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August 2017

Sonic X-Treme Radio Revealed

Sonic radioThe legendary lost status of Sonic X-Treme for the Sega Saturn is a well-tread item of Internet lore.  I'm sure you know the story: Sega's big 1996 holiday release for the Saturn is canceled after internal struggles between the development team and the publisher, leaving a high profile hole in the console's library.  While the game never released, some tie-in merchandise did.  We covered the retitled X-treme animated Christmas special, Sonic Christmas Blast (previously titled A Sonic X-Treme Christmas), once before on PTB, and now we have photos of an AM/FM radio branded with the X-treme name.  You see, kids, FM radio was... oh, never mind.  Take a look.

TIL Sega began producing promotional items for the canceled Saturn game Sonic X-Treme

I searched around for other merchandise meant to help promote Sonic X-Treme and wound up at an old Angelfire page that, in addition to the radio, lists a cassette player and ice cream.  How did this X-treme stuff make it out the door if the game never did?  What was the point of promoting a dead release?  Tgunter at Reddit sums it up:

The logo matches the one used in early promotion for the game, and the copyright date on the back says 1997, while Sonic X-treme was originally slated for Christmas 1996, but delayed multiple times before being canceled. So everything points to this being a tie-in.  Manufacturing takes time to line up. It makes perfect sense that merchandise got made for Sonic X-treme, considering it was supposed to be a big release.

Makes sense to me.  I'll allow it.  It's always interesting to see the range of products used to promote other products.  Did Sonic need a radio or a cassette player that had nothing in common with the game other than the logo on the box?  Of course not, but it helped keep the game in the collective consciousness of children and gave cheap radios and other such things a level of appeal.  I ate a lot of tasteless fruit snacks as a kid just because Mario was on the box.  Hell, we're talking about this radio right now because it says Sonic X-Treme on the package.  This licensing strategy must work.

The Wonderful World Of ROM Hacks

Somebody Set Us Up The ROMSince the heady days of the original NESticle emulator for DOS, video game fans have been hacking games such as Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man 2 to change level layouts and alter graphics.  What began as crude and tasteless shock value hacks (naked Mario, racist Mario, etc.) eventually grew into worthwhile creations that turn familiar classics into entirely new games.  John Harris has written a new e-book, Somebody Set Us Up The ROM, that chronicles some of the best hacks that the Internet has to offer.  Part One focuses mainly on games from the worlds of Super Mario and Metroid, while the upcoming Part Two aims at Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man.  It's available exclusively in the Summer Smash Game Bundle.  Here's a note from the curator, Simon Carless:

Some people think, with some justification, that romhacks are mostly about seeing how many dongs someone can fit into a single game. But the best ones are far from that. Sometimes they add major features to beloved games to make them playable for a new generation. Sometimes they greatly improve game graphics, or present new worlds to explore. Sometimes they correct terrible design decisions. And sometimes they translate game into other languages, allowing them to be read and appreciated by new audiences.

This book is a collection of good romhacks, small and large, simple and incredible. And without a single dong to be found.

I had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of this book and I am impressed by the depth of exploration.  Harris dives into interesting ideas such as adding a day/night cycle to Super Mario Bros. 3, integrating an auto-mapping system into the original Metroid, changing the villagers in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest into truthful helpers instead of lying bastards, and so much more.  This is an interesting read that will give you plenty of new twists on old favorites to try.  I eagerly await Part Two.

So You Want To Play Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3So you've decided to play Nintendo's 1990 classic Super Mario Bros. 3.  Excellent choice!  It's not as easy as it seems though.  There are several versions of the game available and each one has its own quirks that can diminish the experience.  There's the original Nintendo Entertainment System release, of course, but perhaps you prefer the 1993 Super NES upgrade?  Even those versions have been iterated upon over the years thanks to the Virtual Console, but they have unique advantages and drawbacks of their own.  How can you possible hope to decide?  You'd have to be a wizard to figure it out.  Jeremy Parish at Retronauts lays it all out so you can pick the SMB3 version that's right for you.

Super Mario Bros. 3 originally showed up on NES in 1990, and that version has been reproduced most frequently in the years since. Currently Nintendo makes the game available on three different platforms, with one kind of outlier. This is the "true" version of the game, so it's the one purists will want, but unfortunately has made it difficult to buy a proper, satisfying conversion of the game.

The article goes on to discuss the Super NES, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Wii U, and 3DS versions of the game.  Some look better than others and a few look worse than you'd expect.  You may be surprised to learn what the best overall version of the game is these days.  I know I was, but it makes perfect sense.  What's better than the Super Mario Bros. 3 we all know and love with extra levels added to it?