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Solstice - Return to the Kastlerock [Nes rom hack] [DEMO AVAILABLE!] [DAY3]

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Hello and welcome to my C3 thread!

Last time I realized that not many people here are familiar with non-SMW hacking, let alone obscure nes game, so let me explain whats this all about and give some history.

1. What is "Solstice" anyway?

I wonder what the publisher was smoking when they demanded this to be the boxart

"Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos" is nes game released in 1990, developed by Software Creations.

Its isometric puzzle-platformer, adventure game, where the main goal is to find six pieces of staff hidden in huge maze with 252 rooms. There are some other items too, four potions that can kill all enemies and reveal fake blocks, freeze all enemies/platforms/etc, give player invincibly for one room and reveal all hidden blocks.

Most people know this game from its awesome intro music by Tim Follin, which is three minutes of awesomeness.

2. Where did this all begin?

By editing the disassembly you can make the room sized 2x2 or even 8x8 (3x3 and 7x7 are the smallest and largest rooms used by the game) and the game can "render" them properly too, considering how you can put exits/doors in the "extended" area the developers considered having super large rooms at some point but didn't in the final game, as seen here

I started poking the rom around 2018 early summer and then finished my documentation of the games room data format and some other stuff that goes with that, then month or two later I updated it with more data and shit.

After that I made the "manual randomizer" hack, where I just shuffled around the items, but afterwards I lost interest for Solstice and didn't touch it for years.

There was also the "Solstice alternative" hack that went nowhere, I forgot that I even made thread in 2020 c3 about it lol.

Some old rooms

Then few years later 2021 Cyneprepou4uk made thread on possible requests for NES game disassembles, I made request for Solstice, I thought it will not go through but you never know, but after some time it did happen which I honestly didn't even expect.

The nes PPU can only handle so many tiles at once and the game just keeps drawing tiles if you go beyond what can actually fit. There is way to optimize so that theres no repeat tiles so that you can fit more block in the rooms, but its not fun thing to deal with. If you wonder how it works, heres video showing it in action

After year of procrastinating I finally got started around summer 2022, I worked on this hack alongside of further expanding my documentations and commenting out the disassembly, and figuring out some other stuff, most recently I figured out and documented the gameplay demo format, its really not that complicated but making new ones from scratch was bit annoying at first to get the timings just right.

3. So what is this hack about?

Solstice - Return to the Kastlerock is hack I started around in summer 2022.

This hack redesigns the whole maze, the whole layout is made from scratch, all 253 rooms are made from scratch(219 currently in the latest demo). There are some new sprites/enemies too but nothing too fancy. Graphics and music are the same as the original, but some stuff are more commonly used, as there was one tileset that was just barely used and one enemy which only appeared in single room in the original game.

This hack is intended for those who has played the original couple times before, as the difficulty is higher but nowhere kaizo-level.
Theres also more focus on exploration and keys/detonators are used better, theres more puzzles and platforming. If you haven't played the original game before, I highly playing that before this hack.

4. Whats new since last c3 post/demo?

-A whole lot of new rooms/areas are added, +152 rooms, all items outside of last credit and one detonator are in
-Some old rooms are redesigned or remade from scratch, some areas has more rooms
-Implemented intros gameplay demos
-Edited story and some other text
-In some areas items are shuffled around
-More additions to the disassembly

5. Whats left to do?

Plans past this demo are:
-Finish up the last area (34 rooms, I might use them for some other areas too)
-I feel like some areas/rooms are bit lacking or boring, so Im gonna spice them up or redesign them
-Comment out more of the disassembly, Im still beginner at assembly so dont have high expectations
-Fix some minor issues with custom sprites (I know how to fix it, but other stuff took priority)
-Remove the progress lost when continuing from game over (I got it partially working but I postponed it as persona 3 reload came out)
-More additions to the disassembly
-Make the image of all rooms less ugly

The final area is layout, item and idea -wise planned, currently I have the layout drawn out but only placeholder rooms inserted into the rom.

And the one thing that needs work is beta testing, since the so far Ive only got generic "its good" comments that are appreciated, dont get me wrong, but they dont help me at all. Even recorded playthrough would help a ton(video or just emulator input movie).

6. TL;DR wheres the demo

Version beta 2.5

Check out the disassembly over here too.
It got some updates since the last time.

Thats all for day 1, enjoy?! #ab{8-)}
I heard of the Super Nintendo game that's Solstice 2 and this is where it all began. I hope people can do it, as 3D can be a little confusing for an NES. Other than that, design is great thus far. Keep it up!
DAY 2 - Im gonna ramble more about Solstice

Solstice beta

Theres very little information about this, other than some ancient forum posts where solstice beta was being sold/auctioned, and some pictures of "solstice v4.0" development cart, and apparently there was playable version in some event(I dont know what version), and theres also the "making of" video, in it they play the "final final" version, we only see tiny bits of it but one of the rooms matches with the beta rom so the beta rom could be that one.

So its unclear what version of this commonly found beta rom is, and if theres others out there with more or different differences.

Differences in the beta:

Opening credits & gameplay demos:
-You can skip them earlier than in the final version, on the "solstice" screen, in the final you have to wait until the first gameplay demo starts
-In beta it starts with first gameplay demo, then the opening credits. In final they go other way around

Room changes:
(beta on left - final on right)

Room ID #0A (main castle), they added large spike in the corner

-Room ID #2D (main castle), they added extra block and pick-able block sprite in the other corner

-Room ID #36 (slaughter yards), they added extra block in the corner

-Room ID #38 (tower of tears), they added floor spikes around the edges of the room

-Room ID #FA (tower of ultimate terror), they made the hidden room bit larger

Reason for above is that you can get out of bounds by jumping on top of the skeletons on the room below:

Otherwise rooms are identical to the final, as far as I noticed.


-The credits are not implemented, the text is not in the rom at all, it just stays in the "the end" screen until the music stops and goes back to the title screen.

Japanese version:

Its also worth noting that the Japanese version is bit different, its the same upto tower of ultimate terror(wtf is with these edgy area names?). Interestingly enough, according to the gamefaqs japanese version came out in middle of the usa and european versions, but the european version doesn't have these changes, even though its not identical to the either version and has its own differences.

(JPN on left, USA/EUR on right)

The room #F3 has some extra potions

So in order to get into the top room, you have to use blue potion and jump on top of the circling skeleton. In the USA/EUR version you can just jump on top of the staff piece instead

They edited this room yet again, I dont know why because now you can get inside the detonator and the game doesn't like that and can yeet you out of the room

And finally, the hidden room #FB now only has the final staff piece, which was pointless room in USA/EUR as at that point you dont have any use for its items so they are there only for 100% competition and its annoying to reach.

You can see the differences here(or whole playthrough) in video form:

European version:

For some reason in the room #43, when you pick up the yellow potion, the "big picture" screen has its graphics and palette messed up, I guess they messed up its pointer somehow? This is the only time when this happens. I have the European version physically so its not bad dump.

You can also skip the opening credits earlier, on the "solstice" title screen, unlike other versions where you need to wait until the first gameplay demo.

All versions:

The opening publisher logo is different in all version, in European version it has extra copyright text before the logo. And the first opening credits page has different text due to the different publishers, also Nintendo published Solstice in Europe!

Well thats all for day 2, if someone wants to dump this to the cutting floor file, go ahead, I hate editing wikis.

Originally posted by Rykon-V73
I heard of the Super Nintendo game that's Solstice 2 and this is where it all began. I hope people can do it, as 3D can be a little confusing for an NES. Other than that, design is great thus far. Keep it up!

Thats Equinox, the Japanese version was called Solstice II. I personally didn't like it much, having the areas split between different sub areas that you need to enter/exit via overworld map is tedious and its overall not that well designed, theres many softlocks(you need to start from the beginning if you save! Some can happen very late into the game too), theres completely hidden rooms(with no visible entrances) with pretty much required upgrades, blocks that you can push but looks identical to the non-pushable blocks and they take forever to push.. its just not fun.

So I didn't really have anything planned for day3, but after seeing the thread with mario world font I was inspired to make one myself with Solstices fancy font. I used this tool in case you didn't see the other thread.

Download here
Includes .json and bitmap files too if you want to make it less terrible(I made this on whim and its good enough for my use).

At least with if you put font size above 18 with the colored variation kinda bugs out with weird grid, but it doesn't look bad.

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