This Week in Games
The Gigaleak

by Heidi Kemps,

Well! I know that some fans of Nintendo have been disappointed lately, since the company has been holding their first-party game announcements close to their chest for most of the summer. How quickly things change! Over the weekend, a whole bunch of awesome Nintendo stuff got leaked! Okay, it's not exactly new announcements… in fact, everything is about two or three decades old… but oh my goodness, it's like a dream for the Nintendo faithful.

THE GIGALEAK HAS DROPPED, AND ANCIENT NINTENDO SECRETS ARE BEING UNEARTHED

LUIGI IN MARIO 64 WAS REAL

Okay, he was real at some point in development and may or may not have seen his model ever implemented into the game at some stage, but he was definitely made! All of those hours you spent replaying Mario 64 trying to unlock him were not completely in vain!

How did we get this info? Well, it's one of many things being unearthed by Internet researchers from what's being called the Gigaleak: a massive repository of Nintendo's archived development material that was obtained through a huge data leak. It's the same source that the Nintendo 64 development materials I wrote about a couple months back came from. Apparently the breach contained over 2 terabytes of archived data in total, and the hacker(s) that obtained all of that stuff are drip-feeding it to the internet in pieces.

What all is in the leak is still not 100% known, as there's a lot of data people are still sifting through right now, but a veritable treasure trove of Nintendo history has been found so far: source code (full and partial) to games like Link to the Past and Mario Kart, early assets from Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, and lots and lots of miscellaneous files that include assets for cancelled games, early designs for games that did get released, and even some bizarre conceptual prototypes like this game with Yoshi's Island-style visuals codenamed “Super Donkey:”

If that's not enough, there's early versions of Yoshi's Island too! Explore unfinished stages, mess around with the not-yet-finished egg-making and tossing mechanics, and jam to the placeholder Super Mario World music, as Baby Mario's annoying whine is (mercifully) nowhere to be heard. Also, there's a cut-from-the-final minigame where Baby Mario and Yoshi, uh… bomb a bunch of houses. Yeah, easy to see why that one got axed.

And speaking of Yoshi, the leak has an absolute treasure trove of Super Mario World assets from what seems like the beginning of its development in 1989, and judging from just how many sprites and bits of map data have been found, that game saw numerous significant changes over the course of its making. Not least of which was making Yoshi's final design friendlier and cuter than many of the unused concepts we've seen revealed:

There's so much worth talking about – sprites from a possible Zelda II remake, Starfox 1 and 2 prototypes, Ocarina of Time development assets, early Pokémon Diamond and Pearl builds, even some third-party stuff – but going into everything is beyond the scope of this column. Sadly, there's no one-stop location to see everything that's been found, since a lot of what's been unearthed has been the work of isolated nerds in various emulation/romhacking communities posting their finds on Twitter and in Discord channels. Lost gaming content wiki The Cutting Room Floor (a site I visit religiously) has seen some substantial updates to showcase some of the finds, but there's still plenty that isn't fully documented there, either. I have a feeling that people are going to keep finding interesting bits from this leak for quite some time.

While I'm happy to see that all of this development material is being studied and preserved, I do feel conflicted… because all of this was stolen. Nintendo is notoriously secretive about its development processes, and fans have been eager for them to share more of their development material. That fact that people spent tremendous amounts of time digging into old ROMs to unearth unused content and development material is proof of how far Nintendo fans will go to learn more about the history of their favorite games. Nintendo could easily take advantage of this by sharing more of this stuff, and they just… don't. And I think they absolutely should, but… stealing it like this just makes it even less likely that they'll ever pull back that curtain for us in any official capacity.

Also, from just how much stuff is contained in these leaks (which, I should restate, are just a part of what all was obtained), we can see how diligent Nintendo was in archiving absolutely everything they've done since the Super NES days at least. Considering how often major Japanese publishers seem to lose source code (Hi, Square-Enix!), knowing that Nintendo keeps so much of their data is incredibly reassuring. But keeping that data around also means that it could possibly be stolen… and stolen it was. Would a security breach like this convince publishers that holding onto old data isn't worth it? It seems like a silly question, but the executives making decisions like that don't know (or worse, don't care) about the preservation side of things.

And then there's the part I really dislike: the leaking of private communications among developers and bug testers. There are archives of back-and-forth messaging among some of the development teams included among the various game development assets, which is seriously not cool. This is the sort of stuff that should absolutely not be made public without the knowledge of the subjects involved – I mean, would you want the dumb crap you sent to friends and coworkers in the 1990s shared with the world? I think we all said some stuff we really, really regret from that time.

So yes, the Gigaleak. A source of wonderful, fascinating Nintendo history…….. that I really, truly wish we had obtained through means other than wholesale data theft

EIYUDEN CHRONCLE PROMISES PLAYERS A LOT OF CATS! CAAAAAAATS! AND MAYBE ALSO A SUIKODEN SPIRITUAL SUCCESSOR TOO, BUT CATS!!!!!!!!!

Early this week, we got the news that Yoshitaka Murayama, creator of Suikoden, was planning a spiritual successor to the beloved and conspicuously dormant PlayStation-1-and-2-era RPG series. Murayama shepherded the first three games of that series, which are considered classics of their time. However, he bailed on Konami partway through Suikoden III – probably due to a combination of the game facing development delays and Konami being Konami, and we know how Konami is. Ahem. Anyhow, he's been freelance for a while now, doing scenarios for various games like The Alliance Alive… but he can no longer deny his destiny, which is to create a new game about uniting a bunch of heroes to fight an encroaching evil. One hundred heroes, to be precise!

Murayama has teamed up with fellow Suikoden veteran and superbly talented artist Junko Kawano to create a brand new Suiko-like universe filled with war, runes, turn-based battles, and 2.5D visuals. But these two and their assorted development partners need your help to make this game a reality, and that's where Kickstarter comes in!

Well, okay, maybe they need your help a little less than you think, because as of this writing the project goal of $500,000 has been absolutely destroyed. Eiyuden Chronicle is currently sitting at $2.2 million dollars with 30 days left to go in its campaign. People really love Suikoden, who woulda thunk?

While Eiyuden Chronicle's selling point for most folks is undoubtedly the fact that it's Suikoden with the serial number filed off, what won me over was the game's commitment to cats. It's listed right on the campaign page!

Yes! Pixel cats! I want to pet all of them! Please, take my money, you clearly understand what's important in both life and gaming!

Anyhow, going from the pitch text, it really looks like everyone involved in this campaign has learned from seeing other gaming Kickstarters turn into complete shitshows of angry backers and jilted fans. They seem to be not-so-subtly calling out a few notorious campaigns in particular, which might seem unprofessional, but… if you basked those campaigns and felt unsatisfied, you might need that kind of reassurance before contributing again.

Anyhow, Eiyuden Chronicle is going to be one to watch – fundraising is a guaranteed success at this point, so we now have a few years of waiting for it to come together. It might seem like a long time, but I'm sure Suikoden fans are used to watching and hoping by now.

FIGHTING GAME NEWS: SAMURAI SHODOWN GETS ANOTHER GUEST DLC CHARACTER, AND WE GET SOME STREAMS TO WATCH

Hey SNK fans, are you ready for a new DLC character to join the sword-slashing hoedown of Samurai Shodown? I mean, there are still plenty of beloved characters from Shodowns past who have yet to reappear!

Bad news, though: the next DLC character isn't from a previous Samurai Shodown. They're not even an SNK character. They're from a Chinese mobile game. What's that one everyone loves nowadays? Arknights?

*Gets handed a paper from offscreen* Okay, I'm being told it is not Arknights, but… *squints* Honor of Kings. *reads further* And despite me having never heard of it, Honor of King's daily active player population in China is greater than the total population of several European countries. *blinks*

…Well, okay then, that explains everything!

In case you're unaware, modern-day SNK has a lot of investment from China. Honor of Kings is one of the country's biggest mobile titles -- it's also marketed here under the title Arena of Valor, and is available on mobile and Switch. Honestly, though, the game is nowhere near as big outside of China as it is within, so this really feels like SNK catering to a specific market to please their Chinese overlords.

Gongsun Li is pretty darn cute, admittedly. But another umbrella character after Shizumaru? Oof.

Also, since EVO's been totally cancelled for 2020, we're going to be getting some streams from fighting game developers and publishers soon! First off is this stream on August 1st, hosted by Bandai-Namco and featuring staff from Arc System Works, CAPCOM, SNK, Arika, and KOEI-Tecmo alongside the Bamco crew. Will there be breaking news, or will it just be a bunch of fighting game developers talking about how screwed up 2020's been? Either way, it should be entertaining!

Then, a few days later on August 5, we're getting a CAPCOM stream highlighting the new Street Fighter V Season Five content, including new character reveals. Prepare for excitement and/or disappointment as your favorite obscure Street Fighter warrior is revealed/ignored again!

Well, this has been a weird week, huh? It would have been pretty quiet if the gigaleak hadn't absolutely exploded. Have you been following what's been leaked? Have you found any of the stuff that's been uncovered particularly interesting? Come grab a seat and chitchat with us at the ANN forums linked below! That's all for this week – keep on gaming, stay safe, and pet all the cats!


discuss this in the forum (3 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

This Week in Games homepage / archives