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February 2020

Mini-Review: SEGA AGES Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sega has taken an active hand in the past decade in keeping its popular Genesis titles available for increasingly modern platforms, both as part of multi-game disc collections and à la carte downloads.  The latest game to make a return appearance is 1992's Sonic the Hedgehog 2, one of the best titles in the franchise and in which Sonic joins with his new pal Tails to take down Dr. Robotnik's plans of world domination using his Death Egg weapon.  While originally meant to spur sales of its 16-bit console, now that Sega is platform agnostic, anyone with a game system can take a crack at it.  And I mean anyone!  Without even especially trying to do it, I already own Sonic 2 for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, iPhone, iPad, Amazon Fire TV, and Sega Genesis Mini.  That's a lot of Death Egg!  Chance are that, in some format, you already own it too.  Now that Sega has brought it back again for the Nintendo Switch as part of its Sega Ages revival series, it's simultaneously an easy impulse buy and seemingly unnecessary if you already own it in another format.  Yet, as I played through the game one more time and explored some of the new additions to the package, I found that this may be my favorite of the re-releases yet.

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Della Duck Rewrites NES DuckTales History

DuckTalesROM hacks of classic retro games have come a long way in the past two decades as fans have reworked old favorites into new creations.  Capcom's 1989 hit DuckTales for the Nintendo Entertainment System is one of the console's classics, and while it was given a modern upgrade in 2013 for DuckTales Remastered on then-modern platforms, it remains based on the original game which in turn is based on the 1987 animated series.  Now that the 2017 DuckTales reboot is solving its own mysteries, it's only fair that someone would rewrite Capcom history by replacing the game's protagonist, Scrooge McDuck, with the new show's lead female protagonist, Della Duck.  Thanks to Garrett Gilchrist, Della can take on the Moon stage's challenges in the original DuckTales game with a clever graphics replacement hack meant for use in the Mesen emulator.  Garrett says:

It wasn't that hard to redraw the graphics for use in Mesen, but I'd drawn Della in slightly different positions than Scrooge, mainly her head positions, which got me in trouble later. The NES programming reuses graphics tiles constantly, and any inconsistency was immediately obvious, requiring some tweaking. I would recommend that anyone redrawing NES graphics for Mesen keep their characters either identically positioned to the original sprite or changed consistently on every frame ... just in case!

Trapped on the moon for years, the series features her return to Earth as a running storyline.  The writers even found a clever way to integrate the Capcom game's Moon stage theme into the show's narrative as not just background music, but an in-story lullabye.  It's fun to see her here where she technically doesn't belong, zipping around the NES game decades before her inclusion in any televised DuckTales production.  She's using Scrooge's pogo cane since this is just a graphics update, but imagine a further iteration of this idea that includes Della in a new proper DuckTales video game as a playable character alongside Scrooge, Donald Duck, and the rest of the crew.  I'm certainly interested!

(via @KenPlume)

Secret Origins: Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3Today being the thirtieth anniversary of Nintendo's landmark Super Mario Bros. 3's release in North America, I cannot let the day pass without looking back on one of the defining games of the 8-bit era.  I first became enamored with the adventures of Mario and Luigi in 1986 and over the next several years, Nintendo became my childhood religion with the pair of plumbers at the top of the holy ladder.  I watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show cartoon while eating Mario fruit snacks and wearing my Mario t-shirt, scribbling in my Mario notebook with a Mario pencil (with flag topper!) and checking the time on my Mario wristwatch.  In May 1989 I picked up a free first issue of GamePro at a Toys R Us while out shopping with my mother and flipping through the pages make my young heart skip a beat.  There was a Super Mario Bros. 3 coming and it looked fantastic.  The two-page preview spread of the Famicom title (already available in Japan) showcased the best visuals I'd seen for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and I scoured the piece for clues about what was ahead for Mario.  This time around, according to the preview article, Princess Peach (who?  Where's Princess Toadstool??) has been captured by the Kuppa King (any relation to the Koopa King?) and it's up to Mario and Luigi to defeat the Kuppa guardians (not kids?) and save the day.  I asked my grandfather about the odd names, comparing Kuppa to Koopa and being unaware of localization, and he told me that since these are made-up names, they can be whatever the creators want them to be.  I just wanted to understand the continuity between the different games.

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