After many failed projects, rushed releases, cancelled demos... Blind Devil presents Mushroom Kingdom - Under Crimson Skies: a hack meant to be fun, consistent, interesting and original.
Mushroom Kingdom has been covered up by crimson magic, cast at the clouds. That magic made all of the kingdom's inhabitants turn into stone statues, except for Mario and Princess Peach. It's now up to Mario to find out the responsible for that, and to restore Mushroom Kingdom to its former state.
The adventure consists of exploring the land to find Power Stars, and with their powers, dispel the crimson magic, restore Nature's Equilibrium and save the Universe's Destiny, which's also menaced by the one troublemaker. However, that's not as simple as it seems.
As you progress through the game, more of the story is revealed, and complex event turnarounds happen as well.
This hack doesn't have a relevant number of exits - the 21 exits are a symbolic representation of how many Power Stars are required to beat the game. There are more than 21 levels as well as some extra Power Stars, not to mention primary quests and extra optional, postgame quests. It may look like a short hack at first glance, but don't get it wrong - it's reasonably long, and provides up to 4 hours or more of gameplay.
Regarding features: the hack has a full original soundtrack, selfmade graphics, exclusive ASM, a hopefully good level design - from regular platformer to explorative levels - , explorative overworld...
...and the rest, you should find out when you play!
So I finally got around to playing this! I’ve been interested in it since I saw it in WIP so that’s a pretty long time haha. I spent a little over 7 hours playing this hack and I’m pretty sure I have everything at this point, which I think is important because I want my review to be fair. I will start off by being blunt and go into more detail in a bit. Spoilers ahead!
The first thing I want to get on the table is that while there are a lot of good ideas in this hack my experience with it has been mostly negative. I find that it has a lot of similarities with Secret of Mana (a game that I absolutely despise) and makes many of the same mistakes. On a more positive note, this hack definitely shares Secret of Mana’s greatest strength in having a really good soundtrack. Phenomenal job on that, Blind Devil. There is no one main problem with this hack, it’s more that it’s the land of inconveniences, especially when the problems gang up on you (which they do every now and then). Just like when I’m playing Secret of Mana, I am constantly asking ”why?” when I play this hack. Here are some examples of beefs I have with this hack, in no particular order:
1. You never give me any powerups!
I rarely get to play as big, let alone fire Mario, and it seems this was intentional because a lot of terrain requires ducking to navigate unless you’re small. You also can’t farm powerups because start + select is disabled. This makes death likely, which leads into the next beef.
2. Mario is missing FUCKING DEAD!
It’s very easy to die in this hack, which really highlights any problems there might be in the level design as you have to redo parts. Checkpoints are few and far between. As far as I can tell, they are only found in dungeon levels, and even then one checkpoint per dungeon just doesn’t cut it. A really dumb example is the lighthouse, which will spawn you at the top of the tower if you die on the boss, even though the boss is right next to the entrance and I’d obviously rather start there. The checkpoint in this level is a penalty rather than a boon.
3. The DUNGEONS!
The previous two lead right into this one. The meat of the hack is found in the dungeons, which is an idea I really like. Unfortunately, they ultimately fall flat for me. There is a lot of backtracking, a lot of setups that have no chance of hurting you and just require you to wait (placing thwomps in 4-tile-tall corridors should be illegal). I really cannot stress enough how much waiting there is in this hack. It is absolutely unreasonable how many thwomps, spike balls, hopping flames, and nuclear waffles you have to just stand around for. In several dungeons there is no point to it being anything but a normal level because you can only do everything in one specific order. The water temple stands out in this way, as going into the first door you see every time will take you through the dungeon no problem with no need for thought. This is not nonlinear design, it’s just linear design with extra steps. The quality of these dungeons are very inconsistent overall. The lack of powerups are at their worst in dungeons. Are you actually supposed to play through them as small Mario? To me it feels like I’m playing Zelda with 1 heart, which requires me to be careful and slow, not exactly playing to Mario’s strengths. Dying in dungeons is awful. You go all the way back to the entrance or checkpoint, but that’s not all. You also lose a life (yes, this hack has lives). If you drop to 0 (not die on 0, you have 1 less than you think) you get a game over and the current dungeon is completely reset, keys, locked doors, everything. I really cannot forgive this design as the only thing it accomplishes is waste my time. I don’t know if you’re expected to play with savestates but I imagine you’d have to be crazy to go without them. Every sentence in this paragraph has a silent ”why?” at the end.
4. Minor problems
- Could the rope not have had a little moving sprite at the top?
- I want to see further with the lantern so I don’t fall into pits I couldn’t see.
- Why can’t I toggle the ring off? And why do I have to farm enemies in a Mario game?!
- The final boss is dumb. Why does Bowser kill himself? You literally can’t hurt him so why does he keep using his worst, slowest move and then jump into it? It feels like I’m fighting an invincible camper and just waiting for him to kill himself. There are so many blindspots on the battlefield so I never have to worry about getting hit, it just takes forever to actually win.
- The in-character stupidity applies to most bosses honestly, but their dialogue portrays them as quite intellectually challenged so it’s more appropriate here.
- Autoscrollers are slow and involve too much waiting. I don’t like shredding the music by fast-forwarding but I also have nothing to do during auto sections most of the time.
- Bowser’s Castle is too cruel and demands too much savestating.
Those were my big problems with the hack. I bothered to write all this because there are things I really like about it. Like I said earlier, the music is great, and it really gives the hack a unique atmosphere. The bosses are generally above average, even though they have a lot of room for improvement. The silent realms (power realms?) are a really good addition that I was skeptical of first. It is the only part of the game where you have a time limit, and it’s nice that you can sometimes save yourself by quickly grabbing a relic if you slip up and wake the guardians instead of dying instantly. It’s also nice that you get to restart right away, and that they’re not too long. These sections are almost entirely free from my major gripes with the hack, which really makes them stand out as something positive. I wish they were more spread out instead of having all six of them in a row, and I’d like to know where they are instead of having to find them. I already completed all the dungeons after all. The upgrades are fun, especially the ring since you can use it whenever you want. The others feel more like keys since you only use them on specific objects, but getting them feels good nonetheless! I should mention that the visuals of the hack are all right. They don’t stand out as poor or impressive, they just kind of sit there comfortably in the middle. They hardly stand out as anything technical, but the use of color is very good in some levels. Finally, get some quality assurance. Based on your credits you had one tester other than yourself, which means you only had one tester. Getting testers is easy, so make sure you recruit at least a handful of those. Get someone to proof read your script too. The story itself is fine but the writing is a little embarrassing at times.
I don’t really do X/10 or X/5 ratings because I never know what the numbers mean. This hack is close to being very good, but because of a handful of mistakes playing it can be very frustrating. If you’re curious and don’t get frustrated very easily, I recommend playing it! If you do get frustrated easily, on the other hand, I can not recommend this hack one millimeter, because it will chew you up and spit you right out.
This was pretty damn good. THe only drawback is that somew of the things required were somewhat obtuse if you took a break from the game (The blue yoshi taking you to a new section of the map comes immediately to mind.) Also, Jesus Christ, the Poisonous Bog is painful to get through.
I really like the gimmicks and level design on this hack, the idea of non-linear design makes level exploration amazing. I especially like the idea of making it so you don't run into dead-ends-come-back-later with a very long travel. Music also fits to all portions of the hack. Another feature is that the level "loops" back to itself, meaning you go to area 1, then 2 that have something you come back later, and then 3, which takes you back to area 2 with something prepared or that you are in a subarea of 2 which "cross over" the area you just pass through to a new area.
One thing I note to myself is that there is a ALTTP references:
-Orchastra music instrument
-Keys to unlock doors
-New items in a castle or puzzle levels that you can keep after beating the stage.
-Enemies in Entangled Dungeon
-In bowser's castle there is a room that shows each icon of each of the previous dungeon (OOT)
--collect all silver rupees + sfx
Flaws I've discovered:
-The boss fight in firemouth grounds, if you defeat the boss, make sure you veer towards the platform, as it does not transition the level and resets the platform
-The green invincible ring cannot be canceled after activating it, until you run out of it, so you're wasting it and certain places cannot be pass through without damage since the area that requires using it is long enough for it to run out before passing through that area.
-Why did you disable start-select on completed levels? now I have to die to exit.
-And finally, the game does not tell me how to harm the final boss, or no obvious way to damage it, make sure you include something so that players get an idea.
--EDIT: lure the magic attack back to himself (he jumps to the opposite side of the boss area). The problem with that is you have little margin of error on aiming angle. The center portion of the boss room in which the Magic attack flies through is narrow and long, and I'm not sure if you're using the proper aiming routine, as it's possible for bowser to miss entirely even at close distance (5+ blocks away). This requires savestates if you want every attack to land a hit.
-Using a powerup system instead a health system. At least you used powerdown patch so that mario doesn't instantly turned to small, locked doors are saved so you don't go back to square one after death, along with multiple midway patch. Long puzzle games like the legend of Zelda games do this expecting players would take hits a lot rather than a simple 3-hits death. I know this is nitpicking, but combined with the inability to leave beaten levels so you cannot quick-grab powerups makes this hack punishing.
I would give this a 4/5. I hope a sequel comes out.
@Yoshi Master and @Alex No: I'm willing to fix this, however I have no idea how. If any of you guys could contact me via Discord, I could send you some test ROMs I'll be making. It's the only way I can think of to try to figure this out.
Also, I'd like to kindly ask people to report any problems either in this thread, via PM or Discord, and leave this area only for reviews about the hack itself. Thanks.
@Alex No: you probably will need to change the region of the ROM via tool or something. Since I don't own a PAL SNES for immediate testing purposes, I'm unfortunately unable to provide a fix for that issue, sorry.
i have problems with this game on SNES, it won't start at all. I tryed it on Emulator, it works very good. But not on a PAL SNES. I don't have a NTSC SNES so i don't know if it happens there, but all i got is black screen with lines that goes horizontal over the TV screen. And some sound, then it goes to total black screen.
More detailed thoughts on hack at http://smwc.me/1436545
tl;dr: This is easily one of my favorite hacks - it pulls off a great story, amazing level design, non-linear OW to access levels at any order you want, an impressive and beautiful soundtrack and also very fun stuff to do postgame. I highly recommend playing this, maybe it's worth your time. I'd rate this higher than 5/5 if I could.