A Glitch in the Machine – Five Great PS1 Bugs

Glitch

Once upon a time, the closest a gaming company got to patching a console game was fixing the code and releasing a new version of the cartridge. Squaresoft did this with Final Fantasy III on the Super Nintendo, releasing a v1.1 that fixed a few problems including the infamous “Sketch” glitch, but it did so with no fanfare or labeling present. Until emulators came along and people started dumping ROMs and poking through the code, it wasn’t clear that multiple versions of the same game existed. And while software companies tried their best to release their games as close to glitch-free as possible, there’s only so much you can accomplish in limited testing. Encountering a glitch during a critical moment in play can cause teeth-gnashing rage, but gamers today enjoy hunting for them as a means to improve their times during speed runs, bypass difficult areas, or find things programmers forgot to remove. For your retro reading enjoyment, we’ve compiled a list of our five favorite glitches from the classic Playstation era. Some are silly, some are helpful, and some are game-breaking, but all of them are worth knowing about for the next time you take the little gray box out for a spin.  Click on the title to see the glitch in action!

 

#5 – Bushido Blade’s “Fountain of Blood” glitch.

Bushido Blade’s a great fighting series that died well before its time, and part of what made it so memorable was its massive shift towards realism as opposed to comical combat. In other games like Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct, characters could land multi-hit combos, deliver punishing special moves that defied the laws of physics, and remain standing even after suffering what should be a grievous injury to the head, throat, or torso. Bushido Blade’s focus on weapon-based combat and realism, on the other hand, reminded gamers what a real fight is like: quick, nasty, and often over after the first blow lands. No twenty-foot somersaults from a standing position, no fireballs conjured from thin air, and no life bar: just you, your weapon, and your opponent in a free-roaming environment.

Bushido Blade didn’t shy away from blood either: a good hit on your opponent with a weapon resulted in a crimson splatter that usually spelled his doom. After felling the enemy, your warrior struck a pose as fighting game tradition dictates, and the next round would begin a few seconds later. Normally this wasn’t a problem, but sometimes with the right weapon equipped, your final victory pose could result in the mutilation of the downed fighter’s body.

The origin of this glitch isn’t difficult to track: Bushido Blade’s engine is programmed to display a splash of pixelated blood whenever a weapon makes contact with a character model. With some longer weapons like the Naginata or Broadsword though, it’s possible for your weapon to continue making contact with the loser’s corpse after the fight is over. Since the engine doesn’t stop checking for weapon/body interaction even after a winner is declared, stepping into the right point after killing your foe allows you to essentially teabag your opponent in a more honorable fashion. It still won’t win you any friends.

#4 – Tomb Raider 2’s “Corner” glitch.

Back in the late 90s, this glitch in the Tomb Raider engine had its own dedicated fan page. A petition even circulated through the ‘Net during the development of Tomb Raider III, requesting that Core Design keep “Bugsy” (as the corner glitch was named by its proponents) intact. Why were gamers so set on Core leaving this glitch alone? Because it was equal parts amusing and useful, that’s why.

The Tomb Raider engine was built around blocks, where everything protagonist Lara Croft did could be easily recognized and controlled by gamers based on a simple grid system. It didn’t take any time at all to quickly learn how far Lara traveled each time she ran, walked a step, took a standing or running jump, or flipped to the side. This also made it easier for the level designers to build areas, because it was instantly clear to them whether or not it was possible for Lara to access a particular area from a particular point: make a jump longer than 5-6 “blocks” or taller than 4-5 “blocks” and it became impossible for her to traverse. But gamers, especially inquisitive ones, don’t believe in “impossible to traverse” in relation to a game that rewards exploration, and it didn’t take long before the corner bug was discovered.

The corner bug takes advantage of the engine’s attempt to automatically put Lara back on a level plane once a jump is completed by confusing it and making it see a higher surface as being “closer” to where Lara should be. At the height of the jump, assuming the conditions are met correctly, Lara will wind up on top of whatever structure she’s jumping against…whether she’s meant to get up there during the game or not. There are some limits to its usage since Lara has to be pushing herself into the corner of a block, thus it can’t be used just anywhere. But intrepid gamers have been using the corner bug to sequence break and explore outside the game’s traditional boundaries since 1997. There were ways to glitch later sequels in a similar fashion, but TR2’s bug was the catalyst that started everyone looking for more.

#3 – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s “Sword Brothers” glitch.

It’s absolutely impossible for a game the size and scope of SotN to wind up completely glitch-free, but while most of the glitches discovered have relatively minor effects, the Sword Brothers glitch allows you to absolutely break the game by letting you get outside the castle, see new vistas, and gain an enormous load of cash.

We’re not sure exactly why it works, but for some reason if you level up your Sword familiar to 90 or higher, travel to certain points in the castle, then activate the Sword Brothers spell, the game prevents Alucard from moving between rooms for a short time, allowing him to travel up through the ceiling and into the outer parts of the castle, thus allowing you to rack up a higher-than-normal clear %. As if that wasn’t enough, activating the glitch in the Librarian’s Room with a gem equipped in your inventory lets you perform an extreme duplicating glitch, giving you 255 of whatever gem you were holding, and thus a license to buy damn near anything you like.

Of course, you need to farm XP for your Sword like mad in order to get to the point where this is feasible, and it still won’t let you buy the Duplicator item if this is your first time through the game, but getting access to fat wads of cash at any point can turn the game into a cake-walk. Doing so on a secondary playthrough to acquire the half-million bucks required for the Duplicator is just abusive in the extreme. But if you’re not out to abuse the games you play, why are you reading about these glitches in the first place?

#2 – Final Fantasy IV “Weapon Duplicator” glitch.

While Final Fantasy IV was made for the SNES, this glitch still exists in the version ported to the Playstation in the Final Fantasy Collection. It’s one of those weird things that you wonder how anybody managed to find, but all it takes is a moment to realize how easy it is to abuse the daylights out of this glitch and completely ruin the game (at least from the designers’ perspective).

It goes something like this: while in the middle of a battle, de-equip the weapon someone’s armed with by selecting an empty space in your inventory and swapping it with whatever (s)he’s holding. Finish out the battle without re-arming, and as soon as you’re done, go back to the menu and re-equip the weapon you took off. Magic ensues, and suddenly the owner’s holding two copies of the same thing. Lucky you!

If you can’t figure out a way to use this glitch to break the game, you don’t deserve to call yourself a gamer. Sell the dupes for money, give them to Edge to chuck at enemies for enormous damage, or use them to outfit your party with multiple copies of what should be singularly-appearing weaponry. Cakewalk ensues.

#1 – Suikoden II “Stones” glitch.

Everybody knows “the grind.” It’s when you’re playing an RPG not to advance the plot or acquire some new bit of gear, but rather to build up your stats by simply leveling up. This usually takes craploads of time…unless you’re playing Suikoden II and have a few stat-boosting stones. Then it’s as easy as one, two, three…

Step one: Pick the fortunate one you’d like to stat-bump, and unload every stone in your inventory on the lucky son of a gun. Unless you’re hauling around a metric ton of stones, the improvement isn’t going to be terribly impressive at first, but we’re just getting started.

Step two: De-equip all your weapons and armor and go pick a fight. Any fight with any enemy will do, but the more powerful they are, the faster you’ll get your butt handed to you, and that’s the whole purpose of this step. Go and get yourself slaughtered.

Step three: When the Game Over screen shows up, don’t pick Give Up. Instead, let the game reload your last save. You’ll retain all the items you had before you got killed in combat, including those stones you just used to beef up your selected character. You’ll also, incidentally, have your stats at the level they were when you died. Meaning you can go back to step one and start the process all over again on the same character or a different one, and repeat as many times as you like. And Suikoden II will never be the same, you dirty, rotten, cheating scoundrel, you.

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3 Responses to “A Glitch in the Machine – Five Great PS1 Bugs”

  1. Jeff says:

    Great article and subject. Would have loved to see pics but I suppose I can track them down.

    • Modern Zorker says:

      Thanks, Jeff! The titles of the glitches are all hyperlinks to YouTube videos where you can see them in action and get an explanation of how they’re performed. This struck me as being more useful than just simple screenshots. :)

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