On the fabled date of 10-10-10, M.I.J.E.T. released an El Viento ROM hack that added dual language support, updated the translation, fixed some quirks, and enabled the hidden “stage zero”. Thanks to ECM and Joseph_Florida for making sure I knew about this.
I love El Viento. The fast action, the crazy stages, the sharp artwork, the bubbly explosions, the Sakuraba soundtrack, the concept and the characters. I remember hooking my Genesis to the PC several years ago to record the soundtrack to WAV files — I was shocked to discover the automobile plant’s melody was so catchy. In all the times I played through the game, that short stage’s song had never made an impression, but it has now become one of my favorites. On another day, I noticed that the first level’s angry apartment tenants don’t just drop chairs and flowerpots on Annet’s head; every now and then they drop a cuddly teddy bear. And who can forget the El Viento octopus? It’s a crazy game full of surprising scenes worth discussing; in fact, mutual admiration of El Viento helped form the basis for a friendship that has lasted many years. This game’s important to me — Sadler’s creepy narrow stalker eyes don’t do justice to my sick obsession.
With that in mind, you can probably imagine my excitement when I heard about the ROM hack that unlocks the previously unplayable “stage zero”. This stage contains no enemies, but it contains plenty of blood-spattered spike traps and exploding sea urchins that brutalize Annet if she touches them. Spinning coins grant additional magic powers, treasure chests wait to be collected, and HAPPY PHALLIC SQUID PEOPLE lurk in the alcoves.
According to M.I.J.E.T.’s documentation, this stage began as a developer testing ground for El Viento’s features, but several gimmicks never made it into the real game. Annet slowly sinks in blue water, but rapidly rises in green; she can swim upwards in both, but diving is impossible. There are two types of “trap blocks”; Annet can walk or leap through one type, and the other will cause her to fall through floors — often into a spike trap down below.
Stage Zero starts out easily enough, with some simple spike-leaping (while atop conveyor belts) and pillar-smashing, but it turns into a stony maze of doom by the end. Dynamite bricks are strewn about the stage, and igniting one sets off a chain reaction that may — or may not — remove barriers further down the way. Bursting some of these blocks could cause deadly sea urchins to drop from the sky. Even though some life potions are located about halfway through, successfully reaching the goal (clearly labeled “GOAL” in the English-language version, or “GOORU” in the Japanese) should take several tries.
Cheaters will no doubt emulate and use save states, but true El Viento warriors will patch that flash cart, pop it into their battle-hardened Model 1 Genesis, and try try try to finish Wolf Team’s challenge in one shot. Victory demands a level of technique that wasn’t required in the real game: “If I turn around and jump, then my head rams this spiky urchin and I die. But if I turn around while ducking, then I can safely leap.” It’s an interesting challenge that will test long-time fans’ skills, and that’s more than enough for me to recommend downloading M.I.J.E.T.’s nifty hack.