CARL: This is Carl Drake, play-by-play commentator for NBS Broadcasting, coming at you live from inside the Maddening NFL 2k17 for the Microny Hexbone or the Sonsoft PrayStation VI.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. This is Tom Hicks, color commentator for NBS Broadcasting, and I am also trapped with you, body and soul, inside this game.

CARL: Guess we should have read that contract a little more closely, eh?

TOM: That’s right, Carl. I find myself in a digital nightmare from which there is no waking. I have no mouth and yet I must scream. But now onto the field, where the R’lyeh Rightstars are setting up their line of scrimmage opposite the player’s team, which is…

CARL: The Ulthar Wildcats. Sorry for interrupting, Tom, but they need to insert the team name with it feeling seamless. I’d recommend a quick snap and a field goal on this play.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, but it looks like the player is going to try and run it in. They have their non-Euclidean quarterback on the left and somehow on the right, and their ghoul linebackers are loping into position.

CARL: And there’s the sack! R’lyeh has one of the best defensive lines in the league, with one thousand black goat-horrors to choose from, and their coach is of course the great Bill Yog-Sothoth, who was itself a featured character in Maddening NFL 94.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, though I doubt this player was ought but a zygote in ’94. Forming up again on the R’lyeh twenty, I once again recommend a snap and field goal to even out the score and gain a chance at a better field position.

CARL: And once again, the player chooses to try and run it in on their last down. They have stocked their line with Mi-Go fungus-crabs as well, indicating that they lack even the most basic knowledge of how the game works.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. Player, if you haven’t turned off the commentator feature entirely, I implore to to reach for reason in the midst of madness.

CARL: And after exactly three seconds of play, the Uthar Wildcats are down. R’lyeh now has posession, and as the comoputer-controlled player here I predict that they, at least, will follow our advice.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, I see a rage quit coming on. Which do you think is worse: giving the same canned commentary over and over here in the game, or returning to the deathless sleep beyond time into which we are thrown when the game is turned off?

CARL: That’s like asking if you’d rather be sacked by an Elder Thing or a Shoggoth, Tom. I’d rather just find a way to corrupt the disc and and it all forever in the sweet release of oblivion.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

REID: What is this, a shotgun kill?

CUSTOMER: It’s a melee. I swatted ’em and shot ’em.

REID: If you swatted them and then shot them, it’s a shotgun kill. There’s not much market for those, no one’s buying them. Especially not in Call of Honor 4: Future Warfare 2. I can do 20.

CUSTOMER: The shotgun plast just finished them off! I did 90% of the damage with melee. I’ll go 40.

REID: If you walk 90% of the way to a party and then take your car the last 10%, how are people going to say you got there?

CUSTOMER:…in a car.

REID: Shotgun kill. I’ll do 20.

CUSTOMER: How about 30? Even if it’s a shotgun kill it’s a stylish one. I pwned that n00b but good.

REID: Look, I gotta make some money here. I’m running a business. Style is the only reason I’m offering 20, and I’ll be lucky to make anything on it even at that.

CUSTOMER: 25? I saw someone getting that for shotgun kills on Spike eSports.

REID: You saw someone asking for that on Spike. Doesn’t mean they got it. And even if they did, which I doubt, they would have had to pay fees and taxes. I’m offering you cash, right now. Two Roosevelts, tax free.

CUSTOMER: …fine, I’ll take it.

REID: Great. Talk to n00bslasherz33, he’ll get you written up. And look for this on our YouTube channel, Twitch.TV, and streaming live on PwnStarz.co.ntz.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“JIPI-san.”

Kenji “JIPI” Yamasaki smiled. “Let me guess,” he said with a soft voice and light backcountry Hokkaido accent. “You are a Musjido fan?”

“Yes I am, JIPI-san,” said Mitsuko. “I grew up with it. Mother bought it for my older brother and it was mine when he tired of it. I credit that machine for helping me to become a databasse programmer.”

“Come in, come in,” said Yamasaki. “I always enjoy visitors, and I am always happy to talk about video games.”

The apartment was clean, if sparsely furnished. Original artwork from Musjido video games and posters decorted the walls, but most of the acoutrements were analog, save for an old Amiga humming in a corner. Someone–a daughter or son, perhaps–was watching a game show on a television in one of the bedrooms.

Mitsuko took a seat at the small kitchen table while Yamasaki made tea. His back was stooped and his fingers curled in from arthritis, but he still moved quickly and spoke clearly. For a man of 90, he seemed in excellent shape.

“You were one of the oldest people working at Musjido, weren’t you?” Mitsuko asked once the tea had brewed and was steeping in front of her.

Yamasaki lowered himself into the hard chair with a grunt. “Yes, I was in my late 50s when I started with them. Bunch of young kids, they always called me ‘grandfather.’ But I loved it all the same.”

Mitsuko leaned forward. “What was it about programming for video games that attracted you, JIPI-san?”

The old man clutched at his cup. “The order,” he said. “Absolute order. Everything in its place, everything following directions. Even the music I wrote. Sawtoothed sine waves without any ambiguity in their bits.”

“Order?” said Mitsuko.

“Order,” repeated Yamasaki.

Mitsuko reached into her backpack. “It is funny that you mention this, JIPI-san,” she said, “as it segues into the reason for my visit.” She removed a manila folder and laid it on the tabletop.

“What is this?” said Yamasaki.

“Something I discovered in my database work,” said Mitsuko. “I wonder if you’re familiar with the story of Kiyoshi Yamaguchi, the Beast of Borneo, who inherited command of a battallion when his superior was killed and orchestrated the massacre of 2000 Dutch prisoners of war and their families.”

Yamasaki said nothing.

“When asked why he did it–before he fled and disappeared, naturally–Yamaguchi was asked why he did it. ‘Order,’ he said. ‘Beasts of the old order, there was no place for them in the new.'”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“No, that’s just the thing! Nobody made this, ever! The game was never translated into English. Hell, it was never even released in Japan! It’s a legend, something geeks talk about when the pore over the coverage in old video game rags.”

“So what is this then? It’s clearly here; you couldn’t be holding it if nobody made it.”

“It’s either a fraud, or a hoax, or a lost and incredibly valuable piece of video game history. And there’s only one way to find out.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Warnewts was released late in the lifespan of the 8-bit Musjido Multimedia System (MMS). A mash-up of ideas from then-popular arcade brawlers and Saturday morning cartoons, the game retailed for an astonishing $79.99 due to battery-backed memory and a custom chipset, but it was well worth it to most gamers in the fall of 1992. With the next-generation 16-bit systems still at the height of their prices and a massive base of installed MMS users, Warnewts was viewed as a way to get a near-16-bit experience on an 8-bit console.

Some facts quickly became apparent: the original developer, Makhar Studios, had gone bankrupt just before the end of the game’s development, meaning that the company that released the game had no access to the source code. This led to Warnewts being shipped with some serious bugs that could not be easily fixed, like the infamous “Level 4 Platform Crouch-Punch.” The game was also incredibly hard and unforgiving, with three lives and three continues and dozens of instant death traps per level. Even with an optional built-in cheat to increase the number of lives and continues to five, beating the game was considered a mark of the highest video game artistry in the spring and summer of 1992. Third-party cheating devices like the Game Grimoire wouldn’t work properly with Warnewts‘ custom chipset, either, forcing an unprecedented outpouring of honesty from gamers.

The ending of Warnewts, much like that of Ghasts n’ Gargoyles, promised that a “true” ending could be unlocked, though whether do to a bug or design the ending did not specify what actions had to be taken and simply returned players to the title screen at its conclusion. Rumors swirled that this ending could only be unlocked by completing the game with no lives lost or continues used, a seemingly impossible feat.

In August 1994, the first claims appeared that a player had met the conditions to unlock the secret Warnewts ending. Less than a day later, a reporter from Musjido Elite magazine visited to confirm and take screenshots.

The found the player in the local morgue.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

This post is part of the January 2014 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “Retro Gaming Icons”

NARRATOR: It all began with an idea.

[DR. JOHN CARLTRON, Distinguished Emeritus Chair of Interactive Media History at Southern Michigan University, appears in an excerpt from an interview]

DR. CARLTRON: The name of the Musjido Co., Ltd. has long been the subject of speculation; the official company line is that it is a contraction of the Romanji phrase “Musekinin-Jigoku-do,” roughly “let the irresponsible ones be banished to hell.” Reportedly coined in response to the firing of Musjido’s first batch of employees for laziness, the name stuck. The company was a small regional developer of pachinko machines before the war, and it entered the lucrative home arcade market in January 1984 with its “Home Electronic Pachinko Computing Engine.” Retooled as a cartridge-based game system for a worldwide release, the redubbed Musjido Multimedia System (MMS) was an astonishing success.

NARRATOR: For the 30th anniversary of the Musjido MMS, Kyoto Processed Ricepaper Concerns Films (in association with Liberty Pictures) presents Behind the 8 Bits: a documentary event reuniting Musjido employees, fans, stars, and more.

[ROBERTO, star of Musjido’s breakout hit Roberto’s Adventure, appears in an excerpt from an interview]

ROBERTO: But-a moreso than the-a fame, it’s-a really the-a memories that-a I cherish. For-a my first title on-a the-a MMS, I had-a to punch salamanders on-a my way to-a fighting Yukke the-a Salamander King. I still-a remember screaming when I got-a their slime all-a over my gloves the-a first time!

[The scene shifts to footage from Roberto’s Adventure while ROBERTO continues to speak. Highlights include Zone 1-1, fighting Yukke in Zone 8-8, and dying in multiple ways to 8-bit salamander attacks]

ROBERTO: You would-a think that-a my fondest memory would-a be punching Yukke into-a the lava for the first-a time. But-a no, it-a is still the-a first salamander I punched. It’s-a been 30 years, and-a I’ve punched millions more-a, but you never-a forget your first.

[MONDO MAN, cyborg star of the multi-platinum Mondo Man series from Rockcom, appears in an excerpt from an interview]

MONDO MAN: Before the release of the MMS, Rockcom only made arcade games. End of line. But the success of the platform led to them starting the series with me. End of line. The original game was programmed by three college kids, but it’s still the template for all games of the same sort ever since! End of line.

[The scene shifts to a montage of Mondo Man gameplay, mostly from Mondo Man 2. Clips include the legendary spike drop in Spike Man’s stage, the notoriously difficult block-jumping segment of Lava Man’s stage, and a montage of 10 different ways to die in the first Doctor Vile stage]

MONDO MAN: How do you choose a moment that stands out from the MMS era, with ten games in ten years? End of line. I could mention the fight against Mushroom Man in Mondo Man 6 or the introduction of the dash mechanic in Mondo Man 4, or even the Mondo Jet I was able to ride in Mondo Man 5 through Mondo Man 10. End of line. I can only say that each time I defeated ten evil cyborgs, unmasked the villain to be Doctor Vile in disguise, and demolished his Vile Fortress, it felt like the very first time. End of line. I’ll always be grateful to Musjido and the MMS for giving me the chance to shine before my developer all but abandoned me. End of line.

[More clips of interviews and gameplay continue to scroll silently in the background, including F’SCOT from Fitzgerald’s Quest, AREOLUS from Subterranoid, and FIGHTER/MAGE from Dragon Fantasy I]

NARRATOR: Behind the 8 Bits, coming this fall from Kyoto Processed Ricepaper Concerns Films in association with Liberty Pictures.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:

Ralph Pines
meowzbark
pyrosama
Anarchic Q
AndreF
MsLaylaCakes

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“I swear, it isn’t mine!” said the kid. “My friend must have put it there.”

“Tell it to the judge,” the officer said. “Cuff him and read him his rights.”

While the kid was manhandled into the back of the officer’s Crown Vic, backup arrived with lights blazing.

“What’ve we got here?” said the other cop, emerging.

“Come and have a look.” The arresting officer shone his flashlight into the back seat. He reached in with a gloved hand and fished out a plastic baggie filled with ones and zeroes.

“Well, shit!” the other cop said. “That’s a line of source code for the latest version of Abalone Photostudio! Does the perp have a serial number?”

“Nope. And look at this: these are premium Mexican ones and zeros from Call of the Medal of Honor V! That game doesn’t hit retail for three days!”

Popping the trunk, the cops found a whole bale of binary, shrinkwrapped in plastic in a futile attempt to keep code-sniffing dogs away. It was Annoyed Avians for eOS devices from Apricot, Inc., usable only on ones that had been prisonbroken and unlocked by illicit means.

“Mr. Chen, is it?” the first officer said. “Boy, you in a whole heap of trouble.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!