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SOS aka Septentrion aka Mode 7 the game

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I had this game in my collection for ages but hadn't even tried it. But this kept popping up in various places as a flawed yet unique experience for the system. Knowing this, I prepared myself to be surprised and disappointed. But the latter never came to be. Here's a rundown and my experience with this game.


The game starts out calmly. You're on a cruise ship called the Lady Crithania in the 1920's. Pick a character from 4 different choices and start exploring your surroundings. But the calm only lasts a few minutes until your world is literally turned upside down. A rogue wave capsizes the vessel and your ordeal starts.


The atmosphere
SOS is heartbreaking. There is so much death and destruction and sad fates all over the ship. Am I really playing this on a SNES? The weight of loss feels overpowering in the first minutes after the disaster. I found myself in awe of what the game accomplishes in setting up.


The survival
The game is like a puzzle. Find your way out in one hour (in real time) or go down with the ship. There are no enemies, it's just you against the clock. Well, and against the Lady, because she really does not want you to get out easily. The whole ship will lurch and sway in a mode 7 fest and there is nary a moment where your footing is on a flat surface. This means that some paths will get blocked but also new opportunities are opened, depending on the orientation of the vessel.


The others
You are not alone in your desperate quest. A handful of passengers and crew have also survived the initial capsizing. You are able to persuade some of them to join you. The reward? Rescue enough people to get a better ending. With 4 playable characters, there are different scenarios and conversations to be had, that really add to the replay value. Every character also has 4 different endings, depending on who you rescue. 


The flaws
Okay, all well and good but next comes two issues that are always noted for bringing the experience down. First is the player controls, which closely resemble that of Prince of Persia, although here it's a bit more loose and not so much momentum based. I love PoP, so there wasn't a learning curve for me, but I can see why it could be a hurdle for some.


But the biggest problem others seem to have is in coaxing your fellow survivors to safety. They will get stuck, they will fall to their deaths if you're not careful and they are sometimes painfully slow when time is of the essence. But strangely, I didn't mind and in fact, I think it fits with the setting. In a disaster situation people will behave in a myriad of ways. Some will freeze in panic, some just won't have the strength to go on. Surviving is supposed to be hard and learning what the survivors are capable of creates a natural difficulty to the game. You need to put them in situations that they can handle.


The real flaws
Only a couple of things rubbed me the wrong way. The music in the game is very fitting in setting the mood but there should be more songs. And the last section before the escape is a bit broken because the AI's path selection will lead the other survivors to their deaths in one spot. This can be mitigated with a trick but the section as a whole doesn't work as it's too gamyfied when compared to the overall experience.


The conclusion
This game gripped me like no other has done. I wish I could go back to my first experience where everything was new, I didn't know where to go and there was a sense of discovery behind every room and hallway. Until finally the time was up, the ocean engulfed the ship, and I was left hopelessly drowning while the screen slowly faded to black. Never had a game over felt so crushing.


A unique masterpiece. Agree or disagree? 

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That was a superbly-written review, and The Cutting Room Floor has some interesting tidbits: TCRF on S.O.S./Septentrion

S.O.S. was one game by Human Entertainment that got released stateside, but never advertised, let alone get substantial coverage on Nintendo Power. The Firemen, on the other hand, got covered in Nintendo Power, but did not get a US release. Two more things about Human Entertainment that you never knew about until know: 1. Suda 51 of No More Heroes and Killer 7 fame used to work for Human Entertainment. 2. Most of the Clock Tower & S.O.S. team founded Nude Maker, and created Night Cry with Team Silent's members.

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Jeez dude. This was unexpected.  For years I’ve wanted to try this but never do then forget about it off and on since the 90s. I know I’ve seen it along with the crappier other sos too. I’ve been tempted and what you’re writing is solid work. Reminds me when I was working on online commercial reviews. You hit all the primary points largely yet don’t ruin things either.  This game really is one of few true unique genre defying standouts. 

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Thanks for the kind words. I admit to being an unabashed fanboy for the thing but also understanding if it's not for everyone. I think it helps if you approach it as an experience and not as a game. 


One thing I forgot to mention is the graphics. They don't push the SNES to it's limits but do a good job in capturing the 1920's era specific look and feel. The first class deck and rooms are lavishly decorated while the lower parts of the ship are clearly not so. And then there's the inner parts and crew quarters, which invoke a very different feel. 


Another key thing is the map system, which is so cleverly implemented. Remember how the ship changes in orientation and is generally upside down? Well, you can also turn the map freely to avoid disorientation. There's also a dot that marks your current position. If you don't have the map, there are also placards infront of cabins to see where you are. And to complete the immersion, the places not meant for passangers are not mapped (engine room, viaducts, etc). Because what would a passenger do with that information on a cruise? Ingenious. 


Odd thing about the map is that while you can get it with all 4 playable characters, the game doesn't tell you when you have acquired it (apart from Capris). And not one walkthrough will mention how to get one, which speaks volumes about the obscurity of this game. 

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Great writeup, and I'm intrigued.  I have always skipped over this because, if I recall correctly, EGM complained about it back in the day.  That's a dumb reason for sure, but it is what it is.  They hated anything that was more complicated than running to the right and jumping on or shooting something.


This seems like a great choice to try on one of my drunk SFC nights, where I just play some random game and don't care how far I get.  I actually really like the deliberate controls of games like Prince of Persia, Flashback, and Nosferatu, so I might really like this.  Thanks for a great thread!

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This is one of those games that just doesn't have the controls or gameplay to hook me personally, but I've always appreciated the novel way it uses Mode 7 and the general setup of the game. It's certainly something different on SNES. Also, along with interesting use of Mode 7, it's one of the rare games to use Mode 0 and its four overlapping layers of parallax, as seen in one of the sections near the end of the game. It gets some kudos from me for that.

Edited by Kirk_Johnston
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On 3/5/2023 at 12:06 AM, SlidellMan said:

The Cutting Room Floor has some interesting tidbits: TCRF on S.O.S./Septentrion

A couple of things to point out:

Here's a working link to the Cutting Room Floor: https://tcrf.net/SOS_(SNES)


It is bizarre to fathom the 90's censorship by Nintendo of America. Think about it. You have to remove all mention of horrible things like religion and a liquor bar from your product. But then on the other hand, it is completely fine to gather a bunch of surviving children, make them stand on a ledge, and when the ship turns, hear their blood-curdling cries and thuds when they plunge to their deaths. Mind-boggling.


Also a version difference is the packaging. Being enamoured by the game and for also being a crazy person, I paid big bucks for the SFC version because I had to have this:


Please remember Elic Crapton, Bimmy Hendlix, Whiteney Housetown and all other 2300 souls that perished in this horrible accidently.


The US packaging is your standard box and manual, I wish they had included this, engrish or not.

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So few Peple survived ;)


Very nice map, nice addition there, thanks.



As to EGM I learned early on NOT to trust them when it came to Nintendo. They were a huge fanboy rag but also largely known blackmailers too.  If you didn’t kiss the ring, give them anything they demanded (ie: console and game and every accessory per person for example) they’d revenge print with false hoods, lower than fair scores, utterly despite even pictures lie about X copy of a game over Y because X’s people didn’t kiss their ass.  They were good for images, tips, Sega, then Sony reviews, import information, laughing at asinine so called rumors, but fairness was not their thing. :)


I hope one day I come across SOS, or I’ll have to emulate/kit it because eBay I do not want to deal with.


The fact it’s more an experience than a game is a good thing.  And how it works mechanically like Nosferatu(which I still had it, again no to eBay), and prince of Persia I’d call a big plus.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/7/2023 at 4:13 AM, Tanooki said:

The fact it’s more an experience than a game is a good thing.

From the opening moment, you can feel they are trying to go for something more than a game:


And when it comes to movies, The Poseidon Adventure (1972) has been mentioned numerous times as an inspiration to this game as it has a very similar setting.



Slidellman pointed out earlier that SOS is done by Human Entertainment, which made many weird and unconventional games for the SNES and other systems.

I suspect they had a business plan of making easily done sports titles to fund the quirkier ones (Clock Tower, Firemen, Taekwon-do etc.) because I'm sure these weird cult classic games did not sell very well. Maybe it would have been better that a bigger company would have taken them under their wing and let loose the craziness, because they went under in 2000. But luckily the the teams continued their work elsewhere, as Slidellman said.


For the SNES, I consider SOS to be their magnum opus, although I hope to sink my teeth into Clock Tower someday.




Edited by Wayler
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I got to play this as a kid and so I have some fond memories of it. I never did finish it but have wanted to go back and try to do so. I didn't realize there was a map system, so I'll be sure to use that next time I try.

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Here's how to get the map:


Capris: At the very beginning before the capsizing, go left to the next room where a woman offers you the map. After the disaster she's still in this room (RIP) and you can get the map by examining her body, even though there is no indication from the game that a map has been acquired. 


Redwin/Jeffrey: They start from different places than Capris, so they don't have time to get to the map-lady before the ship rolls over (though you can get pretty close with one of them). Her body is in the same place as in Capris' scenario and examining it will get them the map also. 


Note: The bodies will disappear from the corridors after the explosion on around 33 mins, so you'll have to get the map before that. 


Luke: as he's a part of the crew, he already has the map. A nice touch. 




Using the map: press select, rotate with L/R, zoom with A/B. The map cannot be used before the capsizing. 


Note: If you don't have the map but need to get your bearings, there are map placards in the main hallways. These can be looked at by walking/jumping on them and pressing X. These are static shots of the map and can't be rotated, so having your own is a must. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Found some interesting stuff on Hardcore Gaming 101’s board about the game: https://hg101.proboards.com/thread/4301/sos-septentrion


There’s a technique for moving the passengers to directly follow you by holding down R when all of them are assembled to a spot (a red arrow will appear if you are also in that spot). I knew about this and it can be advantageous in certain parts. What I didn’t know is that you can give a helping hand in some parts: “you can help them jump higher by crouching and pressing Y to give them a boost. You can also pull them up to your position or grab them when they jump by pressing Y. Helping them solved 40% of the "A.I. getting stuck" problem.” These commands are not even communicated in the manual, which is so bizarre.

You can find the manual scan in here for example: https://archive.org/details/sos-usa


But be aware that the follow-along tactic can lead to situations that, in this instance, the manual is kind enough to mention. A passenger can lose a life when their preset physical strength reaches zero. Like the point value, the strength is a hidden value for each passenger (seems to be lower with old people, which makes sense). They will tell you that they are tired and if you don’t let them rest a bit, they’ll just drop dead in the middle of walking. It was weird when I first lost a passenger this way as I didn’t even notice. An empty spot just appeared in the line that was following me….


But back to the board I mentioned. This was very interesting: “Also, I think it's worth a mention the fact that in the 30 seconds before the ship capsizes, you can traverse the entire ship and talk to every single passenger (even the ones that are going to die in a few seconds) and they will ALL have something different to say. It's pretty cool seeing them dancing, playing, hanging out, working, etc. without knowing their fate is going to change soon enough. It's amazing that they went through the trouble of giving lines (and translating them) to almost 60 characters, when almost no one will even get to read them due to the short window the game leaves you to do that. You can use this code 7E030501, to give you as much time as you want.


It would have been great for this to be an option for the player all along. To roam about the ship as long as you wanted before the disaster. Very much resembling a disaster movie where the first part is establishing the characters and the setting before throwing them in a situation. And speaking of movies, the text dump of the rom reveals that all characters had an “actor” associated to their role. And wouldn’t you know it, Redwin Gardner is modeled after the Gene Hackman’s role in Poseidon Adventure, credited as Jean Hickman. The complete list of “actors” is mentioned on the 2nd page of the thread.

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I really wish I'd come across this, not sure (I know I can't resist) I want to get annoyed seeing the ebay value.  I think taken at face value for what it is, this would be a really great game, even if not to win, just to see how many ways you can eat it or the passengers trying to escape such an epic mess.

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This is fantasyfairyland stuff, but if someone were to make a hack of the game or it gets re-released for some odd reason, here is my wishlist for improvements:


Ship randomizer - The layouts would change every time you play. The lure of the game comes from the fact that you're not quite sure where to go. You have the end goal marked in your map, but the path to it is not straight forward. You lose a big chunk of the experience once you figured out how to get to the escape hatch.

More people, more mayhem - Being a steamliner populated by 2300 passengers, there's actually very few people for the player to encounter. I'm sure this was done for space issues, but more dialogue and tragic fates would be welcome. And fill the decks with just more gravely injured or dead people that are just there, that you can't do anything about.

Items - There are some items in the game for certain situations but they are very sparse. Some kind of a simple item system would be a nice addition. Axes to break down obstacles or locked doors, keys to some places, master key for the entire ship, food or healing items etc. Just a little extra for the player to engage with the environment.

More songs - Every new environment should have it's own tune, done to the style of the main melody that plays pretty much the entire game. So 1st class, crew cabins, passenger cabins, ducts etc should each have their own song. You could also rip out a page from the Secret of Evermore OST and do just ambiance in some parts.


Optional settings for hardcore maniacs:

One Hit -> Game Over - You don't have the luxury of just losing 5 mins after a fall. If you die, then it's game over.

Time to escape is unknown - Each session gives a randomized time to escape from the ship before it sinks, that is unknown to the player. Ranging from, let's say 30 - 60 mins.



With clever programming, I think we could reach the true potential of the game's Mode 7 power.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I made a request to the Romhacking forum, if someone would be interested in making SOS a complete version without censorship + a few extras. To my surprise, I got detailed instructions on how to unlock the bar area:


"Concerning the locked bar in the US version, try this with a hex editor:

To unlock the door to the bar before capsizing, go to offset 0x8825f and change 0x16 to 0x10 (or use cheat 7f918a10).

To unlock the door to the bar after capsizing, go to offset 0x8a6a6 and change 0x16 to 0x10 (same cheat as before).

To put people in the bar before capsizing, go to offset 0x36b2 and change 0xff to 0x92 (or use cheat 80b6b292).

To put people in the bar after capsizing, go to offset 0x381e and change 0xff to 0x11 (or use cheat 80b81e11)."


Hex editing was completely unknown to me, but I had to try since the instructions were so specific. With a little additional help, I was able to make a ROM for myself where the bar is unlocked. I had to run it in an emulator though, because implementing the capsizing prevention is probably a bit trickier. So here are the results using the Action Replay code 7E030501 to stop the ship from capsizing.







So interesting that the developers left the dialogue before capsizing but deleted everything after the disaster (or just didn't bother to translate). Maybe there was something inappropriate there that they did not want to leave traces of in the ROM file. You can talk with the drunks but there is no text visible. And one of them will even join you (or both if playing Redwin).


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Still really impressed with the novel use of Mode 7 in this game, and especially once they introduce some flooding in areas of the ship and use a bit of palette swapping and line scrolling to sell the areas of the ship being submerged under the water:


I love when people really try to do some original and cool stuff with the various features of the SNES hardware.


Although, that swimming sprite really needed more frames showing him at additional angles so the transitions between angles could be much smoother imo. I'm sure that would have been possible, or indeed would be possible for some hacker to add in now if they really wanted.


Also some nice use of Mode 0 here too:


Anyway, I'd love to see more stuff like this modern times for SNES, being both original/novel and in some ways technically impressive.

Edited by Kirk_Johnston
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