Category Archives: Nintendo

Of or pertaining to the Big ‘N’

Shortcut To The Treasure

Followup: Some Reddit readers tackled this challenge and conquered it. Read up on it here.

Treasure Master (NES) cartridge

Back in the glory days of the old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, I used to read my Nintendo Power magazine issues religiously. One issue that stood out to me, and that I never forgot about, is one that briefly mentioned Treasure Master (volume 26, July 1991, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves issue).

This will be the first NES game where you can actually win prizes by playing it to the finish! The Game Pak will be released in the fall, and everyone will have time to master it. When you finish the game, you’ll reach a point where you can enter a speical password. In February of 1992, American Softworks will reveal the password that will allow you to play a secret portion of the game. The first person to finish the secret level and call in will win a $25,000 bond. Many of those who finish later will still be eligible for prizes– the sooner you finish, the better the prize. As you can imagine, the code is top secret, and the password system has been proven uncrackable by MIT and the CIA. (emphasis added)

Nintendo Power -- Robin Hood cover       Treasure Master (NES) -- Nintendo Power
click for larger image

So the gimmick for this substandard, side-scrolling, run & jump game was that players would buy it, play it, and build up skill in a few months. Then, after everyone has had a chance to get really good at the game, the company would release a password that would unlock a secret stage. Play through this stage and you could win big prizes.

Treasure Master (NES) -- Title screen

Naturally, the part about the uncrackable code caught my attention. I didn’t even realize the CIA provided such a vetting service. Anyway, I didn’t hear anything else about the game again. Many years passed and I saw the game in a used video game shop. I figured it was time to revisit the uncrackable code issue since I know a little more about computers and codes now. And I also know better than to accept an uncrackable code claim at face value.

How uncrackable is the code? The introductory blurb from Nintendo Power raises some questions, many of which can be answered by the Treasure Master instruction manual. The full details of the contest are provided. Apparently, the password was to be announced on MTV on April 11, 1992, probably during a commercial. Players would enter the password, along with their game cartridge’s unique serial number, in order to unlock the special levels of the game. Upon completion of the levels, the game would return a special winning number that the player could give to the operator on the other end of a 1-900 phone number to try to win a prize.

To be fair, the official manual doesn’t mention the uncrackable code nonsense. The James Bond material highlighted in the Nintendo Power preview can probably be attributed to some Marketing/PR flunkie at American Softworks working more closely with the magazine than their own engineering department.

Also, Nintendo really wants you to know that they have nothing to do with the contest:

Treasure Master (NES) -- Disclaimers

Threat Model
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Wii Motion JPEG

Did you know that the Nintendo Wii can play user videos? I didn’t, but the Wii can apparently play videos through a user’s SD card. I also didn’t know what format they have to be converted into in order to be played back — Motion JPEG.

Nintendo Wii

There is a Windows program based on — what else? — FFmpeg called Wii Video 9 that handily converts anything into the accepted multimedia format. From the Sony PlayStation 3 and PSP to the Apple iPod and now the Nintendo Wii, the trend is for consumer electronics devices to be able to play user videos. But they usually support more advanced formats like MPEG-4 and H.264. I’m guessing that part of the Wii’s comparably low price is directly attributable to lower multimedia technology licensing costs.

I don’t know why I find it so humorous to read the Wii Video 9 forum posts, such as “Why are the converted files so HUGE?” I think we all need to respect that the deeper aspects of multimedia technology are not second nature to the general populace. One day, this stuff may truly be transparent and ubiquitous. Until then, Monsieur Scandragon has a point when he rants, “It doesn’t matter how bad it is at playing compressed video.. 10 seconds at BAD quality should NEVER be 25MB!!”

I have been too lazy to try the program myself. I wonder if it’s normal MJPEG data, or if it is unescaped data like that seen in the THP format common on the Nintendo GameCube. I also wonder about the audio format. Presumably, if they were too cheap to license MPEG-4 or H.264 video codecs, they’re not going to license MP3 or AAC either. I am guessing either straight PCM or their own custom ADPCM format.

GameCube Multimedia Review

Poking around on a number of Nintendo GameCube games, I have found a pretty consistent mix of FMV formats. In due time, these will need to be entered into the MultimediaWiki:

  • THP files seem to be the most prevalent
  • H4M files have the markings of a hierarchical vector quantizer (like the letters ‘HVQ’); HVQ is also used in Sorenson Video 1 and LucasArts video
  • Electronic Arts games have a VID format which has similar markings as a number of their other evolved game multimedia formats
  • One game has 11,500+ Ogg Vorbis files; some of them appear to correspond via base filename to files with the extension .cib; I tend to think that these are corresponding video files
  • Sofdec files, as commonly seen on Sega Dreamcast games
  • DSP files, often paired as L and R files for stereo effect
  • occasional BIK files

Plus, there are a number of other audio files, probably encoded with a custom ADPCM format common on GameCube games.

Caimans Video Codec

Going back through some old posts, I decided to follow up on a codec named Caiman’s Video Codec For Gameboy Advance (new MultimediaWiki page). The official site has a number of movie trailers and anime clips encoded with some custom video and audio codecs. The interesting thing is that the samples are encoded as .gba files which are apparently ROM images that are able to be played in an emulator such as VisualBoyAdvance. Therefore, there are no clean multimedia container files (e.g., AVI) for study.

Caiman's Video in VisualBoyAdvance

Unsurprisingly, very few technical details are available. The technology page brags about how tweakable the parameters are, but mentions nothing about coding algorithms. Still, it’s interesting that these A/V codecs were designed and optimized for the Gameboy Advance.

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