Monday, 17 June 2013
Super Connard (GameBoy)
Super Connard sounds like an innocent name for a game doesn't it? That is until you translate it from French and discover that actually means 'Super Asshole'. A collection of three mini-games that sees you playing none other than Joseph "I stuff monkeys into Pringle tubes in the name of science" Herring, Kim Jong-un and Adolf Hitler, it could be the most controversial game to ever hit a Nintendo console. With homebrew Gameboy releases being somewhat of a rarity - ones featuring real-life dictators considerably more-so - the question remains; what is Super Connard actually like to play?
Fortunately, here at RGCD we were lucky enough to receive a near-final version of the game earlier this month prior to its physical cartridge release.
With Nintendo being historically notorious for rejecting games that could be deemed offensive, Super Connard developer and retro hardware hacker Furrtek declines that he's making a statement with his game; "(I) chose the GameBoy because it was my first gaming console, and also because it's still very popular. The second choice was the Master System (which uses the same CPU) but I thought less people still had it in their homes. I've got nothing against them (Nintendo) and their choices, it's just for fun!". And fun it certainly is, in small byte-sized doses.
Super Connard comprises of three simple, almost-LCD style mini-games, featuring CEO Joseph Herring's drive to work (running over as many animals as possible whilst avoiding concrete blocks), Adolf Hitler distributing trains full of 'resources' to appropriate camps and Kim Jong-un preventing food aid from reaching the North Korean populace. Each challenge is preceded by a short story introducing the respective player character (currently in French, although an English ROM will be available soon), with the overall goal of achieving the status of 'Super Asshole' via online high score board supremacy.
Whereas the choice of two notorious dictators makes sense, prior to playing Super Connard Joseph Herring was an unknown to me - I actually had to look the guy up on Google and Wikipedia. After discussing this with Furrtek, it transpires that whilst he and a friend were looking up a reason to make a roadkill game they ended up reading a Peta article about the most odious companies concerning animal cruelty. "He simply was at the top of the list", Furrtek explained. In this respect, Super Connard could almost be classed as edutainment.
Development of the game was a laborious process, typical of retro console homebrew. Furrtek went on to describe the process and tools used in some detail.
"For the code, everything is handled by the great WLA-DX and a batch file. I had to make 3 utilities: one to scramble the ROM data to match the cartridge's board routing, one to convert MIDI music to the format of the player, and another one to convert bitmaps to compressed binaries. Testing is first done in an emulator (BGB and noca$h), then when it works about right, it's sent to a modified Super Gameboy to see if the real CPU is happy with everything."
Although the PCBs, chips and components are all new, sourcing empty shells whilst trying to keep the final sale price low was far from easy. Sadly, despite Furrtek assuring that only "crappy" GameBoy games fell victim to cartridge-shell acquisition, the production of each physical copy of Super Connard involved the sacrifice of an original GameBoy cartridge. "It was just impossible to make new ones. Molds for plastic injection cost a fortune, the cheapest quote I could get was $1900 for a 1-million unit quality mold, and I wasn't planning to make 1 million cartridges! 3D printing was another option, but still too expensive (at around $40 per cartridge)".
In conclusion, giving a standard out-of-five rating to a release like Super Connard is really difficult. Although the presentation of the three mini-games with the 'world map' selection screen and introductory sequences is to be applauded (as is also the password and high score system), the actual gameplay experience itself lacks depth and the controversial nature will not be to everyone's taste. In contrast to this however, the release of the source code and tools could give the GameBoy homebrew game development scene receive a much-needed boost - and with the physical release being super-limited in quantity there is no doubt that the game is destined to become a collectors item.
At the time of writing, the first and second batches of Super Connard cartridges (retailing at 25 Euros each) have already sold out and there are currently no plans for further production. The ROM and source will be publicly available for free download in the near future.