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Hacked Rom Reviews!


Tom Servo
-a rom hack of "Mega Man 3" for the NES-
review by: Dr. Boogie

Rom hacks are always made with villainy on the mind. True, most rom hackers seek nothing more than to profane and disrupt, but there also exists a small collection of hackers that actually want to do... something with the original game. Some feel that the original Castlevania wasn't hard enough, and so they edit the levels to make it more challenging. Others will take characters and storylines (rarely both, but there are a few non-slacker hackers) and put them in a completely different game to create a pseudo-sequel.

These are all best case scenarios, however. In fact, I have recently discovered a middle ground between rom hack heaven and hell, a sort of rom hack limbo, where the author attempts to bring foreign characters into a different game, but ultimate creates only evil in the process. It is in this nightmarish place that I have glimpsed a hack of Mega Man 3 entitled "Tom Servo."

"Check me out!"

Now, of course, I don't need to tell you who Tom Servo is, or why anyone would want him in a game, but I will anyway for those of you who don't know, but are pretending that you do to avoid looking foolish in front of your friends: Tom Servo was one of the robots from the legendary TV experience known as Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). Known for his gumball machine-like appearance and extensive underwear collection, it is only fitting that someone make a game with him as the main character, or rather, remake a game with him as the main character.

Suffering from Short Man's Disease. vs. This one's for all the ladies.

And there he is. It's not an altogether terrible likeness of Servo considering the graphical limitations of old NES games. Unfortunately, unlike Mega Man, Servo doesn't have any legs. One would think this would limit his movements a little bit, and probably scale back his jumping power. Instead, it merely limits him to a total of around four frames of animation.

Scoot, man, scoot!

It's more of a shimmy than an actual walk, I suppose. Still, as odd as that might appear, it can't compare to Servo's answer to Mega Man's arm cannon:

Soothing relaxation.

Sure, little energy pellets still come out, but only when Tom sighs a relaxed, "ah". Then again, maybe he's letting out a startled, "AH!!" Then again, again, maybe the author, Kasady, decided to make energy pellets fly out of Servo when he says, "HA", but forgot that the game would simply mirror the sprites for when Servo is facing the opposite direction. All this kind of distracts from the fact that Tom's voice is apparently a deadly weapon, just like those weirding modules from Dune.

Weaponry aside, Servo also gets some help from his fellow robot crewmate, Crow:

"I'm different!"

And you thought Crow was just a useless gold spider monkey. Quite the contrary, he can transform himself into a number of different... vehicles, I guess would be the best way to describe them: A spring for extra jumping height, a jet for flying, and even a submarine, which doesn't really get used that much but is still neat. It's just too bad that Kasady didn't bother to change the names of these vehicles from "Rush" to "Crow". I mean, it's only four letters; it wouldn't have been that hard. Moving on...

Yes, I'm starting to see a connection...

Quite a rogue's gallery that Kasady's assembled. Looks like we've got the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a snake with an unhinged jaw, a blue tiki head, a slightly off-center goblin, a cultist, and a trio of rejected GI Joe characters. The thing in the middle portrait that looks like a bent walker is supposed to be Servo's dome, I assume. It's too bad that with all the effort taken to remake the character portraits, as well as the background, that Kasady didn't bother to change the names under the portraits. Oh well, that's what I'm here for:

"Have you seen this boy?" Hey, where'd Jon Voight go? He was terminated from his old job. Man, check out those biceps.
*mumble mumble* The best galvanized villain, hands down. He wants you to get over there. He's just filling in temporarily for Zero.
Top: T-1000, Anaconda, T-800, Gamera
Bottom: Kenny, Galvatron, Scorpion, Sub Zero

Of these eight characters, only Gamera (friend to all children) has even the slightest connection to Servo, on account of all the crappy movies he's been in that made it onto MST3K. As for the rest, I guess the fact that they were in movies is reason enough for them to get in Servo's way.

The bosses are pretty much the only enemies that have been changed in any way. Oh, wait, that's not fair. How could I forget about these guys:

"We didn't see anything, ever!"

For reasons I can't imagine, Kasady has decided to remove the eyes from these characters. What could this possibly mean? Possible theories: since Servo has no eyes on his dome, Kasady felt that some of the more prominent eyeballs in the game should be removed to avoid hurting Servo's feelings. More likely, though, the author felt a quick smearing of a few select characters would make it seem like more work went into this turkey than he really put in. Are we falling for it? Hell no. Power-ups, on the other hand, that's another story.

Yes, all of this means... something.

Wow, a life preserver, a cassette tape, a can of soda (or beer, though Tom strikes me as more of a "soda" guy) and one of Servo's domes. Again, the trick here is that the author is trying to make you think he's improved upon the original design, when in fact he's merely removed the original flashing power-ups and replaced them with his crummy non sequitur power-ups. But did Kasady stop there? I wish. Our man Kasady also took a few liberties with some of the levels. Only a few, though, and most aren't weren't mentioning, apart from two of them.

First, Kenny's stage:

Post-modern level design.

When I said that Afro Man might be the worst looking hack, I said that it was only a matter of time before the next candidate for the title would emerge. Kasady makes his bid for the prize with this impressive showing. As I've said before, Topman's stage was pretty weak, the kind of stage a weak villain like him deserves, but it's still hard to say if this is an improvement or not. Sure, he got rid of the annoying flashing in the background, but he's replaced all the solid objects with TV static. People, the bar has officially been lowered once more, putting it right in the gutter.

Less embarrassing, but still altogether crappy, is the new Scorpion's (Magnet Man's) stage:

A very metal level, so to speak.

Kinda neat, I guess. It's a pretty clear indication of where most of the effort put into the hack went. Not that I'm dissing his bloody 8-bit skeletons, but still, it's only one stage. Also, note the new Proto Man and his all red jumpsuit. More on that later. For now, continue to observe the changes to Magnet Man, aka Scorpion, namely the new weapon.

Who's Scorpio Nissile? Yes, I'm looking to the right, so what?

Wowie. And here, I thought it couldn't get any better. Look at the great attention to detail given to the arrow, I'm sorry, the "Scorpionissile." The shading is very nice, too. Yes, life is good.

When you beat all eight totally unconnected bad guy characters, as well as the eight Mega Man 2 throwback bosses, you'll finally get a chance to see some actual MST3K references for a change.

Just repeat to yourself, "It's just a rom hack."

Look at that, the whole Dr. Wiley's castle sequence is devoted to the show. Dr. Wiley is now Dr. Forester, Dr. W's castle is now Deep 13 laboratories, and I think Dr. Light is supposed to be TV's Frank. His hair's a different color, but I mean, who else could he be? Someone totally unrelated, yeah, I know. Just let me have this.

Anyway, when I saw all these, I ditched my previous skepticism about there not being any changes made to the later levels of the game. That's right, I totally threw my early expectations right out the window. When I finally reached the end of the game, I saw that my optimism was justly rewarded.

Quality assurance at work.

Wait for it...

Nope, no problems here.

Wait for it...

"Even this grass is... drugged!"

There! Right there. Remember the new Proto Man? Turns out it was really Joel, secretly aiding and thwarting Servo all at once. Oh, it was all worth it. The half-assed animations, the awful new stages, the questionable cameos, all for this: a substitution of a single portrait just prior to the credits rolling. Awesome.

In conclusion, there have been a lot of bad movies shown on MST3K. Unfortunately, they never got around to adding a running commentary to bad rom hacks. I can only imagine what that would have been like. It probably would have involved a lot of funny remarks, with a couple really obscure references thrown in just to keep you on your toes. It would be a lot like my rom hack coverage, but with fewer angry invectives and curses invoked. Also, my DVD sales aren't going so well. Oh well, one step at a time.

Is that a floating baseball above that tree?

Have any questions or comments about this piece?

I want your skull.
Email Dr. Boogie

*** You too can play Tom Servo! ***



If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out:

("Castlevania 2" Rom Hack)


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