5 Ingenious Ways Hackers Are Improving Famous Video Games
Hackers have been modifying video games for about as long as video games have existed. But while most of them are content to muck about -- adding Nicolas Cage's face to everything or making sure Skyrim has 60 percent more cat-person titties -- some sat down with a gallon of Rockstar and a 12-pack of Pringles and ended up producing a better product than the developers themselves. So hats off to these, the dedicated, talented hackers who have contributed more to the gaming world than entire offices full of professionals.
The Most Hilarious Fighting Game Crossovers
Anyone who owned action figures as a kid inevitably got into a silly playground argument about who would win in a fight between the Hulk and Batman, when the obvious answer was Optimus Prime. Now you can use video games to solve such timeless debates: Guile versus Cyclops? Sure thing. Geese versus Goku? The fuck not? Just fire up Top Fighter 2000: MK VIII, a Street Fighter II mod, and conduct some entirely scientifical beatdowns.
Oh my God, yes.
So what's the story? Why are such vastly different characters in the same universe, and why are they fighting? Top Fighter 2000 would like to answer your questions with another question: Who friggin' cares? Why are you asking questions when you should be jump-kicking explosions? Here, while you're shutting the hell up, take a gander at Michael Jordan hurling exploding basketballs at Muhammad Ali, who counters with a fireball punch.
Float like a butterfly, sting like Chun-Li.
While a proper video game developer would be tied down by licensing and copyright issues, the folks behind Top Fighter 2000 had no such concerns and were free to deliver up the most ridiculous fights we didn't know we wanted to see. And that's just the tip of the crazyberg: A free game engine called M.U.G.E.N lets people make customized fighters from scratch. Users immediately created crossovers that are usually reserved for the filthiest corners of fan fiction. Have you always wanted to see Tom Hanks attain his Omega Form and beat the tar out of Michael Jackson using multicolored movie posters? First off: That's weird. You should probably get some counseling. Second: Here you go!
In the follow-up match, he nails Godzilla with a big sack full of Oscars.
Always wanted to see Tiger Woods catch a 999 hit combo from Akuma, which lands him on the Planet of the Akumas (unfortunately devoid of atmosphere)? M.U.G.E.N's got your back. Assuming you're not thrown into a seizure by the epilepsy-inducing colors, the dancing anime girls, or the random appearance of the occasional roving giant David Hasselhoff, M.U.G.E.N will deliver upon your every twisted, violent fantasy until your brain dissolves into a pop-culture-flavored flan.
Keeping Old Games Alive With New Content
Even the longest game gets beaten eventually -- there's only so much content a developer can pack in there before it needs to be sent out into the big wide world. But thanks to obsessive fans with massive amounts of talent and creativity (which are absolutely dwarfed by the mind-boggling amounts of free time and wildly skewed priorities), countless new adventures can be added to every beloved classic until you never have to leave the house.
Pop corks, ladies and gentlemen. We've done it. We've finally done it: We never have to engage with another human being ever again!
It's a magical wonderland of pizza delivery and games from the '90s!
Take the BiG World Project -- a collection of mods for the beloved RPG Baldur's Gate. The creators combed through over a decade's worth of mods, picked out the best ones, tweaked them so everything was compatible with everything else (no mean feat, we assure you), and even brought the game into widescreen. The result is over 50 hours of new content -- everything from new, fully voice-acted characters to minor visual touch-ups. That's equivalent to an entirely new (and long) game. They basically made a sequel.
This is by no means an isolated example -- we only picked Baldur's Gate because it comes early in the alphabet and there are only so many hours in the day to get lost in the expanded universe. You'd be astonished by the many massive additions fans have made to their favorite games. Let's move up a letter to "C" -- hey, look, it's Crimson Echoes, an unofficial expansion of Chrono Trigger. Crimson Echoes adds a new story, 35 hours of gameplay, and 10 different endings (or at least it did until the project received a cease and desist letter). But a playable version still found its way onto the Internet, because that's literally what the Internet is for, and it was well received by gamers and critics alike.
Good to know.
Hey, we're sure the company had its reasons for crapping all over the indie project: They wouldn't want the fan-made game to compete with their official sequel to Chrono Trigger ... you know, the one that Square Enix has been steadfastly refusing to even consider for the past two decades. (And no, Chrono Cross doesn't count. You're a monster for even bringing it up.)
Remakes That Are Actually Faithful to the Original
Games are remade nearly as often as movies, because gamers love the chance to replay classics with new additions or enhanced graphics, while publishers like money and hate creativity. But a few famous games are still running after the remake train, often for silly reasons. Square Enix has said that it won't remake its popular spiky hair and giant sword simulator Final Fantasy VII until they make a better game than the original. Now, putting aside the fact that Final Fantasy Tactics came out after FFVII and the "better game" criterion has already been met, it's not like Square Enix are trying to beat their former glory with every release. They made a Final Fantasy rhythm game, for chrissakes. And of course "no remakes" does not prevent "endless rereleases" (see the money bit, above). So if you really want to see Aeris die in glorious high definition, you'll have to make do with this fan remake, where the characters look like actual people instead of angular blobs.
Although it still doesn't excuse the impracticality of a machine gun arm.
If you're less about incomprehensible metaphysics and tween-level romance and more about blowing up space monsters with missiles, you're probably more interested in the Metroid series. Have you played Metroid 2? No? We don't blame you: It was an old Game Boy title that wasn't successful enough to merit an official remake. But thanks to one serious fan who's in the midst of adding color, enhanced graphics, and gameplay elements from later Metroid games, that might change. He's not quite done, but you can play what he's completed until he gets there.
We're holding out for a remake on virtual Virtual Boy.
Then there's Chrono Resurrection, which was going to be yet another remake of Chrono Trigger, this time in 3D. It's weird how all these people keep trying to remake your games, isn't it, Square Enix? It's almost as if there's some sort of demand for it ...
And with actual industry professionals working on the game in their spare time, Resurrection had the potential to be the greatest fan remake ever. Until, of course, the black mages at Square Enix cast their devastating cease and desist spell, wiping out the entire project.
Fans launched petitions to have the legal order rescinded (because they were apparently too busy playing Chrono Trigger to notice how fruitless Internet petitions are). Square Enix's response was essentially "Buy more games and maybe we'll remake it," which is the first case we've ever heard of emotional blackmail on the part of a video game.
Video games are a relatively new form of media, having only been in the mainstream for about 30 years. So while old books and films have been lost to the ravages of time, there's nothing stopping future generations from learning about the Cold War by playing the interactive documentary Metal Gear. It's not like video games are going to just disappear, right?
Is this a trick question?
Actually, they will, thanks to a process called bit rot. It sounds like a particularly nasty digital STD, and in a way, it is -- it's the unofficial name for the decay of storage media. Early video games were stored on these things Earth historians call floppy disks, which have a maximum life span of 30 years. So if you decide to boot up your original copy of Zork in 2027, you may discover that the entire game has been eaten by grues. And if you feel like a nerd for getting that reference, don't worry: In 10 years, it'll be lost to time forever. The decay of cartridges, CDs, and DVDs is also inevitable, so one day all physical games will be as lost as old people in a Best Buy.
Farewell, sweet Jungle Hunt.
All this digital history can be preserved in a virtual library, of course, but those run into more legal trouble than your average NFL player. This has obviously not deterred the Internet (which views laws more like rude suggestions), so you can find tons of emulators and ROMs of games that would have otherwise been lost to the ages. Unfortunately, most emulators are far from perfect simulations. Because of various programming quirks, emulated games can have anything from missing shadows to glitches that make the game impossible to finish. Even little things, like the way Mario jumps or the way the 8-bit boobs look on the girl from Bubble Bath Babes, get lost in translation. If playing a game on an emulator has never felt the same to you, you're not crazy. It really isn't.
Enter higan, a Super Nintendo emulator that claims to emulate every SNES game perfectly. Preserving video games isn't just about keeping games around, but keeping the very way in which they were played alive. Why, higan is so authentic, it even simulates the general crappiness of old televisions.
Wow! It's like you're really back in your parents' hideously shag carpeted basement!
Imaginative and New Multiplayer Experiences
Amateur coders aren't limited to just preserving or tweaking existing single player games -- they're also creating entirely new multiplayer titles out of retro games. That's right: You can get your long-awaited revenge on Billy, that kid down the street who always gave you the broken controller, in the new Super Mario War, where all the classic Mario items and locations are used to murder-stomp your friends.
In addition to a vast variety of characters and modes included in the release, fans of the game have gone on to create hundreds of custom levels, so now you can bounce Billy's stupid bowl-cut head off of exotic lava pits all around the world.
Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch combines the characters of Mega Man with the setting of DOOM, creating an adorable pixelated slaughterhouse. Again, it's not just Mega Man -- there are a ton of characters, modes, weapons, and levels.
You have to respect the creativity it takes to keep Woodman from being useless.
Playing it is like firing lasers at a rave inside a rainbow factory after huffing ether -- you'll have no idea what the hell's going on, and you'll probably eventually suffer some kind of seizure, but you'll be way too busy giggling to care.
Or if you're a weirdo who'd rather cooperate with your friends than annihilate them, check out Mari0. Some beautiful madman decided to take the original Super Mario Bros., make it a four-player game, and give everyone the gun from Portal. What the hell are we even doing anymore?
Just like Portal, but without the part where you work out a way to look at your own butt.
Considering that most modern video games offer little more in a multiplayer option than a few generic modes and a handful of maps, maybe the demented brilliance of these titles does trump the polish and graphics of the A-list titles, just a little bit. Plus, they're all free -- but you chance the pornware at your own risk. Don't come crying to us when Real Hot Gurllzz corrupts your thesis Word doc.
Raoni draws his power from beer and the tears of fanboys. You may follow him on Twitter here.
Related Reading: We weren't joking about that Nicholas Cage mod. Find it and other equally creepy hacks in the blue text immediately preceding this sentence fragment. Click here for more fan improvements of awesome games, like Pokemon Fusion. Still need a way to lend your old favorites some replayability? These creepy glitches should add some pep to your gaming library.