Warp Drive

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 5: Nintendo Strikes Back)

With Barbara Dawson Educational Center now firmly in the past, I began attending California High School. The adjustment period was somewhat less unnerving than Hillview Middle School. I credit my early enrollment in summer school. I had a whole month to absorb the campus before the overwhelming invasion of students in September. During this relatively quiet time, I became acquainted with one of the more interesting teachers on campus. Her name was Tamara, but of course, everyone knew her as Ms. Davis. Gone were the days of being on a first name basis. Fellow class members remember her best for her love of pumpkin seeds. I remember, from the moment I first met her, her sense of humor. Ms. Davis was a lighthearted woman, sure, but she also had a rather strict side. It was not wise to upset her. The months flew by in the blink of an eye. Christmas arrived right on schedule. Santa Claus delivered a very exciting present to my brother and I that year. It was none other than the Nintendo 64 and it was not alone. It came with Cruis'n USA, Killer Instinct Gold, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Wave Race 64, but most importantly, Super Mario 64. It was not long at all before a debate was had to decide whose room the system would reside in. A few days later, we all contracted chicken pox and the two week quarantine period began. Let the games begin.

In just a few short years, video games had certainly come a long way. I never could have dreamed of exploring the levels of Super Mario Bros. 1-3 and Super Mario World in such a way as Super Mario 64. It was a whole new dimension. An exciting new third dimension in which the action could be experienced from all angles. Princess Toadstool had invited Mario to her castle for a well deserved cake party. However, once Mario entered the castle, he learned of her abduction by Bowser. Given her track record with the dinosaur king, it may be safe to assume she prefers his company over Mario. I should be thankful, at the very least, there was only one castle this time. There would be none of those "our princess is in another castle" shenanigans. Mario's life was also made a bit easier by the use of all new power-ups, such as the vanish cap and wing cap. Of all our fresh new Nintendo 64 games, I played Super Mario 64 the most amid that festive chicken pox season. My brother was especially into Killer Instinct Gold, what with its rad characters, stages and combo moves. I had a personal vendetta with Bowser and I intended to finish him. Upon collecting eighty power stars, the unending stairway atop the castle revealed its true destination and I set forth to save the Mushroom Kingdom once more. Bowser had, as usual, miscalculated the hazards surrounding his battle zone. With a few well timed tosses, King Koopa was prehistory. In the end, for his troubles, Mario received a brief kiss on the nose from Princess Toadstool. I never pretended to understand how that stuff worked, but a kiss on the lips may have been somewhat more exhilarating. Thankfully, the cake was not a lie. Luigi as a playable character, however, was.


Home: Mortal Kombat Trilogy

I have always been fascinated with space. Everything from the furthest reaches of the cosmos to the space between spaces: the realm of dreams. Everyone used to think I had my head in the clouds. "Earth to Mike" became a fairly common utterance. With Nintendo 64 games such as Star Fox 64 and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, it was only a matter of time before that fascination reached critical mass. Star Fox 64 presented me with multiple routes to embark upon spanning the Lylat solar system. Skill was especially key if I wished to remain on the harder routes. The game came packaged with a device known as a Rumble Pak. It attached to the Nintendo 64 controller, and whenever intense action unfolded on-screen, it shook like nothing else. It was the next logical step toward truly feeling as though I were in the game. Star Fox 64 was technically my brother's game. He received it as a birthday present. As always, however, when it came time to ace the game, it was a team effort. A special medal could be earned for each and every course. It was no easy task, but for Nintendo veterans and wizards such as ourselves, we managed well enough. It was time to put our skills to the ultimate test. With every medal in hand, Expert Mode unlocked via the main menu. We would have to ace the game all over again. A considerably harder task than before. I had one final piece of business to attend to on Venom. Andross, the villain of this game, had virtually begged for me to confront his true form. I followed the hard route to Venom and decimated his armies in the process. In the end, he revealed himself to be a floating, eye spewing brain. It was tough to nail those final shots in just the right place without being caught in his vines, but I eventually dealt the last blow. Andross enveloped himself and the surrounding area in flames. He intended to take me with him. As I began my escape, I heard a familiar voice call out to me. "Earth to Mike," said the voice, as if he had been attempting to reach me for quite some time. It was, of course, Dad. I had neglected other responsibilities long enough. Sophomore year had begun and I was slowly learning to fit in with my fellow high school students. Soon, I would discover a tool capable of designing computer games and I would have my very own space saga. It would become quite a ruckus.

With a new year came new classes. One of them was Tom Uyematsu's Jobs course. Each week, one particular day was designated as a reading hour. It was suppose to encourage informative reading and self growth, but I always just took this opportunity to sneak a Nintendo Power magazine into the classroom. I was drawn especially to the Player's Pulse feature. A column near the front of the magazine in which players would submit letters to be reviewed and critiqued by keen-eyed Nintendo Power editors. It was a near constant source of inspiration and amusement. I had just one problem. A nearby student would often tap me over the head with a newspaper. That is, until the day I finally decided to tap him back. He quickly lunged for me without hesitation, sending the two of us rolling toward the door. Right past our fellow staring and very much awestruck classmates. We were both suspended for a day, and when I returned, I was moved to the other side of the class along the back wall. Tony sat at the desk beside mine. He was a far nicer neighbor. He kindly refrained from tapping me over the head while reading my "books." Tony lived in an apartment complex behind a McDonald's. I rode my bicycle over there on more than one occasion. Tony enjoyed a good smoke every now and again, but he respected my abstinence. He even went so far as to tell a fellow friend, who was just about to light up inside the apartment, to take the cigarette outside. Tony was a Sony PlayStation kind of man. PlayStation was not the first disc-based gaming system. However, it was certainly the most popular one at the time. On one such visit to Tony's apartment, he dug out a game unfamiliar to me. A game that would open the door to a whole other level of freedom. The first game to truly spark the question of right and wrong actions in video games. That game was, of course, DMA Design's Grand Theft Auto. From the moment we first picked up the controller, we had the option of stealing a car and mowing down a group of pedestrians. Grand Theft Auto was a game unafraid of offending people. It would be a few years before I dove further into the series, but I have Tony to thank for introducing me to it. Please excuse me while I shake this wanted level.


Disneyland: Autopia

The following intelligence report is cleared for the eyes of special operatives only. Unlike Game Genie before it, I used InterAct's GameShark not as a means of cheating the system, but as a way of experimenting with and changing the underlying parameters of games. Given enough time and patience, one could alter a game rather significantly via homebrew code creation. Such is the case with GoldenEye 007. A first person shooter from Rare. As fate would have it, it was mere months after the game's release that my family first connected to the world wide web. I became engaged with a hacking community fairly early on. Those were competitive days. GameShark hackers were diligent and they were eager to outshine everyone else. I used to be ready for a good challenge. My codes ranged from the relatively benign, rendering the game with funny colors, to the downright awesome, activating then president Bill Clinton as a playable multiplayer character. I also helped discover a paintbrush weapon. I believe it was more of a glitch that made 007's arm look like a paintbrush, but it was certainly fun to whack guards with. Start a level with a sniper rifle in it, ignore every other item pickup, switch to unarmed, pick up the rifle and press A (in quick succession) as many times as it takes to cycle back to unarmed. I tried ever so feverishly to discover a method of travelling to that damn island on Dam. It was the top priority of many hackers for a long time. In the end, someone else beat me to it. The life of a secret agent is far from easy, but as the painter Bob Ross once said, "We don't make mistakes. We have happy accidents." Now, go paint the town red with that paintbrush. I expect you to dye, Mr. Bond.

A brief selection of my GameShark codes:

Christmas Mode
80021AC4 0001
80021AEA 3FF0

X-Ray Vision Mode
8002B18D 0001
800211CD FFFF

Predator Mode (Single & Multiplayer)
8002D64B 0001
80021D64 FFFF

"Walls Are Alive" (Single & Multiplayer)
8002D29E 0001
80021D19 FFFF

Play as Bill Clinton (Choose Bond in Multiplayer)
A002B19F 0035
A002B19D 0017

Play as Hillary Clinton (Choose Natalya in Multiplayer)
A002B1AB 0049
A002B1A9 001A


GoldenEye 007: The Paintbrush

1998 was another year of firsts. My first time surfing the web. My first endeavors into video game hacking. My very first web page, a fan site dedicated to all things Nintendo on AOL Hometown. My first, and only, digital video game guide. It included everything one might ever need to know about Rare's Diddy Kong Racing. And then, there was my first computer game. My very own computer game. Following the completion of sophomore year, I anxiously mailed away for a program that would allow me to design and publish my own games. That program was Klik & Play, a multipurpose editor from Clickteam. Developed in the United Kingdom in 1994. I had a laundry list of game ideas in my head, but most of them were far too ambitious. I first tried to create a point and click adventure game starring a group of humanoid felines, inspired partially by Star Fox 64, but everything had to be done completely by hand. The inventory screens, the items, the icon bar and everything else in-between. It then required some creative wrangling with the event editor to make everything work together. I would eventually find a way to make this work for a later game, but for the time being, the means did not justify the ends. I instead turned my attention to a space shooter-type game. I had just recently watched two movies. Lethal Weapon and Millennium. They fused together to form what would become known as Space Ruckus. Bill Grig was a new recruit to the military base orbiting Ralin V, and he was about to have a very bad first day on the job. A full-scale invasion was underway by an alien race known as the Velorians. Bill Grig would need all the help he could get because my programming sucked balls. Those lucky few who were godly enough to finish Space Ruckus were greeted to this Winston Churchill quote I stole from Millennium's finale, "This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning." Translation: Sequels were on the way. Bill Grig, by the way, may have acquired his name from Riggs, but he inherited his mustache from Murtaugh.


Space Ruckus (1998)

The times were changing ever so fast. The Internet had taken the world by storm, online message boards were quickly becoming all the rage amongst teenagers and the meaning of the word "is" was in the process of being redefined. Meanwhile, back in school, a friend was preparing to leave. Tony was moving to Louisiana. California High School would feel just a little more empty in his absence. I like to think I learned a few things from him about life, that I would continue to embrace the memories of our times together in class. But, for now, I was eager to head home. A package had just arrived in the mail from Nintendo and I was forbidden from opening its contents until I took a shower. Believe me, that was the fastest shower I ever took in my life. The package was none other than The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I had pre-ordered the gold cartridge through Nintendo Power several weeks earlier. Ocarina of Time did for Zelda what Super Mario 64 did for Mario. It brought the game gracefully into the third dimension. It would also feature a seamless day and night cycle. A first for the series. For example, when Link is told that a certain character only comes around at night, the player would have to wait until nightfall to encounter them. Ocarina of Time certainly did not help my arachnophobia. The very first dungeon was filled with spiders and the end-boss was a massive arachnid. There were also one-hundred gold skulltulas to collect throughout the game's world. A feat I only ever accomplished on my first playthrough. With the three spiritual stones safely in hand, it was time to open the Door of Time and reclaim the Master Sword as my very own. A moment I came to savor in every Zelda game since A Link to the Past. As I tugged and pulled on the Master Sword, something strange began to happen. A beam of energy surrounded me. It engulfed my very essence. A bearded sage appeared before me. He informed me that seven years had come to pass in the blink of an eye. He said that he would do everything in his power to help me, but that I needed to explain my condition in more detail. A less than stellar development period on Space Ruckus: The Great Invasion, a reboot of my first computer game, had led to an ever worsening habit of coffee drinking. One cup of the tallest Starbucks beverage had suddenly sent my heart racing. The year was 2005. The sage, who answered to dad, was with me while I underwent a few EKG tests at the hospital. I was given an X-Ray of my chest, a treadmill test and a prescription of Lorazepam, an anxiety-disorder medication. It would ultimately prove to be psychological in nature, but the tests gave me peace of mind. Dad was waiting for me. It was time to go home.

It was time to enter the fourth dimension.


Space Ruckus: The Great Unfinished Teaser