ALPHA SPHERE

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The Title Screen of "ALPHA SPHERE."

ALPHA SPHERE is the 1st place entry of SMW Central's 2019 "Halloween Level Design Contest" where you play as a female character named Norma on a mission to escape from Dr. Andre, but not before she stumbles upon an ancient relic. The entry has 4 endings, each gotten depending on what you do during the game. This is also the first ROM Hack to feature a full-screen animated jumpscare, unlike other hacks where it's just a singular image.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the game. The hack also contains themes of suicide and subtle sexual themes.

Overview

  • One of the few SMW Rom Hacks to have a 1-bit style that doesn't reference UNDERTALE.
  • One of the few SMW Rom Hacks to be styled after the Virtual Boy colour scheme.
  • One of the first SMW Rom Hacks to use the "level exit event trigger" feature in LM3.10.
  • The first instance of a dynamic camera.
  • The first SMW Romhack to feature an "animated" jumpscare with two unique frames.
  • Winner of SMW Central's 2019 "Halloween Level Design Contest".

Story

Norma looking at the Alpha Sphere.

Norma is found just outside of an ancient factory, home of "Dr. Andre". Going in has him saying he was the only one who ever loved Norma, and that they will have to commit to a certain action the next day. She leaves walking to where a "cutoff" is located, expressing that maybe it's time she fell. She attempts to throw herself off the cutoff point, only to land on nothing. She keeps going right, confused why she didn't die. She stumbles across a stronghold containing an ancient relic, The Alpha Sphere. She's shocked to find it in this building, so she claims she will find a better home for it. She then returns to Dr. Andre's place, and he suggests she puts it back. This is where the game truly begins... or ends...

ENDING Z is achieved by failing to outrun Dr. Andre during his boss fight. His jumpscare will appear, and Dr. Andre is successful at "saving humanity".

ENDING B is achieved by simply putting the Alpha Sphere back in the stronghold. She will walk away, and the ending reveals two of the same image of a flower being cut by a pair of scissors representing Norma no longer of being afraid to be deflowered by Dr. Andre.

ENDING A is achieved by outlasting the boss fight. Dr. Andre has revealed before the fight that by destroying the Alpha Sphere he can no longer revive Norma, and so that's why he goes after her forcibly. By getting to the end, Norma falls in a lava pit. Because of the destruction of the Alpha Sphere, Dr. Andre fails his mission to save humanity, and expresses that he regrets what he has done out of rage. This is also the only time in the game where the screen is no longer red and black, and the screen dynamically changes from red to blue to reflect the mood. The final screen reveals what the world looks like with colour, and also reveals what Dr. Andre truly looks like.

ENDING J is achieved by either dropping or throwing rings at Dr. Andre until he is defeated. He expresses that if Norma would rather doom humanity than save it, then so be it. The credits roll in this ending, but it doesn't last as a new character approaches: a robot named Jinker Bolts. The final screen has Jinker Bolts saying "Happy Halloween!".

Characters

Norma

ALPHASPHERE Norma.png

A suicidal girl trying to escape from her husband, Dr. Andre. She is a much weaker character compared to most SMW Romhack protagonists, lacking the spinjump and P-speed. She only has 1 HP, and always starts the game at 1 Life. It is later revealed that the reason she keeps appearing after death is no longer just convenience to the player, but it's actually built into the plot itself with the Alpha Sphere. In Ending A, it is revealed that she wears a pink shirt, and has blonde hair.

Dr. Faux Andre

ALPHASPHERE Dr Andre.png

A stressed hard working man visualized as an horned skeleton demon that towers Norma in size. His mission is to bring back the human race using Norma as a vessel. He uses the Alpha Sphere to bring back Norma every time she manages to end her life, repeating the cycle until she finds the sphere herself and destroys it. He even tries to tell Norma to put it back when she shows him the relic. Endings B and Z is where he gets his way. Ending A is where he recognizes his mistake, and is revealed to be a bald doctor in a lab coat with pink clothes underneath.

Jinker Bolts

ALPHASPHERE cameo.png

This robot character makes appearances in most of Daizo Dee Von's recent projects, and appears when you achieve Ending J. In this universe, he appears after the credits to introduce himself with an evil grin, revealing that it turns out Norma and Dr. Andre were not alone in this world. The music that plays references the author's 2014 HLDC Entry, "The Mario Game". This is the character's fourth appearance in a ROM Hack (others including The Mario Game, Law & Order: Mushroom Kingdom Unit Demo, and Krack The Hack).

Notable Fun Facts

During the first "Dr. Andre Defeated" cutscene panel, the player can actually walk off from the ceiling and stand on the text/floors. Because the player can't jump in cutscenes, this ultimately softlocks the game. It also turns out that Norma's palette can change on a "per level" basis. Perhaps a feature that went unused?
  • The entry was started 6 days before the contest ended, and thus was completely made in that restriction.
  • It is the first SMW Rom Hack to use the "level exit event trigger" feature in LM3.10 to create the 4 endings.
  • Daizo Dee Von, while proud of the project, has stated that it shouldn't have gotten 1st place. That being said, he also appreciates it.
  • Even tho Daizo claimed to have coded ASM for the project, he forgot to put himself on the ASM Coders list during the Credits.
  • Any cutscene with a timer in place will kill Norma when it hits 0, but she'll be white and fall from the left side of the screen.
  • The first "Dr. Andre Defeated" cutscene has a soft-lock where you can press either directional button to "walk off" and fall into the screen.
  • The game over sample comes from Withered Bonnie in Ultimate Custom Night pitched down with a pitch modulation enabled.
  • What the game over voice actually says is "Might as well face the facts, you are always destined to fail."
  • Even though the whole game is 90% red and black in a 1-bit style, Dr. Andre used two different shades of red.
  • There are only two points in the whole game where the 1-bit rule is broken, and both break the rule to set a mood or to show intensity.
  • ...or the stars from hitting ring blocks on solid objects where they appear as yellow.
  • The jumpscare SFX comes from Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator. It is also one of the highest quality samples in the game.
  • The animated jumpscare was only possible thanks to the game's aesthetics, because it is a clever use of graphics and palette animations.
  • Dr. Andre's name comes from Daizo's friend, Mega__Drizzle, who's irl name is Andre.
  • The idea to use Andre's name as a villain name came from Rayman 3's Hoodlum leader, Andre.
  • "Faux" is not the first time the name was used in a Daizo project. It was also used as a name of a Mysticarian Soldier in Krack The Hack.
  • It was intended in Krack The Hack for "Faux" to be pronounced "Fox", but in ALPHA SPHERE "Fough" is how it is pronounced.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you can throw the blocks at Dr. Andre during his boss fight to defeat him (it's just the SFX doesn't play).
  • Norma's name came from the word "Normal".

Director's Cut

Coming soon, Winter C3 2020.

Judges Comments

How funny that this game takes place in a "halloween" setting.

Ryaa

Judging details
Level Name: Alpha Sphere
Entry Number: 23

*Favorite Level

Design: 46/50
Creativity: 20/20
Aesthetics: 18/20
Theme: 10/10

Total: 94/100

Review: 

This is easily my favorite level. I am absolutely in love with it. The start of the level felt unnatural, but that's what really put the player in a place where what they were doing felt new. The atmosphere all over the level felt eerie, dreadful and conflicting which is what the main character feels. It's brilliantly thought out and really makes you feel like everything you do matters. The lore that the creator set up with the two characters being a dysfunctional married couple really personifies the effort that went into this. All four endings were rewarded by doing completely different things:

The first ending that I got was the shorter ending where you grab the sphere and put it back. I felt as though this one was a little bit more on the low effort side when it comes down to what you had to do to get it. Perhaps if there was a short platforming section before the sphere similarly to the last three endings, this ending would have felt much more special.

The second ending I got was the ending where you play through the dungeon/cave section and run away from Dr. Andre. I will be completely honest and say that while the area was never unfun, it did feel a bit cramped aesthetics-wise due to the graphics sharing the same color. There is also a part where the laser claims you need to hit 8 of the eye blocks, yet you can pass through it just fine if you only hit 4, unfortunately granting the player the ability to just fly through that part with no difficulty. Getting to the part where you have to escape Dr. Andre was my favorite part in terms of atmosphere. All of the buildup leading to ultimately betraying him made it so you absolutely had to get away or your efforts were useless. My only gripe about the section is that it was very repetitive. Since the gameplay here is a bit on the slower side, it felt a bit too time consuming near the end part since all you were doing was grabbing throw blocks. However, the section thankfully wasn't that long and ended on a really high note with the doctor witnessing a traumatizing event and realizing the mess he has caused. It had me entirely wrapped up in the lore and amazed me that this much could be put into an entry in just one month. I also got the third ending on my next playthrough after to see what happens when you die and I will say that even though the jumpscare didn't scare me, it was cute and had a lot of work put into it to match the atmosphere.

The fourth ending was the one that seemed a bit finnicky to get. Basically you're tasked with killing Dr. Andre as you are running away from him. This isn't technically hard but you can't slide-kick throw blocks into him. You can only place them on the ground which will automatically hit him as he runs into them. After a certain amount of hits, a cutscene triggers where he actually dies and some character shows up. This felt like a bit of a cliffhanger but you know what, I really want to see more of this.

Considering a bit over a month was the time given for this, I greatly respect how much love and care went into making sure this level was in top form. And as a result, it will be marked down as my favorite. 

Syndrilevosse

Judging details
Level Name: Alpha Sphere
Entry #23

Design: 44/50
Creativity: 20/20
Aesthetics: 20/20
Theme: 4/10

Total: 88/100

This is my favorite level without a doubt, I absolutely love the general aesthetic, the music, the setting, the story. If this was made within the confines of the contest’s deadline, then it is definitely some fantastic work to be done alone. In terms of how the level is designed, it relies on throw block puzzles which are designed relatively well, and then it ends in a “boss” chase. I like that there are four different endings to the level, which are all achieved in different ways, so it adds some unexpected replayability. Another thing this level accomplished was being able to hook me onto these characters and the general theme, which makes me want to play even more, like a full game. It definitely has an eerie uncertainty to it that adds on to the theme, though I won’t lie that it lacks a true Halloween vibe. Still, definitely my favorite level out of them all.

Interesting note is Daizo Dee Von added pumpkins in the entry just to avoid the "lack of a Halloween theme". This is the only judge that either didn't catch it, or didn't feel it was enough to warrant full points.

FPzero

Judging details
#23, "ALPHA SPHERE"

Design: 		40/50
Creativity:		17/20
Aesthetics:		16/20
Theme:			8/10

Total:			81/100

Comments:
First off, I'm not sure how to get to Ending J. I tried basically everything I could think of but the solution evaded me. (I was later told you have to drop the throw blocks instead of throw them at the doctor. This feels a bit unintuitive compared to everything else in the level.)

This level goes for a totally different feeling by creating its own plotline and small universe to play with. The two-color aesthetic helps sell it too. Red on black can be rough on some eyes, but I was generally okay with it. I think it helped how it was almost always easy to tell what was what. The only time it got a bit too busy, was the final block throwing puzzle before the chase.

The fact the level goes all in on story and atmosphere does make me feel a bit more lenient on the lower amount of pure platforming in the level. Most of the gameplay focused on some block-throwing puzzles. I think these were generally pretty interesting and worked well. The final chase was neat in how it incorporated a little bit of the block puzzle aspects into it, making everything feel tied together nicely.

I'm surprised I don't have more to say about the level other than I liked it quite a bit and wish I could've figured out how to get the last ending just to say I fully completed it.