Sunday, December 25, 2016

Updates and Happy Holidays!

Hi, everyone!  Merry Christmas!

Good god, the past while has been brutal.  One of my coworkers at my day job (a foreign exchange student) wrapped up his employment to return home to Poland, necessitating a change in the entire crew's schedule.  The day that schedule went into effect, another coworker got sick, forcing me to change my schedule again to cover for her sudden absence.  As luck would have it, I got sick myself, but had to press on since we have no replacements at the moment (our next hiring call is in January).  I'm managing as best as I can despite the health issues; the show must go on regardless.  To top it off, my old Compaq (currently the only fully-set-up internet-capable machine at my place) is effectively dead.  To give you an idea of how fickle the machine is in its current state: roll a 20-sided die.  If you rolled a 1, the power to the laptop won't suddenly die during boot-up.  Keep rolling the die every few minutes as the computer stays on; if you roll anything above a 10, the power suddenly dies.  If you were saving a file at that moment, that file is now corrupt, so I hope you have a backup available!

...I'd be tearing my hair out if I hadn't recently shaved my head bald...

Anyway, our publisher has asked us to have Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel at release candidate status for the end of January.  Rather than struggle with compatibility issues and figuring out which elements of my programming & graphics environment work on Windows 10 (and constantly test my patience with the Compaq), I dusted off my old-but-reliable Proteva tower so I could dive into my work right away.  Unfortunately, this tower is quite old (from 2004), so it doesn't have wi-fi capabilities (and my apartment is completely wireless).  In other words, I haven't been able to access the internet on a reliable basis for the past few months.  So, as a consequence, I haven't had a means of updating this blog in any semblance of a regular fashion (I've replied to comments here and there via my work's wi-fi connection and my phone; unfortunately, the tiny screen and fickle connection don't lend themselves well to properly preparing a new Developer Diary entry...).

On the positive side, that means I've been devoting the bulk of my time to working on Freudenstachel.  I'm happy to say that everything in that department is proceeding quite smoothly, if a little slower than I'd like.  Once the game is ready for submission, I'll be preparing a slew of Dev Diary entries to show off the stuff we've accomplished these past few months.  Suffice to say, I'm damned proud of our work.  I'm also pleased to have fixed some of the issues present in the original game.  Naturally, I'll share the full story on that front when my workload allows me to do so.

On behalf of everyone at Darkside Translations, Darksquid Media, Schwer and Schwer Alike, and Active Gaming Media, I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Wonderful Winter Solstice, and a joyous New Year.  The year 2017 is going to be big for Rosenkreuzstilette; quite fitting for the 10th anniversary of the original game's release.

See you soon!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

RKS Developer Diary #13 - Game Over, man!

Murder on the Mississippi
(Commodore 64)
Hi, everyone!  It's been too long since my last entry.

By now, it's no big surprise that my personal life gets pretty hectic at times.  Sometimes, it's for the worse (my godmother / great aunt recently passed away, one of my roommates needed to move out because of financial problems, and my schedule at my day job has me working more hours than before).  Sometimes, though, it's for the better (part of my schedule change is because I'm responsible for training a new hire, who -- lucky me! -- is an absolute beauty and a joy to work with).  Still, I continue my work on Rosenkreuzstilette during my off-hours, and my days off allow me to focus and make much quicker progress than the days where I'm forced to juggle my duties.  Playism, WOMI, and Valve are doing their part in preparing RKS for its Steam debut, so my current circumstances thankfully don't have any impact on the original game's official release.

Onto today's developer diary!

I've just completed the Game Over screens for Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel, making this the perfect time to post about the Game Over screens for both games.  I don't want to spoil the surprises in the sequel just yet, so I'll be concentrating on the Game Over references in the original game for the time being.

Without further ado:

Prologue: Murder on the Mississippi

A chronicle of the adventures of Sir Charles Foxworth, Murder on the Mississippi was only released on the MSX2 and the original Famicom in Japan.  In the English-speaking world, the game was only released on the Commodore 64, the Commodore 128, and the Apple II.  In this reference, Lilli plays the part of Sir Foxworth's faithful assistant Regis, mourning Spiritia's untimely death with Regis's signature "if only we could start over, we might be able to catch that villain...".  I made a point of using the iconic font from the original Commodore 64 version to further reinforce the reference for truly old-school players.

Racing Lagoon
Freudia Stage: Racing Lagoon

It feels like only yesterday that Squaresoft was experimenting with every game genre under the sun. Dubbed a "High Speed Driving RPG" by Square, Racing Lagoon was a racing game for the original PlayStation that never saw a release outside of Japan.  The brushwork capital "R" in this reference is an undeniable nod to the game's cover art and title screen.

As I'm pleased to see many of you notice, I pay very close attention to detail in my work; I make a point of using the original fonts in each of the RKS references where I can.  This practice applies not just to the Game Over homages, but to all of the graphics in the series.

Zorne Stage: Super Bomberman Series

In the early '90s, if you had a Super Nintendo, a Super Multitap, a few extra controllers and a copy of Super Bomberman or Super Bomberman 2, you could easily turn a get-together into a gaming party that lasted all night.  It's a shame that only the first two Super Famicom titles were ever released in North America; the games were extremely fun, to say the very least.

Since this Game Over reference didn't contain any English text, no changes needed to be made for the game's official English release.

Trauare Stage: Demon's Crest / Gargoyle's Quest

The winged demon in this Game Over reference is clear nod to the title screen of Demon's Crest for the Super Nintendo (released as Demon's Blazon in Japan).  The incantation, on the other hand, is a nod to Gargoyle's Quest for the original Game Boy.  Both games are entries in the Firebrand trilogy, a series of spinoffs set in Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins / Ghouls 'n Ghosts universe.

Although I was quite proud of the cleanup work I did for the fan-translated version of this reference, nothing quite beats having the original Photoshop files to work with.  I experimented with using the original Ghosts 'n Goblins series font for the English version, but the font was too big and weighty to look presentable.  Instead, I opted to use a thinner, lighter font that preserved the feel of the original Japanese version and didn't make the composition heavier than it needed to be.

Luste Stage: The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil / S.T.U.N. Runner

Ah, Touhou Project: the sleeper hit that launched the Japanese indie game craze in addition to creating its own genre of shoot 'em ups.  The sight gag here is pretty self-explanatory to Touhou fans, recreating the cover art for The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil with Luste taking the place of Flandre Scarlet.  Although WOMI claims that the "Insert Coin" text is intended as a reference to S.T.U.N. Runner, I think the text is just a bit too generic to credit to any particular arcade game.  Oh, well...

Unlike the rest of the graphics in the game, this particular reference was drawn by Isemiya instead of WOMI.  Although I don't know the circumstances of their breakup (nor do I intend to ask), I can safely say that WOMI no longer possesses the original source files for this reference.  That being the case, I fine-tuned the version from our fan translation for use in the official release instead of rebuilding the graphic with officially reconstructed materials.  I'm particularly proud of how this one turned out; all of the German and Japanese text is translated and typeset specifically to match the appearance of the Scarlet Devil cover art.  I can safely say that this graphic would look very different if Touhou was given an official physical English release.

Final Fantasy Legend II
(Game Boy)
Grolla Stage: Final Fantasy Legend II

Known as SaGa 2 in Japan, I remember borrowing this Game Boy title from a friend of mine back when I was in high school (I don't think I ever finished it, though...).  This was one of the few Game Over references that I decided to completely rebuild from scratch instead of cleaning up the original Japanese graphics and inserting the English translations.  I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.  For the official release, I decided to expand the reference a bit to further underscore the shout-out and make it more faithful to the source material.

If you're interested, the Nintendo DS remakes of Final Fantasy Legend II and III have been fan-translated into English under the names SaGa 2: Legend of the Relics -Goddesses of Destiny- and SaGa 3: Champions of Time and Space -Shadow or Light- (what a mouthful).  To the looks of it, they're of the same caliber as the 3D Final Fantasy IV remake.  Good stuff.

Sichte Stage: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Although I'm not a fan of the Jojo series myself , I have to admit that I enjoyed searching through digital copies of Viz's manga release to pinpoint the exact panel being referenced by this sight gag.  I'm already quite proud of the English rendition I created for our fan translation (rebuilt from scratch, no less).  Even so, the revised version just feels right on so many levels.  I'm kind of amused that Spiritia takes the place of Terrence T. d'Arby, a.k.a. "d'Arby the Player".  In both cases, the player loses the game.

Liebea Stage: The Tower of Druaga

Amusingly enough, my introduction to The Tower of Druaga was its 2008 anime adaptation, The Aegis of Uruk, which lampooned the original arcade game for its obtuse design and frustrating level of difficulty.  I can easily understand why the title is so infamous among old-school gamers.  Like the Super Bomberman reference, this reference contains no text, so no changes were needed to prepare its official English version.

Schwer-Muta Stage: Space Invaders

This arcade classic has since become the face of Tommy Tallarico's Video Games Live tour.  Though the game never really appealed to me, I can't deny its impact on the medium.  For the fan-translated version of this reference, I decided to rebuild the graphic from scratch to correct a minor oversight: the 30-point alien sprite contained two blocks that weren't supposed to be there.  When WOMI passed me his source files of the official release, I made a point of deleting those same blocks to ensure that the alien sprite was perfectly faithful to the arcade original.  If that makes me a hairsplitter, so be it.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
(Manga - Viz Media)
Zeppelin Stage I: ActRaiser

Known as Actraiser in Japan (no, I have no clue why they felt they needed to change the capitalization), this Super Nintendo platformer / God-game hybrid was one of the many games I would have passed over if not for the likes of amateur YouTube reviews like Joey DeSena's 16-Bit Gems.  Since the game had an official English release, localizing the Japanese text with an appropriate font was a piece of cake.

In ActRaiser, the player is referred to as "The Master" or "Sir " in the manual and game respectively.  In our fan translation, I had Eins's dialogue match the manual ("Mistress Tia"); for the official release, I decided to follow the game's lead instead ("Lady Tia").  In both cases, I tweaked the frame of the text window a bit to further reinforce the reference.

Zeppelin Stage II: Dragon's Lair

A nod to the NES adaptation of the game rather than the original arcade game.  The Engrish typo in "Closs" in the original reference always bugged me, and I made a point of correcting the typo in our fan translation.  When WOMI provided us with the original layers for this graphic, a sudden burst of inspiration prompted me to rebuild the interface portion of the graphic.  Looking back, I think the Extra Life and Cross Tank icons are just a bit too big, but other than that, I'm satisfied with the results.  I'll probably correct the issue in a post-release update, so there's nothing to worry about.

Zeppelin Stage III: Shadowgate

Like Murder on the Mississippi, Shadowgate is a point-and-click adventure game originally made for Western computers that was later ported to Japanese consoles.  The game was considered quite a success, spawning several sequels and even a Kickstarter-funded remake.  If you've played the visual novel parody Hatoful Boyfriend, you may recognize the title's Bad Ending screen as a bird-themed take on Shadowgate's Game Over screen.

Rosenkreuzstilette's nod to Shadowgate is very true to the original, casting Thanatos Seyfarth in the role of the Grim Reaper.  Observant players may notice how the reference subtly lends you a hand in defeating Thanatos, featuring which weapons are most effective against the wraith in the player's inventory.  For the English versions, I rebuild the graphics from scratch yet again (as you've likely figured out by now, I enjoy doing this for 8-bit and 16-bit titles).  For the official version, I've expanded that list of "Goods" to include all of the weapons effective against Seyfarth (in the off-chance that your Mana supply for his two primary weaknesses is exhausted).

Zoo Ball
(Super Famicom)
Zeppelin Stage IV: Ninja Gaiden

Here, RKS pays tribute to one of the hardest video game series of all time, Ninja Gaiden, with Nightwalker Zeppelin assuming the role of protaognist Ryu Hayabusa before his climactic battle with Jaquio.  It's interesting to note that, from Zeppelin's point of view, his actions are entirely justified (not unlike the General in Megaman X4).  But I digress...

I was on the fence about whether I should localize this reference in the style of the NES original or the Super Nintendo remake; in the end, I decided to stick with the original.  WOMI is smacking himself upside the head over the fact that, if a player is going through the game for the first time and loses all of their lives before reaching the Zeppelin, this reference technically spoils what should be a mid-battle twist.  Oh, well -- those of us familiar with Castlevania saw that twist coming anyway...

Iris Stage I: Zoo Ball

Known as Dolucky no Kusayakiu (Dolucky's Baseball Turf) in Japan, this Coca-Cola-sponsored anthropomorphic baseball title was going to be released in English under the name Zoo Ball.  Unfortunately, this never came to pass; the game was unceremoniously cancelled for reasons unknown.  That's a shame; though I'm not a fan of sports games, I did enjoy my time with the Japanese version of Zoo Ball.

This particular Game Over reference is a nod to the game's training mode.  If your training goes badly and you fail that session's objectives, Dolucky's coach will make a lighthearted jab at you before encouraging you to give it your best shot next time.  For the official English version, I retooled his dialogue to sound more like what a good coach would actually say in real life.

Iris Stage II: The Legend of Zelda - Link's Awakening (DX)

Sitting majestically atop Mount Tamaranch, the Wind Fish's Egg is the reason behind the English name of the level's boss, the Deviled Egg.  Interestingly, this reference is a nod to both incarnations of the Game Boy's first The Legend of Zelda title.  The monochrome palette is a definite callback to the original Game Boy release, while the clouds around the mountain's peak are only found in the Game Boy Color re-release, Link's Awakening DX.

Naturally, nothing special needs to be done to this reference for the English release.

Time Stranger
Iris Stage III: Time Stranger

The video game adaptation of Studio Madhouse's 1986 animated feature, Time Stranger was only released on the Japanese Famicom by Kecmo (the same developer behind the NES version of Shadowgate).  Though no English versions of the film or game were released prior to our original fan translation, I'm pleased to report that several fansub groups have released English translations of the film since that time.

Of all of the localized graphics in our fan translation, the English version of the Time Stranger reference was the one that I was least satisfied with.  I'm very happy to say that, for the official release, this one deserves to be recognized as the Biggest Improvement.  If there's anything I'm not satisfied about with the final version, it's that the variable-width retro-look font I used doesn't lend itself well to maintaining a tidy right margin.  This is a rare instance in which I would have preferred a fixed-width font.

Final Stage: Megaman Zero 2

It just wouldn't be right if a Megaman-style game didn't make at least one of its shout-outs a nod to the Blue Bomber or one of his many spinoffs.  Like the Shadowgate reference, this Game Over homage offers a subtle hint regarding how to take care of Iris (provided you chanced upon the secret treasure of the Black Forest earlier in the game, of course).  Again, I opted to rebuild the graphic from scratch for the English version, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

Aside from these seventeen references, I may or may not have hidden additional references in the game's code.  I cannot elaborate on what I did or where to find them -- it'd spoil the surprise to talk about it before the game's even out.

The next entry will be the last entry focused on the original Rosenkreuzstilette.  After that, the blog will move onto covering Freudenstachel material. Is there anything you'd like to know about the original game before it finally hits Steam and Playism?  If so, leave a comment below and I'll try to include the answers you're looking for in the final installment of the RKS Developer Diary.

See you then!

Monday, August 1, 2016

RKS Developer Diary #12 - Your new name is "Mid-Boss".

Hi, everybody!

Things have been pretty hectic on our side of the pond lately.  Our work on the original Rosenkreuzstilette is more or less done.  Now that we finally have our hands on the sequel's source code, we've finally begun working on Freudenstachel in earnest.

As you may have noticed, a good chunk of the responsibilities for RKS fell squarely on my shoulders.  I penned the final version of the English script, localized the graphics, reprogrammed the game engine to properly support English text and optional subtitles, you get the idea.  It wasn't a one-man show by any means, but I did assume a disproportionate amount of the work.  And the result of that thoughtless decision?  Whenever anything happened that prevented me from working on the game for any reason (illness, hardware failure, problems at my day job, family emergency, and so on), our forward progress was halted until the matter was taken care of and I was able to work on the game again.  I became what we refer to within the industry as a "bottleneck".  As you can imagine, a few members of the project staff were less than satisfied with this state of affairs, and with damned good reason.

Moving forward with Freudenstachel, I'll be reprising my role as the resident graphics editor and programmer, but I'll be leaving the polishing of the script in the hands of my good friend Xander (who also handled the casting and directing for the English voiceovers until we were asked to put the English voice project on hold).  TrickMasterMint and DekuKirby are reprising their roles as well; we've simply reorganized ourselves to remove any bottlenecks and optimize our manpower.  You can rest assured that it's still the same team working on the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel, so please continue looking forward to our finished release.

Onto today's developer diary!

This time around, we'll be having a look at the major enemies in the game that block your forward progress, but aren't quite on the same level as the bosses we shone a spotlight on last time.  Like pretty much every other enemy in the game, Isemiya named each mid-boss in his commented code.  Some of the names he chose are appropriate, while others have understandably been retconned by the sequel:

The Great Hydra
Trauare Stage

Japanese:  「大王イカ」
English:  "Great Hydra"

The "Great Squid" in Japanese, we have two objections to preserving this name as the official English moniker.  You probably didn't expect a company named "Darksquid Media" to veto a squid reference, huh?  Well, for starters, this boss doesn't look like a squid at all; it's more of a many-headed sea serpent.  Second, I'm sure you can agree that there's only one character worthy of the title of the "Great Squid" in the RKS series - and his name is Zeppy.

On that note, if you'll excuse a quick tangent: a few fans have speculated that Zeppy may be a reference to "sepia", the German word for cuttlefish (an aquatic mollusk loosely resembling the squid, one bearing distinctly-shaped eyes).  The English language adopted the word to refer to the characteristic reddish-brown color of its ink.  We looked into the etymology of the word to see if it justified changing 「ゼッピー」's name to "Seppy", and the verdict was a unanimous "no".  Word of God aside, the voicing mark on the 「ゼ」 makes it abundantly clear that the name is pronounced with a 'z' sound and not the 's' sound of "sepia".  Second, our favorite squid's ink is black, not sepia-toned.  Third, Zeppy does not possess the cuttlefish's signature W-shaped eyes, so he's definitely not a cuttlefish himself.  In the end, the evidence presented wasn't compelling enough to warrant changing a name we've grown to love.

On the flip side, reclassifying this mid-boss as a hydra reinforces RKS's link to the Castlevania series (namely, through Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles' remake of Rondo of Blood).

Back on topic: the hydra is a well-known sea serpent from Greek and Roman mythology.  In some versions of the story of Hercules, the Hydra of Lerna grew two new heads whenever one was cut off, leading many to believe that the creature was immortal.  It is for this reason that a certain clandestine organization in the Marvel universe named itself after the mythical beast.  Curiously, only more recent versions of the hydra myth claimed that the monster was capable of regenerating its heads...

Leviathan, the namesake of Trauare's spear as well as the Megaman Zero character she pays homage to is a great sea serpent in Norse mythology.  However, the Leviathan has a single head.  As fitting as it would be for Trau's signature polearm to be named after the beasts in her domain, the reference just doesn't quite match up.  Oh well...

Grolla Stage

Japanese:  「ビシュヌ」
English:  "Vishnu"

Though it looks nothing like Him, this skeletal totem is named after the All-Pervading One from Hindu mythology.  Vishnu has many incarnations, including Rama and Krishna.  He is part of Hinduism's Holy Trinity alongside Brahma and Shiva.

You may be surprised to learn that 1) my mother is Hindu, and 2) my younger brother's middle name is Vishnu.  Since the first time we watched another of my brothers play through Final Fantasy IV and VI, we've always been amused that Squaresoft decided to put a spin on Shiva's gender despite their titles featuring a long line of handsome, effeminate men (amusingly enough, said brother's middle name is Shiva).  Yes, Shiva has blue skin, but He is the father (not mother) of Ganesh, another Hindu deity you may recognize (Ganesh is featured prominently in Dhalsim's stage in Street Fighter II).

In any event, I like many of the incarnations of Shiva within Final Fantasy as well as the look of RKS's Vishnu, even if they aren't mythologically accurate.

Sichte Stage

Japanese:  「エスカルゴ カメ」
English:  "Tortoisnail"

A clear nod to Escaroo from Megaman 4.  Going solely by its environment, Tortoisnail ("Escargot Kame" in Japanese) could very well be mistaken for a terrapin.  For those of you who aren't aware of the difference: turtles are aquatic animals and tortoises are land-lovers, while terrapins prefer to live in swampy areas like sewers and marshes.  All three species have evolved different physical features appropriate for their preferred habitat.  However, the mid-boss's domed shell and lack of webbed feet show that the creature is a tortoise that decided to seek shelter from the rain.

As for why its eyes are able to detach from its face...  Well, that's most likely a nod to the source material, with a bit of artistic license thrown in for good measure.

A Lone Homunculus
Iris Stage III

Japanese:  「ホムンクルス」
English:  "Homunculi"

The Fullmetal Alchemist fans among you should instantly recognize the term "homunculus" (plural: homunculi) as the name for synthetic human beings created by alchemy (a hybrid of science and magic).  Fittingly enough, homunculi are described in the third manifesto of the real-life Order of the Rose Cross, Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz ("The Chemical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreuz").  The Swiss-German philosopher and occultist Paracelsus described at length the steps necessary to create a homunculus, which include (among other things) nourishing a man's sperm with human blood for 40 days and nights before implanting it into a horse's womb.  Ewww...

Referred to as 「ボスラッシュ ドクロボット」 ("Boss Rush Skullbot") in the game's code, RKS's homunculi are undeniable references to Skullbot K-176 (frequently mistranslated as "Doc Robot") from Megaman 3.  Like their skull-faced counterparts, the homunculi adopt the abilities of prior bosses.  Unlike K-176, however, these synthetic humanoids also take on the likenesses of the characters whose abilities they possess.  This detail is an important point in the plot of Freudenstachel, which may explain why WOMI decided to retcon the creatures' name.

Well, that's all for now.  Xander and I will be attending Otakuthon in Montreal this weekend (August 5-7).  If any of you are in the area and wish to say hi, leave a comment and we'll see if we can work something out.

See you later!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Provisional RKS Developer Diary: Passing the Torch...

My old Compaq Presario CQ50 and
my new Asus Rogue GL752VW.
Hello, everyone!

It's been pretty eventful on our end since the last RKS Developer Diary.  Our release candidate for Rosenkreuzstilette has been submitted, and the DRM-free version of the game is ready to go.  Our publisher, Active Gaming Media, wishes to release the game simultaneously on Steam and on their Playism portal.  I can appreciate why they'd want to launch both versions of the game at the same time and fully support their decision; I ask that you be patient while they get everything sorted out with WOMI and Valve on their end.

Shortly after the release candidate was finalized, the time had finally come for the Compaq Presario I've been using for the past seven years to retire.  As you may recall, I've been having problems with this machine since last November, when its hard drive failed and delayed the project.  I've since replaced the hard drive, but a new problem arose that I hadn't anticipated.  Whether due to the new hard drive's specs or the laptop's age, its cooling system couldn't keep up with my typical workload.  It's a good thing I've developed a habit over the years of hitting Ctrl+S every time I make a significant change to my work; the emergency shutdown would kick in every time the machine's internal temperature hit 145° Fahrenheit, forcibly terminating everything until the machine had sufficiently cooled down.  I could pop the laptop in the freezer for ten minutes to quickly cool it down and resume my work after a short break (and did so on many an occasion), but the condensation and the effect the rapid temperature change had on the laptop's power supply port placed a hard cap on just how many times I could do that without causing permanent damage to the motherboard.  So, sensing that the end was nigh, I gathered up all of the change in my tip drawer and used that as the budget for my new laptop.  Good thing I'd been saving my spare change for the past 2 years!

With some help from my ex-girlfriend's father (I'm on very good terms with my ex and her family) and a lot of extra legwork, I tracked down a worthy investment.  The time between my order being finalized at NCIX and Purolator showing up at my door was less than 48 hours (yowza!).  Too bad I was at work at the time and had to trek to the middle of nowhere to pick up my parcel on my next day off.  To that end, I am immensely grateful that my weekends are Monday and Tuesday -- I wouldn't have been able to pass by during their opening hours if I had the standard Saturday / Sunday weekend.

Having finally had a chance to play around with my new toy (or, as my ex's dad put it, "feel her up"), I'm very pleased with my new Asus ROG ("Rogue") GL752VW.  It came preloaded with Windows 10 Home, and I'm quite happy to see that our release candidate of RKS worked straight out of the box without the need for any additional tweaks.

Speaking of RKS:  today marks the seventh anniversary of Rosenkreuzstilette's English language debut.  Yes, our English fan translation was released today seven years ago.  It would have been nice to have the official English release coincide with this milestone; it's a bit of a shame that things didn't quite work out that way.  Oh well...

It'll take a little while for me to migrate my stuff over from the Presario to the new Rogue.  In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions you wish about the upcoming English release.  There's still a bit more material for new Developer Diary entries, so let me know what you'd like us to shine a spotlight on next.  For the sake of keeping a few things a surprise, I won't be showcasing all of the Game Over references (though I wouldn't mind doing a text-only version with just a handful of screenshots to illustrate the differences between our fan-translated versions and our official ones) and I won't be going over references in the English script itself.  However, I can go over the German in the spoken dialogue, the subtle changes we've made to some of the stage backgrounds, look at the names of the midbosses and minor enemies, as well as a few other things that aren't coming to mind at the moment.  If there's anything you're curious about, leave a comment and let me know what you're interested in hearing about.

Until next time!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Meet Luste's Namesake

Hello, everyone!

Sorry for not chiming in on your questions in the comments as quickly as I should.  It's crunch time at Darksquid Media, and that unfortunately means our free time is practically nonexistent.  That, coupled with my browser's inability to stay logged in whenever I try to reply to a comment, forced me to let lingering questions fall by the wayside.

In any event, our first release candidate for Rosenkreuzstilette should be ready before the week is out.  Whether there are any issues left that necessitate a second revision will depend on how big a list of requested fixes we receive from the playtesting crew.  Big publishers believe in waiving "known shippable" bugs, but I don't.  At least, not as far as localization programming bugs are concerned -- if that part of the list isn't zero, that means I haven't been doing my job well enough.  Issues present in the original Japanese version will be considered on a case-by-case basis (i.e.: if we can fix 'em in a timely manner, we will, but if it'd delay the release by a month or two, we'd rather try and address 'em after the fact).

In the meantime, here's a video that Luste fans should be able to appreciate.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 23, 2016

RKS Developer Diary #11 - Who's the Boss?

...And we're back!

Today, we'll be having a look at the names of the RKS stage bosses.  Not the lovely ladies of RKS, mind you.  I'm referring to the bosses that never get a character overlay on the Stage Select screen.  Wouldn't you know it:  Isemiya provided official names for each of the bosses in the game's source code!  Where appropriate, we'll be canonizing these names as the official English names of the game's bosses.  In a few rare instances, we'll be promoting some fan-made nicknames to the level of canon, with our rationale for choosing these names over the original Japanese ones available for all to see.

Are you ready?  Let's get started!

Demon's Wall
Zeppelin Stage I

Japanese:  「デモンズウォール」
English:  "Demon's Wall"

While the circumstances in which this boss is fought are a clear homage to Mecha Dragon from Megaman 2, the boss itself is a Japanese role-playing game staple.  You can find Demon's Wall several times throughout the Final Fantasy series (though not always with the same name), as well as in Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire II, and many, many other titles.  The little crosses it releases that move like Telly from Megaman 2 are officially known as "Demon's Cross" (「デモンズ十字架」).

Zeppelin Stage II

Japanese:  「ピコピコグラス」
English:  "Poltergeist"

"Picopico Glass" is intended as a reference to "Picopico-kun" (literally, "Bleep Bleep Boy"), the boss of Wily Stage II in Megaman 2.  "Picopico" (or "pikopiko") is a Japanese onomatopoeia for the bleeps and bloops made by a computer or robot, though its meaning has been expanded to include other cutesy sounds.  You might recognize the "Pikopiko Hammer" as a recurring gag weapon in Japanese games:  a rubber mallet that makes an amusing squeak upon impact.

While the RKS boss attacks in the same way as its Megaman 2 counterpart, the sound it makes is decidedly more harsh.  We briefly considered localizing the name as "Smashy Smashy Glass", but ultimately couldn't get over the fact that the name sounded ridiculous.  Moreover, RKS is as much an homage to Castlevania as it is to Megaman, and poltergeist phenomena are a frequent occurrence in the former.  Since "Poltergeist" has already been accepted as the English name of the boss, we figured we may as well make the name official.

Zeppelin Stage III

Japanese:  「タナトス」
English:  "Thanatos"

Ah, death incarnate: Sir Raimund Seyfarth.  Thanatos is the god of death in Greek mythology, commonly depicted as a cloaked skeleton wielding a large scythe.  Seyfarth earned this nickname with his merciless demeanor on the battlefield.  It's only fitting that, after he is brought back from the grave by Zeppelin's necromancy, he appears in the form of the Grim Reaper himself.  As I've mentioned before, "Thanatos" is also the name of the stage he appears in (for Tia, at least), and the German subtitle for the stage, "Der Sensenmann", is one of the many German names for the Reaper.

Count Michael Zeppelin
Zeppelin Stage IV

Japanese:  「ミヒャエル・ゼッペリン伯爵」
English:  "Count Michael Zeppelin"

There's no real need to include this boss in the list, but I figured I may as well throw him in for the sake of completeness.  Since the Japanese script uses the honorific 「伯爵」 ("hakushaku") instead of 「グラフ」 ("graf"), we decided to translate the count's title into English instead of rendering it in German.  Count Zeppelin is an obvious nod to Count Vlad Tepes Dracula, so we figured it was only appropriate that their titles match as well.

Amusingly enough, Zeppelin's primary attack (which fans have dubbed "Höllenfeuer", German for "Hellfire"), is identified as 「ウェーブ炎」 ("Fire Wave") in the source code.  Come to think of it, the attack does look like a charged Fire Wave from Megaman X...

The Nightwalker
Japanese:  「夜を往くもの」
English:  "The Nightwalker"

A nod to "True Dracula" (a mistranslation of "True Ancestor Dracula", or "Pureblood Dracula") from Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow, The Dracula X Chronicles, and Harmony of Despair -- though the similarities are purely on the superficial level.  The name may well be a reference to the nighttime form of the God of the Forest from the Studio Ghibli animated film Princess Mononoke.  The RKS demon's posture is similar to that of the forest deity's, at the very least.  Coincidence?  Who knows.  It's a pretty fitting name either way.

Webmaster Spider
Iris Stage I

Japanese:  「アミダクモ」
English:  "Webmaster Spider"

A pun and a two-for-one reference!  Naturally, this battle is intended as a nod to Bosspider, the boss of Sigma Palace I in the original Megaman X, as well as the Repliforce jungle commando, Web Spider, from Megaman X4  The 「アミ」 in the RKS boss's name means both a spider web and a computer network (i.e.: the World Wide Web).  When a pun in the original Japanese just works in English, I'm honor-bound to preserve it.  As a nice touch, Bosspider and Webmaster Spider are both susceptible to ice-based weapons.  And, those who know the popular children's song may notice that rain will wash the spider out...

Deviled Egg
Iris Stage II

Japanese:  「イエローデビル」
English:  "Deviled Egg"

Naturally, this guy is an obvious reference to Yellow Devil from the original Megaman.  As tempting as it is to use that name in English, the name "Yellow Devil" is pretty much the property of Capcom.  Rather than step on their toes and name one of our bosses after theirs, we decided to go with the visual pun lampshaded by the stage's Game Over reference: the Wind Fish's Egg from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.  When a pun that delicious presents itself, we just can't resist.

Speaking of deliciousness: deviled eggs are quite tasty.  If you haven't tried them before, give them a shot.  They make for a great snack.

Iris Machine
Iris Stage III

Japanese:  「イーリスマシン」
English:  "Iris Machine"

This one's a no-brainer; it's a reference to Wily Machine 2 from Megaman 2.  At first, Iris Machine is reinforced with raw mana crystals, both as shielding and as a power supply.  Once the shielding is destroyed, the real battle with Iris Zeppelin begins.  The two forms are identified as such in the source code: 「イーリスマシン 岩足場」 ("Iris Machine - Mana Crystal Reinforced") and 「イーリスマシン イーリス」 ("Iris Machine - Iris"), respectively.

Iris Capsule
Final Stage

Japanese:  「イーリスカプセル」
English:  "Iris Capsule"

Ever since Megaman 4, you could always expect the battle with a Wily Machine to be followed by a nerve-wracking showdown with a Wily Capsule.  The series of battles with Iris Zeppelin is no different.  Iris's disappearing capsule is modeled after the Wily Capsule as it appears in Megaman 4 and Megaman 5.  Curiously, despite her narcissism, Iris doesn't have a personal crest prominently displayed on the Iris Capsule like good ol' Albert...

The Wings of Madness - Iris Zeppelin
Japanese:  「ラストイーリス イーリス発狂羽」
English:  "The Wings of Madness: Iris Zeppelin"

Here it is: the final battle. With an Ocarina of Time-styled subtitle, no less. I'm quite happy to see that, for the final battle, [erka:es] decided to do its own thing instead of channeling the final boss battle of another game for RKS's grand finale (mechanically-speaking; visually, it's a clear nod to the final battle with Lumine from Megaman X8).  They could have easily had Final Iris channel the Alien from Megaman 2 or something along those lines.

The only real difference between the English and Japanese renditions of this boss's name is the styling.  The Japanese reads, "Last Iris - Demented Wings Iris".  As you can see, the final name we decided on isn't much of a stretch from the original.  Had we retained the "last" bit, we would have definitely reworded it to use "final" instead.  Y'know, for the sake of consistency...

...Whoa, it's this late already?  Looks like I need to get some shut-eye; even if we're in the final stretch, we're not done yet!

See you next time!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Provisional RKS Developer Diary: You have got to be kidding me... Part Deux

Artist's Rendition
Hello, everyone!  Good God, it's been too long since my last entry.

We've had another series of unfortunate events since my last post, one not unlike what happened in November.  Another inaccessible hard drive, another series of departures at work resulting in me being drafted for overtime (this time, my boss refused to hire a replacement -_-;), another multi-week bout of insomnia, and another period of health problems and burn-out (...comes with the territory when you have to juggle too many responsibilities at once).  Thankfully, the local college (my alma mater) has wrapped up for the summer, meaning my workload during the day is now back to some semblance of normalcy.

Before anyone asks:  no, we didn't have another hard drive failure.  It's something far, far dumber.  The USB connection on my external Western Digital My Book Essential came loose, meaning I had to way of hooking up the drive to my computer.  This drive is my personal storage drive, not my project drive, so don't worry, all of the RKS project files are safe.  Anyway, I decided to remove the enclosure and hook up the drive to my roommate's tower directly so I could migrate my stuff over to my other hard drive.  What should have been a simple procedure that I've done thousands of times before instead resulted in me discovering a ridiculous design flaw and experiencing an unhealthy amount of buyer's remorse.

As you may or may not be aware, Western Digital's external drives are self-encrypting.  More specifically, the SATA-to-USB bridge automatically encrypts the contents of the drive as it's being written to the drive, and automatically decrypts data as it's being read from the drive.  The encryption key is stored on a chip on the bridge's circuit board.  If you remove the hard drive enclosure and try to hook up the hard drive to a PC motherboard via SATA, said PC thinks the drive hasn't been initialized yet because its Master Boot Record is unreadable without the encryption key.  Already, this is a pretty stupid design flaw; you effectively have a safe that can no longer be used because you have no way of inserting the key into its keyhole (remember, the SATA-to-USB bridge is broken).

The story gets worse.  As it turns out, the USB connection on Western Digital drives are quite flimsy; I came across tons of people who had their USB jacks simply fall off the way mine had from normal everyday use.  When this issue was brought to Western Digital's attention, rather than take responsibility for releasing a faulty product, their support staff instead chose to insult its customers, insisting that any damage that might have occurred was their own fault and their responsibility.

...Please excuse me while I facepalm.
Artist's Rendition

I'll level with you here.  A design oversight can be forgiven.  If someone accepts responsibility for their mistake, honestly apologizes, and makes some semblance of trying to make amends, I don't think I'd have any problem putting the issue behind me.

This is the exact opposite.  This is scapegoating.  An adamant refusal to accept responsibility.  To the people who invested hundreds of dollars apiece, no less.

I'm tempted to go on a rant here seeing as scapegoating is my #1 berserk button.  But I'm sure nobody would enjoy that, least of all me.

(To anyone who honestly wants to see me pissed off:  dude, you need a better hobby.)

On the positive side, I've been in touch with a data recovery specialist who has successfully defeated Western Digital's self-encryption and salvaged the contents of many WD drives (he's filmed the process, and I'm quite impressed).  His estimate for a successful recovery is $400 USD plus shipping (which, in all fairness, is dirt-cheap as far as data recovery rates go -- most charge by the megabyte).  So, in the end, my $200 investment in Western Digital will ultimately cost me over $600.

I don't think anyone will hold it against me if I choose to never give Western Digital any of my business again. 


Please excuse the lack of professionalism in this post.  I really needed to get that off of my chest.

Back to business:  I'm pleased to report that Rosenkreuzstilette has officially entered its testing phase.  Version 2.0 of the English script has been fully inserted, and the crew at Active Gaming Media is hard at work bug-testing the game while we're working on the rest of the release.  There's still a bit of fine-tuning to be done, but thankfully not a whole lot of work overall.  I've also implemented more than a handful of secrets into the game that I'm sure everyone will appreciate.  Instructions on how to access these secrets are scattered throughout the release; I'll say no more on that subject since I don't want to spoil the surprise.

...Okay, I'll give you one factoid to tide you over.  The original game had just one secret code.  The English release has at least quadruple that amount.  What do they do?  You'll have to play the game when it's ready to find out.

Now that that's out of the way, onto the next RKS Developer Diary!  I've got a few screenshots I need to grab for this entry,  but I'll be back in a few hours!  This time, we'll be going over some details that'll have a few of you rushing over to the wikis...

See you soon!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PSA: RKS at Anime Boston 2016!

Hello, everyone!

Our good friend Kilgamayan, who you may remember as the first Let's Player on YouTube to cover our English fan translation of Rosenkreuzstilette, will be hosting a special panel on the Rosenkreuzstilette series this weekend at Anime Boston 2016.  It'll be an entry-level, spoiler-free panel that will give new players an idea of what to expect from the series as well as what newcomers and veterans alike can look forward to in our official English release, as well as some amusing bits of trivia that you'd never have guessed!

To make things more interesting, we've passed Kilga a little something that's bound to make the panel much, much livelier.  Consider Kilga as our official proxy; we've already briefed him on what details he can safely let out of the bag and what needs to stay under wraps until we're ready to roll.

"Mahou Shoujo Megaman: the Rosenkreuzstilette Panel" will take place Saturday, March 26th at 7:00 pm in Hynes panel room 310.  If you can make it, by all means go ahead and check it out!

Monday, February 29, 2016

RKS Developer Diary #10 - I Understood That Reference

Hello, everyone!

I've been wanting to make this post for quite some time.  Thanks to my day job, changes around the homestead, a series of untimely developments, and a bad case of insomnia, I had little choice but to prioritize the urgent over the important for much longer than I'd like.  Now that the interruptions have been taken care of (and my sleep patterns seems to have returned to normal), I'm proud to showcase what may be the most significant improvement to the Rosenkreuzstilette localization since our original fan translation: our real-time subtitle feature.

The first time you boot up the new version of Rosenkreuzstilette, English subtitles will be enabled by default.  If you would like to disable subtitles at any time for any reason, just tap the F2 key to toggle them on or off.  The game will immediately save your choice to config.dat, so if you're a purist who'd rather not clutter up the screen, you don't need to worry about disabling subtitles every single time you launch the game.  Originally, F2 toggled whether Vertical Synchronization (V-Synch) was enabled or not.  In version 1.06a, [erka:es] decided to disable the hotkey since activating V-Synch required a restart, rendering a real-time V-Synch toggle effectively useless.  We decided to put the disabled hotkey code to good use.

As tempting as it would be to go over every character's dialogue and point out all of the references present in their voice clips, I have to save something for the full release, don't I?  So, rather than doing that, I figured I'd go over some of our localization choices with a bit of trivia thrown in.  As usual, feel free to leave any feedback in the comments:

Spiritia Rosenberg
"I'm not done yet!"

(Zero, Megaman X4 / X, Megaman X8 / Vile, Maverick Hunter X)

Tia cries this out the moment her vitality falls below 50%.  Those of you who have played through Megaman X4 in the original Japanese might recognize this cry as the same one Zero uses in the same circumstances.  Interestingly enough, variants of this line are used throughout the series - by Zero, X, and even Vile.  We decided to use X's rendition from X8 for Tia, and save Zero's more iconic X4 rendition ("It's not over yet!") for Freudia in Freudenstachel.

Freudia Neuwahl
"You could use a nice, cold nap."

(Frost Walrus, Megaman X4)

One of Freu's one-liners is a nod to the boast Frost Walrus uses in the Japanese version of Megaman X4.  Unfortunately, Capcom USA decided to cut the voices for the eight boss Mavericks instead of dubbing them into English, meaning there is no official English rendition of this line we can reference.  Literally, the two say variants of, "I'll lay you to rest on a bed of ice"; we revised the line to sound more like the subtle threat it's supposed to be (and downplay the cheese in the "ice" pun).

Bist du bereit?
Zorne Zeppelin
"I'm not gonna hold back!"

(Colonel, Megaman X4)

If you can believe it, this Zorne line is actually a reference to the Japanese version of Colonel's "I'll show you no mercy! Now, get ready!". Unfortunately, the British mannerisms Capcom decided to give his character don't flow well from the fiery redhead, so, unfortunately, the reference just had to go.  We rephrased the line to sound like something Zorne would actually say.

Nothing personal, but she's got orders.
Trauare Wrede
"Maybe a jellyfish would put up a better fight?"

(Jet Stingray, Megaman X4)

If you choose to fight Trau before defeating Zorne, Trau uses the exact same boast as Megaman X4's Jet Stingray, which was also left on the cutting room floor by Capcom USA's decision to remove the boss Maverick voices.  Jellyfish are quite lethal because of the poisonous barbs that cover their bodies; even a dead jellyfish can kill you if you touch their corpse.  There are two possible interpretations to the Japanese in this line: Trau and Stingray may be implying that even the dead stand a better chance against them than you do.  They might also be insinuating something to the effect of, "it looks like this jellyfish still has some life in her".  Which of these interpretation do you prefer?

Luste Teuber
"Let's play Tag! Tia, you're it!"
「ヒーローごっこしよ! ティアが悪者ね!」

(Split Mushroom, Megaman X4)

Yep, another deleted X4 reference.  "Hero-gokko" is actually a play on "Oni-gokko", the Japanese name for the game of Tag.  Japanese children love giving traditional games new names when they've implemented rules of their own (see: "Old Man" in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, a variant of Old Maid that ultimately plays a strong narrative role in the story).  Luste refers to Tia by name, whereas Split Mushroom uses "kimi" ("you") to refer to both X and Zero with the same line.  Unlike Mushroom, Luste's AI actively seems to be playing Tag with Tia, rushing to the other side of the room whenever Tia gets close.  This line is a perfect example of why a literal translation isn't necessarily an accurate one.

The typesetting has not yet been finalized;
we're aware that Sichte's lines are difficult to read.
Sichte Meister
"For the honor of RKS, I shall strike you down!"

(Jet Stingray, Megaman X4)

More X4 references?  It looks like Isemiya and WOMI love the game just as much as I do.  Sichte's line is a variation of Stingray's, replacing his reference to the Repliforce army with RKS.  We're still on the fence as to whether we should preserve the (officially-untranslated) reference as-is or if we should go for a slightly more fluid, "In the name of RKS, I shall carry out your sentence" (remember, Tia has been charged with treason -- a crime punishable by death -- and Sichte is her commanding officer).  Your thoughts?

That's "Freeze!" in German.
"Time, be still!"

(Dio Brando, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure / Zephyr, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin)

Dio is a fairly popular character among Japanese game developers, and many of their original characters are inspired at least in part by the deranged vampire.  His iconic Stand, "The World", allows him to manipulate time itself, and the words he shouts when he does so are instantly recognizable, even to those who aren't Jojo fans.  Project Touhou's Sakuya Izayoi, Castlevania's Zephyr, and RKS's Sichte Meister are just a few examples of the characters he has inspired.  Given how many different official renditions of "toki yo tomare!" there are to choose between, we decided to go with the one that would resonate best with RKS's target audience.  Given no less than five different characters in the Castlevania mythos use Dio's line (Richter Belmont, Soma Cruz, Julius Belmont, Jonathan Morris, and Zephyr), it only made sense to follow their lead and render the line as, "Time, be still!".

Liebea Palesch
"Stay with me, Brother...!"

(Iris, Megaman X4)

Yet another Megaman X4 reference.  On one hand, the major characters of X4 all have their dialogue dubbed in English.  On the other hand, their lines are somewhat over-localized: "Stay with me, Brother...!" doesn't mean the same thing as "Brother, protect me...!"...  Given Liebea is thoroughly an embodiment of Iris's character -- a pacifist caught in the crossfire who just wants the ones she loves to stay safe -- we decided to go with the official localization, even if it's not 100% accurate.

Raimund Seyfarth
"That was a magnificent battle...!"

(Armored Armadillo, Maverick Hunter X)

Believe it or not, one of Seyfarth's victory cries is a reference to the Maverick Hunter X incarnation of Armored Armadillo.  In Japanese, Seyfarth and Armadillo both follow the creed of the samurai.  Unfortunately, this element of Armadillo's personality was lost in translation; in English, he comes across as stoic and stubborn instead of honor-bound and dutiful.  In Maverick Hunter X, "Tatakai datta..." was rendered as, "It was a good fight..."; we revised the line to fit better with Seyfarth's battle-hungry personality.

I'm tempted to keep going and shine a spotlight on the remaining characters, but this post is already long enough as-is, and I need to make sure that at least a few of the references can still surprise you in the final release.  We're regularly submitting debug builds to the publisher, so it's only a matter of time before the game is ready for release.

Well, that's all for now.  See you next time!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Help Wanted: The Hyper Dragon Chip Challenge

Megaman 7 - Versus Mode
Hold L & R and press Start
Hello, everyone.  Sorry to keep you waiting!

There are still a few things on the ol' To-Do List that need taking care of before I can roll out the next RKS Developer Diary.  Assuming everything goes according to plan in the next few days, the next entry should be ready sometime this weekend.  As I've hinted to before, we'll be taking a closer look at one of the new features that we had to code from scratch, as well as a handful of related homages that no one had the means to appreciate in our original fan translation.  You'll understand what I mean by that once the next post is ready.

In the meantime, I'd like to ask a few of you to lend me a hand with something I've been tinkering with on the side:

As I mentioned in my last post, I enjoy cracking the password schemes of my favorite games both as a mental exercise and as a way of figuring out the intricacies of how the games work.  Sundays at my day job have been rather slow as of late, so I've often found myself whipping out my notes and trying to figure out exactly how the password schemes for all four Megaman titles on the Super Nintendo function -- with fascinating results.  Well, after a few weeks of waiting around for customers to serve, I'm proud to say that I've completely cracked the code schemes for all four games.  I've also written password generators for all four games in Microsoft Excel, so I'm now able to generate passwords for any scenario I could possibly want (provided the relevant variables I want to manipulate are actually stored in the password).

Megaman X - Hadouken
Hold L, R, X & Down and press Start
Interestingly enough, I'm pleased to report that the long-held belief that the "100% completion" bonuses of Megaman X through X3 (the Hadouken, the Shoryuken, and the Hyper Chip - a.k.a the Gold Armor) weren't being saved in your passwords is decidely not true.  Don't believe me?  Boot up Megaman X, enter the password 3673-2177-2487, hold the L, R, X and Down buttons, then press Start to confirm the code.  Enter any stage, then immediately press Down, Down-Forward, Forward, Y to fire a Hadouken without needing to return to the cliff in Armored Armadillo's Stage.  Ah, the convenience!

Suffice to say, I've isolated the exact variables that determine whether or not you resume your game with the completion bonus equipped.  I've also determined that these variables are automatically reset if a specific combination of buttons is not held down when the Start button is pressed to confirm the password entry.  Megaman 7 confirms this theory since its completion bonus, Versus Mode, is unlocked in the exact same manner -- holding down the L and R buttons before confirming the password entry with Start.

Megaman X2 - Shoryuken
Starts at X-Hunter Stage 2
Hold Down, Left, R & B and press Y
As tempting as would be to spend my free time uncovering some brand-new secrets in two of my favorite games, I have more important matters to attend to at the moment that must take priority (namely, finishing the remaining work on RKS).  So, while I'm busy working on RKS, I'd like to release a pair of passwords and ask the RKS community to help figure out the secret in my stead.

For the emulation enthusiasts among you, what I'm asking should be relatively simple (if time-consuming).  Launch your favorite Super Nintendo emulator (preferably SNES9x, Higan, RetroArch, or ZSNES), boot up either Megaman X2 or X3, and enter the corresponding password pictured in this post.  Before pressing Start to confirm the password and start your game, record a save-state.  Then, hold down a button or two (or three, or four... could be as many as six buttons - I don't know...) and press Start.  The X2 password will start you at Serges' Stage  (X-Hunter Stage 2),  while the X3 code will start you at Doppler Town Stage 1 with Bit, Byte, and Vile alive and Zero's Z-Saber equipped (remember: to get the Z-Saber, you need fight Mosquitus as Zero, which is impossible to do when while Vile is still alive ^_^).  In either case, check to see if the completion bonus is equipped (in X2's case, press Forward, Down, Down-Forward, Y or Back, Down, Forward, Y to execute a Shoryuken; in X3's, whether X's armor is gold instead of blue should be obvious).  If it didn't work, reload your save-state and try again with a different button combination, recording which ones worked and which ones didn't.

Megaman X3 - Hyper Chip
Vile rematch with the Z-Saber
No code available...
I have no way of knowing how little or how much time the process of pinpointing the secret button combination might take since I have no idea how complex the combinations might be.  However, we can safely exclude the B and Y buttons from among the possibilities since they have other functions on the password scheme (Y increases any given digit's value in both games, and B decreases the digit's value in X2 and returns to the Title Screen in X3).  So, that leaves any combination among the four directional buttons (Up, Down, Left, and Right), L, R, X, A, and Select.  If you don't have a gamepad, check if your emulator allows you to map custom commands to a single button (I know for sure that ZSNES supports this feature; I used to map the Hadouken / Shoryuken to my Dual Shock 2's R2 button when playing X / X2).

By my calculations, the odds of any particular button combination being the correct one is 255 to one, so only take part in this task if you have plenty of free time to kill.  That said, thank you to everyone who is interested in helping out.  Here's hoping we're able to find the final piece in this pair of 20+ year old mysteries.

That said, I wish you luck!  See you later!

Update: Justin3009 from has figured out the codes!  Good work, Justin!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Just For Fun: The Rockbreaker Code

This password works with the original
cartridge and the Virtual Console re-release.
Hello, everyone!  It's been pretty busy at my day job for the past little while, so I figured I'd take a breather today and properly recharge my batteries before I plunge back into my RKS workload tomorrow morning (remember, my weekends are Monday and Tuesday, not the standard Saturday and Sunday).  Since nothing prepares me for working on RKS better than Megaman, I figured I'd dust off my old console and give the black sheep of the original series a go after I-don't-know-how-many years.

Following last week's discussion on password cracking, I noticed that nobody has ever fully deciphered the password scheme for Megaman 7.  Not one to let an interesting challenge slip by, I decided to take a crack at it and see if there was a reason behind the lack of details.  Skip ahead a few hours, and I can confidently say that I've found my answers.  I have to admit, the guys working for Capcom in the mid-90's were brilliant programmers; how the game validates each password would definitely frighten wannabe crackers away.

Mad Grinder, meet the Hyper Rocket Buster.
Of course, it goes without saying that I've completely cracked the code.  After isolating what each individual value does, I've generated some very interesting passwords that significantly change how the game can be played.  I'll be publishing my findings after I've had the chance to properly organize the data, but that won't be for a little while since RKS naturally takes priority.

Still, I've decided to release a single custom password that will allow you to have fun with the game in a way you might not have expected.  I'm tempted to post a bunch of screenshots elaborating on what I mean, but I think it'd be a better idea to preserve the surprise and let you discover the intricacies for yourself.

The above password will start you at the very beginning of the game.  The moment you pause your game, you'll notice that something is a bit different (...well, a lot different, especially on the second page of the Status Subcreen).  Once you finish the first battle with Bass, the game opens up completely.  For better or worse, this password only works with authentic versions of the game (the original cartridge, the Virtual Console re-release, or up-to-speed Super Nintendo emulators); the code will not work on the incomplete port of the game found in the Megaman Anniversary Collection.  Given some of the cuts that were made to that version of the game, it's not really a big loss.

That said, enjoy!