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Star Keeper Owners - Question on Cheat Code


Lambda
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Hey All!

i personally own two copies of Star Keeper. #73 of the LE run, and one of only 16 of the Standard Edition run (purported to be a bit more rare) 87Arts made before ending all further sales. *I felt the need to pick up two copies of this game last year for one reason: I love developing homebrew and tinkering. And if you know the story about the creator of this game, he went from knowing absolutely nothing about NES dev, to designing his own mapper, code, and circuit board, just to make this game come to light. I have to respect that type of dedication.

My question pertains to the cheat code hidden within the manual. The pictures attached to this topic show both of my copies (identical in appearance, although I sifted through manuals and gameplay and everything appears identical), and the code I pulled from the manual. The code was deciphered pretty easily, it was just a matter of sifting through the font variations within the manual and piecing it together. 
 

What I don’t understand at all is how to enable the code to allow for extra lives.

I’ve tried everything from entering the code at the copyright screen, title screen, pause menus, above and at the front door of the house, mid game, continue menu, etc... I was even looking for clues in the star animations on the play field. Still... no luck... In fact I wound up having one odd event where I entered the code so many times and so frequently that the game literally burped and crashed the entire system... first time I’ve seen that with this game, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the enabling of the code (was I on to something? 😂)

I may have gotten the code down, but can anyone at all help with implementation to make it work? Does anyone have any insight? 
thanks in advance for all replies!

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@Deadeye so from my understanding, 100 LE copies were produced. They are all numbered via the code within the game and will display their #/100 on the title screen at the beginning of the game. A smaller number of these (maybe 10?... my memory escapes me right now) were “Gift” variants and actually had a customers name programmed into the game. These copies will display a custom 16 char name alongside the #/100 at the beginning of the game, while the other LEs only display the #/100.

The Standard Edition does not have a custom display name or #/100 on the title screen. There were only 16 of these made if I recall correctly (which arguably makes them a bit more rare than the LEs).
 

The boxes, manuals and carts are both identical. The only real way to tell is to boot up the game and see for yourself.

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@Deadeye okay so I found something else within the controls page (8) of the manual. The Down and Left button font colors are different than all the others. My eyes missed this on the first pass thru of the manual. If you adjust my code to strictly include Dark Blue/Purple colored fonts, the code is now this:

Up, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right. 
 

I still not have taken into account whether or not the capital letters mean anything yet but I did try one scenario after dying: I entered the (colored) code at the continue screen from level 2 when I died. When I hit continue, I was brought back to level 2 Round 1. Is this normally how the continue menus works from what you may have experienced? Or does the continue screen bring you back to level 1 after dying on round 2? (This is the first time I’ve made it to level 2, so I’m unsure). I’d assume continue means to continue at the stage you left off at but I can’t be sure without testing further tmrw. Let me know if you’ve made it to level 2 or past, and when dead, continue brings you back to either level 1, or whatever level you left off at (if you’d know). 

*** the only reason I’m assuming capital letters don’t mean much here is because they include the word start. If you press this before the other buttons are pressed at either the title screen, or during pause, whatever process is running is interrupted... I’m assuming this could be worked around with some clever coding (and the author is indeed a clever coder...), but it leaves more testing to be done.

haha I’m determined to figure this out...

Edited by Lambda
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Okay guys! I found something!! @Deadeye @Hybrid

In my day job, I do IT administration and security. When we’re running a vulnerability or penetration test, thinking outside the box is imperative.. if there isn’t one way to get the job done, or you’ve hit a road block, you have to find a new way... or go around it. That being said, I didn’t find the implementation of the cheat code in the manual...(maybe there’s more to it... there’s definitely something I’m missing)... but I DID find possibly the next best thing...a bug in the game’s enemy spawn routine that allows you to rack up lives and take zero risks/damage while doing it!

 

Okay there’s a lot to unpack here so I’ll get right into it:

First, I ran a bunch of play throughs on the first two levels. I began noticing some things that caught my attention. 

1) Enemy spawn routines seem to be based (somewhat) on X and Y positioning of the player, direction/speed of travel, with an RND function mixed in. (No way to know for sure without seeing the code, but this is my assumption based on what I’m seeing).

2) I also noticed that power up spawns seem to be based strictly upon an RND function and are not tied at all to the enemy type you have killed: for instance: any enemy on screen can produce any power up. No single enemy produces a set type of power up. *I also noticed some power ups are unavailable in the beginning of the game (first two levels at least), but the important one (1-up) is. (This is important, more on this later).


 For the most part, the game is pretty fluid in spawning enemies. However there is one area that seems to cause the spawn routine to hiccup... the starting position of the level, specifically the first cloud platform just to the left of the house. (See the first picture attached). 

In level 1, if you circle the entire map to enable spawn possibilities of all enemies, make your way back to this cloud platform, and stand on it for a while, you’ll get a massive lull in the type and numbers of enemies that appear, until it essentially drops to just one enemy type (tornado). The spawn sequence becomes limited to tornadoes dropping from the sky.

Okay so at this point, I’ve found a way to manipulate a routine within the game. Time to take it up a notch and make the game do something we want:

On level 2, the same cloud platform, and enemy spawn routine exists. After circling the map in entirety and spawning all possible enemies, I went back to the same cloud platform, just left of the house and stood there. The game now began reacting in the same way... spawning of enemies was reduced to one type after standing here for a while. In level 1, the enemy type was tornadoes (which we cannot kill), but in Level 2, it is an attackable enemy 🙂

 

Heres where we can take advantage of this bug:

On level 2:

1) you’ll want to circle the map or ensure that all possible enemies have spawned at least once on the map. 
2) you now need to acquire the Bidirectional Ray Gun power up. This is important for executing the glitch.

3) make your way back to the first cloud platform just to the left of the house. Stand on it and move slightly to the right just towards the end of the cloud platform. Make sure you’re facing Right.

if you did things correctly, only one enemy type will now spawn and attempt to attack you. The “sea predator” according to the manual...(flying fish? Penguin?... lol not sure what to call him). We are now going to take advantage of his attack routine.

The flying fish will move in the water until he reaches your X position on screen. Once his X equals your X, he will jump out of the water and begin moving in an arc in the direction that YOU are facing (this is why we must stand facing right on the cloud platform). You’ll notice that as he moves out of the water to attack, he cannot hit you, he moves past you. The flying fish has 4/5 possible jump heights, but all of them (99% of the time), will cross the Y axis level of the platform you are standing on. 
Crouch down to the prone position, and begin firing with the ray gun. Every fish that crosses the ray gun will be killed on second shot. (The ray gun is important, because the other guns just didn’t seem to be as effective in making this work). As the flying fish are killed, there’s a random possibility of receiving a power up. We wait until we get enough hearts to max out our heart meter (the most you can acquire is 5), and then begin waiting for a flying fish to die and leave behind a 1-up. (See second picture I’ve attached). 
 

if we did this right, we can essentially sit here as long as we want, without worrying about enemies sneaking up from behind, or coming at us head on. We just simply keep killing the flying fishes until they keep dropping 1-ups. I did this for about 20 minutes and acquired 5 extra lives to make my life count a total of 8. (See third picture attached). 
Theoretically  you Could sit here as long as you wanted and just rack up lives until you’re satisfied to move on.

as for the bug/glitch, I’m positive it works on level 2, and may possibly work on further levels, but I have not attempted it yet, and I don’t know what enemy types would be entered into the spawn routine... this enemy though, is an easy kill, and has zero chance of hurting you, making this an easy one. 
 

*notice also, when taking advantage of this bug, if you move off the cloud platform to the right to collect a 1-up you may cause an “evil cherub” to appear. Conversely, if you move off the platform to the left, you’ll cause either an “evil bird” or an “evil shellfish” that springs straight up at you to appear. 
 


*** I also tested this glitch on Level 2, Wave 2 - doesn’t work. Also tested on Level 3, Wave 1 - doesn’t work. In both cases more than one enemy type spawns and will cause you to need to abandon the platform to stay alive.

thanks for reading, hope this may help some people get past some of the tougher levels 🙂

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Edited by Lambda
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A short video of the glitch in action.

the flying fish will come at you in sets of 3. And they’ll just keep coming... keep shooting til you get as many 1-ups as you’d like 🙂 it may be a lot of time spent, but this glitch works 100% on Level 2, Wave 1.
 

Edited by Lambda
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@Lambda Since I discovered this amazing thread the other day, I've been trying to crack the code too, without much success. The only thing I can add so far is that on page 8, there's an extra "Down" that you don't have listed. So if we aren't missing anything else the code should be:

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right

I've been toying with the notion that the capitalized Right on page 8 should also be included, as maybe the font color was mistakenly not changed, but you make a good point about why Start probably isn't included. It just seems like a remote possibility if nothing else works.

I've also been trying to input the code on controller 2, but I have no idea if the game even looks for inputs from controller 2. None of the likely screens to try it (copyright, title, intro, stage start, life display, pause, continue) seem to be working though. Either we're missing something very basic here, or this code must be entered in an unorthodox manner, or perhaps the code is just broken. I'll keep thinking though.

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Okay guys, I have something else to report:

maximum number of lives that can be attained is 99. (See picture below). I used the spawn bug/spawn glitch to gain the lives. I attempted to go to 101. There’s a reason for this: If the lives kept continuing, and surpassed 101, and continued on infinitely then it would beg a question: is there a signed byte overflow problem within the code relating to the life counter?

(this bug exists in Super Mario Bros). Bytes in memory contain 256 unique numbers. There’s two ways to accomplish this:

0-255 or  -128 to 127 representing a signed byte. This give us our 256 combinations within the byte for memory, just as 0-255 does.

Here’s the problem!: if you surpass 127 lives, and the memory location is utilizing a signed byte, the 128th life may be read as a negative number!... (computer begins counting from the lowest value again which is -128) which means if you die with 128-255 attained lives, the continue menu, (No matter how far you’ve progressed in the game), might send you back to the beginning of the game!

This is not possible since the programmer has obviously put a limiting routine in place to handle that potential bug, limiting us to 99 lives total.

...clever girl... (Jurassic park voice)😂

 

this guy is obviously experienced and knows what he’s doing.

im going to include these details in my second write up of the bug/spawn glitch, over in the star keeper general discussions forum in coming days. (I’ve found a more efficient way to execute the glitch). Stay tuned.

@ecmyers
I think if we keep putting our heads together, we will definitely figure out how to enter the hidden code and gain lives without needing the spawn bug. But for now, the bug seems to be the best way to farm lives.

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Edited by Lambda
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  • 4 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/22/2020 at 12:52 AM, Lambda said:

Hey All!

i personally own two copies of Star Keeper. #73 of the LE run, and one of only 16 of the Standard Edition run (purported to be a bit more rare) 87Arts made before ending all further sales. *I felt the need to pick up two copies of this game last year for one reason: I love developing homebrew and tinkering. And if you know the story about the creator of this game, he went from knowing absolutely nothing about NES dev, to designing his own mapper, code, and circuit board, just to make this game come to light. I have to respect that type of dedication.

My question pertains to the cheat code hidden within the manual. The pictures attached to this topic show both of my copies (identical in appearance, although I sifted through manuals and gameplay and everything appears identical), and the code I pulled from the manual. The code was deciphered pretty easily, it was just a matter of sifting through the font variations within the manual and piecing it together. 
 

What I don’t understand at all is how to enable the code to allow for extra lives.

I’ve tried everything from entering the code at the copyright screen, title screen, pause menus, above and at the front door of the house, mid game, continue menu, etc... I was even looking for clues in the star animations on the play field. Still... no luck... In fact I wound up having one odd event where I entered the code so many times and so frequently that the game literally burped and crashed the entire system... first time I’ve seen that with this game, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the enabling of the code (was I on to something? 😂)

I may have gotten the code down, but can anyone at all help with implementation to make it work? Does anyone have any insight? 
thanks in advance for all replies!

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8F8A9A38-0BC4-4264-819E-1CC47D64C435.jpeg

Man, I am stuck in the same boat as you and everyone else trying to figure this code out. There has to be something we are missing. I wish there was a way to contact 87Arts. Any hint from the developer would help greatly. I'm starting to give up on this code, but part of me wants to figure it out! Lol

It has to work some how,some way.

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On 2/2/2020 at 1:50 AM, ecmyers said:

@Lambda Since I discovered this amazing thread the other day, I've been trying to crack the code too, without much success. The only thing I can add so far is that on page 8, there's an extra "Down" that you don't have listed. So if we aren't missing anything else the code should be:

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right

I've been toying with the notion that the capitalized Right on page 8 should also be included, as maybe the font color was mistakenly not changed, but you make a good point about why Start probably isn't included. It just seems like a remote possibility if nothing else works.

I've also been trying to input the code on controller 2, but I have no idea if the game even looks for inputs from controller 2. None of the likely screens to try it (copyright, title, intro, stage start, life display, pause, continue) seem to be working though. Either we're missing something very basic here, or this code must be entered in an unorthodox manner, or perhaps the code is just broken. I'll keep thinking though.

 

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I'm happy to see this thread revived. Though I haven't been fiddling with the code for a while, I'm still very interested in helping to crack it. It might be helpful to coordinate our efforts, with a shared spreadsheet or something, to document the code we used and everything we tried so we can avoid duplicating and wasting time. For example, I've been wondering if Controller 2 might come into play, like it does in some NES games, but it may not even look for any inputs from that controller... There are just so many variations and places to try a code, it seems overwhelming.

Edited by ecmyers
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Hello everyone. While looking through the Starkeeper manual, I took pictures of every page in the manual with my phone. I took some time to mess around with the color effects for editing pictures. I'm pretty sure the purple/blueish words are what the developer wants us to find.  For awhile I thought the capitalized directional words were what we should have focused on. But instead, the color differences make me wonder.  I'm pretty sure the code is still UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN , LEFT , RIGHT, LEFT RIGHT. But I am still clueless on how to implement the code. Give me your thoughts.

 

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OK, I just started one: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KtI1lqjRRitom6vttg0-w_pgRjRNji-Htb5akpXd_FE/edit?usp=sharing

I am not a wizard at Google Docs, so anyone feel free to rearrange it or add to it! I haven't added in people's results from this thread yet, but just included some examples of things we would try. And hopefully we'll come up with some new approaches and eventually crack this thing. Since this is basically a Konami code, maybe replicating something they've done on one of their NES games would work here.

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57 minutes ago, ecmyers said:

OK, I just started one: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KtI1lqjRRitom6vttg0-w_pgRjRNji-Htb5akpXd_FE/edit?usp=sharing

I am not a wizard at Google Docs, so anyone feel free to rearrange it or add to it! I haven't added in people's results from this thread yet, but just included some examples of things we would try. And hopefully we'll come up with some new approaches and eventually crack this thing. Since this is basically a Konami code, maybe replicating something they've done on one of their NES games would work here.

@ecmyersI will try some more tinkering with the code tonight and I will add to the Google spread sheet if I've tried anything new.  Thanks for setting this up! 

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7 hours ago, ecmyers said:

I'll do the same, and pore over the manual one more time in case we've missed something 🙂

Hopefully we won't discover that we have to enter the code 87 times...

I added to the google spreadsheet. I will continue to add every time I try something new. This will hopefully work assuming that we have the right code.

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