Friday, December 30, 2011

8-Bit City Is Kicking Ass

A fews days of vacation does a blogger good. I took a little time off over the holidays, but 8-Bit City is again functional. You might have noticed that from this morning's Centipede review, and if you haven't read it you can check it out anytime.

As the year comes to a close, I'm gearing up for the annual "Top 10 games" list. It's going to be tough deciding which games make the cut, but by tomorrow I should have the thing sorted out.

Thanks to all the readers, subscribers, emailers, commenters, and posters of 8-Bit City. It's almost been 4 years and the site continues to grow and traffic is at an all time high. Drop me a line and let me know what you'd like to see (or not see) on 8-Bit City in 2012!


Centipede is one of the core classic arcade machines, and also one of the most challenging. Along with Pac-Man, Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Space Invaders, this game was released just as video games were beginning to take the country by storm. Atari would be the major player for the first five years, with Missile Command, Tempest, Centipede, Frogger, and dozens of other amazing games occupying corners of arcades across America. CEntipede sold an impressive 50,00 units, second only to the 1979 epic, Asteroids. Centipede designers Ed Logg and Dona Bailey did the world a favor by making this game, and helped to define what exactly a "video game" was.

You've probably played Centipede before, but you might not have dug very deep because of the difficulty. Most players will last a few minutes, skilled players might make it 10 minutes. Champions, however, can play for hours.

I'm not a champion. I am, however, working on my high score this week ever since receiving Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1 for Christmas, as well as Skyward Sword, Gradius Galaxies, Gradius 3 & 4 compilation, and many other awesome retro titles.

Centipede, unlike most other shooters, doesn't take place in space. Instead, you shoot centipedes, spiders, fleas, and scorpions in a garden of death. Never before has gardening been host to such a glorious arena as in Centipede and its followup, Millipede.

The rules are simple: hit the centipede and it turns into a mushroom. Hit it in the middle, and it splits. The other pests will attack, and you can hit them for points as well. Spiders create poison mushrooms which cause the centipedes to enter into a blind rage and charge the bottom of the screen. If you take too long to kill the centipede, more single heads will appear. If too few mushrooms exists near the bottom, fleas will fall from the top, leaving trails of mushrooms. Destroy the centipede to progress the level, and the colors will change.

People often speak about insects in this game, however, only the fleas are insects. Centipedes and millipedes are myriapoda, a distinct subphylum of arthropods; scorpions and spiders are, of course, arachnids.

Several strategies exists, from leaving a single column open (under the 1,000s digit of the high score), to control the path of the centipede and using safe zones, but the core of all strategies relies on the now time-tested double formula of 1) not missing and 2) not getting hit. Having only one available bullet at a time makes missing once a potential disaster.

My all time high score is something in the 50,000s and it was earned a few years ago on an arcade machine out of town. I haven't been able to break 30k on M.A.M.E. or the DS recently, but I can feel my skills improving.

As simple as they might seem, Centipede's graphics are perfect. They messed it up a little in Millipede, which was not as successful as the original. Everything (except the player) perfectly represents what it is meant to. The player has to create the "garden" in their imagination using the sprites as ideograms in a colorful field. The black background, like this site, serve to make the colors as bright and eye-catching as possible.

And it worked. Centipede has been ported to just about every system and cell phone extant. Additionally, a 3D Version for Dreamcast, PC, and Playstation was made; I'd like to look at that title more in-depth in the future. A reboot of the series on the Wii was recently created as well, but it looks to be a below-average 3D run-n-gun.

Centipede is awesome. Even the cabinet art is awesome. If you have a centipede high score, email me the screenshot or post a link to the image in this thread. It's strictly honor system, so no save states, emulator abuse, or troublemaking. If you email me your screenshot I'll post it in a new post with any others I receive.

One thing you don't want to do: play Centipede with digital controls. The original cabinet uses a trackball and a single button--the ideal way to experience the game, but a method of playing which is not immediately available to everyone (including myself at the moment). Luckily, in M.A.M.E. you can easily use your mouse, just set the sensitivity super high. The DS version is fantastic because you use the stylus to control as well as vertical orientation (a la Brain Age). My scores on the DS have been slightly higher than on the computer, but I still feel like it's more fun on the big screen.

Enjoy the gigantic Centipede gallery!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Epic NES Finds

My girlfriend and I were shopping for NES games out of town a few days ago and the store--Game Exchange--had a buy 3 get 1 free deal on anything under $7.99. Most of their NES games were priced at exactly $4.99 so it was easy decision. These are the 4 games we picked up, all together, for $16.50.

1. The Clash at Demonhead w/ manual

An epic sidescrolling metroidvania. This game tops Adventure Island IV, in my opinion, and is an NES classic. Recently I posted some sketches I made of maps and characters while playing the game. Also, I posted my entire playlog of the journey. Finally, if you want the good stuff, the check out the Nintendo Power scans of the game.

2. Fantasy Zone

A Tengen cartridge, I was really happy to find this game because it seems somewhat rare. Not too much to say other than the fact that its a port of an arcade game by the same name. It's been ported to about a dozen systems, including:

Arcade, 1986
Sega Master System, 1986
MSX, 1986
Nintendo Famicom, 1987
NEC PC Engine, 1988
Nintendo Entertainment System, 1989
Sharp X68000, 1989
Sega Saturn (part of Sega Ages), 1997
Mobile phone, 2002
PlayStation 2 (part of Sega Classics Collection), 2003
Wii Virtual Console (re-release of the Master System version), 2008
PlayStation 2 (part of Sega Ages 2500), 2008
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (part of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection[NA]/SEGA MEGA DRIVE Ultimate Collection [UK]), 2009
(Wikipeia, Fantasy Zone).

3. Gremlins 2

A fun sunsoft bird's eye platformer. It reminds me of Startropics II, but this game is much more difficult. Overall it's a fun game, and much more playable than Fester's Quest, a piece of shit.

4. Amagon

I saw this boxed a while back, but passed it up. I saw this opportunity to correct my mistake. I haven't really dug my teeth in Amagon, but I know that its similar to Contra. You have limited ammunition, which is pretty unusual for a Contra-style platformer and you die in one hit.

5. 8 Eyes

I didn't actually buy 8 Eyes, rather it was an early Christmas present. I think it's basically a two player Castlevania, and I'm excited to start playing it as well. It's almost 2012, and still I'm getting new NES games for Christmas. Also, before I forget, that Clash at Demonhead image--I have no idea who made it but it's pretty awesome.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pixel Art: Santa Claws, Elves, and Christmas Trees

Some single color sprites and tiles. The elves have knives and Santa is unrecognizable as such, so the image only sort of makes sense, and even then each requires the context of the others for any holiday meaning to be conveyed. I like it.

Gestalt theory says that the human will find patterns, and color combinations in certain situations, like the one above, can induce this response.

Unused Final Fantasy NES Sprite

Digging around in Final Fantasy, I found an unused sprite. Looks like a king or a prince to me, but he could have been something else. Thanks to this poster on GameFAQs for tipping the internet off to this hidden secret. I'm sure the FF community has known about this for years, but its cool nonetheless.

Clearly there are dozens of unused sprites waiting to be discovered on the NES, however recognizing them can be a challenge. Final Fantasy is one of the easiest roms to "read" in Tile Layer Pro, everything is nice and neat--other games, not so much.

I wonder if the Dragon Warrior games have some unused sprites as well...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pixel Art: 8-Bit Sylvia Plath

Brilliant poet Sylvia Plath in 8-Bit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Krang Animated .gif

I forgot where I found this Krang gif, but it's pretty awesome. Blogger won't animate the image in the post, so click it for the animation. I just watched the original TMNT movie and I'm in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mood. maybe I'll finally beat the NES game...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Krull Atari 2600 Ad

Krull is a great game for the Atari 2600. I posted about it two years ago when I discovered the game and spent a while conquering its quests.

Although it's difficult to read, the bottom right section of the ad pretty much explains the entire game... kind of a bummer actually. In any case, the desire for realism in games is present, with the box claiming to really "take you there," i.e. inside the movie. The movie sucks, but this game remains a true classic.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ultimate RPG Screenshots

These are screenshots from a project codenamed "Ultimate RPG." It's in the style of the Ultima games, but with JPG battles. These are from a "working" build, but I shouldn't even use that word. This is just the beginning; everything will likely be changed as I continue to work on this.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pixel Art: RPG Tileset

This is one of a few different RPG tilesets I've been working with for some sort of traditional RPG.

This picture is from a newer version, but I actually like the old one better. It's a little more complicated, but I think I've decided to go with the old set, which I'll post tomorrow or something.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pac-Man Pasties

Things are getting PG-13 over at 8-Bit City. These Pac-Man pasties might be every girl gamer's ideal Christmas present. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Song of the Week: Duck Tales - The Moon

We might as well get this one out of the way because we all knew it was coming. Listen and enjoy.

Another Unused Ultima: Exodus Sprite

Aside from the sprites mentioned in the last post, there is another unused NPC. A shopkeeper. Pretty cool. It's nice to see Ultima: Exodus on the NES with such a huge following (relatively speaking) that new things are still being discovered.

I ripped the sprite using Tile Layer Pro, but a fellow gamefaqers tipped me off to the video below. It demonstrates some HEX hacking of the ROM to display the unused NPCs (including the Jester from the other post).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unused Ultima: Exodus Sprites

Here's something interesting I found today: some unused sprites from the NES Ultima: Exodus ROM. There was apparently a Jester and 3 enemies cut from the game. The colors pictured are examples of how the palettes could have been used.

Many NES and SNES roms have unused graphics hidden on the inside, but these guys were news to me. Thanks to the Sprite Database for posting this originally.

I recently beat this game, and it was epic. Haven't gotten around to writing up my notes into a blog post, but that should happen soon. Thankfully, finals week is over.

Pixel Art: RPG Sprites 9

A final set (for now) of RPG Sprites. Some of these are palette-swaps, but I really like the magenta + aqua + white combo. Reminds me of old EGA games for DOS and Apple.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pixel Art: RPG Sprites 8

Here are 8 sprites for the 8th "official" entry in this series.

These can be palette-swapped to great effect.

Pixel Art: RPG Sprites 7

This is the seventh post of untitled RPG sprites that I've made and posted. These are from a game I'm working on, but not sure if I'll finish it. The sprites are cool, and I'll be posting more sprites this week.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pixel Art: Single-Color RPG Sprites 3

Another set! These are my favorites of these recent sets of sprites. I'd like to use them in some Ultima-style RPG or Dungeon Crawlers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pixel Art: Single-Color RPG Sprites 2

Another set of 4 sprites. This group of characters is starting to shape up. These might even make a cool game.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pixel Art: Single-Color RPG Sprites

Trying to capture the feel of really, really old RPGs like Ultima.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Awesome 8-Bit Zelda Pic

I didn't make this picture, but it was so awesome I had to post it. This would make an epic T-shirt... my current Zelda NES shirt is getting a little ratty.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Song of the Week: Lord British's Castle

This week's song is not to be confused with Lord British's theme, another great song from one of the best NES adventures. This week's track plays normally in his castle, and is my second favorite song from the NES port of Ultima: Exodus.

Although the verses are somewhat generic, the chorus to this song accurately captures the sense of excitement, exploration, and discovery that made the game so famous. These two parts of the song form a tension which mimics the tension in RPG: peaceful towns and dangerous wilderness.

Give it a listen and let others know what you think about this song!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pixel Art: Tiny Sprites

This was an experiment to see how small one could reasonably create a diverse set of sprites. I'm pretty happy with the results; these guys are awesome.