Secrets. Those bits of information hidden from public view. Some are closely guarded, never meant to become common knowledge. Others are kept with the intention of some day being revealed, or, as often as not, discovered. They're all protected accordingly.
In terms of video games, secrets take many forms. There are Easter Eggs, those nonessential items that developers throw in for reasons ranging from a simple gag to rewarding intrepid players to getting a bit more recognition (as in the famous case of Adventure for the Atari VCS.) Cheats give players an advantage over what the game normally allows them to do, or provide access to other hidden options. Occasionally, there are secret bonus rounds or levels with extra power ups or simply more gameplay. There are hidden cutscenes and endings, whole extra gameplay modes, and even entire other games! The list of types goes on and on.
Secrets as rewards in video games are almost as old as games themselves. Indeed, they've been around so long that now they're all but expected. In today's games things that used to be classified as "secrets" are more often referred to as "unlockables," as the games often provide the player with a great deal of information needed to determine what these rewards are and how to access them.
In "It's A Secret To Everybody" I will be focusing on those secrets that are truly secret, in that the game they are in gives almost no information of their existence. Secrets are some of the greatest rewards in gaming, and provide a lot of the replay value in many games. In the Nintendo 64 days, I often rented titles just so I could try out cheat codes I saw in Nintendo Power.
Without further ado, welcome to the first installment! Let's kick things off with one of the contenders for best game ever.
The first two Super Mario Bros. games had quite a few secrets between them, what with all the warp zones and hidden 1-ups and glitches that could be exploited, and so on. However, the massive scope of Super Mario Bros. 3 allowed even more room into which all sorts of goodies and tricks were crammed. I could probably write five articles in this vein on SMB 3 alone; in many ways, this game was the Emperor Of Secrets until Mortal Kombat came along and Midway went nucking futs (but that's another article.) Today, however, I'm going to focus on one that brought me much glee when I accidentally found it: The Coin Ship.
What is it?
Taking a cue from "Coin Heaven" in the original Super Mario Bros., the coin ship is a bonus stage where Mario (or Luigi) can collect an obscene
amount of coins to earn extra lives. In addition, there is a hidden block on the ship containing a 1-up, and at the end Mario defeats two Boomerang Bros. to earn an item. It's like the airships that the Koopa Kids fly in, except with no enemies until the end and a billion dollars just floating around.
How do you get it?
There's a roughly 1/100 chance that a player would find this stage on accident. To get to the coin ship, there needs to be at least one Hammer Brother left wandering around on the map screen. Then, in any stage, Mario needs to finish the level with two conditions:
1. The number of coins in the coin counter must total a multiple of 11 (zero doesn't count)
2. The 10s digit of the score must match the digits in the coin counter
Ending with the right number of coins is the easy part. As for manipulating the score, there are three things to keep in mind, with the first being least important:
1. Coins add 50 points to the score
2. Breaking brick blocks (say that three times fast!) gives 10 points for each brick block broke
3. The amount of points given for each second of time remaining at the end of the stage is 50 points
Generally, you want to break bricks to get the score to match, then hit the block at the end of the level when the timer is on an even number, since the total points you will get will be a multiple of 100 and won't affect the 10s digit of your score. How to do it while ending on an odd number of seconds is an exercise left to the reader.
If you successfully do this, the Hammer Brother wandering around on the map...
... will transform into a white ship,
and upon landing on the same space as the ship Mario will start the bonus stage.
How awesome is this secret?
Pretty damn awesome. It's well-hidden, but not so much that it's impossible to find by accident (I later went and got Volume 17 of Nintendo Power to see how exactly I'd stumbled upon this.) There's somewhere around 200 or so coins on the ship, enough for two extra lives, plus a special bonus life at the end. And then, to top it off, you get a power-up for use on the map screen. As bonus rounds go, they hardly ever get more awesome or rewarding than this one.
I felt giddy seeing all those coins on the screen, and giddier still as I collected them and listened to the rapid chiming of the collected coins. The one tragedy of the DuckTales game was that you never got to swim around in Scrooge's money bin. Super Mario Bros. 3 filled that sorely felt hole in gamedom.
YouTube video of the secret revealed in the Super Mario All-Stars version:
Part 1 Part 2