So one thing I like to do on this blog is take a look at weird unlicensed cartridges. Who can forget the game-bending Ranma 1/2 cartridge? And of course the arcade bootlegs are just as weird. Let’s take a look at another weird one I’ve found! Surely there’s no dark secrets here! Don’t look at the date!

A somber occasion

So I was on my way back from the police station, when I passed by a usual thrift store. Not only did they have this NES cartridge, when I asked how much it was, they insisted that it wasn’t in their stock, and that I needed to take it away or I’d be banned from the store. That was weird, and now I’m trying to at least get a blog post out of it.

An unlabeled black NES cartridge on a hardwood floor. There is a stain in the corner

It’s a completely black shell, with no visible stickers. You’d think they’d maybe have worn off, but this feels completely smooth and new, no scratches in the plastic. In fact, I couldn’t scratch it if I tried. And I did try. I wanted to scratch it. I needed to scratch it.

I opened it up and found a basic CNROM circuit board. But weird thing; the lens on my iPhone camera cracked when I tried to take a picture. After getting it repaired, it cracked again. I’m not superstituous, but that’s an expensive repair, so I’m not trying again. So here’s an equivalent board from Championship Bowling.

The CNROM board. The chips are clearly labeled now. On the top row, NES-1F-0 PRG, NES-1F-0 CHR, and a small Nintendo-labeled IC. On the bottom, a 74HC161 branded Toshiba.

CNROM is an expansion on top of NROM, but only for graphics. The game ROM is still limited to 32kiB, but now the character ROM is also that large. I thought about using CNROM for Aspect Star “N”, but liked the challenge for sticking to the smallest official NES (but not Famicom!) ROM.

So I broke out the RetroUSB AVS. Gotta have those crisp pixels.

Um, well, uh, is that my own logo? I never made a CNROM game… And it was just my logo, right? I didn’t see anything else. That’s just the normal, logical logo. Good old Happy Train!.

If this a joke, I don’t appreciate it. Mocking me. (Note to self: delete this post unless you can think of something clever to do with it.)

Day 2

So apparently the RetroUSB AVS doesn’t work anymore. Strange. Of course I have a thousand ways to play Famicom and NES games, so it’s not a big deal… And I figure even if this is a joke cartridge I might as well play it, whoever made it must know me well and

no it couldn’t be, don’t even joke about that, it’s too soon

But putting my logo on something I didn’t make isn’t cool!

Aspect Star N title screen. Some text is distorted, but it's fine

Oh, it’s just Aspect Star “N”. I did make that, didn’t I… quite proud of it really. It’s one of my favorite games. It doesn’t really need CNROM, but you can run an NROM game on a CNROM board… It just means that the 74HC161 doesn’t have anything to do. Maybe it was just lying around?

Aspect Star N title screen. Some more graphics are distorted

It’s good old fashioned, totally normal Aspect Star “N”. Maybe someone left it for me to find to show they were a fan of the game. That’s nice of them. I’m glad I have fans.

Aspect Star N gameplay

It looks like the story element is missing. It just dumped me right in the first level. Did they make an 8kiB version of the game? Outdoing me at my own game? Come on, that’s not very nice!

Aspect Star N gameplay. Graphics are changed

My lives counter is staying fixed at -1. So I guess I can’t die here. It just starts distorting the level; it’s stored in RAM, maybe they bugged the machine? Or there are a lot of cosmic bitflips. I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Maybe it’s radiation… I should get the place tested.

Aspect Star N storyline. Nicole says she lives alone.

Oh, here’s the story! It moved to the end of level 1 instead of the beginning… maybe they wanted to mess with the select button behavior and fouled it up?

But… that doesn’t sound right. Nicole isn’t supposed to be alone. She’s supposed to have… you know… her…

Aspect Star N storyline. Zip is not sentient

No no no no no no no no no Zip is fine Zip is a friend please be nice to Zip she is my only companion

Aspect Star N storyline. Normal level 2

Level 2. It’s normal. Good old level 2. The gimmick here is that you have to dodge the green mice, because the only way to beat them is to switch to the X aspect. If you beat level 1 by luring the enemies onto the blue aspect tiles, then… well I’m kind of impressed. Changing your own aspect is probably the easier way to beat it.

Aspect Star N storyline. The last enemy is dead on level 3

And that’s level 3 down! I fully expect to see the regular post-level 3 storyline, it’s one of the funnier ones with Zip talking about how cats are doomed because Nicole is so incompetent–

Aspect Star N storyline. Zip and Nicole talk, but Nicole is too distressed to make jokes

Even when I’m having rough times, Zip is here to help me… isn’t she the best? Even when I call her a stupid toy… But this isn’t very nice! The original storyline was so much happier, I don’t see why they had to make it more somber. Did they make this for me? Who are you anyway?

Aspect Star N gameplay. Stage 4, but all the enemies are Nicole

This level is annoying enough in the original! Where are the birds, why are they me? I’m not my own enemy! I’m my own friend! My only friend, I’m the only one who can help myself and that’s that! I mean there’s Zip. But Zip is also me. Also me.


The only reason I keep this up is because I hope your name is in the credits! If this is a joke I am not amused! You don’t know anything! You can’t know anything, because there isn’t anything to know, and everything is fine! Totally fine! Don’t you see that

Aspect Star N gameplay. Stage 7. It's normal.

I love the last world of Aspect Star “N”, don’t you? Everything really comes together here, with some real tricky puzzles that rely on everything you learn in the early levels, as well as some new things. Here we see some narrow gaps guarded by birds! Birds! They’re just birds! And they fly around tweet-tweet~

Aspect Star N gameplay. Stage 8. Nicole fends off two dogs.

And here we introduce the dogs! They’re tough enemies so I didn’t use them very much because they’re very optimal, faster than you and hone right in on you. All the lessons from outsmarting the mice still applies, though.

Aspect Star N gameplay. Stage 9.

And I love the final level! It’s got so much going on, I even died! And the level began to glitch as I died. It’s probably because it’s been so long since I last played this game. Was really fun to pick it up again, mysterious author! But don’t think that means I don’t hate you!

Aspect Star N gameplay. Stage 9. Nicole has walked out of bounds

I’m not supposed to be able to be here! I’m not supposed to be able to be here! I can go wherever I want! What’s with all this cosmic radiation? Is my house being bombarded from space? Well it’ll take more than that, alien dog-girls from Sirius Vega V!!





Aspect Star N gameplay

…back on level 1. It’s fine. No credits at all, nowhere in the ROM.

Breathe, Nicole.

This wasn’t a very nice joke, whoever you are. I’m having a rough enough time. I think I’ll just get rid of this cartridge. I’ve gotten very good at getting rid of things. I’ll be okay. You, on the other hand, will not.

NOTE: Delete this post.

Day 3

The Framemeister stopped worked. The Twin Famicom is down. The only NES-compatible device left is the one… she gave me.

Two plastic 'MINI' branded upscalers

But I need to keep playing. At least I have these MINI upscalers… they can’t let me down. Not more than they already did, anyway

Aspect Star N title screen. The image quality is notably degraded

It looks terrible, doesn’t it? But what isn’t terrible these days, really

Aspect Star N level 1. There is no lives counter

See, whoever it is who made this. I need to explain something to you. It doesn’t matter what message you want to send when I have infinite lives.

Aspect Star N level 1 gameplay

To see your conversations, I have to beat the level. But I can just not!

Aspect Star N level 1 gameplay, now distorted in palette and level

Sure if I die the level gets distorted. But who cares? I can keep playing regardless. There’s infinite lives! I could play this forever and I’d never have to deal with

Aspect Star N death conversation

You can’t how no no no no no don’t do this to me

pixelated skulls

…the pixels. the nes can’t do pixels like this

Pixels that are half the height of normal NES pixels

you win.

Day n

Hey everyone! It’s me, Marion, Nicole’s girlfriend. I came back from a business trip today to find Nicole lying on the floor crying and muttering about pixels; a normal day for her. So I decided to just publish the post she had open. Happy April Fools!

Oh she left an NES cartridge. I should play it. She’s usually got great taste in games.