Debug rooms are a phenomenon unique to RPGs. And before you try to dispute that statement with "But I heard there's a secret menu in Action Game X," you're wrong--many games have debug menus or debug modes, but only a physical off-limits area created just for programmers to cheat the system counts as a physical ROOM. Final Fantasy Tactics has a debug menu, but not a room. Zelda: Wind Waker and Mario 64 DS have physical rooms, but no options that travel you to any other point in the game and no advantages given. They're more commonly referred to as beta levels or testing areas, not debug rooms.
This is not a debug room either. It's a hack that serves no purpose.
|The earliest uncovered debug room was inside Super Mario RPG for the SNES. A Game Genie code gets you into a secret area that works like most Square debug rooms tend to. Various characters around the area will speak to you in Engrish and grant you maximum coins, characters or weapons, and will teleport you anywhere you want to go. As far as debug rooms go, however, this one's kinda sparse, and some characters don't respond when you talk to them (like the second Mario shown in the video), leading to the theory that the debug area in SMRPG was half-deleted.|
Valkyrie Profile has a debug room that barely qualifies as such--its only interactive item is a container that brings up a debug menu.
Seiken Densetsu 3 (the Japan-only sequel to Secret of Mana) has a debug area that can be hacked open on the world map. Within, each patch of grass will take you to a different area or event when touched.
|And that's just the beginning. One thing has become clear between the time part one was written and now: You never know where a debug room is going to turn up. One has actually been discovered in Nintendo's GBA game Golden Sun (see right).|
In addition to FF7, FF8 and Xenogears(see part one), debug rooms can also be found in Parasite Eve, Star Ocean 2, Legend of Dragoon, SaGa Frontier, and even Chocobo Dungeon 2(whoop-de-doo). But after the FF7 room was discovered in 1999, word traveled to an embarrassed Square, who then began deleting debug rooms from the final code of all its new games.
But it must have missed a couple of them. There ARE Squaresoft games copyrighted "2000" that have their debug areas left inside. One of these is Vagrant Story, one of my favorite games of all time and space, and I was thrilled to learn a debug room was available for it...the only problem was getting there. I don't have a PS1 Gameshark, and the only save file I could find online was one that would only work with a PS1 PC emulator. That's the way I had to use, but given the choice I don't prefer controlling Ashley Riot with the arrow keys on a keyboard.
Not that it ended up mattering. The word once again was "sparse." If it doesn't say "Final Fantasy" on the box, they don't even try.
The area--the only area--was a large grid filled with open and shut treasure boxes and Japanese squiggles. The only employees on staff were six zombies that didn't even move.
One of them was wearing a suit of armor, so I figured he must be the brains of the outfit. I talked to him first, and he gave me some of the most incomprehensible yet well-illustrated debug menu options I've ever seen.
Making a random choice gave me even more strange options. Could a menu like this really have made sense to a programmer? I picked the middle, and was taken right to a nasty boss battle from late in the game. Game Over in ten seconds.
Try, try again. When I loaded my debug room save back up, I conversed with one of the other zombies instead. I don't know what we talked about, but my second random choice took me to a cutscene with Sydney.
After the third zombie gave similar results to the last two, I started getting the idea. This is not a superpowerful debug room that lets you play all the music and get the most powerful weapons and explore beta areas, this is for viewing any cutscene or boss battle in the game and nothing else. It CAN warp you to any area, in principle, but you have to either wait for a scene to end or get lucky against a large dragon.
Speaking on theory, there might have been another room that served the other debug purposes, but it's no longer in the game code. I guess this is just the portion Square missed.
The exception to the rule is the third zombie in the back row to the left--he's reeeal interesting. One of his options is a random scribble, and if you select it, you're given an entire menu of nothing but the scribble. No matter which one you pick there, he says this word balloon in response. And that's all he does.
I had no help in this venture. I guess not many people know about this room, as there is no Vagrant Story debug room guide in the entire Internet save for this one. And that one's written in an obscure foreign language no dialect translator program could decipher.
What I did, I did alone. And I think it has something to do with the fact that not many people have played this game. If you're among them, you need to find a copy and do it now. Forget work, forget school, forget your wife's baby--don't put off playing Vagrant Story another day! Here's a little extra incentive: this game takes place in Ivalice, the same world that FF Tactics and FF12 take place in. The games are all connected, and you'll only get the full experience if you play Vagrant Story. So play it, you fool.
One other title Square forgot to de-debug was Legend of Mana. I don't have a copy myself, but reader Robert Seddon came to my rescue with his own. His copy of the game is Japanese, but they're both the same. Here's what he found:
Lots and lots of onions with scimitars. This is the first area you visit, but fortunately it's not the only one. The first onion does nothing, the second one takes you to the world map, the third gives you options of either "Off Course" or "What a thing to say." ("Off Course" gets you to a battle map and "What a thing to say" cancels the menu.) The fourth onion, partially hidden by a log, takes you to a couple of useless test maps.
The onion at the top of the left screen will give you a normally unplayable sprite character as a sidekick; the others just warp you to various areas, EXCEPT for the first onion in the row. That guy gives you the power to adjust your HP as high as you want, but he's evil. He'll select whatever was two spaces below your choice, not the choice you selected, which can screw up your HP something awful...but that's what the Reset button is for.
One of the only text boxes in the area pops up when you try to leave the right screen through a path that would normally take you somewhere. The box says "It's a test" in Japanese, in case you forgot.
One unusual area will let you walk past the designated "exit" area of a background painting and strut anywhere on the scenery, see left. The pot-bellied armored dude lets you read any book in the game, including the cactus diaries. The onions just give you more warping options.
I know both these shots look like the same room, but they aren't. A strange thing happens once you talk to the top-left character and choose the last option: you're warped to an identical room that is empty, save for a couple characters offscreen and one disc-thing. Talking to the disc causes it to fall over.
A few people in the left room will let you change your stats or test out spells like the one shown here.
The English version of the menu shown here reads like this:
Money 90 ruku
"All artifact" naturally gives you all the artifacts; "ruku" gives you some seeds, and the others either warp you or turn an event flag on or off. The cactus to the right of the menu will let you create any pet possible in the game. As for the right screen, Seddon hadn't really explored it yet.
Travelling back to the FF7 debug room, look what I did:
I forget which option ended up making all the text and borders in the game "pretty," but the effect stayed after I got a Game Over and returned to the loading screen. Hoping glitched numbers would give me some kind of tactical advantage, the next thing I did was challenge Emerald Weapon.
And no....it didn't work. It had no effect on the rest of the game, so I just died in a minute like I always do.
Mr. Seddon said he had tried to view the FF7 deleted scene I mentioned in part 1 by following my directions, but found that the screen froze up. He was using a different version--the PC version, which on the surface explained the problem, but he looked deeper into it. It turns out that if you go into the debug area AFTER you've completed the 7th Sector Slums sequence, the cut scene will not work for you. My debug save was borne of hacking and has a clock time of 00:01. That explained that.
He also discovered that in the Japanese version of FF7, the deleted scene has dialogue!
Translation courtesy of: TheGlitterBerri
Tifa: Hey, don't scare us like that!
Barret: I heard from Tifa... if you really want to participate that much, help us out with the next operation.
*Cloud brings out the materia*
Tifa: Wow, pretty! This is materia?
Cloud: Yeah. It withdraws an unknown power from humans.
Tifa: Why can we use this unknown power?
Cloud: Why? ... I heard the answer before but I've forgotten. The only important thing is knowing how to use it.
Tifa: Okay then, how do you use it?
(Option 1: It's difficult but I'll explain...
Option 2: Too tiresome to explain...)
*player chooses option 2*
Barret: You won't explain because it's a SOLDIER secret, huh? Oh well, I know a little bit anyway. By the way, Cloud... why did you quit SOLDIER?
Cloud: It's no business of yours.
Tifa: Enough of that. Tomorrow's gonna be tough. We have to get some rest!
It's not the only deleted scene, either. These two were also found. The first one is an extra "Young Cloud and Sephiroth" flashback and can be seen in the two o'clock room by selecting the menu option in the below video; but it freezes after the word "Shinra" in all versions of the game.
There are two different versions of this next cut scene, which is believed to be an alternate version of Cloud's entry into the train after he runs into all the troops in the street. It uses the same background as the scene where Cloud swings in through the door to meet back up with Avalanche. The Japanese PC version of this scene adds a red tint to Cloud's freakout; the English version keeps the colors normal. The meaning of Cloud's statement is unknown.
The last thing Seddon has found is a string of text that was written for the debug room but does not show up. Your guess is as good as mine....
Welcome to Kato's room.
That doesn't really
matter all that muchbabushika.
Get readycaped crusaderNya-haha
Don't think you'll get away so easy.
You might be wondering if deleted scenes can be found in debug rooms for other such games. There are similar discoveries in the Xenogears debug room, but I never made it without biting. Ask Mr. Owl.
Debug Room Insanity could become a trilogy if I could get my hands on information about the rooms in Parasite Eve, Star Ocean 2, Legend of Dragoon, SaGa Frontier, and even Chocobo Dungeon 2(whoop-de-doo). Playing through said rooms would be even better, but the only one out of them I currently have is Star Ocean. No one is rushing to fill my place, however--there's virtually no info on the Net about non-FF7 debug areas. There are two possibilities: either some more people will decide to help me out (that means you), or 1up.com will decide to write a debug room article and steal much of the info from these pages. Perhaps both.
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