The things I do for love.
Regular readers of the site already know my incurable obsession with Nintendo prototypes. What may not be as well known is the sinful amount of money that has passed from my hands to procure these seductive Sirens, these tantalizing temptresses, these hoodwinking hookers. Time and time again I have been lured by their voluptuous plastic curves and softly tender software, only for them to leave me alone and penniless, naked in a darkened bedroom like a nineties music video, shivering with guilt and printed out PayPal receipts. No one has staged an intervention yet, so I continue to feed the addiction in private, keeping the shame hidden within, not daring to tell anyone how much any of these games really cost meboth mentally and financially.
That is, until today.
See, our Japanese friends overseas don't seem as preoccupied with prototypes, and the Famicom protos that do materialize on Yahoo! Japan Auctions tend to go for bargain house prices when compared to eBay's outrageous ratesprices even I wouldn't hesitate in sharing with my mother who worries about me so and wishes I'd call more (right after this article, ma, promise!).
Case in point: For 7,400 yen (roughly $89), I was able to grab a prototype of The Goonies II. That is to say, I was able to grab it after exchanging bids with a Japanese nerd for what seemed like a half an hour. Allow me to explain.
Yahoo Japan is different from eBay in one crucial area: Auctions are extended by five minutes if a bid comes in at the last second. That's right, snipers. You're screwed.
My bidding competition waited until the last few seconds every time the auction was about to close, and then placed a few hundred yen bid over mine. I guess he was hoping I'd get fed up and leave. Little did he know that I have the patience of a saint, and the credit of The Devil.
Definition of a Bidding War.
Although I'm trying to cut back on my prototype spending (in much the same way as Charlie Sheen is trying to cut back on his prostitute spending), how could I say no to The Goonies? I've loved the movie ever since I was a little goonie, myself. I'd like to think I still follow its message of embracing people's uniqueness and finding true beauty in the heart (you are so beautiful to me, Sloth). It also started my life-long love affair with Baby Ruth candy bars. I have so many things to thank Goonies for, not the least being probable type-2 diabetes in the near future.
(Click to Enlarge) Goonies Never Say Die!
Fun Movie Fact: Back when I was actively hunting for Ninja Turtles props, I went on a little side excursion to find One-Eyed Willy's treasure (the notorious pirate loot that the goonies set off on their adventure to find). No, I wasn't looking for any real gold, but movie memorabilia. From research, I learned that Richard Donner (the film's director) has the skeleton displayed in his office, but what ever became of all those coins seen aboard The Inferno pirate ship?
Turns out, some of them were re-used in another Spielberg-backed movie, 1991's Hook. They can be spotted at the end of the movie when Smee (Bob Hoskins) fills up his pockets in a hasty getaway from Peter Pan and The Lost Boys.
Armed with this knowledge, and using to my advantage the fact that not too many people care about Hook, I was able to locate and wrestle away a piece of movie history: one of Willy's gold coins! Take that, Fratellis!
But now I was on Yahoo Japan with booty of another sort.
Still on a rush after winning the epic standoff, I noticed that the same seller also had up a prototype of the first Goonies Famicom game. 'R' Goonies good enough to go another round? Yes. Yes, they are. For an additional 4,400 yen (~$52), they had better be.
All told, that averages to right about $70 per proto. Not too bad, especially considering that these are Konami games. (If this were eBay, $70 might buy you a prototype of Fisher Price: I Can Remember or, if you're really lucky, Pictionary.)
(Click to Enlarge) Portrait of a Konami Famicom Sample: The Goonies.
These "prototypes" are in actuality samples sent to game magazines and retail stores in Japan, typically for the purposes of demoing up-and-coming titles.
Back in 1986, a kid might have walked into a Japanese game store, seen The Goonies playing on a television set, fallen in love with the 8-bit Cyndi Lauper soundtrack, and then marked the game's release date on his personal organizer as a reminder to purchase a copy.
Although the Famicom Box (the Japanese version of the NES M-82 store demo unit that took special games shaped strangely like NES cartridges) was specifically designed to show off new titles, samples like this made for simple and cheap kiosk alternativesessentially, a TV connected to a Famicom with one of these beauties lodged inside.
Most store samples physically looked like any old stubby Famicom cart, only with a plain black and white label on the front instead of a full-fledged cover with color artwork. (Some samples also came in white FDS Disk form or, more interestingly, as FDS RAM adapters.)
Konami, publisher and developer of the two Goonies games, catalogued their samples with a specific game ID on the front of the white label.(Click to Enlarge) RC809 is the ID for The Goonies.
This side-by-side comparison of the sample with a retail copy of The Goonies shows that the retail cover retains this game ID at the bottom left-hand corner of the label.
(Click to Enlarge) Game title not written out.
Konami spells out the full name of their games in Japanese at the top of their retail labels ( ""). No such courtesy is given on these samples. I'd imagine a store owner would've had fun trying to locate a specific game from a stack of these carts.
(Click to Enlarge) The backs are the same.
Take a long, hard look at this grimy prototype. Do you see what I have to deal with to bring you these articles? Do you see? Filthiness!
This being my first Famicom prototype, I was a little nervous that I might run into problems during the dumping process. I was right to worry.
It seemed easy enough: Attach the game to a Famicom-to-NES converter, place it into the system, select the correct mapper on CopyNES, etc. The problem is The Goonies uses a weird PCB class and mapper (87). Dumping this game was hell. I had to actually download a special mapper plug-in that didn't come with the CopyNES software in order for it to dump properly.
Unfortunately, after all that work, I ran the file through GoodNES (a collection of known NES and Famicom games), and found that this sample is the same as the retail Japanese version. There isn't a North American game to compare this to because the first Goonies saw a home console release exclusively in the Land of the Rising Sun, whereas the only way the rest of the world experienced the thrills was on a Playchoice-10 at the arcades. For not having spent much, though, there won't be any quiet whimpering in my sleep tonight!
I may have struck out my first time at bat, but I would soon find out that the prototype of Goonies II had tons of changes: sprite, audio, gameplay, and game option differences.
Before we dive into that, let's take a gander at the Goonies II prototype cartridge.
(Click to Enlarge) The Goonies II: Fratelli Saigo no Chousen Konami Sample.
Konami uses a separate ID for Goonies II: RC818.
I thought Americans were the only ones obnoxious enough to deface their games by writing all over them, but that little bit of Japanese is some bastard's name written in magic marker. Because he's marked his former property directly onto the paper label, there's no easy way of removing it without doing damage. I really wish I knew how to read Japanese; I'd like to know who to curse out.
(Click to Enlarge) Andy, You Goooonnnnnnie!
Like our previous example, the game's ID is right there on the retail release cover, too.
And about that cover: I forgot how fantastic the art is. Mikey swinging from a rope like Indiana Jones? A topless mermaid trapped in a bubble? Kerri Green's long, slender legs? Anne "Throw Momma from the Train" Ramsey in her black beret? Fucking bats? I hope the original is hanging in Japan's most exquisite art museum. I know I'd pay the full admission price to see it.
(Click to Enlarge) Check out the "OK!" Japanese price tag. Bub (or is it Bob?) from Bubble Bobble looks so happy. ^_^ Kawaii! Whale meat!
Now for the main attraction: For the following comparisons, I'll be using screenshots from the Famicom retail version to juxtapose with the sample, since it's the game's closest relative.
No Continue Option
The first noticeable difference is that the prototype does not have a continue option to take the player to the password input screen. After pressing Start on the title screen, the player is instantly sent to the GAME START screen, then thrown right into the game.
No Passwords & Extra Game Over Text
There is no password screen because there are no passwords in this sample at all. When all lives are lost, the player gets visited by the Fratelli family at the Game Over screen. Press Select here, and the following appears:
Press Start again, and Ma Fratelli begins spewing a ton of Japanese like so:
Ma takes a break for some air. Press Start once more and she continues her lecture:
Start button one last time after this, and the player is taken to the GAME START screen, and finally right back into the game to the area where the player last died.
In the retail game, pressing Select at the Game Over screen displays a password on the second line. Pressing Select again will escort the player all the back to the title screen. None of the aforementioned prototype text screens appear anywhere here.
No Mouthing Off to Ma: Missing Chattering Audio
In the retail version, after the short Game Over tune plays, there's a chattering sound made in conjunction with Ma Fratelli's moving mouth and scrolling text bubble. The prototype lacks this audio.
Furthermore, after pressing Select in the prototype, as Ma starts waxing Japanese, the same sound effect is also missing until this last series of dialogue screens:
Listen to the retail game's audio to hear what's missing from the prototype.
Flipped Rock Backgrounds & Unfinished Backgrounds Behind Ladders
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In the prototype, the repeated rock patterns found in some of the backgrounds are flipped and don't align properly.
Also in the prototype, the backgrounds behind some of the ladders are blacked out. In the retail, the spaces between ladder steps are mostly transparent and allow the player to see the background through them.
Altered Spatial Layouts
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I saw something similar to this in a Batman Returns prototype before. I didn't have a good explanation for it then, and I don't have one now. The above is just a sampling; there are many more instances in the prototype, as well as some stages that are spatially the same as the retail. Sometimes more of a stage is shown, other times, less.
The last image shows Mikey at the extreme left of a platform by a wall. In the prototype, there's some seriously shoddy collision detection, as it looks like Mikey's character overlaps with the rock sprite. This was later fixed for the retail game.
Modified Cursor/Item/Weapon Sprites
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There are lots and lots of minor item and weapon sprite differences.
The prototype cursor on the pause screen points slightly to the right instead of downward, and it's missing some of the blue outline that the retail cursor has.
There is a very small difference in the waterproof coat sprite: underneath the right sleeve shows more of an outline in the retail version.
In the inventory, the slingshot in the prototype is raised higher and farther away from the boomerang (it actually looks better this way than in the retail, which has the slingshot right up against the boomerang).
On the HUD, the slingshot is placed farther away from the number of ammo in the prototype.
On the equipped HUD, the slingshot is placed higher in the prototype.
Just like the slingshot, the underwater gun is placed differently in the prototypeit's risen slightly higher on the equipped HUD. The tip of the prototype's spear, also, is not as big as the retail.
Same deal with the underwater gun in the inventory: proto appears higher, and spear tip is thinner.
The prototype's bomb sprite on the equipped HUD and in the inventory has more red sizzle coming off its lit fuse. Smoking!
Proto's shoelaces are untied. Actually, all of the shoes in the prototype look like they're untied.
Never run with untied shoelaces!
Listen, Skippy: No matter what the other kids say, it's never OK to jump with loose laces.
No Warp Zone: Game Breaking Roadblocks
This is the game breaker or, should I say, the cartblocker: It's impossible to get the last item, the bulletproof vest, and save two of the goonies. When the player tries to warp or walk into three different doors in the game, the doors spit Mikey back out from whence he came. Because of this, there's no way to ever beat the sample.
Why don't these doors work? It could be that those blocked areas might not have been ready yet to play, or it could be that Konami did not want players to beat the whole game in the store. Makes sense. That kind of defeats the purpose of buying the retail game.
Still, the player can see and experience most of Goonies II, collect all of the weapons, all of the shoes, all but one of the items, and four of the six goonies. It's weird; if Konami wanted to constrict the demo in this way, why not take away more doorways and items? I find it hard to believe that some Japanese Jimmy Woods is going to walk into a game store and figure out enough to get even as far as saving more than one of the goonies. But what do I know? The Japanese are a diligent people. Maybe some wiz kid wearing thick eighties glasses, a Cosby sweater, high water jeans, and white tube socks would have spent all day proving himself capable in front of a toy store's TV set. Maybe Konami knows its target audience all too well.
The question remains: Were the other goonie locations and bulletproof vest not yet developed, or, are they there, but simply locked out? There's only one way to find the answer.
To the Hackermobile!
Holy tile graphics, Konami Man! There's gold in them there code!
Buried in the prototype is the sprite of the lost bulletproof vest (without any graphical differences from the retail sprite). It's looking more and more likely that Konami was pulling a fast one.
I lack the necessary ROM hacking skills to jimmy open Konami's liquor cabinet, but never underestimate a crazed man on a mission. After some trial and error, I found the two missing goonies hiding in address 050D. I put FF as an absurd value, and lo and behold, all six goonies appeared!
I beat you, Konami.
The only thing left now to do is go through this door and make my way through the last remaining areas to view the ending.
Despite having the six goonies, however, Mikey still can't pass. This dead-end door remains broken. Cheating a rescue of the six goonies doesn't change a damn thing.
You beat me, Konami. I concede. Hurrah for Konami and The Goonies.
"And see you next!"
UPDATE: Site reader, Ken Love, has cracked the Konami code!
By using a Goonies II editor tool and slightly modifying the game code, Ken was able to beat the Famicom prototype and see the previously blocked ending. Here's, in his own words, how he did it:
"There is a ROM editor that is specific to Goonies II called GoonEdit. It allows you to modify the third-person world (not the first-person rooms). The editor is great, because you can add ladders anywhere which will take you up and down on the map, and there are lots of walls that you can remove. Specifically, if you can get the diving suit and if you can get to the pink brick dungeon area on the back map then you can remove the wall that blocks your way to the door that warps you to Annie's underwater area.
I was able to remove the wall in the pink brick dungeon that I mentioned and get to the door that leads to Annie's warp; however, when I entered the water it did not take me to Annie's area. The warp took me to the water entrance that is usually only accessible from the ice area (boomerang room).
I had another idea, which was to remove the underwater wall between the abyss room and Annie's area. This worked and I was able to get into Annie's room.
When I tried to open her cell with a key I was unable to. It occurred to me that the cheat code might need to be more accurate. I rescued all of the Goonies in the US version and the final value for address "050D" is "3F".
I used this value in the prototype and it worked. You can indeed open Annie's cell...
[Note: Mikey's sprite remains on-screen during the cinematic.]
Also, I discovered that you can get to unreachable areas by playing the US version, creating a save state in those areas and then loading them in the prototype version.