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MAME 0.164 – Some Highlights

July 29, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 11 Comments on MAME 0.164 – Some Highlights

MAME 0.164 was released this morning (being last Wednesday of July and all that) and it’s a solid looking release with a number of nice new additions and fixes.

The most significant improvement, in my opinion, comes in the form of the Taito Air System fixes from Kale and Olivier. These fixes bring Top Landing to a playable status, and considering how long the driver has been sat there in an almost working state (and in Raine before that in an even less working state) it’s really good to see it given some attention. These games might not have aged too well but they were a major component of Taito’s Arcade output at the time with titles in the series spanning multiple generations.


Top Landing Top Landing
Top Landing Top Landing

The other game in the same driver, Air Inferno was also improved although suffers from additional issues that mean it’s still marked as NOT WORKING, although you can at least now take off, fly around and complete the tutorial mission if you want to do so.


Air Inferno Air Inferno
Air Inferno Air Inferno

The most expensive addition in this release is support for the old Nintendo title ‘Monkey Magic’ which is a bat & ball game similar to Break Out etc. where the objective is to destroy the monkey face rather than a regular wall. It currently lacks sound because the discrete sound hardware isn’t yet emulated.


Monkey Magic Monkey Magic
Monkey Magic Monkey Magic

Interestingly the ‘Credits’ text is very similar to the ‘Unknown Horse Gambling Game’ that was added a while ago, it also uses roughly the same type of CPU although the rest of the hardware differs. The font is however very simple, and some characters (such as the E) do differ, so it might be coincidental, although maybe Nintendo, or a branch of Nintendo is a worthwhile avenue to explore in identifying this title just in case.


Unknown Horse Gambling Game

The most likely to be overlooked addition in 0.164 is the clone of PuzzLove, which actually has some very significant changes compared to the set I covered here a while back when I added it. system11 picked this one up and it’s a Korean release of the games instead. The title screen is completely different, and in the maze sections before each mini-game you actually have to chase around little characters to access the puzzles rather than them being static locations on the map. I’ve put some side-by-side shots below.


PuzzLove Korea PuzzLove Export
PuzzLove Korea PuzzLove Export
PuzzLove Korea PuzzLove Export
PuzzLove Korea PuzzLove Export

There are a fair few Mahjong and Casino style games added in 0.164 too, including a previously unknown Merit collection known as ‘The Round Up’ a title that they decided was worth applying for a trademark over. It’s really nothing new, the same games that were in Pitboss but with slightly different titles, but it further documents a little piece of history that would have been lost or forgotten otherwise.


The Round Up The Round Up
The Round Up The Round Up

In the ‘already covered here’ field there is Semicom’s Gaia. I also took the time to improve a few other things in the driver while adding it, so visible areas and rowscroll effects in Cute Fighters and Baryon are noticeably improved.


Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth

One that a lot of work went into, but which failed to cross the line into fully working status is Virtual Pool. Ted Green did a great job of tracking down and fixing some bugs with the MIPS dynamic recompiler which was causing collisions to fail on the game (and no doubt other subtle issues in other games) but the game still has a tendency to crash on the loading screens between levels so you can usually get a round in but nothing more unless you’re lucky. It runs on the same type of hardware as the Golden Tee Fore! games so quite why this one is so problematic is currently unknown.


Virtual Pool Virtual Pool
Virtual Pool Virtual Pool

Some older drivers saw attention too with Luca hooking up the speech in Harem


Harem Harem

0.164 is not without it’s regression fixes too, recently issues with the Amiga driver being unable to load ADF files were fixed (don’t expect miracles tho, the actual driver hasn’t improved, just a bug causing ADF files to not decode in current versions)

There’s been a lot of work on the electronic toys too, including preliminary emulation of some of the official Game & Watch titles where the MCUs were decapped, these aren’t yet considered working for various reasons however (some of the additions in this category just lack proper artwork and testing)

Further tweaks were made to the MSX softlists and mapper emulation following the recent heavy reworking of the drivers restoring things like Metal Gear 2 and HERO to a working state.

There were other small but still good to see fixes too, getting rid of ROM patches is always good and an unlikely chain of events lead to the one for Taito’s Super Cup Finals finally being removed. In the end it looks like the game expects default data in EEPROM as a security measure, there is a byte it expected to be set but the internal init sequence doesn’t actually set. Using a default eeprom file with it set allows the game to work without patches, this is likely to be correct as the game avoids changing that byte when you do factory restore operations too.

There were some other important clones added in 0.164, some of which I was surprised to find had been dumped for a long time.

First up is a clone of Blitz ’99, this was dumped by Siftware years ago. The existing parent is version 1.30, the newly located clone is an older version, 1.2. There are likely other versions of the game out there too which simply haven’t been dumped yet, although finding them is tricky because most people are using newer drives cloned from the same sources, or SSD conversions cloned from those and most of the original hard drives are likely dead. If you do happen to own any hard drive based games do make sure to check the revisions on them against what is supported!


Blitz '99 Blitz '99

The other Hard Drive based game we had a previously unsupported clone for is California Chase, this one was again dumped a while back by jmurjr, but for some reason never processed, it identifies as Version 1.0r8 and slots between the 2 existing sets.


California Chase
California Chase California Chase

The Bubble Bobble series is one of Taito’s most iconic, so a new clone of Bubble Bobble II was a nice addition too, this actually became the new parent set as it’s a newer version than any of the existing ones, identifying itself as version 2.6 rather than 2.5 like all the others. It will be interesting if somebody could find out what it actually fixes, or rebalances, it is actually quite rare compared to other developers for Taito to offer a new revision of a game so there’s a fairly good chance it fixes an issue that was found by players / operators when the game was on location, the build date is a good 2 months after the older 2.5 release.


Bubble Bobble II Bubble Bobble II

One of the most curious changes is the title screen date with Taito opting to use Roman Numerals for the newer release.


Bubble Bobble 2 Bubble Bobble 2

Another noteworthy thing in 0.164 is ‘Aqua Stage’. It’s noteworthy mainly because it runs on a Sega H1 board, that’s the same board as Cool Riders. Until this showed up we actually thought Cool Riders was the only thing using that platform. Unfortunately it tells us that a fair few things we assumed when emulating Cool Riders were wrong, things like the video registers can actually move around. The game is a coin pusher / redemption type game, rather than a real game, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be running correctly in MAME right now, it never shows the title screen (without hacks) doesn’t attempt to read the inputs, and only outputs to one of the 2 monitors. Working out what’s wrong is going to take some digging so at the moment you just get an aquarium background (which you can change in service mode) I hope it’s not a case of where the ‘inputs’ are provided by another board running game logic code (like Ken Sei Mogura was for example) because the only thing we have / have dumped is the H1 board. Kale managed to hack it to display a title screen at least, which is what you see below, but this won’t appear if you run the emulation in MAME. System16 has a cab picture. The first part of this video is said to be Aqua Stage (although it’s hard to tell, there seem to be multiple aquatic games featured, somebody should have thrown a James Pond in there too ;-)


Aqua Stage
Aqua Stage
Aqua Stage
Aqua Stage
Aqua Stage

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Dirty Hot Rod

July 22, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 6 Comments on Dirty Hot Rod

Sega’s System 24 is an interesting system for a number of reasons, one of them being the use of floppy disks for many of the games, not exactly the most reliable of storage methods, nor one with an especially high capacity.

Quite a lot of arcade games keep some kind of book keeping data for operators (and manufacturers) to see how games are performing on location. With most boards this data is either minimal because it has to be stored in an EEPROM (so sometimes just coin counts) or it gets stored in battery backed RAM.

System 24 is a bit different because it stores a decent amount of data on the actual floppy disk, which means when those disks get dumped they still contain said data. In order to attempt to make images easier to compare and make it easier for somebody to dump their own disk and have it match the image MAME expects we do default this data in the service mode before hashing the disk images, however it can be interesting to see the stats that are stored on a disk before that happens.

Recent Ordyne submitted a new dump of the 4 Player (Japanese / English) version of Hot Rod, it’s actually a Revision C disk, so newer than the already supported disk for this version (which itself is noteworthy because the fragile nature of disk based games means they’re ‘at risk’)


Hot Rod Hot Rod

What was interesting to see is that the dumped disk had been used for a fairly substantial amount of time, recording 10717 hours of uptime, which is over a year even if you consider the machine could have been turned on 24/7, which is unlikely.


Hot Rod Stats
Hot Rod Stats
Hot Rod Stats
Hot Rod Stats

1546 hours of actually playtime in that period suggests that most of the time the cabinet this was from was just sitting there untouched, indicating these stats probably aren’t from the game’s heyday, but still provide some insight into how the game was played.

The peak per-game playtime at 2-3 minutes sounds about right for an arcade, keeping the money flowing and the line moving, the continue count indicates that most players didn’t feel the need to coin feed the game.

There’s not a lot of point to this post, and I haven’t done any work on the System 24 driver (and it really needs it, I don’t think any one game runs perfectly and Gain Ground still has the annoying timing bug causing it to only run in freeplay, not reading the dipswitches at all) but I just thought it was interesting to share some pictures of the bookkeeping mode before the stats are wiped.

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Maya be Clean

July 16, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 6 Comments on Maya be Clean

A while back system11 dumped his Maya board after finding out it was a different version to the ones found in MAME, for some reason nobody actually looked at the dump until now so I decided to take a look. Unlike the other clones it wasn’t a 100% simple rom swap, it actually uses a different rom scrambling on the graphic roms which needed figuring out, nothing too tricky (just some address line swaps) but time consuming all the same.

He also didn’t dump the colour PROMs at the time and once it was added it became quite apparent that they were needed because the colours didn’t match up properly with the new images found in this set, once alerted to this the situation was very quickly resolved.

It’s a “clean” version of Maya, without the adult pictures and nudity, instead it has various cartoons.


Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Now.. as the game is basically a hack of Dragon Punch / Sports Match in the first place what I’m wondering is if these are original pieces of art of if they too have been lifted from somewhere else, anybody recognize any of them? This is the complete set of images the game uses for level rewards. (I’m mostly interested in knowing about the cartoons)

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The Last Choice

July 9, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 21 Comments on The Last Choice

As you may know both myself and system11 are fans of Semicom’s games.

One SemiCom title that has always been shrouded in a bit of mystery is their shooter ‘Gaia – The Last Choice of Earth’

There has been a flyer for the game at ArcadeFlyers for a while depicting what looks like a rather ambitious vertical shooter, but nobody actually recalled ever having played it.

A couple of weeks ago system11 spotted a copy of the game for sale and snapped it up, weirdly the game being sold was not a vertical shooter running on a vertical screen as shown in the flyers (like for example the original Aero Fighters) but instead a vertical shooter running on a horizontal screen (like Aero Fighters 2/3)

At the time we wondered if maybe there was a dipswitch to control the orientation and duplicate sets of rotated graphics in the roms to accommodate this, however once the PCB arrived it became clear that this wasn’t the case, it really was a game designed to be used on a horizontal monitor and a horizontal monitor only.

He dumped the roms, and with a bit of hackery (using modified protection data from Dream World until we’ve extracted the real data) I got it booting. It required the odd fix in the driver too, but nothing major.


Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth

Now, there are a couple of things interesting here, first, the whole thing with it being a horizontal game. After playing with the dipswitches (and as always, the ones listed in service mode should NOT be trusted on a Semicom title) I discovered that one of the dipswitches controls a sort of ‘vertical lock’ on the scrolling.

When vertical games were ported to consoles with a horizontal monitor (TV screen) it was quite typical to pan the screen up and down as the player moved up and down so that the whole of the larger vertical screen area from the arcade originals could be seen by moving up and down. This is actually quite annoying as it can cause the bullets in shooters to ‘wobble’ up and down as you move because they appear to slow down / speed up or even move backwards if you scroll the screen faster than they’re moving.

The fact that Gaia offers such a mode suggests that it really was developed originally as a vertical game, as the flyer screenshots suggest. Luckily you can turn off this panning and just deal with the reduced screen area (although you can still shoot things off-screen as the game engine still seems to see things as active even when they’re in the area the game no longer shows you)

Does a vertical version actually exist? Who knows, we’re always being surprised by SemiCom finds so it’s a possibility they made 2 versions, one for horizontal cabs and the other for vertical, but right now we just don’t know.

I’ve recorded 2 videos the first, below shows the game with the vertical scrolling locked




the 2nd video shows it unlocked, notice the annoying faster/slower movement as you move the ship up and down.



The more attentive of you might have noticed something else in the above screenshots, a XESS – The New Revolution logo. For a long time we thought XESS – The New Revolution was the name of the Semicom 3-in-1 title containing New HyperMan, Cookie & Bibi and HyperMan because aside from the ‘New HyperMan’ title screen it lacks any screen indicating it’s a multi-game title. As the same XESS logo appears in Gaia that theory has rather been blown out the water, and it turns out, as you can see from the end credits that XESS is just one of the internal SemiCom team names. The special thanks section lists 2 of the others.


Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth

That suggests the Semicom internal teams were
1st Team – Exit
2nd Team – XESS
3rd Team – AceVer

as it happens we have Exit and AceVer logos, they can be found in More More and Diet Quiz Go Go


Semicom Exit Semicom AceVer

Simple? Not really.

Semicom’s baseball game MuHanSeungBu suggests that the 2nd team was also called DMD, and many other Semicom titles suggest the 3rd team was Tirano (by far the most common logo)


Semicom DMD Semicom Tirano

Maybe the teams just changed their names at some point? I’ve added them to the manufacturer field for the games in MAME for cases where they’re displayed onscreen at least.

As for Gaia, it seems like a pretty decent shooter, like most things Korean rough around the edges tho, there is for example no high score system at all, you have a score, but outside of your game it seems completely meaningless.

That’s all for now, I’ll actually mark the game as working once we get the proper protection data.


Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth

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