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ROM Hacking Discussion / Desert Bus Overdrive
« on: April 02, 2018, 04:23:14 pm »


It's Desert Bus, except the bus goes 1,000 miles an hour. Honestly, what more could you want?

Download patch (v0)

Gameplay video which explains things a lot better than screenshots

Quote
You've driven the desert route so many times you've lost count. Tucson to Vegas -- eight hours there, eight hours back -- at the wheel of that silent, empty bus, year after year after year. It's a pitiful, meaningless, hellish existence.

No more! Scraping together every last scrap of your savings, you've made a few little modifications to your bus. You've rebuilt it. Faster. Faster. And... uh, faster. Quite possibly a little too fast, if those flashing lights behind you are anything to go by. And you still couldn't figure out how to fix that damn right drift, or find some tires with enough traction to get you out of a ditch.

But who cares? You've on duty today, and this time it's going to be a whole new kind of "hell on wheels"...

Desert Bus is a notoriously easy game. Even its most diehard fans will admit that once you get the hang of the mechanics and look past the eye candy, it's a very rote and by-the-numbers experience. I've therefore carefully designed this patch to provide a fresh and more challenging experience for the advanced user, while hopefully retaining some degree of accessibility for newcomers.

Features:
* The bus goes ~21 times faster
* That's about it

Personally, I think these simple changes reveal a previously unexplored depth to the "right pull" mechanic that just isn't available in the base game. I'd love to get feedback from the more dedicated players on possible improvements, though, so let me know if you have any requests.

Spoiler:
Yeah, sorry, I know I'm a day late. For some reason I always wait until April 1st to get an idea that's dumb enough for the occasion.
Spoiler:

2
So if you haven't heard the story by now, Working Designs was an American game publisher in the '90s that specialized in licensing niche Japanese games, totally rewriting their scripts to insert crude jokes and pop culture references, completely wrecking their difficulty by jacking up all the enemies' stats and adding other cheap impediments, then releasing them in the US. (If you like the sound of that, these patches probably aren't for you.)

Most of the games they put out are sufficiently esoteric that no one's interested in doing a retranslation, so often, these butchered versions are the only way to play the games in English. That seemed like a real shame to me, so lately I've been working on this little project to restore the gameplay from the Japanese versions of these games. Since I'm not a translator, I can't do anything about the made-up dialogue, but I'm aiming to at least get the difficulty back to what it was intended to be (and for Lunar, to get the script in lower case!).

So far I have several essentially-complete patches, listed below. I'm not sure how many more of these I'll make or how quickly I'll get them done, but I figured I'd share my work so far. Detailed patching instructions are included in the download links above, but the tl;dr is "Drag-and-drop your BIN or ISO onto the appropriate .bat file" (or do things manually if you're not using Windows).

Let me know if you run into any problems using these, or if you know of some additional difficulty changes Working Designs made that I didn't fix.

If you're interested, I'm writing up the changes made to the games for TCRF. Check these games' pages if you want details on what Working Designs did.

------------ Sega CD ------------

Lunar: The Silver Star (Sega CD) -- patch v1 (2/24/17)

Tested all the way through and should work fine. Since there's so much text, though, it's infeasible for me to check every single conversation for text box overflows and other issues. If anything goes wrong, let me know.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All enemies have their stats restored to their original, lower amounts from the Japanese version. Note that in a rarity for a Working Designs release, only six enemies were changed, mostly bosses.
* Shrine donations were raised to 100s each in the US version; they're now 10s, as in the JP version. It still takes ten donations to get the bonus song, regardless of version.
* In the US version, donations to the shrine near the Red Dragon Cave were mistakenly made to give the player money instead of taking it away. This has been fixed.
* The US version modified the very end of the game to make Alex take extremely high damage from Luna's lightning blasts unless the player uses the Alex's Harp item. This has been restored to the Japanese behavior, where he always takes the reduced amount of damage.
* All hexagrams and pentagrams, which were removed from the US version at Sega of America's behest, have been restored. This includes the icons for the Light Barrier and Power Barrier items, as well as the various teleportation circles throughout the game.
* Xenobia's nude battle graphics have been restored.
* The brief nude shot of Luna in the ending was given a washed-out palette in the US version; it's been reverted to the original one.
* Though not technically a "restoration", all text has been converted to proper mixed case instead of all caps, and has been proofread to remove the most egregious errors.
* Related to the above, the original English font had very poor proportioning that made upper case and lower case letters look very awkward together. This patch tweaks the font to hopefully make it easier on the eyes.

Lunar: Eternal Blue (Sega CD) -- patch v3 (2/24/17)

Tested all the way through. Due to having lots of text, I may have missed issues with text overflowing boxes, etc., so let me know if anything blows up.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All enemies have their stats restored to what they were in the Japanese version. (The US version increases most enemies' HP by 25% or more, and also drastically increases many enemies' Attack and/or Defense).
* Saving no longer costs Magic EXP.
* Items that were made more expensive in the US version now cost the original amounts.
* Spells that had their MP costs raised in the US version have been restored to the original costs.
* The Althena statues that require donations to use have had their fees reduced to the original amounts. (All but one were originally 100s per use.)
* The mayor of Larpa's information fee has been restored from 500s to the original 30s.
* The replaced music in the Star Dragon Tower has been removed.
* The swapped icons for the Heal Litany and Calm Litany spell lines have been reverted.
* Various bits of censorship done to meet Sega of America's content policies have been undone:
  * The minor changes to the nude shots of Lucia in the opening cutscene have been reverted.
  * All pentagrams (large and small teleport pads, Magic Shield icon, various battle animations) have been restored.
  * The nude shot of Luna in the flashback to The Silver Star (which was edited in that game as well) has been restored.
  * Plantarium/Plantella's nudity has been restored.
* Though not technically a "restoration", all text has been converted to proper mixed case instead of all-caps, and has been proofread to remove the most egregious errors. Since the game's original English font didn't look very good with combined upper and lower case letters, it's also been tweaked a bit to hopefully look better.

Popful Mail (Sega CD) -- patch v2 (2/24/17)

Tested all the way through. Patch is complete, assuming no problems arise.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All enemies have their stats restored to what they were in the Japanese version.
* The formula that calculates damage from passive hazards (lava, spikes, etc.) has been reverted to its original form.
* Items now cost (and sell for) what they did in the Japanese version.

Vay (Sega CD) -- patch v1 (2/24/17)

Tested all the way through, hopefully problem-free.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* Enemy stats are restored to what they were in the Japanese game.
* Spell MP costs are reduced to their original values.
* Stat bonuses given by equipment are restored to their original levels.
* Inn costs are reduced to the original 4g.
* HP and MP are no longer restored on level up.
* The chest in the hidden Lorath Castle vault that contains 1,500g in the US version now contains 1,000g, per the original.
* Lynx's bar tab has been reduced from 20,000g to the original 1,000g.
* The US version inserted an event that caused an instant game over if Sirufa's teleportation was used without having all party members equipped with "Filtration Masks". This no longer occurs.
* The "Gold Vortex" chest in Vaygess has been replaced with its original contents.
* The US version moved the intro cutscene to before the title screen and made it unskippable if no save data exists. This patch leaves it before the title screen, but makes it skippable.

------------ PC-Engine/PC-Engine CD ------------

Cosmic Fantasy 2 (PC Engine CD/TurboGrafx-CD) -- patch v0 (3/21/17)

Tested all the way through, albeit very rapidly and with a lot of cheats turned on...
Changes:
Spoiler:
* Enemy stats are restored to what they were in the Japanese game. The only changes in the US version were to the first and last few bosses of the game (though some of their stats absolutely skyrocketed).
* Beating the first boss awards 20 EXP in the US version; it now gives nothing, per the original game.
* Rim (Babette)'s obscene gesture in her introductory cutscene has been restored.

Exile (PC Engine CD/TurboGrafx-CD) -- patch v0 (1/28/17)

Tested all the way through, hopefully problem-free.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All enemies have their stats restored to what they were in the Japanese version.
* The "Warp" spell that returns Sadler to the start of the current dungeon has been re-enabled.
* The two chests in the game that contain gold have been restored to their original amounts (900g -> 500g, 2000g -> 2500g).

Exile II / Exile: Wicked Phenomenon (PC Engine CD/TurboGrafx-CD) -- patch v1 (2/10/17)

Tested all the way through, hopefully problem-free.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All enemies have their stats restored to what they were in the Japanese version.

------------ Saturn ------------

Magic Knight Rayearth -- patch v0

Tested all the way through several times. Everything should be fine.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All enemies and their attacks do the damage they did in the Japanese version.
* Enemy speeds have been reduced to their original levels.

------------ PlayStation ------------

Alundra (PlayStation) -- patch v1 (3/4/17)

Should work, but hasn't been tested all the way through. Let me know if anything goes wrong, or if you can verify that the game is completable without issue.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All enemies have their stats restored to what they were in the Japanese version.
* The timing of the disappearing switch puzzle in Elene's dream has been reverted to its original, harder difficulty from the Japanese version.

Lunar - Silver Star Story Complete (PlayStation) -- patch v0 (4/9/17)

Tested all the way through, should work fine.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* All regular enemies have their stats restored to their original levels from the Japanese version. (In general, the US version reduced enemy HP by 10%, increased Attack by 20-40%, reduced EXP payout by 15%, and reduced Silver payout by 11%.)
* The stat scaling used for bosses now functions as in the Japanese version. (The US version increased the scale rate of some stats for certain bosses, and increased the minimum scaled level by 2-6 levels for all bosses.)
* Chests now give out their original amounts of money. (The amounts were halved in the US version.)
* Additionally, a hidden Silver bonus in the Vane library was restored to 100s. (It was reduced to 10s in the US version).
* Jessica's Escape Litany spell now costs the original 1 MP rather than 20 MP.
* The note containing the solution to the first puzzle in Myght's Tower, which was deliberately removed in the US version, has been restored.
* In the US version, the hint text for the final color-order puzzle in the Goddess Tower was changed to an incorrect order that doesn't reflect the actual solution; it's been changed to the proper order.
* Alex's Ocarina is no longer required to finish the game. It's now also possible to give it to Nall, as in the Japanese version.

Lunar 2 - Eternal Blue Complete (PlayStation) -- patch v0 (5/5/17)

Tested all the way through, should work fine.
Changes:
Spoiler:
* Holding down the X button will now continuously advance the dialogue, as in the Japanese version.
* In the Japanese version, the White Tower uses the same background track as the other Pentagulia towers, and White Mask Funk plays below the decks of the Destiny after acquiring it from Leo. The US version shuffles this around so that White Mask Funk plays in the White Tower, and the Destiny uses the world map theme. This has been reverted.
* The Serak Palace now charges the original 100 Silver instead of the US version's 666 Silver.

----------------------------------------------------

If you're feeling masochistic, you might also be interested in this hack I did for April Fools' Day:

Lunar: The Silver Star (Sega CD) -- Worked Design patch v0 (4/1/17)

Not tested at all, because pssssht who does that?
Changes:
Spoiler:
* Saving the game now costs Silver (100s times Alex's level). This was by far the best change in the US version of Eternal Blue, and I know everyone will be euphoric to have this same experience in The Silver Star!
* Trying to load checkpoints will now reset the game. While this might appear to be a bug, if you think about it, it's really just a logical extension of the improvements to the save system!
* All enemies have their stats raised substantially.
* All items now cost much more.

3
Personal Projects / Layla: The Iris Missions
« on: December 23, 2016, 11:45:47 pm »


Download (version 3): http://www.mediafire.com/file/v66d57298gew0xu/Layla+-+The+Iris+Missions+%28v3%29.zip
Gameplay footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySFmiBxZa9w

Chinelkov Manitokha once again threatens the galaxy with his army of mutant Chimairan. This time, it's up to Iris to stop him! (Layla can come along too, I guess).

---------------------------

This is a thorough overhaul of the Famicom game Layla that I've been working on, on and off, for about a year. It features new levels, graphics, and a new, much-expanded soundtrack I wrote specifically for this hack. The primary goal is to modernize the game to be less frustrating without compromising the core gameplay. Though the most fundamental aspects remain the same, there are many alterations to the design and mechanics in the interest of making things more fun: no annoying keycards, no penalties for replaying levels, some nonlinear elements....

Walkthrough
This hack adds some elements of exploration and puzzle-solving. I hope the additions are intuitive enough that no one will need help, but here's a guide just in case:
Spoiler:
* Mission 1: Proceed normally and you'll eventually reach the crate with the Machine Gun, then the boss.
* Mission 2: Go up at every elevator possible. You'll eventually reach the Axe.
* Mission 3: Go down at the first elevator, go right, then go up at the next one to get the Flamethrower. Go down the elevator you came up, then down again. Go right, pass the first elevator, and go up at the second one. Go right until you reach an elevator covered by destructible blocks, then use the Axe to destroy them. Take the elevator down to the boss.
* Mission 4: Starting from B4F, take the elevators labeled F, A, S, and T, in that order. Pick up the Skates. Starting again from B4F, take the elevators labeled E, X, I, and T to reach the boss.
* Before starting Mission 5, return to Mission 3. Go up at the first elevator, go right, then go up again at the next one. Run to the right and jump over the pit (requires the Skates). Continue on until you reach the elevator that leads to the Grenades. After collecting them, you can press Start+Select+A+B to exit the level.
* Mission 5: Use the Grenades to destroy the impassable block early in the level. The rest is linear, but make sure you don't jump down the high-walled pit: if you're paying attention, it should be obvious that it leads back to an earlier part of the level!
* Mission 6: Linear, but requires the Skates. You can optionally pick up the Bazooka in the first part of the level. After the second checkpoint, jump over the first two gaps. For the last one, make a jump of maximal height from the second-to-last vanishing block and you should make it into the alcove with the crate.
* Mission 7: Go up at the first three elevators you encounter. On floor 1F, run right, go past the first elevator you encounter, then go down at the next one. Follow the path and go down the next two elevators you see to reach the Saber. Go back up the elevator. The Saber can pass through walls, so use it to destroy the blocks in your path. Go up every elevator you see until you exit the cave area. Go right, pass the first elevator you encounter, then go up the next one to 2F. Go right until you reach a set of blocks you'll need the Saber to destroy. Do so, then take the uncovered passage to the elevator and go up. Proceed to the next elevator and go up.

This next part is conceptually tricky, but easy to do: You need to pass through the ceiling to reach the elevator. To do so, go right. If enemies don't spawn in the sealed-off area, keep going right until the level loops around. Pick off any enemies outside the sealed area, then stand on the glowing floor until your health is almost empty. Now, equip the Saber and use it to kill the enemies in the sealed area. While the food they drop is bouncing around, run to the glowing floor and intentionally kill yourself. If you do everything right, you'll pass through the ceiling during the death animation, then run into the good and return to life. From there, just take the elevator up to the boss.
* Mission 8: Follow the path until you reach the elevator guarded by force fields. You can do the three segments that follow in any order; personally, I'd recommend 3-1-2. Then take the elevator to the boss.
* Mission 9: Surely you can figure this one out yourself!

Changes from the original game
Spoiler:
Basic stuff:
* Replaced all levels with new ones, and added an extra stage.
* Redid the soundtrack.
* Managed to scrape together a new title screen that's hopefully passable.
* Swapped out Layla's and Iris' graphics, so you now play as Iris.
* The new music has quieter pulse channels than the original in order to make the basslines more prominent, so the volume of the sound effects has been slightly lowered to match.

New features:
* Added a checkpoint system. Dying no longer kicks you back to the title screen; instead, you'll go back to the last checkpoint.
* Added a shortcut to exit a level: Press Start, Select, A, and B simultaneously. Not needed to beat the game, but useful in a couple places (or if I screwed up the level design and you get stuck somewhere).
* Hacked up the credits code to create a little intro sequence if you wait at the title screen.
* Rewrote the ending, added a new one for the extra stage, and altered the credits.

Weapons:
* All weapons except the Shield now have infinite ammo; the challenge is finding them in the first place!
*** To compensate for this, the damage and refire rate of some of the higher-end weapons has been toned down.
* The Shield no longer protects against pit damage.
* Shields do not have infinite ammo, and are collected throughout the level as in the original game. Restarting from a checkpoint makes you lose all your shields.
* Shield pick-ups grant a smaller number of shields (2 instead of 5).
* The special weapon from the original game is no longer available, mostly because I couldn't figure out anything interesting to do with it.
* Related to the above, the ? pickup now always restore life. I also removed the obscure feature where, after picking one up when the tens digit of the score is zero, running into enemies would damage them.
* Weapon cooldowns are now absolute, i.e. you can't mash the button to fire faster than you would be holding it down. Removed because I hate games that do this.
*** To compensate, the refire rate for the pistol is higher, not that you'll need to use it much.
* Bumped up the range of the Flamethrower's shots.
* Slightly increased the initial y-velocity of the Axe, giving it a higher trajectory.
* Made the Saber able to penetrate walls.

Mechanical tweaks:
* Removed the keycards that were originally required to beat the game, because they didn't add anything except frustration.
* Removed the bonus stages between levels because they were pointless.
* Removed all stat/ammo penalties for falling in a pit or repeating a level. You'll still lose health if you fall in a pit.
* Disabled the tornado that harassed you if you failed to scroll the screen for ~30 seconds.
* The mechanic where your maximum velocity can go up or down under certain circumstances has been ditched; it was too frustrating, and difficult to design around. There's instead a fixed speed cap, with a collectible upgrade to permanently increase it.
* Increased invulnerability time after getting hit; the original game's is absurdly low.
* Enemy projectiles no longer hit through post-damage invulnerability.
* In the original game, touching an enemy damages you by an amount that is based, oddly, on the enemy's current HP (which means it can vary substantially between hits). In LTIM, enemies instead deal a constant amount of damage that increases linearly with each level to create a smooth difficulty curve.
* For balance, the cake and ice cream pick-ups now both restore 2 HP (originally, cake restored 4).
* Fixed a serious bug that can crash the original game. There was no check for overflow when the game assigned sprites to OAM slots from its internal table, which meant that if the game tried to show more than 64 sprites, it would overwrite sprite 0 and usually die. (This can be achieved e.g. on the original level 5, by running right at a high speed while firing the machine gun on a screen with multiple Usumiil enemies.)
* The original game rapidly flashes the background color when your HP is low. The effect is very unpleasant, so I've changed it to flash the white used for the text in the HUD. This unfortunately conflicts with a few other things (e.g. item icons), but it's still a substantial improvement over the original.
* Disabled the low HP beeping sound because it annoyed me.
* When you discover a new item, it uses its real icon instead of being replaced with a question mark.

Known issues
Spoiler:
* The music hangs noticeably when switching between areas (e.g. from "cave" to
"fortress" areas). I think it's caused by the game synchronously loading the new
graphics. Probably more trouble than it's worth to fix.
* When restarting from a checkpoint, any weapons you fired before dying aren't
destroyed, which can lead to e.g. destroying a crate with a grenade you fired
before dying.
* Some of the strings in the credits get miscolored as they scroll off-screen,
because fuck attribute tables.
* Score isn't reset after dying, which makes it rather meaningless since you can
restart from a checkpoint repeatedly to increase it indefinitely. Frankly I've
never cared about scores, so hopefully no one else does either.
* It's possible to use the "exit level" code (Start+Select+A+B) before
completing Mission 1. This just restarts the level immediately without causing
further problems, so I'm leaving it as-is.
* Using passwords generated after unlocking Mission 9 will start you at the
beginning of the game as if you hadn't completed anything (though you'll keep
your items and Layla).
* It's possible to get stuck in at least one area of Mission 9 (by scrolling
the screen to the right, then jumping into a narrow hole on the left side
that's  too high to get out of without a running jump). There's not a lot I
can do about this without compromising the layouts, though...

Miscellaneous
I'm flattering myself here, but if you're interested in the OST, here's the download: http://www.mediafire.com/file/ainp6rqa6u1chz9/Layla+-+The+Iris+Missions+OST.zip (Includes NSFe, MP3 renders, and the original .it files used to prototype the tracks. Real rippers will guffaw at my 256 kb NSFe, but I say whatever works...)

For posterity, version 1 of the hack can be found here: http://www.mediafire.com/file/60sm5cne51yp85q/Layla+-+The+Iris+Missions.zip
And version 2 here: [EDIT: Removed because by sheer incompetence, I managed to accidentally put the full ROM in the ZIP file!]

Since the game is so obscure, I had to write my own level and music editing tools. You can grab the sources for Lonely and Clapton off Github, and hopefully by the time you read this the Windows binaries will be on the main site.

This hack has been a long time coming and taken quite a bit of effort, so it's great to finally share it. I'm not sure there's much of (if any) audience for it, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on it if you try it out, even if it's just "this sucks".

Special thanks
I'd like to thank the following people and organizations for making this hack possible:
* A round of applause to ArstanNeckbeard for taking the time to play through this obscure ROM hack of an obscure game from obscure start to obscure finish and give me feedback on it. Honestly, I was afraid I wouldn't get any replies at all!
* Thanks to everyone else on ROMhacking.net who voiced support, and anyone who tried this out but didn't comment.
* Extra special thanks to the webmaster of Asteria no Layla, who maintains one of the finest and most informative fansites I've ever seen: http://laylairis.web.fc2.com/
* General thanks to all of the following:
  * Nesdev
  * Bluechip's 6502 reference
  * TCRF
  * Game Center CX
* And of course, the biggest thanks of all goes to dB-SOFT for making Layla in the first place.

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