Here it is, what I anticipate will be the final Subspace Brief Facts! We’re going out with a bang – Psychic Killer Taromarou!
Psychic Killer Taromarou is one of the rarest and most expensive games out there. Nobody should pay for it – but if you can find a way to *cough* acquire it *cough* it’s worth a look. It has the kind of bizarre late ’90s charm that only the Saturn could bring. Watch the vid! And watch this page for my next foray into the the exciting world of VIDEO!
Recently, I’ve gotten the mod bug. Maybe it’s the logical consequence of owning a ridiculously oversized retro console/game library; maybe I just got tired of paying other people to mod things for me. Either way, I picked up a brand spanking new soldering iron about a month and a half ago, and I haven’t been able to stop.
First, I kept it relatively simple, installing a stock mod boards. After a few failed attempts with a Turbo Duo (more on that in a later post), I found some success with an N64 RGB amp… the results came out looking pretty good.
You’re going to have to take my word on it when I tell you I installed the mod myself. I didn’t think to take a picture of the completed installation, and I’m too superstitious to open it up and poke around now.
With a successful console mod under my belt, I started thinking about controller mods, which led me to slagcoin and its treasure trove of PCB diagrams. You have to crawl before you can run, so I thought I’d start small, by putting an LED in an old third-party Genesis controller.
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As that didn’t prove too difficult, I came to the conclusion that virtually everything could be improved through the edition of an LED. Like, say… a few Genesis controllers I spray painted a couple of months back.
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While I think I’ll be putting LEDs into things until the day I die, I was still hungry for more. After looking at some NES controller PCB diagrams, I became convinced that I could add a new button – a “C” button, if you will – that would function as a simultaneous press of “up” and “B.” Theoretically, this would allow me to fire subweapons in games like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden with a single button press. The inspiration came from the “III” button on the Avenue Pad 3 for the PC Engine, which functioned as a second “select” button.
A lot of games for the PC Engine used “select” for gameplay functions, and this bad boy made it easier on the player to make that button press. My “up and B” mod probably wouldn’t be as useful, but hey, I had soldering fever, and I wasn’t going to stop.
I had some tiny little buttons from a breadboard kit, and I figured I’d use them. My first attempt, in all its glory:
The wires on the right side of the button are running from “up” and “B.” The wire on the left side is running out to a ground. On a certain level, this actually did work – pressing that button did trigger “up” and “B” simultaneously. Unfortunately, however, pressing either “up” or “B” individually ALSO yielded simultaneous presses of both buttons. This is because this was a “SPST” – single-pole, single-throw – button. Basically, the wiring of the button was such that by placing “up” and “B” on the same side of the button, I was actually wiring them together.
After reading up a bit and consulting a friend (who happens to be an engineer), I learned that what I needed was a “DPST” – dual-pole, single-throw – button. This would allow me to wire my custom button in such a way that it could complete the circuits for both “up” and “B” without linking them together. My second attempt:
It’s a little more difficult to see, because I reinforced my soldering job with hot glue, but the wires on the right side of the button are running from “B” and a ground and, the wires on the left side of the button are doing the same thing for “up.” The ugly end-result:
It ain’t pretty, but hey, that Nintendo Power sticker from ’93 wasn’t much of a looker to begin with. Did it work?
HELL YES IT DID! The button is kind of touchy (cheap parts or bad soldering on my part, not sure which yet), but it works – you can see it when Ryu sticks his hand out. Fun stuff!
I’d encourage any retrogaming enthusiast to pick up a soldering iron and try their hand at some mods. While I’m still a neophyte in the modding arena, I feel like I’ve revealed exciting new depths to my chief hobby. It’s easier than you think!
This post is more than a bit late… behold! My tribute to the insanity that is video pinball:
Over the years, I have amassed quite aof video pinball games. Even though I’m not much of a pinball player, I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I’ve long wanted to do a retrospective on the legendary Alien Crush.
Alien Crush game was the visual centerpiece of the TurboGrafx-16 when it was released. It was one of those games that made you think “I want this system.” However, being a pinball game, it doesn’t make for terribly compelling gameplay footage – at the end of the day, it’s just pinball.
I decided to bolster the video by adding additional pinball games. As I browsed through my library, I began to notice a pattern of… uh… “heavy metal absurdity.” A video pinball game relies quite heavily on the theme applied to its table(s) – if you’re working with a decent physics model and table design, that’s really about all that separates one game from the other. I found myself increasingly amused at the “edgy” nature of the themes developers chose; many games from the early 1990s just seem like they were designed to upset parents. In a word, they were SWEET.
So, with that in mind, I took inspiration from one of my favorite NES commercials:
I thought it would be fun to just go full sensory overload – inundate the viewer with over the top nonsense as rapidly as I could. If nothing else, I think I accomplished that goal.
FUN FACT: I had originally recorded footage from the TG-16 version of Devil’s Crush. Unfortunately, due to some hardware issues, I wasn’t able to capture it in RGB, and I wasn’t happy with how it looked next to the rest of the footage. As such, what you see in the video is actually from Devil’s Crush MD: the Japanese Genesis version of the same game. Here’s the video of the TG-16 version if you’re interested.
It’s difficult to cover something that’s been done to death, but I’ve always wanted to do something on Symphony of the Night. Hopefully I’ve provided something somewhat new and original by exploring a very specific aspect of the Saturn version of Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight– the ability to play as Maria Renard. Enjoy!
You’ll also note that there’s a decent amount of footage from Dracula X: Rondoof Blood for the PC Engine. Here’s some fun little gifs I ripped from that game while recording:
And here’s Maria and Richter’s’s official concept art, which can be found on the Saturn disc:
And because I’m such a (tragic) prince, here’s the audio for the music used in the video:
As usual, the game was played through a Framemeister. I used Chris Genthe’s upscaler settings – you can find all of his videos here. I’ve embedded his Saturn video below:
I’m a big fan of Chris’ settings for 1080p output. Give them a shot!
On a somewhat sad note, you will also see that this video is dedicated to the beloved memory of my recently departed corgi, Gizmo. Among many other things, Gizmo was my “games dog” whenever I had to verify shipment of Saturn imports, I’d always try to make the photo more entertaining by throwing in Gizmo.
This one was a doozy! Deep Fear is one I’ve been meaning to play for a while, so I figured it would make a great installment for the 10th Brief Facts!
As you’ll be able to tell from the video, I played through the Japanese version of Deep Fear. While all the text is in Japanese, it’s not too difficult to fumble your way through the game; your objectives are fairly straightforward. Notably, all the voice acting in English. Hilariously awful English. It’s like they got their American accounting interns to do all the VO in one take.
I also think this game has the most righteous Engrish tag line ever:
“Hereafter we will have desperate days with nowhere to escape.” Why even bother trying, then, one wonders.
I’ll update this post in the coming days with some more media. In the meantime, enjoy this charming misspelling:
Thanks for watching – and to all you videophiles out there, sorry about the jailbars!
While I had hoped to have a nice little piece on Christmas Nights up by the 25th, work and other non-festive things conspired against me. Instead, I offer you this – a hastily thrown together video of the hidden Christmas message from Enemy Zero:
I first discovered this back in 1997, shortly after finding this cult classic-to-be under the Christmas tree. It was the last time I would smile while playing this game. It’s hard to smile after you’ve soiled yourself in fear.
Here’s a static image, in case all that action was too much for you:
I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to everybody who has read or watched anything I’ve put out over the last year. Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Nearly 18 years ago, I received Dragon Forceas a birthday present. I finished it inside of a month, and it quickly became one of my favorite games of all time. It was the first game I wrote about when I launched this site, and I’ve been dying to play its sequel since its initial release back in 1998. Unfortunately, Dragon Force II never made it out of Japan. If you didn’t understand Japanese, your chances of booking another enjoyable vacation to Legendra were slim to none.
But that was then. Now, thanks to some very talented folks who know FAR more about the Saturn than I, Dragon Force II is readily playable in English. Saturn fans have been emulating the game since the full translation became available to the public this past April, but I have yet to see any accounts of anybody playing it on a console. Yesterday, I sat down and did just that: I got Dragon Force II running on the Sega Saturn I’ve had since 1996. Miracles do happen folks.
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide detailing exactly how I got Dragon Force II playing on real hardware. Gameplay video and screens follow at the end of the post. To avoid any confusion here, let me make it clear that I had no part in creating the Pseudo Saturn, nor did I have anything to do with the Dragon Force II translation project – I just connected a few dots and got the game running on my Saturn. I’ve done my best to attribute credit to all appropriate parties – if there’s anyone I’ve left out, please let me know, and I’ll update this site accordingly. In short: if you like what you see here, don’t thank me, thank (1) the people who dedicated years of their lives to translating this Saturn classic, and (2) the people that continue to devise new ways for us to enjoy our favorite systems long after they’ve gone the way of the ghost.
STEP 1: GET A PSEUDO SATURN
First things first: you’ll need a way to run burned discs on your Saturn . While there are a couple of ways to skin this cat, my weapon of choice was the Pseudo Saturn.
“Where do I get one of these fantastic devices,” you ask? Well, you might note that the Pseudo Saturn looks remarkably similar to an Action Replay 4M Plus – that’s because it IS an Action Replay 4M Plus, albeit with custom firmware installed. If you’ve got an AR to spare, you can try creating one yourself, by downloading the firmware and CD Installer and following the instructions included in Cyber Warrior X’s GitHub post. Please note that this also requires a hard-modded Saturn or some other less convenient method of playing burned discs. I didn’t have an AR to spare, so I just bought one with the firmware pre-installed from a friend I met on this wonderful Facebook group (thanks, Ke Kona!). If you keep your eyes open, I’m pretty sure you could find somewhere to purchase one as well.
IMPORTANT NOTE 1: Installing the Pseudo Saturn firmware may just nuke your AR. If you’re going to try to make a Pseudo Saturn yourself, do your due diligence here: Take to google and make sure that your particular AR is Pseudo Saturn compliant. I wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself unless you’ve already embraced the risk of losing your AR.
IMPORTANT NOTE 2: Once you’ve made an AR into a Pseudo Saturn, it will no longer function as an AR. No cheat codes, no save storage, nothing. Zip. Nada, Zilch. Got it? It will, however, still work as a RAM cart. Folks are said to be working on a version of the Pseudo Saturn which will re-implement these features, but as of right now, this is as good as it gets. This means you will be using your Saturn’s internal memory to save games. Stock up on batteries.
STEP 2: GET A COPY OF THE JAPANESE VERSION OF DRAGON FORCE II
Listen, how you do this is up to you. You can buy it yourself or grab it some other way. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, you filthy pirate.
STEP 3: DOWNLOAD THE DRAGON FORCE II TRANSLATION PATCH
The talented folks over at Verve Fanworks have been working on this project for years now, and it recently saw its first full release back in April. They deserve all the credit in the world for fulfilling our dreams and making Dragon Force II playable in English. If you use their patch, be sure to send them some love. While I have yet to play the game to completion, it’s already clear that this is light-years beyond your typical fan translation – right up there with any professional localization.
You can download the files you need right here. You might note that there are two patches available; just grab both of them for now. The rest of the instructions contained in this post are adapted from the readme file posted on Verve’s download page. Please feel free to follow that document from this point onward (ignoring any emulator specific instructions) if you’d like.
STEP 4: DOWNLOAD MORE STUFF
To apply the translation patch, you’ll need to grab some more software (don’t worry, it’s all free):
IsoBuster – This will be used to rip a disc image from your Dragon Force II CD.
It’s time to extract some data. Put your Japanese Dragon Force II disc into the disc drive of your choice and open up IsoBuster. Once in IsoBuster, right click on the the top level CD icon, and select the following option (click the image to view full size):
After you select a directory to which to save the disc’s contents, the extraction process should commence. When the process is 99% complete, you’ll receive an “unreadable sector” notification; don’t worry though, it’s not going to be an issue. Just check “Omit Sector” and “Always apply Selection,” as indicated in the image below. Click the “Selection” button and you’ll be good to go.
This should leave you with a file called “Track 01.iso”
STEP 6: FIGURE OUT WHAT VERSION YOU HAVE
Open Track 01.iso in your the Saturn Region Patcher. You should get a screen that looks something like this:
There were two versions of Dragon Force II released to the public; V1.006, and a revision, V1.007. As you can tell from the image above, I have V1.006. You’ll be fine to proceed with either one, just be sure that you’ve downloaded the version of the translation patch that corresponds to your version.
STEP 7: PATCH AWAY!
Open up Delta Patcher (not Delta Patcher Lite, which should have also came with your download). Select Track 01.iso as your “original file” and select the corresponding version of the patch as your “XDelta patch.”
Click “Apply Patch.” Congratulations, you’ve now got a translated disc image!
STEP 8: BURN, BABY, BURN
Now, all that’s left to do is burn your disc! I used the method for burning Dreamcast games set forth here. Though we’re dealing with a Saturn game here, that shouldn’t cause any trouble – my copy of Dragon Force II has worked flawlessly thus far, as has every other Saturn game I’ve ever burned.
STEP 9: SAVE LEGENDRA
There you have it. If everything went right, you should be able to just pop the disc in your Saturn and enjoy!
As promised, here are the screens and video. There will be more to come in the future!
I hope you’ve found this exercise entertaining and informative – shoot me a line on Twitter or Facebook with any feedback or comments!
Steep Slope Sliders
Sega Saturn, 1997
Developer: Cave Publishers: Sega/Victor
Note: This article in no way relates to the arcade version of Steep Slope Sliders for the Sega ST-V arcade system. If this in any way concerns you, consider yourself warned.
Commensurate with the mainstream acceptance of snowboarding as a legitimate sport, the “snowboarding game” really came into its own as a genre during the late ’90s. Sony’s Cool Boarders franchise saw the first of four annualized releases in the summer of 1996, and Nintendo released 1080° Snowboardingin early 1998. Numerous – other – publishers threw their hats down the slopes as well. For my money, though, the best of the bunch was the Sega-published Steep Slope Sliders.
As the Saturn was well-into its protracted death throes in the Western market when SSS was released in late 1997, unless you’re a long-time Sega devotee, you’ve probably never heard of – let alone played – Steep Slope Sliders (which we will hereinafter refer to as “SSS“). But PLEASE trust me when I say that it is the best playing snowboarding game of its vintage. What SSS lacks in visual panache, it more than makes up for in pure playability. Offering fantastic controls and supreme replay value in place of graphical splendor, SSS remains a joy to play to this day.
At the heart of SSS‘ charm is its ease of access; the slopes may be steep, but the learning curve isn’t. Your boarder can perform three basic actions in SSS: jumping, flipping, and grabbing. Through the use of the Saturn’s shoulder buttons, you can spin clockwise or counter clockwise while performing any of those three basic tasks.
That’s it, and that’s all – there’s nothing else to learn. Got a hankering to try for that front flip 1080° indy nosebone you saw on last nights’ X Games? All you have to do is jump – if you get enough air, just lean on the shoulder button of your choosing, push ‘grab,’ and throw in a press of the ‘flip’ button when you’re good and ready. You’re only limited by your imagination and the game’s very permissive laws of gravity. This may not seem particularly revolutionary, but compared to the controls employed by SSS’ closest contemporaries,which relied on much more complex button inputs, it’s remarkably simple and intuitive.
But let’s just get right out and say it: compared to its competition,SSS is not a pretty game. 3D graphics were never the Saturn’s strong suit, perhaps due to the fact that the system was designed to render quadrilaterals, as opposed to the triangular polygons rendered by the PlayStation and… well, every other system ever. While SSS runs very smoothly for a 3D game on the Saturn, it could be considered be some of the best empirical evidence for the age-old “Saturn couldn’t do 3D” argument. Just take a look at the beautiful cubed heads on display on the character select screen:
Screenshots do not do SSS justice, though – the game looks MUCH better in motion. SSS keeps its courses varied and interesting, and maintains a consistent frame rate when it counts. Things move so quickly, you barely notice that you’re sliding through an avalanche of chunky bitmaps. Take a look:
Additionally, to add an extra bit of visual flair, SSS makes use of the Saturn’s internal clock to simulate real world time zones. Playing SSS on the East Coast of the US at 8 PM? If you select the Japan course, you’ll be sliding down the slopes at 9 AM. For the most part, this is a fantastic feature, effectively giving you four different versions of each of SSS’ seven main courses.
Unfortunately, this cuts both ways. There’s a reason people don’t snowboard on unlit mountains at 4:00 AM – it’s dark. Really dark. I defy you to tell me what you’re looking at here:
Unless you answered “a rocket buggy doing a back flip with a 720º twist,” you’re wrong. If you did answer “a rocket buggy doing a back flip with a 720º twist,” put down your Saturn controller and go apologize to your parents. SSS’ time progression feature, while innovative and fun, renders roughly one third of the game’s courses unplayable at any given time. Fortunately, if you’ve got a burning desire to run any particular course, time progression can be disabled. The warm embrace of daylight is only a few button presses away.
Careful readers of the last paragraph may have noticed that SSS lets you play as a rocket buggy. It also let’s you play as a penguin…
… and a dog on a snowboard…
… and an alien, an anime girl, a UFO, and all sorts of other crazy characters, some of which are remarkably full-featured. The developers really piled it on in terms of unlockable extras, including four bonus courses, some of which are set in space.
And I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Steep Slope Shooters, the unlockable “snow shooter,” which features the greatest two-sentence plot ever conceived:
So, SSS plays like a dream, and has more than enough character to make up for its visual shortcomings – but how does it SOUND you ask? Well, if remarkably well-composed electronic music is your thing, you’re in luck. SSS has nine such tracks, which provide a wonderfully appropriate “late 90s’ extreme sports” vibe to the snowboarding action. You can even listen to them through a neat visualization feature in the option menu! Personally, though, I don’t know why you’d listen to those songs, particularly where the soundtrack features two perfectly good Engirsh j-pop ballads which have absolutely no place in a snowboarding game:
The music in SSS really is fantastic – but the only things you’ll ever remember about the soundtrack, no matter how hard you try, will be “Hold Me Close” and “Kiss.” I have friends who haven’t played this game in over a decade that still can’t forget these songs. To be honest, somewhere in the back of my mind, I think they’re why I come back to SSS every once in a while – and that kind of scares me.
SSS really doesn’t offer much in the way of “game modes” – you just pick a course and try to rack up the fastest time and largest score you can. Since all you’re really going for are skill and speed, SSS’ remarkably robust replay editing suite is a welcome inclusion. With the replay editor, you can save your best performances and play them back ad nauseum for any of your friends that happen to be stuck hanging out in your parents’ basement with you back in 1997. No, I never did that. Why do you ask?
In any event, the replay editor isn’t exactly final cut pro, but it lets you put together some pretty impressive music videos, at least by late ’90s game console standards:
Despite its rough appearance, SSS shreds by on the strength of its gameplay alone. Throw in a host of extras, solid music, and a dash of that late ’90s Saturn innovation/weirdness, and you’ve got yourself the rare extreme sports game that stands the test of time. If you’ve got any fondness for the Saturn, or snowboarding games in general, Steep Slope Sliders is definitely worth your time. Trust me: it never gets old.
If nothing else, I am confident that Steep Slope Sliders is far more enjoyable than Heavy Shreddin’. Played on original hardware, upscaled to 720p through a Micomsoft Framemeister. All footage and screens captured through an ElGato HD60.
Chō Jikū Yōsai Macross: Ai Oboete Imasu ka
Sega Saturn, 1997
Developers: Sega/Bandai Visual Publisher: Bandai
Note: The videos in this article contain spoilers for 30-year-old anime and 18-year-old space shooter. If that’s the type of thing your sensitive about, consider yourself warned.
Macross:Do You Remember Love is one of the first animes I can recall watching. Released in 1984, Do You Remember Love (hereinafter, “DYRL“)is a cinematic adaptation of the popular Japanese television series, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Despite its Japanese origins, it’s not uncommon for American children of the 80’s (such as myself) to have a tangential memories of the Macross franchise: the original television series was heavily adapted for US audiences in the form of the first 36 episodes of the popular cartoon, Robotech.
It had to be about 1991 when I first set eyes on DYRL. Back then, my older brother was an avid collector of anime (back when we still called in Japanimation, junior), and it was not uncommon for him to come home with blurry VHS fansubs of all manner of Japanese cartoons. DYRL was a bit more complex than your typical American cartoon: characters fell in love, died, got involved in love triangles, dealt with the horrors of war… it was some heavy stuff. But what do I remember the most about DYRL, and every other entry in the Macross franchise? The missiles – check it out (all 20 minutes not required viewing):
SOOOOO many missiles. 9-year-old Steve was in heaven. Giant transforming robots and missiles.
This isn’t an anime website, though, so let’s get down to business. In 1997, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Macross franchise, Sega and Bandai teamed together to develop a space shooter based on DYRL, which is commonly referred to by English speakers as “Saturn Macross.” Containing over 30 minutes of footage from the film, licensed music, and additional dialogue recorded by the original cast, Saturn Macross is a fitting tribute to DYRL. And did they nail the missiles?
You’d better believe it.
In Saturn Macross, the player takes control of the VF-1 Valkyrie unit of the film’s protagonist, Hikaru Ichijo. The VF-1 Valkyrie is more or less what we’d call a transformer: a jet fighter that can also morph into a battroid (giant robot) and a GERWALK (a sort of bipedal flying tank). For much of the game, the player can freely switch between all three forms through the use of the Saturn’s trigger buttons, but the plot often mandates that your Valkyrie is restricted from doing so.
There are three main forms of attack in Saturn Macross: the Valkyrie’s gunpod (in practice, a standard “vulcan gun”), lock on missiles, and bombs. Each weapon has two forms – a weaker form with a larger area of effect, and a stronger form that targets a more concentrated space of screen real estate.
Each form of the Valkyrie utilizes the gunpod differently, with the GERWALK and the battroid sacrificing the mobility of the fighter for the ability to aim your shots with greater precision.
The action in Saturn Macross takes place across three planes, a foreground, middle ground, and background. The player is restricted to the middle plane, but enemies can freely travel between all three. Only lock on missiles and one form of the gunpod can target enemies in the foreground and background, requiring you to utilize the full extent of your arsenal.
For the most part, this is a nice effect which makes excellent use of the Saturn’s 2D capabilities. At times, though, it is difficult to discern exactly which planes your enemies are on, resulting in more than a few bogies flying right by you or scoring the occasional cheap hit.
“Why would I care if an enemy flew right by me,” you ask? Because many of the game’s levels revolve around defending the Super Dimension Fortress Macross, the titular flagship of the series, which is constantly under assault. The SDF Macross has its own life bar, which slowly decreases each time you fail to shoot down one of your targets. This adds a nice bit of tension to the gameplay, and encourages you to perform to the peak of your ability. If you watch the video below, you’ll see this mechanic in action each time I fail to shoot down an enemy craft.
What Saturn Macross does best, though, is capture the spirit and feel of some of the more memorable moments of DYRL. While it’s only a 2D shooter, Saturn Macross makes liberal use of voice acting and integrated clips from the film to give each level a unique feeling.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game’s last level, which beautifully recreates the climactic battle from DYRL as the movie’s theme plays in the background.
Saturn Macross is not without its faults, though. Often times, the sprites seem a little too large for the screen. There’s not a lot of room to maneuver your Valkyrie when things get hectic. For that reason, I rarely found myself utilizing the battroid or GERWALK forms; it was always easier to play as the far more mobile fighter plane. There are also control issues: the game requires the player to double tap buttons to activate certain attacks, which is a strange design choice, as the game leaves two buttons on the Saturn controller unused. Additionally, the game also runs on the easy side, and anyone remotely skilled at space shooters should have no problem clearing it in under 5 hours.
That being said, Saturn Macross is a highly enjoyable game that really captures the spirit and feeling of DYRL. I’ve replayed it three times, and I’ll probably have a few more go-rounds before I’m done with it. If you’re a fan of Macross, or shooters in general, it’s more than worth your time, if for no other reason than the missiles!
Played on original hardware, upscaled to 720p through a Micomsoft Framemeister. All footage and screens captured through an ElGato HD60.
 Despite this moniker, the game was also ported to the Playstation in 1999. I have not played that version of the game – all opinions in this post are based solely on my experiences with the Saturn version.
As 2014 draws to a close, I’d like to wish all of you the best in the coming year – time to let go of all of the past year’s bad juju and move on with our lives. In 2015, may your enemies know the depth of your mercy, and may your family and friends know the warmth of your love. SONIC BOOOOOOOM!