Welcome to “Semi?Conversion” ModInformer’s new almost weekly segment on the subject of “Fringe Modding!” </Cue Twilight Zone Music>, texture mods, RAM hacks, ROM hacks, and even memory card hacks, Modding isn’t just what one can do with a nifty SDK. Modding is the process by which we change one gaming experience into another, whether it be re-creating Black Mesa in a new engine, or changing the shade of Sonic’s Iconic blue in an old Genesis game.
A Short introduction to ROM Hacks
For “Semi?Conversion”-’s first piece I’d like to focus on Modding’s slightly older, more mysterious and sometimes brooding older brother “ROM hacking”, in short: the modification of “images” of older video games (mostly console titles of the 16-32 bit era) via varying methods (usually involving “brute force” ASM hacking, or the use of tools built via “brute force” ASM hacking).
(many) ROM hacks do differ from modding in one way major way however, – whereas Mods usually force a user to own a legal copy of the game he wishes to play a modified version of, on the system he owns it for – ROM hacks usually (with the exception of the always growing translation communities and most post PS1 hacks) come in the form of a complete modified game image, dropping them (in some cases) into the somewhat murky waters of “Maybe” legalness, and they can usually only be played via the use of emulation software.
So a small disclaimer before we begin: Do not download ROM hacks of games you do not own, this is probably not legal, if anything even try to use whatever hacks you want on the system you own the original game for.
One of the first ROM hacking communities I ever encountered was the one over at Retro Sonic, stumbling upon it when searching for the ROM from the “locked on” version of “Sonic the Hedgehog” that let you play as knuckles (as was possible when locking on most Sonic games to the “Sonic and Knuckles” cart), due to technical limitations however SEGA never actually did anything like this, instead what I discovered was a page dedicated to a ROM hack that did what SEGA could not.
Over the next couple of weeks I’m gonna try to bring you more articles on the subject of rom hacks, and (until I finish the genesis trilogy) particularly Sonic ROM hacks.
Let us begin with the first of firsts “Sonic the Hedgehog” for the genesis:
- Tails in Sonic the Hedgehog: Introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 it doesn’t seem that there has ever been a sonic game since that didn’t feature Sonic’s two tailed genius sidekick fox. This little gem (produced incrementally by both drx [v1] & Puto [v2]) brings him one step back to Sonic’s original solo outing, with handling borrowed from the refined Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
- Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog: The aforementioned Knuckles mod, while popping the original Sonic 1 into the Sonic and Knuckles cart would at best let you play a limited version of Sonic 3’s special stage, this so-called “holy grail of ROM hacking” as brought to you by the hacking prophet and guru Stealth, will let you do what SEGA didn’t, albeit with some completion issues and a slightly off pallet.
For those who have already finished this “Timeless piece of Art” “like over 100 times”, or those who want to play a slightly updated version of the original:
- Return to Origin: Played Sonic 1 to death? How about playing it backwards?! Once described (by myself) as being to Sonic 1 what Hebrew is to English (that is right to left rather than left to right) RtO offers a whole new direction to experience Sonic 1 in. (By a mister “carretero”).
- Sonic the Hedgehog Plus: One of the most glaringly obvious features missing from the original Sonic 1 (featured in almost every other game since in the series) is Sonic’s trademark “Spindash” ability, there are a lot of hacks out there that add spindash to the original Sonic 1 experience, however it doesn’t quite get more bare-bones than this, which – when considering the extra characters, levels, art etc. most hacks usually add or change – actually makes this one my personal choice. By Hivebrain (Game Plan, Design), drx (Spike Bugfix) and Stealth (Bugfix).
Fan-Characters and other weird experiments:
- Sonic 1 Beta Remake: Although the beta version of Sonic 2 is one of the most well-known leaked 16-bit era game beta’s, (as far as I know) at the time of writing no significantly different beta of the original game has been discovered or leaked. To fill that hole however we have rom hacking, in much the same way “Missing Information” hopes to recreate the Half-Life 2 described in the incredible “Raising the Bar” book, this project recreates the Sonic 1 previewed by many a video-gaming magazine before it’s release. By Tweaker, JcFerggy,Driver, and R. Solaris.
- Shadow the Hedgehog in Sonic the Hedgehog: Surprisingly not erotic fan-fiction (although the title does sound that way), this ROM hack inserts Shadow the hedgehog, a weird fan-created* character that has been making rounds in the sonic community these past few years, into Sonic 1. More or less a black and red “edgy” antihero to Sonic, Shadow is described as the “Ultimate Life-form” (Really? a bipedal hedgehog?!) and is somehow easily and commonly confused with our leading blue blur. By Jimmy Hedgehog, Selbi, MarkeyJester and E-122-Psi.
- Mr. Needlemouse: Once again: not porn, Mr. Needlemouse is a Sonic 1 rom hack that replaces Sonic with a concept art version of himself, more or less just ridiculous, but a sort of fun “Dumb Running Sonic” kinda ridiculous that’s good for the soul. By MKAmeX.
That’s it for today, hope you enjoyed this little feature, join us next time for more “Semi?Conversion”.
-Sam Wagner (With a lot of help from Sonic Retro’s excellent wiki)
*Yes I know shadow is an official character I just like to pretend otherwise
PS: If I got anything wrong or miscredited anyone comment and I’ll fix it ASAP.
PSS: As you might notice some major sonic hacks weren’t included on this list, I’m reserving those “total conversions” for a later feature.
PSSS: Not sure how to do this PS stuff