Gaming History 101

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April Fools: Best Video Game Industry Pranks

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April Fools Day.  This was probably my favorite holiday growing up because you could be truly cruel and no one would call you on it because you were still a young buck.  Well, as much as we in the video game industry (this includes fans) try to fight the fact that our hobby is seen as child’s play, there’s no reason to believe we wouldn’t run with it.  Here are some of the best (and most cruel) April Fools Day pranks played over the years (and yes, I’m aware they’re all EGM pranks, sue me):

1992 – Sheng Long
It was probably the first or second year that Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) began doing the April Fools Pranks that they introduced the legendary character Sheng Long in Street Fighter II.  The way it came about dealt with the English localization of the arcade game, which changed Ryu’s message after a win from “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch you cannot win!” to “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance!”  See, Ryu’s Dragon Punch is “sheng long” in Chinese and the translators mistook the converted name of the attack for a person.  Since Ryu was supposedly trained by a great karate master, we were to assume that was who Sheng Long was.  Capcom even corrected the mistake in the SNES version, changing the phrase from “Sheng Long” to “Dragon Punch” but the instruction manual explained Sheng Long to be the master of Ken and Ryu.  After that it was only one quick clever plan and EGM had people believing he could be unlocked!  According to the article, you would have to beat all 11 fighters without taking a hit and get 9 draws against M. Bison and you could fight Sheng Long.  Let this be a lesson, if it seems impossible, it is.  It was even funnier when the April Fools Contest appeared just under the article.  Ironically there is speculation that character Akuma was created based on the prank and Capcom has admitted that Gouken from Street Fighter IV is a spiritual version of Sheng Long.

1994 – Nimbus Terrafaux
I didn’t own an SNES when it first came out in the early 90s so me and all my Sega fanboy friends found the whole Sheng Long prank quite funny (despite the fact that we were all very jealous of the game being exclusive to SNES at the time).  Back in summer 1993 whenMortal Kombat came out, the Genesis version was the only true version to have every character with blood and the arcade fatalities.  Genesis owners loved it and claimed victory over the SNES once and for all, but one consistency of this version was that the blood and fatalities had to be unlocked via a code (ABACABB at the “code” entry screen before the main menu).  Naturally, jokes about secret characters (beginning with Ermac in 1993) were all over the place and EGM decided to take it a step further and suggest an unlockable character in the Genesis version of the game known as Nimbus Terrafaux.  He was a black kickboxer that could be unlocked by putting in the code R,D,R,A,C,B,B,A,D,R,C,B,Start when Reptile randomly appears and says “Look to la luna.”  The clue actually refers to how to fight him, which involves a shadow flying across the moon in the Pit stage.  So EGM claimed that doing this code while he was on screen would unlock him – you really didn’t have enough time to put it in and even if you did there was no way of knowing if it was right.  I spent weeks trying to get it to work only to find out it was the April Fools Joke.  His name, Nimbus Terrafaux, translating to “fake earth” should have been a giveaway but I was 11, I didn’t know.

2001 – Sega Neptune Factory
Okay this prank was good because it was based loosely on truth and I was able to figure out it was a prank from the moment I saw it.  Sega had announced in 1994 that it was planning to release the Neptune in 1995 that was a Sega Genesis 2 with a built-in 32x and retail for $200.  While one division was busy working on the Neptune the other division completed the Saturn at around the same time a prototype was complete.  With the Saturn being a newer and stronger system, they scrapped the Neptune (although there are actually a few in the world today and at least one of them works).  EGM claimed, many years later, that it had uncovered a company with a warehouse full of Neptune consoles and was unloading them for $50.  A web site was given that would point you to the order page that (I recently found out) actually existed.  When you tried to add the item to your cart you were redirected to a “fooled you” site along with a counter of how many had fallen victim.

Neptune prototype

2005 – Realistic Windwaker
This has got to be the dirtiest trick because I went nuts trying to find the damn thing, complete with getting steamed at a GameStop employee.  I was then 23 and had a degree from an accredited university so I figured that I couldn’t get tricked (and had completely forgotten that EGM did April Fools pranks).  In the letters area there was an announcement by EGM that if you pre-ordered Twilight Princess (which had a different name back then) you would receive an updated graphics version of Wind Waker for free.  This was tempting for some of us who hadn’t purchased Wind Waker and wanted both for free, plus it was clearly going to be a limited run.  With all the freebies, especially Zelda ones, Nintendo had given out over the years (this might have been the same year that the Zelda Collection on GameCube was a freebie with subscriptions of Nintendo Power) it was entirely plausible.  I should have known that when my local video game stores had no idea what I was talking about that it was too good to be true, and with my current savvy of the industry I would know immediately that this was a tremendous undertaking that wouldn’t have been free.  As it stood, I kept looking at that screenshot and fearing I wouldn’t get a copy while persistently bugging too many Chicago retailers to let me pre-order.  Needless to say I felt like a complete jackass that summer when I finally read some back issues of EGM only to discover it was hoax.  I still want my realistic Wind Waker guys. Prankster KarmaAll of these tricks are funny and all, but not as funny as the real tips and tricks that have been mistaken for hoaxes over the years.  Here are a few:

  • A joke screenshot of the Battletoads in Double Dragon wasn’t so funny when Rare decided to later release the game Battletoads & Double Dragon.
  • There was a code in EGM for Mega Man X that gave him the ability to perform Ryu fromStreet Fighter II’s  haduoken as an attack.  Since Capcom created both games, it was not only possible, it’s actually in the game.
  • In 2000 EGM coveredTwelve Tails: Conker 64 in which the previously bubbly kid-friendly squirrel’s N64 outing (he was on Gameboy Color first) would be abandoned for a trash-talking toilet humor adult game.  Especially because this would come out from Rare on a Nintendo console it seemed completely untrue, although I am very pleased it was real.
  • Although not technically mistaken as jokes, there were two cases where a prank in EGM ended up being possible.  The first was having all the Bonds available in Goldeneye on the N64 (Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, and Roger Moore in addition to Pierce Brosnan).  The code was supposedly implemented because Rare didn’t get licensing for it, which turned out to be in the game’s code and can be unlocked with a GameShark.  Another was the nude code in Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball for the Xbox, which hackers later created and patched into the game allowing those with modded Xboxes to play the updated ISO via hard drive or burned disc.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Features

Tagged with , , , , , ,

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