字幕表 動画を再生する 英語字幕をプリント CHILLS 5. Have you heard the story of the secret NES game Ladder to Oblivion by Max Shephard? The internet says there are 91 unlicensed NES games, but I know that's not true. There's one more, and I've seen it. It's real. At the end of this story, I'll show you a picture of it. By then, you'll understand why I will NEVER play it. But first, the backstory. As you probably know, when the Nintendo released its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in North America in 1986 it created a worldwide phenomenon. It had already sold over 2.5 million units in Japan and the success of the system in America single-handedly revitalized the struggling video game industry. By 1990, 30% of American households owned the NES, beating the percentage that owned personal computers by 7%. Mine was one of those households. I remember my Dad bringing the NES home for the first time, beaming with pride. I was in complete awe. I remember sitting in our sunken living room and playing Super Mario Bros. for hours upon hours, never sitting too close to the television for fear that my eyes would be damaged. That's what my mom said, at least. What I didn't know then that making games for the NES was big business. Part of the reason the NES was so successful is because Nintendo actively courted third party developers for its fledgling system. And because it possessed a near monopoly on the video game market, it was able to enforce its standards and policies with an iron fist. So much so that the United States Department of Justice actually started looking into Nintendo's business practices. When the FTC got involved, Nintendo changed some of the strict terms of its agreements. By Nintendo's count, there are 671 licensed games for the NES. That list grows to 677 if you include the three Tengen games that were only temporarily licensed, plus the several others like Miracle Piano which were left off of Nintendo's list. To enforce its licensing standards, Nintendo created the 10NES authentication chip. When the chip in the system detected the chip in the game pak, the game would be playable. Otherwise, no dice. As you can imagine, many companies either didn't want to pay the licensing fee or were rejected as officially licensed partners by Nintendo based on the quality of their games. Hence the 91 unlicensed games. You can see the list of them here. To skirt the protection of the 10NES chip, some companies configured their hardware to create a several millisecond voltage spike that “short-circuited” the authentication chip for just a moment and allowed the game to be played. Interesting stuff, right? I thought so. And so did my Dad. He worked for Nintendo in their development and icensing department during the late eighties and early nineties and got to experience all of this as it happened. But the story of Ladder to Oblivion does not begin with my Dad; it begins with Rob, the founder and original President of LTO, LLC, and his idea for a new video game. Rob was in his senior year at West Lafayettle High School in Indiana when Mario Bros was released for the NES. Like thousands of other kids around the country, he became obsessed pretty quickly. When Rob graduated, he decided to attend Purdue University to study Computer Science. He wanted to make video games. Purdue's Computer Sciences department moved into a newly renovated building in the fall of 1985 and Rob took full advantage of it when he started college the next year. Four years later he graduated at the top of his class. With honors. My Dad told me rob was one of the smartest people he'd ever met. Even so, Rob dealt with some personal demons. His mother raised him alone after his father was murdered in a home invasion when he was young. His mother was home when it happened, but her life was spared. The resulting trauma sent her careening through years of alcoholism and depression. Rob was neglected, as you can imagine, and eventually went into the custody of Child Protective Services. He acted out at first, but eventually rose above the shitty hand he'd been dealt. When Mario Bros came out his senior year, he found it to be the escape he'd been seeking. My Dad has told me the story about the day he first met Rob a dozen times. It was May 25, 1992. He remembered the date because the Friday prior was Johnny Carson's final Tonight Show and Jay Leno was announced as the new host that Monday. “Johnny wanted Letterman to replace him,” he said every time. “Not that Leno fella.” That Monday, he was sitting at his desk when the phone rang. The voice on the other side hesitated for a moment. “How'd you like to be rich?”, the man said. My Dad had heard a version of that question a hundred times and typically hung the phone up immediately when he heard it. This time was different. Something in the man's voice intrigued him. “I'd love to,” he joked. “Do you have a secret to winning the lottery?” The man didn't laugh. “I've got something much better,” he said. “And what's that?” my Dad shot back. “A new type of game. One the world has never seen before.” “I'm listening, “ my Dad continued. Rob introduced himself as the President of LTO, LLC, a game company. At the time, my Dad had no idea Rob was the only member. Rob went on to describe the game he was working on. It was a platform game where the main character moved across the screen from left to right, collected items and power-ups, and fought enemies. At the end of each level there would be a boss, with an ultimate boss at the end of the game. My Dad explained that Nintendo already had a game like that. It was called Mario Bros. My Dad said Rob told him the “differences were in the details.” The game would start with a young man who finds a strange wooden ladder protruding out of the ground. When he climbs down the ladder, he realizes he can't go back up again. The only way is forward. At the end of each level, the young man must fight a demon who appears in the form of someone from his past. It could be a teacher, a parent, or a friend, but the player would find out it was always someone who had harmed the main character in the past. After defeating the demon, the player climbs down to the next level. There would be nine levels total. In each, the screen would become darker and the enemies more powerful. By the ninth level, Rob explained, the player would barely be able to see his way through the darkness. At the very end, the ultimate boss appears. The player finally learns who he's been fighting to reach the entire time: a mirror image of himself. Defeating the boss reveals a new ladder that leads back up to the surface. “What happens when the player fails?” my Dad asked. “You don't want to know,” Rob said cryptically. “Can you tell me what it's called?” “Ladder to Oblivion,” Rob almost whispered. Eventually, Rob convinced my Dad to meet with him in order to show him the game. It wasn't quite finished yet, but the first seven levels were playable. “I was mesmerized,” my Dad told me. “The game made me feel like no game ever had before. The bosses at the end of the levels – I started seeing them as the people in my life who had wronged me. A teacher in fourth grade who humiliated me in front of the class. An old high school friend that had stolen my girlfriend. It almost felt like that game….changed, depending on who was playing it.” When my Dad brought the game to Nintendo, they refused to approve LTO, LLC as an officially licensed developer. Nintendo had very strict rules about the type of content that their partners could include in their games. No nudity, no gore, no cursing, and no religious symbols, among others. Ladder to Oblivion's theme and content didn't fall under the recognized restrictions, but it was rejected anyway. “It's too dark,” was the only explanation given. Rob was crushed, my Dad said. Understandably so. He'd worked on Ladder to Oblivion for the better part of three years. My Dad told me the day of the final rejection was the last time he'd ever spoken to Rob. He never saw him again. I begged him several times to try and get in touch with Rob. Maybe he still had a copy of the game and we could play it together. “Maybe,” he'd say, averting his eyes, “I'll see if I can dig up his number.” I believed my Dad all these years. For all I knew, the story of Ladder to Oblivion, the NES game that never was, ended the day my dad said it did. Yesterday I found out I was wrong. It's hard to even type this, but yesterday my Dad committed suicide. It was a shock to my entire family. He seemed happy and never acted like he was depressed. My mother found him in the woods behind our house, the shotgun he'd used several inches from his outstretched hand. I was devastated. Still am. Last night, I went to the one place where I felt closest to my Dad: his study. We'd spent hours in there together playing old NES games and reliving his days at Nintendo. On a whim, I ended up grabbing Marios Bros. ouf of its case. I was going to play a final game in honor of my Dad. When I flipped the door open, I found there was already a game inside. My Dad NEVER left games inside the console. He said it made them wear out quicker. It was Ladder to Oblivion. The art was just how I'd pictured it all those years.