As November drew to a close, I painfully reminded myself that it’s been another month without any games crossed off The List. There was a patch earlier in the year where I had a good run – one game one month, a couple the next, always a little progress. But the last four months has seen no decrease at all, and – feeling a bit glum from my day job and in need of a little retail therapy – I decided to splurge on something that would ensure that November would be a winning month.
A cheat system for the DS: the CycloDS Evolution.
I’ve mentioned cheating before, and truth be told I only wanted this particular device for one game – The Rub Rabbits. The one remaining barrier to Completion in this game (as I’ve written before) is the horribly unfair Stampede (in Memories) – but the CycloDS, with its real-time save feature, offered a solution that I considered completely tenable. After all, I reasoned, if I merely create a fall-back save every time I successfully get past one of the dreaded heart-of-hearts… well, I’m still actually playing the game, aren’t I? I’m still actually performing the actions required to get the game done, right? Maybe not in the time-frame the creators had in mind, but still.
Now, I’ve got a couple of other flash-cart combos for my DS – an old M3 / Passcard combo (still incredibly useful for ripping my own ROMs and grabbing existing save-game information), and a relatively new R4 (an utterly lovely bit of kit and a real revelation after the rub-your-tummy-whilst-patting-your-head trickery of the M3). The CycloDS is very similar to the R4, in that it supports unpatched, raw ROMs – simplicity itself to use – as well as presenting a polished interface, and access to Action Replay-style cheat codes. The R4 is slightly nicer in that it pre-empts the DS’s normal boot sequence, saving you the hassle of actually booting the cart – but apart from that there’s little to separate the two cards.
…Except for the CycloDS’ real-time save feature. Once enabled, the rather contorted A+B+X+Y+L+R button combo interrupts the game, allowing you to save the current state of the game back to the flash-cart’s Micro-SD card – easily reloaded at a later date to enable you to pick up exactly where you left off. Thus, my task was simple: play The Rub Rabbits‘ shitty Stampede mini-game, save the state when I get over a tricky bit, reload if I fail, and just push on through to Completion. And it turned out exactly as planned, though for some bizarre reason I was able to complete the six heart-of-hearts in a total of seven attempts (but some other sequences caused a few problems). Still, twenty minutes later, the job was done.
I could cross The Rub Rabbits off The List.
…Except that something didn’t feel right (again). Could it be that the DS ROM’s save state was stuck on my Micro-SD card, rather than on The Rub Rabbits‘ cartridge? That’s not an issue – I could reverse-dump the save state back onto the cart no problems. Or could it be the fact that I was objecting to my own (subjective) cheatiness? Surely not – even back in the C64 days, before I started devoting time to coding assembly rather than gaming, I’d use my trusty Expert cartridge to do much the same thing as I was doing now. I still remember the utterly convincing joy I felt after slowly-but-surely conquering Uridium.
Clearly, that was not why I was feeling slightly icky.
…Except it was. And, I think, part of it was the ease at which I managed the task when all pressure was off; only one botched heart-of-heart! Now my mind’s playing tricks on me – why can’t I reproduce that quality of play in regular conditions? Maybe all that’s required is the ability to calm myself, pretend that there’s no pressure there. It’s all about control – mind games.
And suddenly I’m playing The Rub Rabbits again, original cartridge wodged in the DS, utterly convinced I can do this absolutely, unequivocally, one-hundred-percent legit. And failing miserably. Fuck knows what that scoreline looks like now – let’s just say something like 30-1 heart-of-hearts attempts have been unsuccessful.
And so, once again, my brain has conspired to prevent me from moving on, from crossing something off The List. November was yet another dry month.
(Luckily, though, December has already been covered – Mercenaries 2 has stepped up to fill in the void. More on that later…)