firebird who sent a video of it to Nintendo. They responded with a cease and desist order!

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!

Retrograde

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.

Here’s a video someone else made of it:

You Have To Win The Game

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.

Maze of the Mummy & Freeze64!

Maze of the Mummy, rare “purple” Freeze64 and my regular Freeze64

Look what the postman delivered last week! I entered a competition held by Freeze64 author/publisher Vinny for C64 game Maze of the Mummy and a rare misprint of the Freeze64 fanzine and I won! You should watch the live video of Vinny picking the winner, if only to wonder at everything he has plugged into his C64 and a preview of issue 18 of Freeze64. He pronounced my name wrong too, but that’s to be expected. 🙂

I have yet to play Maze of the Mummy as it’s been a hectic few days here but I’m going to get my 1541-II down out of the attic and make a backup d64 image to play in Vice this week.

I think the last boxed C64 game I ever bought was Creatures 2 which was a long time ago so handling a physical copy of a new game sets off a mix of nostalgia for the old and eagerness to try something new. I’m looking forward to trying this game!


Thalamus The Hits

Thalamus was a game developer based in the UK in the mid 80s to early 90s. They had a reputation for flashy games and and pounding soundtracks. Most of their games were highly rated and their first compilation, The Hits, had some amazing games.

Sanxion and Armalyte were among my favourite shoot ’em ups while Hawkeye had great looking parallax scrolling. I thought the Delta theme music was great but the game didn’t grab me like Armalyte did. I’m going to get that game out again later..

Still have the receipt from Turbosoft in the box too!

Thanks Commodore Format for reminding me I bought this!

When Bob Started a Syndicate

The other day I was reading through the very last issue of Ace Magazine when I came across an "In the Works" preview of a game called Bob. It was the temporary name given to a work-in-progress game by developers Bullfrog.

It meant nothing to me until I saw the screenshots.

That looks very familiar! It was the classic Bullfrog game, Syndicate!

Bob looked like a much more complex game than Syndicate turned out to be so I'm glad the game was tweaked and tuned before release. It's one of the few games I've actually finished, except for the American Revolt add-on. I never even managed to complete the first level in that! I haven't found much online that links the name Bob to Syndicate but this great RPS article does. That was published in 2008 and it's amusing to see the comments wishing for a remake of the game. We got them, they didn't make quite the same splash as the original.

Syndicate had the veneer of strategy. You could separate out your agents and send them off in different directions, but really, the most fun was to be had when all four were rocking gauss guns and causing all sorts of mayhem!

The very last level in Syndicate was really hard. You'd last all of about 10 seconds before succumbing to superior firepower until you figured out the right strategy to complete it. If you've already played it, or know you'll never do so, check out the video below:

Syndicate was followed by the American Revolt add-on. It comes packaged with the GOG release so you've no excuse not to try it, except that it's hard as nails. I don't feel bad saying that I had no idea how to complete the first level until I saw this ..

Syndicate Wars followed as a proper sequel some time later, but IMO it comes nowhere near being as immersive and addictive as the original Syndicate. I didn't like the graphics and it didn't sit right with me at all.

A modern remake of Syndicate came out in 2012, which I bought in 2014, but it only runs on Windows so I haven't played it much.

In 2015 a spiritual successor to the original Syndicate was released, Satellite Reign. It looks beautiful, and the screenshots have that Syndicate vibe but to play it is painful.

On a more positive note, there's also Free Synd, a GPLed implementation of the Syndicate game engine. The last release was in 2016 however.

The original 1993 version of Syndicate is available on GOG. I highly recommend it. Even if your computer isn't powerful it's bound to be better than even the most expensive home PC or Amiga of the time. GOG have packaged the game with Dosbox so it's a one click install and run. The game is cheap and well worth checking out if you're a gamer.

Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal – Farbor

Creeper World 3 is a sort of a tower defence game but it’s more a real time strategy (RTS) game. You move your pieces to combat the relentless Creeper as it flows over everything to consume the map. It’s a mostly easy-going game as you can pause and consider your next move and once you’ve set up your initial defences you can take as long as you want.

Usually it’s easy going and fun.

Not so In Farbor where you’re under a strict time limit as a ship is under construction and you must stop it before it launches. It’s so difficult for an early level that there’s a pinned discussion thread on the Steam Forums explaining how to skip it.. It took me many attempts to beat this level, and I had the help of the video above. If everything isn’t just right you’ll be found lacking near the end game. It was a hell of a feeling beating this level. Yes, even though I copied what someone else did. I managed to beat that level in just over 16 frantic minutes. As well as employing the strategy in that video I also used snipers to take down two of the incoming ships to slow down construction, and built a forge to make energy and ore more efficient. I think I wouldn’t have beaten the map without those two additions.

The game was in a recent Humble Bundle, and apparently I bought it a long time ago but only got around to playing it recently. It’s on Steam at a cheap price. Go get it, it’s a fabulous game!