The Nintendo Entertainment system changed the way the world saw video games. It was a system that shattered people’s expectations of what could be played at home rather than an arcade machine. When that gray box hit American shores, everything about video games changed in a dynamic and rapid fashion. It wasn’t long before the hits of the Japanese Famicom became household names with characters like Kirby, Link, Samus, Kid Icarus, and of course Mario. Growing up during the height of the NES has had such an effect on my life, as it has many other players through the years. That passion for simple, but intuitive gameplay is still alive and well, living on in homebrew projects, rom hacks, and many other forms of content creation. Now the New 8-Bit Heroes, a team of like-minded creatives, could be on the verge of an NES homebrew revolution that could change the way games are made for the console as well as create a game from the dreams of childhood.
The team that makes up the New 8-Bit Heroes include a group of extremely talent people. Led by Joe Granato IV, the team was built to create the game of Granato’s dreams, one that took place in a magical fantasy full of wizards and heroes. As a young child, Granato and his friends put together a full design document, complete with pictures, descriptions, and even box art. They then sent the plans to Nintendo, in hopes of getting the company’s support in the form of a development kit and a computer. Naturally, Nintendo declined to do so. Discouraged, the boys buried their ideas in a box in storage.
Years later, as if the fantasy legend was swirling in the real world, Granato discovered his old drawings and thoughts. Most of the paper was wet and almost destroyed by bugs and such, but finding that little box was a magical moment. As a creative professional, Granato sought to create the game of his dreams with a team of talented artists working in the limitations of the NES. Thus, a three part project was created. The New 8-Bit Heroes plan to develop that game, now known as Mystic Searches, as well as create a software and tool for creating NES games to share with the world. The third part to this plan is a documentary of the project, a telling of their epic tale and all the hardships the team comes across on the journey to create an NES game in the present.
Mystic Searches, the game being developed by Granato and his colleagues, was brought back with that old childhood friend in a barcade in Orlando. Together, the two played all sorts of NES games that the bar offered, while talking about the game until they were drunk enough to revert to their childhood selves. It was during this talk that the two agreed to work on the project seriously, trying to grab all of the best components of games like Megaman, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda. The game’s concept sounds incredibly ambitious, but the two accepted the monumental challenge with open arms.
The team then started to use the old pictures by those boys as the foundation for the fantasy world of Myrinda. Using myth found in Romani, Middle Eastern, and Native American cultures resulted in a culmination of coherent concepts. Working on their main hero and the lay of the land, the team slowly began to fully realize what this fantasy world would entail, but putting it into the framework of an NES game would take a little ingenuity.
This is where the tool comes into play. The NES Maker is a software tool that allows people to create their own NES game through simple drag and drop mechanics, similar to how RPG Maker works. This is coupled with a small device that allows one to write that rom onto a NES cartridge. This very tool could be the thing that changes how games are made for the NES, opening up a floodgate for creatives. People who shy away from coding, but still want that thrill of bringing a childhood dream to life can use NES Maker rather quickly. Some footage of how the program works has been shared on the team’s Facebook page, as they’ve brought the software to conventions. The people who tried out NES Maker were making their own playable game in a matter of minutes after some quick tutorials from the team. Even though I’m excited to play another new NES game, this NES Maker has me far more excited at the sheer possibility that a programming plebeian like myself could put an idea into concept relatively quickly.
Finally, the New 8-Bit Heroes are creating a high quality documentary of their journey. This is something a lot of development teams have been doing of late, as it shows the story of the game’s development, which is sometimes wildly entertaining and usually endearing. This look at the team and how they come together is a story worth telling, one that is immediately compelling by how the story is shot and presented. This is incredibly apparent while watching the film’s trailer.
All three of these products show the love these people have for the lost magic of playing on the NES. It will be exciting to see what comes of the NES Maker, as I already know a ton of indie developers who would jump at the chance to make games for the NES. Mystic Searches also looks like an awesome addition to the NES library, one that I’m sure Retro Gamers will clamor for when it finally releases. The future continues to look bright for the gray box, bright indeed.