Even though I'd already decided that the level design aspect alone of this Super Mario ROM hack project made it too problematic to be worthwhile (even though it was very simplistic, compared to any other ROM you'd want to hack), I still wanted to finish the thing. That meant trying to do anything else I'd be required to do if I pursued a legit project. In other words, I needed to change some sprites, work out the colors, and get some new text.

My first thought was to change out the Bullet Bills I had flying around the level. All the goombas had been replaced with Bullet Bills because it meant Colure wouldn't encounter any enemies, making it (relatively) impossible for her to die. But flying bullets didn't really mesh with the cutsey theme, so they need to go!

There's a number of ways to get to the sprites at a center of a ROM-POP. I opted to rip em out and screw around with them in good old MS Paint. This is the part where I started to panic a bit.

Sprites don't come out in pretty pictures, which I remembered. Nor do they have the correct "colors", which I also remembered. What I didn't remember was how easily it was to get a headache staring at these things while you played "Where's Waldo?", or in my case, Bullet Bill. I momentarily gave up and decided to just change the flag logo at the end to a heart.

Cute, but serious weaksauce. With renewed vigor, I went back and found Mr. Bill. I had no idea what to do with him. A smiley face seemed likely. I passed this one over to my resident artist and had her think of something while I worried about solving other issues; namely, palette. I didn't want to be limited to Bullet Bill's white-black-red color scheme, but unfortunately, I quickly discovered that it'd be impossible to change. Well, maybe not impossible, but very ill-advised. Early games had limited palettes, and plenty of objects shared the same one. In Bullet Bill's case, he happened to share the same palette as all of the environment backgrounds. Changing him to pink, for example, gave the whole world a serious hue of princess.

Not to be deterred, I opted to simply give our leading man a different coat of paint. Saddened that the world would not be bathed in pink, Colure suggested we make Mario dazzle instead. I obliged.

She also gave me two concepts to go with. One was too complicated to draw crosswise into four pieces; the other I could do poorly. So we went with that.

Finally, the only sort of thing I could think of to change that I hadn't yet was some text. So I fired up the old hex editor, worked up a letter table to help me find words (like I did back in the day when I wanted to prove that Shadow in FF6 didn't have a super-secret 7th dream), and made some minor changes. Fun to see how little text is actually used, and how much it stands out when you reduce everything down to hexadecimal.

And that's it. I'm ultimately amused by the project, but there's far better uses of time. I can really only see ROM-Hacking as a hobbyist pursuit by foaming-at-the-mouth fans of particular game, and I mean that in the most obsessive, craziest way. I might be a huge classic gamer, but considering just how cumbersome the process is, I don't think there's a single game I'd ever want to bother with that much.

So onto new horizons! We'll see what I end up screwing with next.

Posted by Kevin on 7:26 PM
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