No you didn’t misread the title. Indie hit Celeste has made its way to the SNES in the form of a Super Mario World (SMW) mod.
A brief history of Super Mario World ROM hacks
More commonly known as ROM hacks, these custom games take the base SMW engine and change it in new and unexpected ways. The most well-known example of this is Kaizo Mario World, made famous by YouTube video Asshole Mario. Since then the term ‘kaizo’ has come to mean hard levels in the Super Mario World community.
Early SMW ROM hacks were referred to as vanilla, meaning they only used assets and items available in the original game. Later custom or chocolate elements were introduced. These did various things, like removing powerups at the end of levels or patching things in the base game, but also included new enemies and items.
Significant steps were taken with the release of Invictus by Australian streamer Juzcook. The level of polish and attention to detail in Invictus heralded in a new age, where ROM hacks moved from being a collection of levels to new games in their own right.
A new challenger approaches
The standard had been lifted and a slew of new SMW ROM hacks followed. Now Celeste has made its way to the SNES like nothing that has come before it. Creator MarkAlarm has spent three years developing this amazing custom game and it’s well worth the wait!
With chocolate elements like a dash, dream blocks, bubbles, angry blocks, even a badeline fight, this game is more Celeste than SMW. Everything about it is fantasic. The dash itself is ground breaking.
I got to talk with MarkAlarm about the creation of Celeste.smc and how he feels now it’s been released.
Darren “Str8JaktJim” Macneall (DSM): Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about Celeste has made its way to the SNES. I’ve loved seeing different people play Celeste.smc. Where did you get the idea of making this incredible ROM hack?
MarkAlarm (MA): In January of 2019, I wanted to learn programming (ASM) for Super Mario World and thought the dash from Celeste would be a cool starting point. After I made a (very rudimentary) first version of the dash, I kinda sat on the project for a while, not really doing anything with it and I was happy with only having implemented the dash. After a few months passed, I was invited to make a level for the SGDQ2019 (author’s note: Summer Games Done Quick, a speed running event) Blind Kaizo Race. I figured that I had already made this dash mechanic, so why not combine it with some existing wall jump code? After I made a Celeste themed level for the blind race, the feedback was extremely positive and people wanted to see more mechanics (and perhaps a whole hack) themed around Celeste, blending the two into a lovechild of platformers. And that’s where the idea of a full blown fusion hack came in, after having a little taste of what these two games combined would feel like.
DSM: You mentioned the programming for Super Mario World. Did you have any help with the custom elements?
MA: While I was mentored by two incredible individuals in the SMW community, dtothefourth and kaizoman, at the end of the day I ended up writing basically all of the ASM code for this hack, all 22,000+ lines of it. They helped me debug and taught me the basics, but I kinda just took it from there. Regarding graphics, I ripped all of the graphics from Celeste, then converted them into a format that the SNES could understand. In cases where the graphics could not convert 1:1 easily, I took some liberties and fudged them to work in the context of SMW. This includes the palettes where having 8 bits per RGB value in the original graphics becomes reduced to 5 bits per RGB value, resulting in a lot less granularity in fine color. In some instances, I even had to re-palette things so they looked better on an old CRT, especially in cases with very bright and contrasting colors. As for music, I am one of the most musically declined people out there, so I had others do the ports for me. I understand the basics of music porting, but am nowhere near good enough nor trained in the ear to do what had to be done for these tracks. I did, however, take the ports they did and arrange them in such a way to where I could apply audio effects, which involved more programming. SPOILER: This is what allowed for things such as dynamic panning of the wind in Golden Ridge, a muffled echo when going underwater in Reflection, the addition of instruments in Core, and the rhythmically tied blocks in Farewell.
MA: Besides Celeste (obviously) and the team behind it, there were basically no creators nor hacks from the SMW realm that inspired me in terms of level design. I wanted to go off the norm and make something wildly different from anything else that already existed from an SMW design philosophy. Of course, your typical, fundamental kaizo mechanics such as jump control, shell jumping, knowledge of sprite interaction, and others were all used as at the end of the day, it’s still a kaizo SMW hack. A few homages were thrown in (like a 5 tall bullet stack to reference Kaizo Mario World), but I cannot specify any individual or hack as something that had a direct influence. I found my own style with this and blended it with Celeste, and that’s what the end result was.
DSM: The end result speaks for itself. I’m not skilled enough myself to play it but I’ve watched streamers and videos on YouTube of people playing your hack and it looks amazing! There’s obviously a lot of love and care that has gone into it. Now that it’s out in the world, how have the reactions to Celeste has made its way to the SNES made you feel?
MA: Day 1 of release was more of a sigh of relief than anything else. I was just glad to be done, glad to be finished, and glad that I could sit back, relax, and watch people play. As for the first week, this turned from a sigh of relief into total, genuine happiness. Watching people play (and even already speed run) this game has made the grind feel worth it, let alone the increase in following and views I had across all the platforms I’m on. The epic final clears, the few “gotcha” trolls, the misinputs resulting in untimely death, and everything in between has been indescribably beautiful.
DSM: The creativity on display here is outstanding. Congratulations on the release of Celeste.smc!