No matter how you look at it, Mario Party 2 is an old game. It’s been 18 years since the game saw release on the N64, and it has seen eight direct sequels in that time. By all rights, Mario Party 2 and its N64 brethren should have been left behind by gamers a long time ago. They should have been, but the opposite happened instead. The original three Mario Party games are more popular than ever, and Mario Party 3 still commands a $50 price tag on eBay thanks to its brief run and massive popularity. These games, for reasons both good and unfortunate, have real staying power. For me though the king of the original trilogy has always been Mario Party 2. Partly because of its mini-games, but also because it offered the possibility of doing something kind of crazy: turning over the coin count through dedicated play.
Now, turning over a counter is not the same things as maxing it out. Maxing out a counter is nothing special. It happens all the time with inventory slots in RPGs. Most will only let you carry a certain number of a specific item, usually 99 of them. Once that limit is reached, then the game won’t allow you to pick up anymore. It’s an artificial limit designed to save memory. To turn over a counter though, one has to exceed its theoretical limit. What happens after that depends on how the system is programmed to deal with it. If no measures are put in place, exceeding a counter could permanently glitch it out. If there are, then the counter will either stop at the theoretical limit or reset (aka turn-over) back to zero to start the count all over again. Given how number storage works, encountering these conditions without a cheating device is an extremely rare thing indeed.
“But what does this have to do with Mario Party 2,” you ask. Well, like most Mario Party games, Mario Party 2 has a bank that stores all of your accumulated coins. In the early days of playing it, all coins gained in the board games are sent to the bank so that they can be stored and used to purchase mini-games from the mini-game shop. After all the games are bought though, the only thing one can do with their coins is continue to horde them. Theoretically, one could eventually gather enough coins to turn over the bank’s coin counter and trigger one of the results mentioned above. Whether or not doing so is realistically possible depends on what type of integer storage is employed for the bank’s counter. It could either be 16-bit or 32-bit storage. Any less and there wouldn’t enough room to collect the amounts of coins needed to buy mini-games. Any more would just be overkill and a potential waste of resources. The possibility I and my friends saw in Mario Party 2 was that it might have been using 16-bit storage for the bank.
The idea sprung up one day after finishing a game with one of my friends. They noted that the coin count was nearing the maximum value for 16-bit storage, and mentioned that there was a decent chance that that’s what the developers used for the bank’s counter. The maximum integer value for 16-bit storage is 65,536. After this number is reached, the count must either stop or reset to zero. We were at about 45,500 coins when this idea came up, so we decided to dig into the game and test our theory.
It took few months of off and on play, but we finally hit our goal last week. And the result was…
(clip from YouTube user: DaedalusDan)
Yeah, it seems that Mario Party 2 uses at least 32-bit integer storage for its bank counter. We thought about continuing to go for it, but that thought only lasted until we decided to look up the maximum integer value for 32-bit storage. That value is 2,147,483,647. It took 18 years and 103 games (averaging around 550 coins per game) to reach a coin count of 65,798. That’s not even counting 4,000 or so coins needed to buy all the mini-games! So yeah, going for the next possible maximum isn’t a very realistic goal. Ah well, time to move onto the next goal.
This was a little disappointing, but it was a fun goal to pursue, and we learned something about Mario Party 2 that nobody aside of the game’s programmers we aware of. It kinda makes me wonder what else can be uncovered through some more dedicated play. Nothing to do but get to it, I guess!
How much Mario Party have you played over the years? Have you ever tried to break a game by exploiting its programming before? What did you try to do?
Lede image captured by Hatmonster