Thursday, March 17, 2011

HG101 glitches #1: Ys IV Mask of the Sun (SFC)

In what is likely NEVER to become a regular column, I document an interesting glitch I found in Ys IV on the Super Famicom, and reveal a little of my warped logic in the process.

Whenever I play a game I have an inherent distrust of the designers, believing them to be in many instances trying to bamboozle me with their fiendish trickeries. A good example was in the original Yakuza. I came across a sobbing man who called out a woman’s name, lamenting how he lost everything because of her. Five minutes later a mission triggered, where a woman ran up to me being chased by a thug – she told me her name, the same exact same one the old man had mumbled, and begged me to save her. I thought aha! The game is trying to trick me, and if I save her I’ll lose everything too. I had assumed that the NPC was giving a warning for wary players, so I let her get dragged off. As it turns out you were supposed to save her and then lose everything, and in avoiding this fate I would never gain access to one of the game’s secret casinos. So in disgust I stopped playing and never completed the original Yakuza. It had clearly given me a warning which I had followed, and instead of being rewarded for my astute vigilance, I was punished.

Anyway, this highlights how an obsessively astute nature can disrupt game flow. As it did in Ys IV on the SFC.

At the start of Ys IV Dr Flair joins you, stating he intends to find a rare flower to create a special panacea. He lodges at the first inn you come across and stays there while you go off on your adventure. Most players would forget about this, but for me this mentioning of the flower took precedence over all other things – if it wasn’t to become a pivotal point of the game, it wouldn’t have been mentioned. Most writers avoid creating a “dues ex machina” situation by casually dropping something significant at the start of books, films and games. So when someone mentions being double-jointed, a place of interest, a bottle of milk or packet of prophylactics they’re picking up, right at the start of any narrative, my assumption is that the final act of this narrative will somehow hinge upon this seemingly innocuous item/skill/location/etc, otherwise it would never have been mentioned. In fact 90% of all films are ruined for people who watch with me, precisely because I pin-point every key aspect which most of the time ends up correct thereby totally spoiling it ahead of time (except Morgan Freeman and his knife throwing in Seven – that never went anywhere, making it something of a red herring).

So anyway, when I finally find this flower late into the game, at an exorbitant price, from a merchant who only has one of them, and then I’m asked to give this flower to an old man whose wife needs it, my SPIDY NERD SENSES kick in, and I realise: Tonkin House is trying to **** with my mind, man. Of course they’d set up this situation where I need to take the game’s ONLY flower to a dying old woman, thereby denying Dr Flair the game’s ONLY flower, and thereby denying myself some kind of outlandish reward – like having the power of GOD, or something equally outlandish.

So in order to fulfil my Messiah Complex and best the game’s trickeries, the only logical thing is to abandon the old woman and trek it aaaaaaaaalllllll the way back to Dr Flair, across about 137 different map screens, in order to instead give HIM the ONLY flower, in the original inn he’s staying at, and get the super secret reward.

Right? Eh, readers?

I could have looked up a FAQ to check this, but I trusted my gut instinct.

My belief was that only the most astute (or paranoid) of players would make such a journey. And therefore only such gifted individuals would receive an unimaginably amazing reward. Because if I made commercial games, they would all be made like this, forcing players to constantly double guess me and break the design flow – because if I made commercial games, I would absolutely 100% of the time be ****ing with your mind. My games would literally be non-stop mind ****ing.

So I trek it back to Dr Flair, who is still inside the inn. After talking to him he starts spouting strange gibberish about coming here to find me, after finding the flower himself, and that he’d take me to the elder if I follow him. At which point he freezes in place and Adol starts walking around the scenery, only to end up stuck inside the background, as in the starting image. It even incorrectly says: Elder's House.

As it turns out, you’re not supposed to go back to Dr Flair. Giving the flower to the old woman sets a trigger which places Flair in the seaside village, whereupon he’ll take you to the elder. Failure to bring her the flower causes him to remain at the inn. The curious thing is though, at some point a different trigger must have been activated, whereupon instead of his usual “best wishes” dialogue he initiates the conversation about taking you to the elder. So there must be two triggers at work: (1) to alter his dialogue response and (2) to actually make him appear in the seaside town. By triggering (1) and skipping out (2), I was able to initiate the wrong conversation while still inside the inn, which of course resulted in Adol getting stuck.

The worrying thing is you can still save the game after this, so it is quite a fatal glitch.

I reloaded and did things properly, whereupon I discovered that Flair ended up getting the flower on his own, so Tonkin House wasn’t really messing with my mind and I could have just gone with the flow. Making it all a great waste of time...

See? You absolutely cannot trust games designers.


  1. I love stuff like this, and I'm also usually trying to overthink clues and hints in games. Usually that just leads to dead ends, typically enough.

  2. I'm the type of person who panics when I face a choice of any kind, especially in modern games, and immediately rushes to a walkthrough to make sure I don't miss anything. Some day I'll learn to let go...

    By the way, do you know if this is a problem in both the Japanese and English versions, or was it brought about by the translation?

  3. An excellent, excellent question. I was using AGTP's revised English patch, with nicer font and some great editing by Deuce.

    I've no idea if it somehow created the problem... I would guess probably not, since they're essentially just altering the text (well, graphics table call-ups or however you want to describe it technically).

    You'd probably have to ask on

  4. Could be a problem with the patched ROM... or not. Version 2.00 does have these glitches that weren't in the original Japanese version: Three specific spots where the screen gets corrupted by dialogue (fixed by saving/loading the game) + some Minea Town NPCs talking only in numbers instead of proper dialogue (happened with V1.00, as well).

  5. Hello

    My name is Catherine Meyers; I work as the admin of a web/blog directory. I have to say, I’m impressed by Hardcore Gaming 101, great and very detailed articles which I enjoyed reading a lot. On topic, I usually do the same thing in rpgs, though I think of myself as a bit obsesive hehe. Anyway, Good job!. That is why, I would be delighted to have your blog in my directory, that way my visitors will also visit your website.
    If you are interested in this exchange, let me know.

    Good luck with your webpage.

    Catherine Meyers

  6. Hey, guys. Deuce here. Neat catch of the glitch... I certainly never noticed it. I just wanted to clarify something: the revised Ys IV patch has absolutely none of the original (awful) translation. I started out with editing (for all of about ten lines), then gave it up and started from scratch. The newer patch script is 100% my work.

  7. Oh, and the glitches in the current patch are because I got a little verbose on some lines. Once you overflow the text buffer, the screen gets a little weird. I have since fixed the issues, but Gideon has yet to release an updated patch (sigh).

    The lines in the original patch where NPCs spoke in only numbers wasn't actually a glitch... it was in the English script. For whatever reason, Shimarisu put numbers in a couple of lines and forgot about them, or it simply never got caught prior to release.

  8. Hi Deuce! Cool, thanks for the info. Just wanted to say: I love the work done on Ys IV. The dialogue flowed really well and it was almost poetic in places - excellent stuff. I honestly have no complaints with it, the glitching text boxes were easy to correct with a quick save/load.

    Didn't you mention a while back that the text translation for V for actually complete, and simply waiting to be inserted into the ROM?

  9. Yup, he finished the English script for Ys V a long time ago. As for why there hasn't been the English patch yet, Gideon explained it rather well in Ancient Land of Ys forums on May 2010:

  10. Thanks for the kind words. :)

    You're correct. The script for Ys V has been finished for some years (though never edited). Gideon Zhi posted up a message regarding its status over on the Ancient Land of Ys forums. I've linked to it, but here's the main point of it:

    "...the '80%' number is an aggregate estimate based on the total work that needs to be done versus the total work that has been done so far. It may not even be accurate - 70 or 75 might be closer to the mark, I'm not even sure anymore - but even if it were, it doesn't mean you could load up the game and play through 4/5s of it front-to-back as if it were a finished product. What we have is an unstable, unplayable mess - one that has seen significant progress, including a full dump and reinsertion of the narrative text and including a full (if unedited) text translation."

    Still waiting...

  11. Ahh cool, thanks for the clarification. I was going on a tiny post made on RHDN ages back, but haven't looked into it since.

    Anyway, I wasn't nagging when asking, and as I've always said: I have a sincere appreciation for the work fan-translators do. Sacrificing your spare time to allow the rest of us to enjoy games we otherwise wouldn't be able to is amazing, and something fans of these older games should always be grateful for.

    Drop us a line when it gets done. We can do a blog entry and I'm sure DA would probably want to update the main Ys article too. :)