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A Debug Menu? - by Tomato

A Debug Menu?

When a game is being developed, the programmers will usually attach a special mechanism to help test different aspects of the game. These range from physics tests, to code coverage, to game difficulty tests. I can personally attest to this, I always have some sort of code or button that will help me test different parts of my games. Anybody who has played early demo versions of my EarthBoundX game knows about the ever-useful "X"terminate button. But nobody expected EarthBound to have codes, it was just a simple RPG, with very few secrets.

However, I have proof that EarthBound does indeed have such a cheating mechanism, and it is in the form of a "debug menu". A debug menu essentially lets you choose what test or operation to perform rather than having many different codes. I am sure you doubt me, so I will skip straight to the proof:

(Image 1)

(Image 2)

If you're wondering what these images are, they are snapshots of the EarthBound ROM opened in a hex editor. While we're on the subject, I would like to say that I do not approve of the illegal distribution of ROMs. Do not ask me for the EarthBound ROM, I *will not* give it to you. If you want to play EarthBound, you can find it for a relatively small price at your local used-game store. I do feel, however, that once you buy a piece of software, you are allowed to examine its contents at your leisure. You purchased it, after all. Now that this is cleared up, I will continue.

Chances are that you don't understand the beautiful language known as Gobbledegook, but you probably can read the small part in English. If you're poor of sight, here is what is listed:

MOTHER2 ROM

1994/07/09

VERSION DEBUG MENU

1 GAME
2 VIEW MAP
3 VIEW CHARACTER
4 VIEW ATTRIBUTE
5 SHOW BATTLE
6 CHECK POSITION
7 SOUND MODE

This is interesting. The bad thing is that I do not know how to access this while playing the game normally. There may or may not be a secret button sequence that will bring up this debug menu. If not, there surely must be some way to access it, and the best way would be via a Game Genie. I am not experienced enough to hack my way through all of the code, that is why I ask all ROM hackers/ 65816 programmers who read this to help figure this out. If you're interested, my e-mail address is at the bottom of this article.

I have done a little bit of research, and found that the debug menu is not present in all versions of EarthBound. This most likely means that Nintendo found bugs in the first batch of EarthBound cartridges, so they went back and fixed them, then started manufacturing those. Those newer versions don't have the debug menu. It appears that about 3037777411460f the EarthBound cartridges do not have a debug menu, so if you cannot find it, that is why. Also of interest is the bugs that Nintendo had to fix the first time. Perhaps we can take advantage of them, but first we must figure out what they were.

I will keep everyone updated on this story as more occurs. Hopefully we'll be able to figure this mystery out very soon.


Other Submissions by Tomato

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Tomato Ness' Song
I made this MIDI for the old Mother on GB Color petition. The long pause was purposely added so that the song would start after a person started reading the page. Given my non-existent musical skills, this came out better than I expected.
2/10/05 0.00

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