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 Top ten lists of whatever the hell.
 anchors: none.
Just to prove that I can make a top ten about anything.

10. Mach Rider (NES)

Mach Rider is a fairly obscure game today, but it has a legacy as one of the very first titles released for both the NES and the Famicom, and still enjoys a small cult following. In their rush to port Famicom games to America, Nintendo would often cut corners, from simply throwing simple pin connectors onto Famicom carts (which clever fans can utilize to play imports without a third party adapter) to porting over games without bothering to remove code for unused features. Mach Rider is an example of the latter; the game features a custom course builder that required a peripheral called a "Famicom Data Recorder" to save custom-made tracks. In the NES version, though, attemping to save or load a track will simply hang the game as it tries to access a device that's not there. Perhaps the funniest part, though, is that the manual explains that the options don't work and even gives a pithy excuse that they were left in "for potential product developments."

Thankfully, the Virtual Console release addresses this issue and allows custom tracks to be saved and loaded as intended.

9. Boogerman (SNES/GEN)

A below-average platformer released in the mid-90s by Interplay, Boogerman's password system is the first one I can recall that perplexed me. You don't save your progress with a series of letters, numbers, or even symbols - you use character sprites. Yeah, they expect you to write down "Scab Creature, Fart Ghost, Abdominal Sewer Man, Boogerman" if you want to come back to your game later. At least it's only four characters long, I suppose.

8. Hydlide (NES)

A simplistic RPG from the early 80s that remains a cult classic in Japan but never really had a chance in the rest of the world (primarily due to not seeing a release there until Zelda had been out for over two years), it also featured one of gaming's most confusing save systems. Well, okay, it's not too bad once you know how it works, but it certainly isn't very inuitive. I'll explain; the game has both a "save/load" feature and a password system, but they both serve very distinct purposes. Save/load essentially serves as a savestate - you can save the game at any time and reload to end up at that exact point. So where does the password come in? Well, the savestate data isn't backed up to any internal RAM - in fact, Hydlide doesn't have internal RAM at all, so the savestate data is erased once you shut off the game. If you want to be able to shut off the system and come back to it later, you'll need to write down the password and punch it in.

7. Mega Man's Soccer (SNES)

Mega Man's Soccer is a game that's notorious for being released incomplete, to the point that the ending and credits weren't even programmed in (the game simply boots you back to the title screen after winning the last match) and there's a "hidden" team that can only be accessed via Game Genie or a similar device. But that's not why we're here, so let's get back on topic. Most Mega Man password systems aren't too bad; you simply plunk down 5-6 dots on a 6x6 grid and you're good to go. Sometimes there's more than one color of dot, but that's not too big of an issue. But this one, oh hell:


6. Christmas Crisis (CDi)

Yeah, one for a game you've probably never played on a console you probably never bothered with. As highlighted in Mikeyspiky's review, this game's password system is downright asinine. Not only does it use SYMBOLS in place of numbers or letters, you're given only a few seconds to write it down, so you'd better draw fast or have a good memory. But if that's not bad enough, get this - the symbols aren't even shown in plain sight on the title screen, they're all obfuscated by numbered calendar pages. You have to decode what calendar number maps to what symbol just to punch the goddamn thing in.

5. Rampage (NES)

Okay, I'm cheating a bit here, because this isn't a save system but rather a LACK of one. Of all NES games, there were a few that became infamous for being long, difficult and lacking any form of save feature or even a level skip code, forcing you to restart from the beginning every time you died or had to quit - Battletoads, Blaster Master, Rygar and The Adventures of Bayou Billy are often cited there. The most iconic one to me, however, is Rampage, a game that is 128 levels long. Oh, and your only reward for several hours of work was this poor excuse of an ending. Yeah, not a great payoff for 5-6 hours of work.

UPDATE: There actually is a level skip code I wasn't aware of. Actually, given that it's on The Cutting Room Floor and none of the major cheat sites, I'm guessing almost nobody knows of it. Anyway, all you have to do is press B on Controller 2 and B+Select on Controller 1 at the same time to unlock it.

4. Etrian Odyssey (DS)

It's pretty rare to see a password system on a platform this recent, but they do crop up occasionally, usually as a means to import data between players or different games. Etrian Odyssey is one such case, allowing you to input a password the first game gets you to get a couple new items and some other fringe benefits in Etrian Odyssey II. However, it's not very well implemented. Not only is it an extremely long code to punch in (45 characters), it utilizes a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters and numbers, and it's also quite buggy - many users (myself included) would punch it in exactly as shown and get nothing for their work, eventually forcing Atlus to release one that was confirmed to work in order to address complaints.

3. Rambo (NES)

Ah yes, Rambo. A shoddy clone of Zelda II created by the masters of crap, Pack-in Video (the same guys who brought you Friday the 13th, Die Hard and that horrendous Predator game). But without question, one of the game's worst facets is its password system. It's obnoxiously long (32 characters) and utilizes uppercase, lowercase, numbers and even punctuation, making it a total nightmare to write down. On top of all of that, the game is notorious for handing out bad and invalid passwords, which can unfairly force you to repeat a lot of work. The best advice I can give (if you actually want to play this game for some unfathomable reason) is to get no less than three passwords at each checkpoint before you shut the system off.

2. River City Ransom

One of the finest sidescrolling beat-em-up/RPG hybrids ever made. Actually, probably one of the only sidescrolling beat-em-up/RPG hybrids ever made. But man, is its password system a nightmare. 33 characters with uppercase, lowercase, numbers, symbols and even apostophes that can go over letters just to make it even more annoying. But even stranger, if you exit the screen and come right back in without doing anything in between, the game hands out a completely different password that gives you the exact same stats upon punching it in. I have no idea how this thing even works!

1. Maniac Mansion (Japan)

The US version of Maniac Mansion is a game with an amazingly complex and well composed soundtrack for the NES, and my personal pick for the greatest adventure game of all time. However, not too many people know that two years before its release, the Famicom got an entirely different version; while it did feature uncensored violence (unlike the US version), it also lacked screen scrolling and had pretty bad sound. But undoubtedly the biggest step down was that rather than utilizing a disk or battery backup, this version of the game had passwords that were a whopping 104 characters long.

No, your eyes do not deceive you. 104. Fucking. Characters. I don't know about you, but I'd rather just start over than spend twenty minutes punching all that shit in!

UPDATE: TCRF reveals a hidden apology for the atrocious password system in the game.
 rawks  §  rad comments, dogg.
 ~Azul Rojo  §  at 10:54pm 12/03/10
Those are some insane password systems. 104 characters is ridiculous. And games that don't have ANY way of saving progress piss me off a bit, even when the games are good. Super Troll Island was one of them. Fun to play, but no way to save. And there were a lot of stages, too.
 ~Spoony Spoonicus  §  at 10:59pm 12/03/10
Thought of a couple more:

  • The Sega CD console itself has an internal battery that saves games. I'm sure it worked fine at the time of its release, but nowadays the things are so old and worn out that they're guaranteed to lose all data within minutes of powering off the system. So if you're looking to add a Sega CD to your collection, try and track down a RAM cart too - they're not cheap, but you'll need one for games like Popful Mail and Lunar.

    Thankfully, Sega acknowledged this problem with the Saturn and relocated the battery slot to a small hatch on the back, so you can swap it out once it dies.

  • Swords & Serpents on the NES actually has five different passwords - one to track your progress through the dungeon, and one for each of your four characters' statistics and inventory. They're not too bad as passwords go (13 characters each) but yeah, makes you wonder why they didn't just spring for a battery backup instead.
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