The concept and execution of playing old console/handheld video games on more recent systems or your computer is nothing new. Emulators (the programs that allows this to happen) and ROMs (the game files themselves) have been around for almost two decades, with players using this as a cheap, albeit questionably legal, method to play classic titles without paying for the physical copies. Even the Big Three like Nintendo use ROMs for their virtual console service! Up until last year, outside of improvements in emulation of later generations of systems, there hasn’t been much in terms of anything “exciting” or fresh in the scene. While randomizers have been around for a few years for some games, it wasn’t until last year when the appearance of “Randomizers” started hitting live streams on Twitch.tv that the scene really took off.
Randomizers, as the name suggests, takes a game’s ROM file, and then randomizes values in the game’s code to create an all-new experience. Depending on the game you are playing and what the specific randomizer you use, you could be
playing as completely different sprites, the color palettes could be changed, characters could have abilities of other characters, items be in different places, etc. The fact that it is values in the code that is altered, there are millions and millions of possible options that you could get. You can very easily, and quickly, have a brand new experience playing your old favorite retro titles. Most randomizers will give you a good amount of control over what gets randomized too, which lets you tailor your experience to your preferred difficulty and enjoyment level.
One of the more popular randomized games (there are entire tournaments held in the speedrunning community for it) is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, so I will use that as my example of the extent in which your game can be altered. No longer can you rely on your in-depth knowledge of all the locations of items in Zelda: A Link to the Past or Super Metroid as all of the item locations have been swapped around. You could very well get the Master Sword from the chest you would normally get the lantern from. Are you used to playing as Link? Well now you are walking around saving Hyrule as Mega Man X. Share the seed value (think of the seed as the password that chooses what is randomized and how) and you and your friends can have the same experience.
Randomizers give old titles a breath of fresh air, renewing the sense of wonder and exploration that is lost after you have played a game over and over. It makes you think about the game much differently as you no longer can simply relay on muscle memory to tell you to go to point B, after A. Now, you have to think about what different avenues open up now with the items you have found. That random chest that would normally contain a potion could very well now be the item that opens up a large portion of the game to you! After the Mario level hackpacks and Nintendo responding with Mario Maker, I wonder how long it will be until a developer like Nintendo will release an official randomizer title of their older titles.
Now, you didn’t think I would talk about how much fun and pleasure these randomizers are without giving you some recommendations, did you? While I can’t supply you with the ROM file that you use with these following randomizers as that is a no-no, I can, however, link you to the randomizers themselves! Here are some good ones!
LEGEND OF ZELDA: A Link to the Past
This is a highly popular randomizers with weekly tournaments being held using it. With a plethora of options to choose from when customizing your game, this one is definitely worth a look see if you are a Zelda fan! If you want to see the insane amounts of options you have at your fingertips for your Link to the Past randomized game HERE are all the varieties of options you can select to randomize
INFO AND DOWNLOAD: http://vt.alttp.run/
FF6 Beyond Chaos
Now, this is a fun one. I’ve had an absolute blast playing this randomizer. Only with Beyond Chaos could I get a moogle that can use Blitzes and a character that looks like General Leo (but with purple hair) that dances. Here is a list of what can be randomizer, from the creator’s mouth himself:
What this does randomize:
- Character starting stats. It takes the maximum stat a character has, for instance, Gau’s 99 battle power, and the lowest, Strago’s 10 battle power, and picks a number in that range for each character. Most stats will generally be higher as a result.
- Treasure chests. All treasure chests in the game, save for the Striker in the Cave of the Veldt, have been put into tiers and will be chosen at random. This means you will not get a Ragnarok in Figaro Castle. If a chest contains a Potion, that chest will have something similar to a Potion. Also because of the tiers, a couple of Monster-in-a-Boxes have been added.
- Character skill sets. Terra gets Rage? Sabin can Steal? Umaro can Runic? Sure, why not. To account for non-Gau getting Rage, and because of Gau’s recruitment in the WoR, Leap has been removed entirely. Don’t worry, leaning Rages is very, very easy now.
- Natural abilities. The starting Rages, Lores, and spells of whoever has those skills has been shuffled around.
- Shops! Items that appear in shops are shuffled around, except the Sprint Shoes. Any shop that sells the shoes will still have them.
- Character names and palettes. Should be fairly self-explanatory.
- Equipment. Specifically, who can equip what. This also accounts for starting equipment.
- Espers. The spells they teach, and the rate they teach at have been shuffled around. It will be generally easier to learn spells now. However, there is no guarantee every spell will be available.
- vVI – Colosseum items. The items you win in Dragon’s Neck have been shuffled around.
- vVI – Enemy drops and steals. They have been grouped into a tier system similar to the treasure chests and shops.
- vVI – The RNG table. How a random number is fetched hasn’t been changed, but the table from which those numbers have been generated are.
Another highly popular randomizer in the speedrunning and twitch crowd, Super Metroid Item Randomizer will do strip your mind of the route through the game faster than Samus’ power suit and abilities get stripped from her. Here are all the changes from the original game, taken straight from the website!
Changes from the vanilla game and other notes
- Items are randomized in two pools: Major items/Reserves/E-tanks in one, and the ammo packs in another.
- There is one exception: The e-tank at Hi-Jump is no longer a major item location, it has been moved to the right super missile pack location in Wrecked Ship
- The door into the construction zone (blue brinstar ceiling e-tank room) is now a Blue door and will have zebes activated when you enter it so you can check the items there right away.
- The red tower elevator room’s yellow door is blue to prevent softlocks
- Gravity no longer protects you from environmental damage (heat, lava, acid, spikes). As a side effect, varia protects you from the same sources of damage twice as much as it normally would
- Because of the above change, Varia will never be in Lower Norfair
- Some cutscenes have been removed or shortened.
- Golden 4 Cutscene is eliminated, if you killed all four bosses, the way to Tourian is open immediately upon entering
- Suit animation cutscenes are gone, so it doesn’t place you in the middle of the screen, potentially softlocking you in solid blocks
- You will no longer lose blue speed echoes while taking heat damage
- S/T beam is disabled
- GT Code is disabled
- The Intro sequence and Ceres station are no longer in the game, you instead start directly on Zebes from a blank file.
Info and ROM Upload: https://itemrando.supermetroid.run/
Final Fantasy 4 – Free Enterprise
One of the newer randomizers but still have had fun playing this one. Giving you the airship at the beginning of the game, this opens the world up for you to explore. There are many more changes and radomizations involved with this, but the list is huge, so instead I will just link you to the NOTES
Info and ROM Upload: https://www.ff4-free-enterprise.com/
These are just a few of the many randomizers out there. There are randomizers from Dragon Quest titles, Castlevania, Earthbound, Fire Emblem, and the list goes on and on. Just hop on your preferred search engine and search your favorite retro game and randomizer and see what pops up! Do so research and ask forums, also do some research before you download anything, don’t want you getting a virus after all! All of the randomizers I have listed I have used and tested myself.