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#1 Movie of All-Time
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KING Of All Schmoes
Ever wondered what your favorite games of today for high-end game machines like the PS3, X-BOX 360 or Wii would look on a retro older system like the 8-bit NES?
Well, that's exactly what some intrepid independent video game developers got the opportunity to explore and be able to flex their creative game-making muscles.
As the term "demake" suggests, this particular theme involved taking a modern next-gen game and proceed to remake or retool it to look as if it was made to run on retro older-generation console hardware. The basic premise of the game would remain, yet everything else including graphics and gameplay mechanics would be modified accordingly for the 8-bit era. The most obvious example of course is de-grading 3D games to 2D.
The other term "bootleg" refers to "unauthorized or unlicensed copy". Under no circumstances were copyrighted & trademarked names and ripped media content to be used in the final creation of their game remake. Everything was to be 100% original work, though obviously influenced and inspired by the source material. One example could be as simple as changing "Master Chief" to "Master Chef". Even a single violation of any existing IP would most likely result in instant disqualification, and shame.
The objective? To retain qualities and perhaps even the very essence of the original game's intent while also altering visuals & play mechanics in a significant way to potentially show it in a new, exciting or interesting light. Originality and creativity were emphasized and of utmost importance in this competition.
Which leads to...
Among the competitors, an independent game designer/developer named Jasper Byrne would take on the heady challenge of turning one of the best horror games of the modern era into a retro 2D-grade remake - SILENT HILL 2(2001).
This version, produced by his superflat games and cleverly named 'SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II', is Jasper's ambitious "demake" entry into TGISource's contest and was stirring up quite an early buzz on the forums even when it was just announced as a concept. He had successfully remade the original 3D 3rd-person PS2 game into a full-fledged 2D side-scrolling platformer modeled to look as if it were made to play as an 8-bit era NES game!
Music was also remixed to MIDI-like compositions not unlike those of early 90's console gaming.
SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II covers only the early opening portion of SH2, from the trek into town through the forest and up to the very beginning of the apartment section. Per its "bootleg" label, character names have been altered as follows:
Jake (SMII) = James (SH2)
Kate (SMII) = Mary (SH2)
Situations and storyline remain the same however. Jake comes to the town of 'Soundless Mountain' in search of his wife, Kate, after having received a letter from her telling him that she'd be waiting there for him. Despite the fact she's......dead. Along the way he'll meet a mysterious person in a cemetery and come across some strange monsters to fight, all the while dealing with a terrible headache while exploring this seemingly-deserted town on his journey to discover the origins of this cryptic letter.
Your adventure starts off slow as the player is introduced to using red squares as a way to save their progress, as well as interaction methods with certain objects and initiating conversations with other characters. In traditional 2D fashion, dialogue boxes and on-screen button prompts abound for each of these sequences. Combat begins soon after you've found a radio and a weapon(wooden plank with a nail in it) to protect yourself against the enemies you'll face.
Z - Ok / Use / Examine / Attack
X - Back / Enter weapon mode
M - Map
SPACE - Inventory
Down + Z - Kick (in walk mode)
Down + Z - Low Attack (in weapon mode)
Back + Z - Turn (in weapon mode)
Gameplay elements of the original have truly been adapted faithfully to the limitations and options of the 2D game world with a strong focus to retain the distinct art, music and speed of the original Konami classic. Backgrounds and locations are easily recognizable to even the casual SH2 gamer, Jake has a rather modest walking speed and music turns dramatic as key areas are reached.
As was the case with SH2, there is a large emphasis on exploration. Much of your time is spent wandering, as Jake will need to solve small puzzles while occasionally attacking enemies across the streets of town. Important items are stored in inventory and a map is available to guide Jake's way. Both of which, are accessible through a separate screen transition.
Graphics / Effects
SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II uses parallax scrolling, simulates fog & mist, and often has the camera scrolling faster or slower than the player's movement to enhance the cinematic effect.
Jasper explains the tech behind the game and how he brought his project to life:
"It's using my usual framework in BlitzMax (includes animation, tile-editor, scrolling, zooming, collision etc.). I chose the 160x120 to fit on a 640x480 screen, in some ways it's more of a GBC with NES palette."
Most of Jasper's time was spent just analyzing the original SH2 game, 10 - 15 hours studying every detail of the first 15 minutes of the gameplay. Making notes about pauses, transitions, sounds, camera and 'feel'. It was then just a matter of how to transpose all of this into a low-res 2D context. He also spent considerable time attempting to simulate the 'difficult' camera. It follows its own path and not necessarily the player's, thereby creating tension by pushing the player against the edge of the screen. Jasper may have been the first to innovate this camera technique for 2D gaming, as it doesn't appear to have ever been done previously!
SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II (2008) - Gameplay Video
This was not Jasper Byrne's first foray into a "demake" competition, but it's definitely meant the most thus far. When the contest was first announced, it was between two choices - a STREET FIGHTER II RPG or a SILENT HILL 2 NES port, as those were his two favorite games of all time..
Speaking on SH2:
"No game has ever conveyed so perfectly the human condition. Everything is there for a reason, even the red herrings. All of the gameplay and audiovisual elements are based around telling the story, and not the other way round. Everything in it re-enforces everything else with extra layers of depth and suggestion."
Jasper dedicated the game to his father, who had passed away just a year prior to its completion. So, choosing to remake SH2 and dealing with its theme of illness personally resonated with Jasper on a deeper emotional level...
"Because of this, making the game was a little traumatic at times. I remember watching the 'Making of...' video for SH2 and seeing the project leads get the team in and ask them to 'meditate on pain and suffering' (a Buddhist idea used in a strange context) - and I realised while making it that mindset was totally necessary, yet not very comfortable or easy. It wasn't that the game was hard to make, but it wasn't an easy mental place to be!"
Full Interview with SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II Creator Jasper Byrne(via Destructoid): http://www.destructoid.com/destructoid-interview-soundless-mountain-ii-s-jasper-byrne-104274.phtml
Having played the demo myself, SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II is a terrific port of SILENT HILL 2 within the confines of a 2D side-scrolling game format. Everything is faithfully reproduced and truly is a marvel and sight to behold for fans of the original game and the traditional retro old-school gamer such as myself. From the opening scenes to the descent into town, SMII wordlessly and perfectly conveys a passion and unique dedication to the artistic merits of the source material. The sound design is of a particularly exceptional note, effectively recreating SH2's eerie and unsettling atmosphere without being a blatant copycat of the original's tunes.
A more literal interpretation of SILENT HILL 2 on the NES
(not Jasper Byne's work)
It's truly a testament to SILENT HILL 2, how its core essentials and pure essence can be successfully portrayed in this manner even without the benefits of fancy state-of-the-art graphics, hardware power and voice acting. Of course I'd be lying if I said playing it is exactly the same as you would the PS2 original. Without a shadow of a doubt however, I can safely say that if SH2 were made back in the day for an 8-bit console like the NES......this is pretty much what it would be(if not better). A rather low-tech re-interpretation of the same stellar game it's always been.
Oh yeah.....dude won the contest.
Jasper Byrne's SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II took the top prize in the 'Bootleg Demakes' competition.
These are the results of the TOP 10 entries:
1. SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II (superflat)
2. GANG GARRISON 2 (mrfredman, MedO)
3. AQUARIUM (Oracle)
4. LITTLE GIRL IN UNDERLAND (The Ivy)
5. HOUSE GLOBE (Oxeye Games)
6. S.T.A.C.K.E.R. (Pishtaco)
7. SQUISH (Terry)
8. FILLAUTH (Oxeye Games) / MACARENA OF THE MISSING (Noyb)
9. SEXY SEASIDE BEACHBALL (lemmy101)
10. ADVANCED SET OF THE ROPE ON FIRE CARTRIDGE (Blueberry)
Voters were allowed to pick up to 8 of their favorite games. Out of a total of 68 entries, SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II came out the victor garnering 72 votes(out of a total of 192 voters), accounting for 6.5% of the total percentage of votes. It slightly edged out GANG GARRISON 2, which had 6.1% of the votes.
Full Results List: http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=2865.0
Jasper earned high acclaim all across the TIGForum boards in the thread he created for his demake to monitor its progress. It would soon spread to the rest of the net where the Silent Hill community got wind of this truly inspired project and was equally impressed as well.
Although fully playable, Jasper stresses that this demo version was still a work-progress and expresses interest to finish what he had started. The game ends abruptly once you enter the apartment area. He would like to at least finish that section, add a Mannequin monster or two and build your playthrough up to a dramatic climax leading up to an encounter with the infamous Pyramid Head. Which he will dub in his version - 'Polygon Head'.
This 'demake remake of SILENT HILL 2 holds more of a nostalgic value if nothing else, as most of the scenes will confuse players who are unfamiliar with the revered cult classic PS2 game. If that is the case, I still encourage you to check it out and play for yourself! If you have ever been the least bit interested in SH2 but never owned a PS2 or lacked the time, money or convenience to play.......consider this, a small taste of the real thing. :)
Download link for the free playable demo at the end of this BLOG. Enjoy!
Name: SOUNDLESS MOUNTAIN II
Creator: Jasper Byrne
Developer: superflat games
Category: Action, Adventure
Superflatgames - Soundless Mountain II Official Game Page - http://superflatgames.com/wordpress/?page_id=139
TIGForums 'Bootleg Demakes' Competition (Official Rules) - http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=2376.0
Original TIGForums thread for 'Soundless Mountain II' - http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=2481
Destructoid Interview: Jasper Byrne - http://www.destructoid.com/destructoid-interview-soundless-mountain-ii-s-jasper-byrne-104274.phtml
DOWNLOAD to PLAY! - SoundlessMountainII.zip