The DOs and DON’Ts of ROM Hacking (Slightly NSFW)

ROM Hacking

Source.

At the dawn of video gaming, altering a game’s code – called ‘ ROM hacking’ – required sophisticated machinery, a mastery of engineering and a vast knowledge of software coding. Ms. Pacman, as you my know, started as a ROM hack of Pacman. Today, with terabyte hard drives and endless gigabytes of RAM, the hacks which once required a company of engineers can now be done on your mom’s cell phone.

Rather than set you into the dense jungle of ROM hacking armed with only a hex editor and MS Paint, weary laggard, we want to impart some basic tenets to ensure the success of your video game modifications and to hopefully mollify the wrath of the unwitting population you’re sure to want to release your games upon.

Note: this article, due to the graphical nature of some pixelated anatomical bits, is somewhat Not Safe For Work. Proceed with caution if your boss likes to look over your shoulder.

DO!Overhaul the Game’s Graphics: What better way to breathe fresh air into a stagnant game than by updating its look? All you’ll need is a ROM and Tile Layer Pro. The basic graphical hack is like buying racy lingerie; new game sprites do wonders to bring back that bow-chicka bow-wow.

 

Super Mario Bros. 2001

Oh Super Mario Brothers... It feels like the first time all over again!

 

DON’T! Lead the Parade of Infinite Penises: We get it. Naked people are comedy gold; Will Ferrell and Jason Segel built careers dangling their ghosts’n goblins. However, on the grand scale of comedy, 8-bit penises fall somewhere between Supreme Court hearings and Carlos Mencia. Hacking a game to give everyone a wiener is less Forgetting Sarah Marshall and more Custer’s Revenge.

 

Kung Fu penis Hack - C*m Fu

Thomas intended to save his girl, but now he feels very confused...

 

EXCEPTION?The (Naked) Little Mermaid:Admit it… you’ve been curious to see under Ariel’s seashells since you were twelve. Prince Eric and Ursula, though? Not so much (shudder).

 

The (Naked) Little Mermaid

"Darling it's better down where it's wetter, take it from meeeee..."

 

DO! Fix/Update Bad Text: “All your base are belong to us?” “A winner is you?” 1st gen video games are notorious for their Engrish translations. It didn’t help that Nintendo of America’s draconian censorship policies created game scripts that would make even Michael Bay cringe. So if you want re-insert the Nazis scrubbed from Bionic Commando’s American release, please do so. At least the exploding Hitler at the end of the game will finally make sense.

 

Bionic Commando's Nazis

"(Bionic Commando is) in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin'."

 

DON’T!Give Everyone a Potty Mouth: I hate to break it to you, amateur ROM hacker, but curse words are not inherently funny. The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV worked for George Carlin because he was a comic genius. You, sir, are no George Carlin.

 

Nope.

Cursing is not inherently funny.

 

EXCEPTION?Zelda II — Adventure of Error: It’s fitting that the best potty-mouth hack is an homage to Hyrule’s portly purveyor of Engrish, Error. The game works despite it’s blue streak, though, not because of it.

 

The Adventures of Error

Ahh, much better!

 

DO! Re-Map the Game’s Levels: Everyone likes chasing strange, right? Imagine calling up Samus Aran at 2AM to find her in an exciting  new world. You reach for her Morph Ball only to explore curvaceous new…terrain. Très sexy. Like a ‘roided graphics hack, swapping map tiles and moving baddies makes the old new again.

 

Metroid Genocide Hack

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Zebes anymore."

 

DON’T! Render the Game Unbeatable: Wasn’t Ghosts’n Goblins hard enough? Adding chasms to a game with horrendous jump physics is kin to rolling Stephen Hawking into an Escher painting. It’s just not nice, man.

 

Impossible Ghosts'n Goblins

ROM Hacking: Making the Impossible Impossibler since 1981

 

EXCEPTION?Masochistic ‘Hardtype’ Hacks: Whips and ball-gags aren’t my cup of tea, but some find pleasure in pain. So if you want to play a White Mage-only version of Final Fantasy filled with WarMechs and a juiced random encounter rate, then live how you want to live, baby.

 

Final Fantasy Hard Type

"I want you to hit me as hard as you can."

 

DO!Mash it Up: Transporting Mario into a Metroid-style open world complete with power-ups and hidden rooms? Omigosh, yes. Oh… Extra Mario… I’m getting sweaty palms just thinking about you.

 

Mario + Metroid = Extra Mario

Run, Mario! Run all the way to Brinstar!

 

DON’T!Mash it Up: It may seem oxymoronic, but if Glee’s foray into shark-jumping has taught us anything, it’s that in the math of needless mash-ups, 1 + 1 = 0. There’s a reason no one asked for Chocobos in Bomberman 1.

 

Chocobo Bomberman

As if getting a gold chocobo wasn't already hard enough.

 

So there you go. The Commandments of ROM Hacking, straight from the Mountain of Bricks at the end of World 1-1 to your waiting hands. Use them wisely, hacker friend… And for the love of Shigeru Miyamoto, don’t do this.

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