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Under the Surface (part 9)

April 9, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Under the Surface (part 9)

I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “plugandmame@outlook.com” so if anybody wants to contribute towards the purchase (and shipping to Sean / TeamEurope) of Plug and Play devices, then that address can be used. It will help enormously with sourcing additional units, plus any spares we might need for experiments (sometimes dumping is not straightforward as many of these don’t use regular ROMs, but ROM globs)

As these are donations, not payments for any specific guaranteed product or service, be sure to send them as gifts. Also don’t send email to that address, it won’t be checked. If you want to discuss sending a specific unit you already own instead, please tag on on Twitter.


Gambling games form the basis of a genre that has brought much ire from MAME communities, and even in MAME’s early history were a controversial subject with them excluded entirely for what at the time seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only a short part of MAME’s early life. A decent chunk of people still seem to wish they weren’t emulated, and actively try to get them ripped out of the project again, however other fields, including this work I’m doing on Plug and Play games seem to have now become to focus of some of that anger instead. I guess some of this is because people think we’re working on these things instead of what they want to see (the reality is if I wasn’t working on these things I probably wouldn’t be working on anything, I tend to work on what I enjoy figuring out, and what I consider to be at most risk of being lost to time)

So anyway, what I’m looking at in this part is the combination of both of those things; gambling themed Plug and Play games. I can almost feel the fire burning.

One of the arguments against gambling games in emulation is that they’re pointless; when there’s no money to win and no money to lose there is no reason to play them as they offer no entertainment value otherwise. That point of view seems at odds with a wider one because quite often on both computers, consoles and here in the form of Plug and Play games we see titles which are recreations of the slot machine formula for home use. I’m sure anybody from the UK of age remembers growing up with things like Codemasters’ Fruit Machine Simulator or Dizzy Dice, which had wasn’t Codemasters and had nothing to do with their oval shaped adventurer. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about I’m sure both of these can be played in the MAME ZX Spectrum driver just fine)

I already covered Golden Nugget Casino in another part, when looking at Majesco stuff, so let’s skip that one and move straight on to something more Japanese.

Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV is a Japanese Plug and Play put out by Takara, Sammy and Dreams Come True using SSD’s XaviX platform. It takes cartridges, 4 are dumped, we know of one other that definitely exists, but the highest cartridge we have was numbered ’07’ and two of them were marked ’01’ but are both different software, so I’m not sure exactly how many cartridges were produced.

Without a cartridge you get the build in game, which has 2 slot machines available from the off, and one unlockable through some unknown conditions. Like most Japanese XaviX titles there is structure to the gameplay here.

This is a well designed product, if even accepts special coins via the a slot to simulate the full experience. It’s currently marked as NOT WORKING because one of the cartridges has no inputs and the others haven’t been extensively tested as the things are entirely in Japanese (it isn’t verified if saving works etc.) however a lot of what is on offer here does seem fully playable, just needs some extra testing and verification.


Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV
Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV

The cartridges contain varying numbers of machines and unlockables


Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV

For some reason inputs don’t respond on this one, but do on all the others


Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV

The Salaryman Kintaro cartridge for it contains a ‘whack a mole’ style extra game using the 3 reel stop buttons.


Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV

While this one has you weaving between rocks as the bonus game


Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV

Senario’s Big Bonus Slots brings home the video slot machine action for a US audience instead, offering 5 machines and a whole bunch of lucky bonus games for your entertainment. The machines all play basically the same, but with an increased credit value for each, meaning that your virtual $1000 will only get you 2 maximum bet spins on the most expensive machine. There are multiple save slots and your bank amount is kept, so you can build up money on one machine to spend it on another. No unlockables here. Main negative of this one is really the music which sounds like somebody took a keyboard, hit some random keys and called it music and this won’t be the only time I feel that way about some of Senario’s music.


Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots
Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots
Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots
Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots
Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots
Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots Big Bonus Slots

Jara-Ja Land is another Japanese XaviX hardware game from Takara. This one is themed around Japanese redemption titles, and it is fair to say the presentation is through the roof here. You expect these Plug and Play units to generally be cheap throw-away affairs, but the level of detail to some of them defies that, animations here are just superb. This one currently doesn’t have controls hooked up (I think it’s some kind of analog dial input) but you can run the attract mode for 15 minutes until the machine decides to soft power-off due to inactivity.

Of note, this one prompted me to fix the reel rendering, which the previously covered Gachinko Contest! Slot machine TV saw benefit from too, it’s a mid-screen palette change effect.

This one would actually go on to be in an arcade cabinet a year or so later, distributed by Atlus. I’d assume the arcade version still runs on XaviX hardware as SSD is still credited, but we don’t have a dump from that one, and the code would almost certainly be different (as things like idle power-off make no sense for an arcade unit)


Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land
Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land
Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land
Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land Jara-Ja Land

The Vs Maxx Texas Hold’em TV Poker 6 Player poker units were likely amongst Senario’s flagship products. These big box affairs were SunPlus based games were each player also had an LCD panel to show their cards and make selections. Emulation them required simulation of those additional controllers, complete with internal artwork in order for the unit to be considered functional. Obviously trying to play it when you can easily see the cards dealt to the other player (because everything is now one screen) doesn’t make much sense, but the functionality is there. The standard version is shown below. Music here is slightly better than Big Bonus Slots and at least sounds a bit like a tune, but is still one of the weaker aspects.

From an emulation point of view this was unusual in that it uses the SunPlus ‘Bitmap’ mode instead of being tile based, and as such has a bunch of extra RAM in the device too for storing the bitmap graphics. This actually makes the insides of the unit look more scary than it really is as there are extra globs for the RAM.


Vs Maxx Poker Vs Maxx Poker Vs Maxx Poker
Vs Maxx Poker Vs Maxx Poker Vs Maxx Poker

Play Vision would distribute the UK version of this, but the ingame graphics still only credit Senario. The only real change is that the $ values are replaced with £ values, still, regional variations are good to have confirmed and emulated. I don’t know if there were European versions with different currency symbols again.


Vs Maxx Poker Vs Maxx Poker

A deluxe version of the game, which to my knowledge didn’t get a UK release, adds extra modes, including Blackjack. It’s functional, although I should find out if any of the text was changed on the LCD panel as now sometimes the buttons have additional purposes.


Vs Maxx Poker Deluxe Vs Maxx Poker Deluxe Vs Maxx Poker Deluxe
Vs Maxx Poker Deluxe Vs Maxx Poker Deluxe Vs Maxx Poker Deluxe

Plenty of gambling themed games were included in the multi-games. For example in the VT1682 ‘Excite Sports 48-in-1’ there is a Poker game under the ‘Brain’ menu. What’s interesting about this is there are some versions of this unit, still with 48 games, that do not have the Poker game, but instead substitute it for a different game in another menu. I guess this was due to laws regulating the sale of gambling themed games in certain states / regions. The version without it in this case, is not dumped. I should probably cover these units in more detail in a later part.


Excite Sports 48 in 1 Excite Sports 48 in 1 Excite Sports 48 in 1

Excalibur and Techno Source also had a bunch of units that could be considered Gambling themed. Some of the Excalibur units look very similar in form factor to the Strip Poker game that was covered in a previous part, but none of them have been dumped yet. The Strip Poker was SunPlus, but based on screenshots I’m expecting most of the Excalibur gamblers to be either NES / VT based (most likely) or Elan at a push. Techno Source units are often single glob, and currently can’t be dumped, but I don’t know if any of the gambling themed ones have been looked at.

This has actually ended up being a relatively short part, when in reality, if all games of this nature were dumped, it would be one of the longer parts. I believe plenty of the other units have been sourced by the same GameHistory.org contributors who sent some other NES / VT based units, although in this case as they haven’t been my primary area of focus (outside of the SunPlus ones) I’m not 100% sure on what has / hasn’t been acquired.

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Under the Surface (part 8)

April 8, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Under the Surface (part 8)

I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “plugandmame@outlook.com” so if anybody wants to contribute towards the purchase (and shipping to Sean / TeamEurope) of Plug and Play devices, then that address can be used. It will help enormously with sourcing additional units, plus any spares we might need for experiments (sometimes dumping is not straightforward as many of these don’t use regular ROMs, but ROM globs)

As these are donations, not payments for any specific guaranteed product or service, be sure to send them as gifts. Also don’t send email to that address, it won’t be checked. If you want to discuss sending a specific unit you already own instead, please tag on on Twitter.


Plug and Play units based on NES or VT technology are usually considered the ‘cheapest’ of the lot. Often full of blatant NES bootlegs, false claims about the total number of games, and even in quite a few cases games that simply haven’t been tested and don’t run properly. These too have however evolved over time, and while you can still buy many which contain multiple hacked versions of well known NES games such as Super Mario Bros. and Contra, there is more story to be told. Enhanced chipset such as the VT series maintained NES compatibility while also offering enhanced video modes with 16 colour tiles and expanded palettes and as such ended up being used on hundreds of different units with new ones being released even to this day, while earlier clones such as the SH6578 would offer similar features but with a lower level of compatibility for existing software and thus seem to have been more short lived.

I’ve not been going out of my way to buy NES / VT clone units, although have picked up a few on my journey, many of these covered here however have been purchased or donated by other people with a greater interest in such things. Let’s start with one such unit.

The Time Top 36-in-1, which is actually a 12-in-1, is a VT based unit full of what I’ll call “VT Originals” that is games specifically coded for the VT hardware, even if many of them are obvious ripoffs of more popular titles. The 36-in-1 part comes from duplicates in the menu giving you a chance to start each game from a different stage.

This one was donated by JP_Ronny and shows the direction in which some developers were trying to push the VT tech, aside from creating bootleg collections of enhanced NES titles.

There are a few things of note with the unit, first, it has 4 unique fire buttons, A,B as well as X and Y, which unlike many other units are read as separate buttons, rather than X and Y being autofire. Disappointingly only a single one of those extra buttons is used by the software, and even then only by one game (Army Strike) even if many of the others would have benefited greatly. The control design on Frantic Raindrop requires you to press the fire button to cling on to walls, but that also causes you to fire your (ammo limited) weapon; utilizing the extra buttons in this situation would have made a lot of sense, but the game makes no use of them.

Another feature is a difficulty slider switch, although again outside of the obvious case of Bombs Away giving you a different amount of time depending on the switch position it isn’t clear if any of the games are really making use of it.

Sound emulation is currently incomplete, games mostly use sampled sounds rather than regular NES APU stuff, so for the most part things are currently just pops and clicks in MAME.

These suffer from looking better than they play unfortunately, the framerates leave a lot to be desired, there’s no smooth animation or tight controls on offer here; you can see what the developers were going for, but I don’t think they had the skill to pull it off.


TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1
TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1 TimeTop 36 in 1

The Retro TV is a unit very similar in game selection and presentation to the “My Arcade Gamer V Portable Gaming System (DGUN-2573)” from DreamGear, but while that one is a bad dump with some corrupted menu graphics, this one was dumped correctly. In this case there are 300 games divided up into ‘1 player’ and ‘2 player’ menus, although in this case ‘2 player’ often just means that the games are still alternating between players, but both controllers are required.

As with most of these things this consists of a bunch of unlicensed bootleg hacks of 1st party Nintendo and some 3rd party games originally developed for the NES games, and a selection of original games using various levels of VT technology. Given this is a device released within the last half-decade it’s surprising to see the manufacturer still playing with fire by including unlicensed Nintendo games.

With the original games there are many instances in this collection where you find the same game, but where one version is using more / newer VT features than the others as they’re taken from a pool of games that was developed and updated over many years.


Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV

Bounce is obviously Namco’s Mappy, Space War is Jaleco’s Exerion, Conqueror is Konami’s Circus Charlie, Spar is a common hack of Nintendo’s Urban Champion and there are plenty of others too, especially near the end of the 2 player games list. These aren’t remakes, they’re bootleg hacks of the original NES games, pirated games.

Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV
Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV

Repair Urgently and Road Worker seem to be different tech levels of the same game, as are Puzzle Blocks and Blocks World. Fruit Boxes and Lattice Winner also seem to be the same thing, although Fruit Boxes has the 2 player mode removed. You can find the same pattern of ‘old’ and ‘new’ versions of several other games in this collection.

Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV
Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV
Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV Retro TV

The Techno Source Handy Boy 11-in-1 is another SH6578 based Plug and Play. I covered this chipset in an earlier part with the ABL Wikid Joystick, but here you have another Plug and Play using this not-quite NES compatible clone. Many of the games are NES hacks, but reskinned with code changes to accommodate the different way the video hardware works. Some of the games included here still have emulation issues, so the compilation hasn’t been promoted to WORKING state just yet. This is another that was supplied by GameHistory.org


Techno Source Handy 11 Techno Source Handy 11 Techno Source Handy 11
Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11
Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11
Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11
Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11
Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11 Handy 11
Handy 11 Handy 11

There were 2 more games on the same hardware type dumped, the Bandai Gamepad and a Lightgun shooter called City Patrolman. Neither of these goes past the first screen at the time of writing, but they haven’t been looked at in any detail yet, possibly just need control hookups. The Bandai gamepad was from the same source as the above while the City Patrolman ROM had been circulating for a while unemulated.


Bandai Game Pad City Patrolman

Back to ABL, there was the Mini Joystick 80-in-1, which consisted of 2 small joysticks and contains a bunch of VT enhanced titles. Again many of these are games you’ll find in other units, but as this is a slightly earlier product you’ll also find ones that were later dropped from the bigger compilations. The ratio of enhanced colour mode games to standard NES palette games is good here, and most of the games seem to be ‘original’ titles rather than just graphic hacks. One of the more respectable devices, even if nothing is spectacular.


Advance Bright Ltd Mini Joystick 80-in-1 Advance Bright Ltd Mini Joystick 80-in-1 Advance Bright Ltd Mini Joystick 80-in-1
ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick
ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick
ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick
ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick
ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick
ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick ABL Mini Joystick

Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game ‘6 Intelligent Games’ was put out by Smart Planet. It’s another VT based device, this one primarily being a Sudoku unit, but with 5 bonus games bundled in. There are some annoying rendering issues in most games that means this one has been left as NOT WORKING for now, although everything is playable. I think all of these games can be found in other units, and things like Lawn Mower appeared in many forms, even on newer hardware types. Overall the selection of games here does fit the unit well, slower paced ‘thinking’ games that don’t really need advanced graphics to function. Again this one was picked up by GameHistory.org


Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games'
Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games'
Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games'
Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games'
Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games' Sudoku Plug & Play TV Game '6 Intelligent Games'

Dance 2000 / Hot 2000 (Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet, SY-2000-04) is a Plug and Play dance mat based on technology closer to a regular NES than VT technology, with a very simple ‘mapper’ chip. There are many dance mats based on NES technology although most are tricky to dump, this one had a glob on a subboard similar to many ABL products, which made things easier. I do enjoy hearing NES chiptunes, so this has that appeal at least, but the actual game is very poor, and many of the songs don’t seem well tested – the game seems to run out of sprites on some songs causing the arrows to vanish before they even get to the point you’re meant to press them.


Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet
Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet
Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet Jin Bao TV Dancing Carpet

One thing to note with these Dance games is that the NES Software List contains many similar things that were released on cartridge, some sharing the same songs. I wasn’t sure if this Plug and Play version was going to match one of those cartridges, but it doesn’t. I’m not sure which came first, the cartridge versions, or the dance mat versions. Here are some shots of some of the NES games for comparison. This is one of those cases where there’s likely a deeper story to be told one day.


NES Dance Game NES Dance Game NES Dance Game
NES Dance Game NES Dance Game NES Dance Game
NES Dance Game NES Dance Game NES Dance Game

GameHistory.org also picked up the Megapad, which seems to have been developed by Waixing, although I don’t have much in the way of further details. Most of the games in here run, although one or two have issues, I haven’t made screens of all of them as it’s a 31-in-1 and by this point that’s a fair chunk of games. Many of the things on here are early versions of games that would appear on later systems (or sometimes in the same form on later systems) There’s nothing too fancy here, the Table Tennis game actually being more of a Pong clone is unexpected even for this type of device given how common actual Table Tennis style games became.


Megapad Megapad Megapad
Megapad Megapad Megapad Megapad
Megapad Megapad Megapad Megapad
Megapad Megapad Megapad Megapad
Megapad Megapad Megapad Megapad

There is at least one other NES / VT based machine I’d like to cover, but it fits better with other parts I have planned so I’ll leave it off this part. I don’t think there’s much more to say about these ones other than that they’re a very interesting explore if you’re looking to find the roots of games found on later devices and see different stages of their evolution. Due to the number of games in some of these the only way you’re going to see everything is by checking them out yourself.

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Under the Surface (part 7)

April 7, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Under the Surface (part 7)

I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “plugandmame@outlook.com” so if anybody wants to contribute towards the purchase (and shipping to Sean / TeamEurope) of Plug and Play devices, then that address can be used. It will help enormously with sourcing additional units, plus any spares we might need for experiments (sometimes dumping is not straightforward as many of these don’t use regular ROMs, but ROM globs)

As these are donations, not payments for any specific guaranteed product or service, be sure to send them as gifts. Also don’t send email to that address, it won’t be checked. If you want to discuss sending a specific unit you already own instead, please tag on on Twitter.


The influence of the classic Guitar Hero games – from when all the songs were on the discs, yours to play whenever you wanted without having to worry about them becoming unavailable, cannot be underestimated. It is therefore unsurprising that there were Plug and Play clones of these, some with licensed music and song lists on the boxes, others with what you might call ‘original’ interpretations of better known songs and no licenses attached.

Guitar Fever, put out by ABL (and possibly developed by V-Tac) is an example of a device that did have fully licensed tracks. As with all the devices covered here these are ‘Midi’ (sequenced) versions of them, rather than actual audio recordings so you’re not getting any vocals, and sometimes even questionable instrumentation choices / arrangements, but they’re songs you’re going to recognize for the most part.

This one is still marked as NOT WORKING in MAME because the background scrolls more quickly than the notes, when in real hardware videos you can clearly see that they’re in sync. One such real video of this one is a 10 year old Ashen’s video, which is maybe the only reason this device is remembered at all. There were different styles of controller for this, but the code seems to be the same in all cases; we actually had 2, one sourced in the UK and one sourced in France, one used a regular flash ROM, the other had a glob, but the checksum sticker on both indicated both were the same (ABL, unlike many others often used stickers with the checksum of the ROM noted on them)


Guitar Fever Guitar Fever Guitar Fever
Guitar Fever Guitar Fever Guitar Fever

Senario put out Guitar Superstar as part of the ‘Active Arcade’ series. This is one of the units without licensing music, however all songs are clearly heavily based on known tracks, even the titles allude to what the original song is. “Granite Man” is based on “Iron Man” by “Black Sabbath, while “We Love Rockin'” is very obviously meant to be “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”. This one isn’t especially good, matching up the songs to what they’re meant to be is probably more fun than trying to play it where even in emulation the controls feel laggy. This one also came in several different styles of Guitar controller, and this time I think the different controllers might actually use a different ROM as the Guitar type is shown on the title screen and there are YouTube videos showing different title screens, and I see no switch read in the software to change it, that means we’ll probably have to pick up the others at some point for the sake of a graphic swap.


Guitar Superstar Guitar Superstar Guitar Superstar
Guitar Superstar Guitar Superstar Guitar Superstar

Guitar Star is another Senario product, although contains no Senario logo ingame, so presumably was only sold by Senario rather than Senario being involved in the development. I don’t know if it was released before or after Guitar Super Star, but one thing that is clear is that it is the superior product. The animation is more fluid, the controls, while not perfect, feel better (at least once you get used to the timings) and the music actually appears to be licensed, so original track names are intact. It has a more cartoony presentation which may not appeal as much to some, but personally I prefer this more vibrant look over the gritty images in Guitar Superstar.

Timings drift slightly over the longer songs in MAME on this one, leading the the music being out of sync with the notes, so for now it still has a NOT WORKING flag.


Guitar Star Guitar Star Guitar Star
Guitar Star Guitar Star Guitar Star

One thing that was surprising with Guitar Star is how it shares the basic frontend with another product, DreamGear’s Shredmaster Jr. although the actual in game presentation of both is significant different, Guitar Star going for a look that more closely apes Guitar Hero than Shredmaster Jr. which has a simpler 2D look to it closer to many of the dance games.


Shredmaster Jr. Shredmaster Jr. Shredmaster Jr.
Shredmaster Jr. Shredmaster Jr. Shredmaster Jr.

In European territories the same game was distributed by TaiKee as the ‘Rockstar Guitar’ and has a title screen of ‘Guitar Rock’ I actually had 2 copies of this guitar, both costing around £5 each. I picked the 2nd one up so that I had a spare, but it turned out to have a different set of songs, including “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” by the Manic Street Preachers. I made a video of that version here sadly the cheap Flash ROM contained within it died during the dumping process, so the unit will need replacing, that’s always a risk with these as they rarely used high quality components as they were cheap tat even at the time.


Rockstar Guitar Rockstar Guitar Rockstar Guitar

I covered the Family Sport units briefly in an earlier part when I mentioned the OPlayer. Usually Family Sport units are decent value and honest products, unlike many of the NES based multigames full of dupes of the same game they typically contain the number of games they say they contain without any duplicates.

I did however encounter one major exception to that so far, the My Wico Deluxe ’32-bit’ system. This is presented as a Family Sport 85-in-1, and as part of that 85-in-1 there are 3 sub-menus, one for “Mi Guitar” one for “Mi Fit” and another for “Mi Papacon” Within those menus are additional games, but all the games there are dupes of games already in other menus. As for Guitar, Fit and Papacon, they’re exactly the same game but with a different title screen. The My Wico Deluxe is marked as NOT WORKING in MAME but that’s because the motion control bit for the sports games isn’t hooked up properly, these run as you’d expect (although I do need to check the banking is correct for the songs after some recent changes, for some reason some of these SunPlus games aren’t setting port directions as expected)


My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit
My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit

Now I’m going to go with a theory here. At some point maybe Mi Guitar, Mi Fit and Mi Papacon were separate products, shipped with unique controllers so that while they were the same songs, and same presentation, they at least had something different about them. Here everything has been changed to use the basic directional buttons on the controller, and even at times they end up asking you to press opposing directions, which simply isn’t even possible. Other than these I don’t think there’s anything in the My Wico Deluxe that isn’t in the OPlayer, so no need for further coverage of this unit.


My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit
My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit My Wico Deluxe 32-bit

I already mentioned the “InterAct Complete Video Game – 89-in-1” but I guess it’s worth mentioning again here because one of the games within it “Guitar Revolution” seems related to these “Mi Guitar” type games, or at least has basically the same song selection. In all honesty the presentation on it is quite well done, and I’m again left wondering if this was an actual standalone product with a guitar controller in some markets.


InterAct Complete Video Game - 89-in-1 - Guitar Revolution InterAct Complete Video Game - 89-in-1 - Guitar Revolution InterAct Complete Video Game - 89-in-1 - Guitar Revolution
InterAct Complete Video Game - 89-in-1 - Guitar Revolution InterAct Complete Video Game - 89-in-1 - Guitar Revolution InterAct Complete Video Game - 89-in-1 - Guitar Revolution

Switching instruments to the Violin, the Japanese ‘Evio’ Plug and Play took cartridges, and in recent months 8 of them were dumped (7 boot, one requires additional SEEPROM hookup) The highest cartridge we have is numbered on the box as ’18’ (that’s the one that doesn’t boot) so there are probably at least 10 undumped cartridges for this system. The controls aren’t currently hooked up, but you can listen to the songs, albeit with the currently incomplete XaviX sound emulation, in the ‘Demo’ mode. This was a Tomy / Takara product, and apparently even allowed linking up of Violins for multiplayer action.


Evio Evio Evio
Evio Evio Evio
Evio Evio Evio
Evio Evio Evio
Evio Evio Evio
Evio Evio Evio
Evio Evio Evio
Evio Evio Evio

With that I’ll end this part too, I was tempted to throw in another Dance Mat while on the musical theme, but there’s enough in here anyway.

I think this shows that music games played a significant role in Plug and Play culture; there are several Guitars (some sourced, some not) that still need dumping, and while none of those came close to what they were trying to imitate their mere existence helps cement the cultural significance and influence of the more popular games in this genre. Emulating them is important as they’re part of a bigger story.

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Under the Surface (part 6)

April 6, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Under the Surface (part 6)

I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “plugandmame@outlook.com” so if anybody wants to contribute towards the purchase (and shipping to Sean / TeamEurope) of Plug and Play devices, then that address can be used. It will help enormously with sourcing additional units, plus any spares we might need for experiments (sometimes dumping is not straightforward as many of these don’t use regular ROMs, but ROM globs)

As these are donations, not payments for any specific guaranteed product or service, be sure to send them as gifts. Also don’t send email to that address, it won’t be checked. If you want to discuss sending a specific unit you already own instead, please tag on on Twitter.


One type of Plug and Play (and console) game that’s going to be difficult to experience outside of emulation is the Lightgun Shooter. Prior to Wii style sensor bars the majority of these rely on using a CRT television to work, and those are becoming all but extinct.

A handful of Lightgun plug and plays have been emulated in the last month or two, and some others picked up but not yet dumped.

I’m going to start with the Tiger Games / Hasbro published “Mission Paintball: Powered Up” This one set me back in the region of $40, which is obscenely expensive for a Plug and Play, but for whatever reason, after over a year of watching out for it, it was still only showing up ‘new in box’ and while that price was, in reality, too high for even a ‘new in box’ unit, curiosity did get the better of me.

What we have here, and this might shock people, is a genuinely good game from Tiger Games. I guess maybe it isn’t quite as surprising when you note that Tiger Games also developed Dream Life Superstar, and some other titles that were well received back in the day, but in a sea of games that really feel like they didn’t have much work put into them this one stands out. Like Dream Life Superstar this pushes the boundaries of the SunPlus addressing by using a 16MByte ROM and banking. The reason for that capacity becomes obvious once you start playing; animations are fluid, sound design feels complete, and there’s a decent variety of stages with varying gameplay. This builds on other Tiger developed games from the period and expands on it in every way.

At heart it is a lightgun shooter, you shoot the targets, you manage your ammo, you move from scene to scene. In this case some of the levels are presented in a more maze like fashion, where you select where to go, and must respond to calls for help, or find a flag carrier you’re meant to be protecting. Sure it’s not the most original game, but when you consider just how bad a lot of the software that came with the guns released for big name home consoles was (eg. the pathetic library available for the Genesis Menacer) then you have to look at this one in a positive light and as it’s all Painball themed it’s family friendly too.


Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up
Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up
Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up
Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up
Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up Mission Paintball Powered Up

Tiger was also involved with “Star Wars : The Clone Wars” another Hasbro published Plug and Play. This is actually a newer release than Paintball Powered Up above, but ultimately feels like a lower budget, more stripped back production.

Right off the bat this is an easier game than Paintball, much easier, there are no pressure and ammo limits to concern yourself with, no stages requiring nightvision, and while there are some ‘defend position’ scenes thrown into the mix and the maze-like sections still appear in places the focus is more on blasting your way through the waves of enemies, shooting them in the optimal place to ensure their quick destruction. The easier difficulty is balanced out with something akin to an achievement / trophy system that requires stages to be completed in specific ways, clearly taking cues from the Xbox 360 which was the console of choice when this was released but opinions on if that’s a positive way to add an extra layer of difficulty have been divisive.

Maybe the real issue with this one is when compared to Paintball there’s a noticeable lack of variety in enemies, often minimal frames of animation, and a sparse sound design; it feels like it could have done with a couple more months in development but by 2008 the lightgun genre was already firmly on its knees pending newer technologies, so maybe it’s easy to see why the production values aren’t quite as high here.

All that said, this isn’t a bad game, if you like shooting things and you like Star Wars then you’ll probably enjoy it, especially if you have a more modern gun setup to use with your emulator, but Tiger had already set a higher bar with previous efforts.


Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars
Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars
Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars
Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars Star Wars The Clone Wars

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant and Monster Mayhem” is disappointing.

While the Tiger developed games covered above were well fleshed out, with a good variety of gameplay, some degree of challenge and a respectable amount of polish, this Tech2Go title is found sorely lacking in all of those areas.

I think it’s fair to say this game was aimed at a younger audience.

The controls are very simple, you aim and you fire, there are no additional buttons here. One thing I did find when emulating this is the game refuses to register shots unless the X and Y position of the gun has changed from the previous shot, this means I have to add some ‘wobble’ to the shots in MAME as using PC controls you’re more likely to try firing in the exact same spot.

There are no options as such, just an Easy or Hard mode, and the only thing that changes is the number of lives you start each stage with, not the actual difficulty.

There are 4 levels to choose from, each with 3 stages and a boss fight at the end of the 3rd stage. The levels can be done in any order and each present a different theme, although the gameplay doesn’t really change. There’s no bonus 5th level after you complete the 4 presented, that’s all there is on offer. Gameplay simply consists of shooting the bad guys, and not shooting the Turtles if one pops up; if you do it’s the instant loss of a life. Lives are restored after each stage. There are a few powerups, such as one that clears the screen of enemies when shot, but nothing too interesting and you can’t save them for later. There’s no real animation either, characters just slide into view, fire off a few shots and fire out of view, it all feels very bare-bones.

The lack of polish here means I can only assume that this was developed using TVs that cropped a significant amount of the screen edge, because for practically the entire game you have leftover sprites near the border areas, you can see enemies appear before they’re meant to be visible because backgrounds don’t extend the full way to edges of the visible screen, and these aren’t just emulation issues, there are videos of the real unit in action, on CRTs where you can see this in full effect.

At least with a mouse I completed this on the first sitting, there’s nothing challenging about the gameplay, even on hard difficult you can take hits from the majority of enemies and still make it to the end. I imagine with a gun there would be slightly more challenge, but even then I’m not convinced any player with the most basic gaming experience would struggle to finish it on their first go either.

After playing the two Tiger games and enjoying what was on offer this instead feels like a wasted opportunity.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant and Monster Mayhem

Moving on from lightgun games let’s look at some Pinball. I’m going to start with an image from the VT03 SDK, a demo called ‘Pinball’. This SDK demo contains no game as such, just a boot logo and a menu screen. This, like the other SDK demos is not especially interesting, it exists to show potential developers how to program the hardware. Support for this SDK demo was added around the time the VT emulation was added in MAME.


VT SDK Pinball VT SDK Pinball

Fast forward a few months, and we picked up an ABL (Advance Bright Ltd.) Pinball. Here’s what the boot screens look like.

ABL Pinball ABL Pinball

Looks familiar doesn’t it? As it turns out, it seems either the SDK demo was used as a base for this Plug and Play, or the Plug and Play is the complete versions of the project on which the SDK demo was built.


ABL Pinball ABL Pinball ABL Pinball
ABL Pinball ABL Pinball ABL Pinball
ABL Pinball ABL Pinball ABL Pinball
ABL Pinball ABL Pinball ABL Pinball
ABL Pinball ABL Pinball ABL Pinball
ABL Pinball ABL Pinball ABL Pinball
ABL Pinball ABL Pinball ABL Pinball

Anyway, it’s your typical 8-bit Pinball themed game, where most of the game modes are trying to be too clever rather than presenting simple fun pinball tables. The physics isn’t really logical, but it never really was on these 8-bit pinball games, it can’t hold a candle to something like the JAKKS Pacific “Classic Arcade Pinball” which is playable in MAME despite the non-working state.

There’s more to this story tho, because what was pointed out once this was emulated is that the tables, and game engine on show here appear to be lifted from the NES / Famicom title “Family Pinball” A Namco release which was localized as “Rock ‘n Ball” in the US. This means that this Pinball title is actually a combination of the Pinball SDK demo for the menus and parts stolen from this NES title with some reskinning etc. to take advantage of the VT hardware for this Plug and Play. A strange mess of a product and another tale that emulation now helps to document.


Family Pinball Family Pinball Family Pinball
Family Pinball Family Pinball Family Pinball

If Pinball games that are original and have story and structured gameplay to them then Tomy’s Champiyon Pinball (yes, that’s the spelling used on the title screen) is likely to tick a lot more boxes for you. This is a much better game that you can tell was carefully crafted rather than thrown together, and unlike many Plug and Play units this one even has a 2 player mode! Unlike many XaviX based systems this one actually uses regular button style inputs, so the buttons work too and as a result it was marked as working in MAME, although since all the menus are in Japanese it hasn’t been tested extensively – there are lots of things to unlock and plenty I could have missed in my testing but on the surface this one seems absolutely worth your time.


Champiyon Pinball Champiyon Pinball Champiyon Pinball
Champiyon Pinball Champiyon Pinball Champiyon Pinball
Champiyon Pinball Champiyon Pinball Champiyon Pinball

While the temptation here is now to look at more XaviX things I’ll save those for another part, as the majority don’t have working controls yet. Instead I’ll close this part off with a loose end. The Technigame 4-in-1 Sports. This is a Enhanced VT (NES) based system, but unusually it has just the 4 games. Most of the time when you’re dealing with NES based multigames they’re absolutely loaded to the brim with every hack that could be squeezed in, yet this one was not. Outside of navigating the menu all 4 games here operate with just a single input, which acts on response to a motion from the original controller but in reality translates to a single button. In that sense it sits in the same family of games as the Shoot ‘n’ Score from a previous part, that being sports games driven by a single input.

There’s nothing really special to note with this one. It’s does what you’d expect, none of the games are great, but at least it refrains from going down the usual route these NES based things go.


Technigame 4-in-1

Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1
Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1
Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1
Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1 Technigame 4-in-1

So there you have it, another part, and at least a couple of games that might have slipped under your radar that are definitely worth checking out and others that might end up being a passing curiosity which again is the beauty of something as diverse as MAME.

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Under the Surface (part 5)

April 3, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Under the Surface (part 5)

I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “plugandmame@outlook.com” so if anybody wants to contribute towards the purchase (and shipping to Sean / TeamEurope) of Plug and Play devices, then that address can be used. It will help enormously with sourcing additional units, plus any spares we might need for experiments (sometimes dumping is not straightforward as many of these don’t use regular ROMs, but ROM globs)

As these are donations, not payments for any specific guaranteed product or service, be sure to send them as gifts. Also don’t send email to that address, it won’t be checked. If you want to discuss sending a specific unit you already own instead, please tag on on Twitter.


One of the big licenses JAKKS got hold of was one to bring the original Mortal Kombat home once again. The JAKKS Mortal Kombat is a fresh port of the game to SunPlus hardware, and as such is different to the other ports. Two different units existed for this, one with fatalities and blood, and the other without, although the difference between them appears to be a configuration jumper inside the device, not a different ROM.

The game tries to stick to the arcade source material, although obviously some cuts have been made to work with the SunPlus hardware. This one is also unusual in that it has some additional RAM as well as ROM for decompression of character graphics etc. This means that during the Endurance matches there is some loading when the character swaps in, although the Shang Tsung fight does not do this (presumably because it doesn’t have to load in a full moveset for each character?) I do wonder if it wouldn’t have been possible to decompress assets on the fly to avoid this altogether, but it’s possible the SunPlus was slightly too slow for this.

One thing of note, various external sources say this should be a 6MByte ROM, but no matter what was tried we could only get a 4MByte dump. I’ve completed the game and not observed any accesses beyond the 4MByte mark, even if the end of the ROM isn’t filled as you’d expect for unused space. Furthermore there’s a bytesum type checksum in the header that the data we have falls short of. I’m not really sure what happened, maybe it was deemed the data past 4MBytes was unused by the game and it got chopped, as it didn’t seem to be in the device. There’s a remote possibility that it’s missing and used for the (unemulated) 2 player mode, that required you to link 2 units, but I’m not sure what that would require a whole extra 2MByte of ROM either. It would be nice to get to the bottom of this mystery one day. There is one odd thing with the emulation and that is from a cold boot it does take quite a few playthroughs before the attract demo randomizes properly, otherwise it’s Cage vs. Cage.

Mortal Kombat was hugely influential on the video game industry, and this 2004 port represents part of its legacy, having it emulated helps document that.


Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat

I mentioned it in the 1942 fix coverage, specifically because this unit exhibits the same issue as the older incorrect emulation, but another big license for JAKKS was the one from Capcom, securing the rights to bring 1942, Commando and Ghosts’n Goblins home around 20 years after their original release. For some reason this one wasn’t widely distributed in the US, but is very common in Europe and it’s a good set of ports for the most part, only really let down by some below average sound. It’s a real shame the promised MegaMan GameKey never materialized for it. These games are just as tough as they ever were.


JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom
JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom
JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom
JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom JAKKS Capcom

An even bigger license for JAKKS was the Namco Ms. Pac-Man one, a notoriously difficult license to get hold of, and one that for the time good use was made of. Again I’m going to recap here by showing the 3 things related to this that were dumped last year. First there was the 5-in-1 GameKeyReady base unit, with a date of “07 FEB 2005 A SKU F” then there were the 2 GameKeys a 3 game one, and a 2 game one. The 3 game key had the newest date “11 JUL 2005 A SKU I” and actually contains an exclusive version of the original Rally-X, not found in SunPlus form on any other JAKKS unit. The 2nd GameKey was dated “01 APR 2005 A SKU G”

It is thought that the key with Rally X is from the point where JAKKS started bundling 2 keys with a base unit, and the base unit is from around the same time. We know there are earlier, undumped versions of the base unit, even ones that did not support high score saving.


JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man
JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man

Anyway, fast forward to this year, and we have 2 new dumps. The first of these dumps is the remaining 2 game GameKey, dated “01 APR 2005 A SKU G” the same day as the other 2 game GameKey this is likely the original pre-bundle version of the key. It lacks Rally-X and is therefore less interesting to own, but it has become overshadowed by the more common bundled key and as such is often actually the most expensive of the keys to pick up (if you just want to play the games on real hardware get the 3 game key instead, it’s cheaper and you get an exclusive game)

The 2nd unit dumped in recent weeks is the Wireless version of the Ms. Pac-Man. This one is actually a 7-in-1 and has 2 games “New Rally X” and “Bosconian” that would later be found on the GameKeys. The Wireless unit does not support GameKeys, and actually predates them, with a build date of “18 AUG 2004 A” on the ROM. It does support high score saving, so the version without that is likely an earlier build still. The actual unit here looks significantly different to the regular JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man unit, but there was another version of the 7-in-1 with the usual design, aside from a silver overlay on the panel. The silver overlay version was sold exclusively by QVC, and while that one has been sourced, it hasn’t yet been dumped.

I don’t think I need to show what these classic games look like as you’ve likely seen enough images of them already, but showing how the gaps are slowly being filled in, and how we’re slowly building up a picture of the different SunPlus based JAKKS licensed units seemed worthwhile. It’s just a shame the earlier pre-SunPlus Namco units look like they might require very specialized work to have any hope of dumping, all the code is in the CPU glob from what we can tell.


JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man
JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man JAKKS Ms. Pac-Man

Some of the dumped from last year have seen recent progress too. While sticking with JAKKS, some work from Ryan Holtz fixed up some issues with the Care Bears game, allowing you to progress into the game. We’re back to ‘edutainment’ with this one, but with higher production values than the Sharp Cookie units, and an actual analog joystick, so that inputs feel more spongy and kid-friendly like the V.Tech consoles. This required ‘end of sample’ interrupts to be implemented, as well as an opcode that hadn’t been used anywhere else. It makes me think the code for that part of the game might have been handwritten SunPlus assembly, as the opcode in question doesn’t seem to appear in any other generated code.


JAKKS Care Bears JAKKS Care Bears JAKKS Care Bears
JAKKS Care Bears JAKKS Care Bears JAKKS Care Bears

Likewise the lockups in the ‘Light Tag’ part of the Winnie the Pooh plug and play were fixed (or at least made MUCH less infrequent, to the point it’s plausible maybe it would happen from time to time on hardware)


JAKKS Winnie the Pooh JAKKS Winnie the Pooh JAKKS Winnie the Pooh
JAKKS Winnie the Pooh JAKKS Winnie the Pooh JAKKS Winnie the Pooh

I think I’ll wrap up part 5 with that, having covered some of the more ‘already visible’ progress this time. Still, it’s possible some of these slipped by you, or the additional details provided here have been of interest, so it doesn’t feel like a waste of time covering them, and it gives more balance to the coverage than only looking at the uglier side of things.

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Under the Surface (part 4)

April 3, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Under the Surface (part 4)

I’ve now set up a PayPal account linked to “plugandmame@outlook.com” so if anybody wants to contribute towards the purchase (and shipping to Sean / TeamEurope) of Plug and Play devices, then that address can be used. It will help enormously with sourcing additional units, plus any spares we might need for experiments (sometimes dumping is not straightforward as many of these don’t use regular ROMs, but ROM globs)

As these are donations, not payments for any specific guaranteed product or service, be sure to send them as gifts. Also don’t send email to that address, it won’t be checked. If you want to discuss sending a specific unit you already own instead, please tag on on Twitter.


The edutainment market was a big part of Plug & Play culture as there was a lot of money to be made selling games to parents under the guise that they would help teach kids and give them a head start in life, without leaving the comfort of the TV.

JAKKS Pacific made no exception, and had a ‘Child Guidance’ division to bring educational games, designed for a very young audience to the market. The products released were given the Sharp Cookie moniker, all following the same ‘chunky joystick’ and ‘single main button’ layout (and all using identical internal PCB layouts)

These aren’t the easiest to dump, but out of the 5 we’ve picked up so far Sean did manage to dump the UK version of the Thomas & Friends Sharp Cookie unit. Based on the voices used this appears to use a different ROM when compared to the US version as the narrator voice does not match the videos that can be found on YouTube. JAKKS also had a Thomas game which wasn’t part of the Sharp Cookie series, again with region specific versions, that game is not yet dumped however.

For this game the 3 mini games are themed around learning simple counting and sound / graphic matching skills. There are multiple difficult levels for each minigame, although the unit does not make this obvious (playing a game for a 2nd time increases the difficulty slightly)

As with many of these educational units the Sharp Cookie units were overshadowed by VTech’s more popular V.Smile series of systems, which used cartridges instead of being single game units and therefore represented better value to the customer. This alone makes documenting them and seeing them emulated an interesting / worthwhile cause, even if for anybody over the age of 3 there isn’t anything to get excited about in terms of gameplay.


Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends
Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends
Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends
Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends Sharp Cookie - Thomas and Friends

SmarTV Adventures is another device that seems to aim at taking a piece of V.Tech’s V.Smile market, offering a similar looking controller. Much like V.Smile it’s a SunPlus based system. It appears this one was a bit of a flop in the US, with only 2 cartridges being released (both of which were picked up, although one might be faulty as Sean can’t get a dump of it) Outside of the US (in European territories) there appear to be a number of other games including a Marvel licensed Spiderman one. At the moment the game doesn’t enable the interrupts (fails some startup check?) but if you force that to pass you can push things forward.


SmarTV Adventures SmarTV Adventures SmarTV Adventures
SmarTV Adventures SmarTV Adventures SmarTV Adventures

Sticking with the educational theme, a British version of Smart Fit Park was dumped. The previous dump, done last year, was from a Spanish unit, so the text and word games were all in Spanish. I picked a copy up here which seems to be a version specific to the UK. Videos of the device on YouTube for the US, much like the Sharp Cookie, have different accents. There’s no sound on this one yet, and some transparency effects need hooking up. Controls are actually hooked up, although it’s a strange one to play on Keyboard as the floor mat has an entire row of inputs that are used to detect stepping motions.

Smart Fit Park was actually the first game dumped on the newer GPL16250 type SunPlus platform covered in part 1 of this ‘Under the Surface’ series, and initially made that hardware look like nothing but a minor update to the previous SunPlus type, almost none of the new video features are utilized, and just a sprinkling of the newer opcodes found in this CPU type too. I do wonder if this was initially developed for the older platform and ported to the newer one late in development.


Smart Fit Park Smart Fit Park Smart Fit Park
Smart Fit Park Smart Fit Park Smart Fit Park

Let’s continue to look at things with very specific audiences in mind, and start with a recap. Last year we emulated the Hasbro / Tiger unit “Dream Life” I initially thought this wouldn’t actually be of much interest to people – you get to play as a girl, performing basic daily tasks, holding conversations, shop for clothes and items for your room etc. It turns out, for the audience it was aimed at, a lot of people did have fond memories of this one.


Dream Life Dream Life Dream Life

Dream Life spawned a sequel, Dream Life Superstar, and a spin-off, Designer’s World. Dream Life Superstar was emulated a month or so back and takes everything about the first game then turns it up a notch, giving more of a purpose to things. Again after uploading a video of this there have been some friendly comments from people saying how they had this one growing up and really enjoyed it, so I think, even if I was not the target demographic here, Tiger must have been onto a winner with these. This is one of the few ‘single game’ products to actually require ROM banking on a SunPlus based product of this tech level, boasting a full 16MByte ROM, divided into 2 8MByte banks.


Dream Life Superstar Dream Life Superstar Dream Life Superstar
Dream Life Superstar Dream Life Superstar Dream Life Superstar
Dream Life Superstar Dream Life Superstar Dream Life Superstar

Designer’s World is possibly a more complex game, putting you in charge of a fashion empire, picking and managing your models, designing outfits to please a panel of judges and adjusting your theme to match fashion shows. I’m not sure it was as popular as the Dream Life games, but it’s well presented and has a decent amount of content.


Designer's World Designer's World Designer's World
Designer's World Designer's World Designer's World
Designer's World Designer's World Designer's World

Majesco was responsible for a number of licensed Plug and Play devices, and we look at another niche demographic that was targetted at them with ‘Arcade Advance’

This is a VT (enhanced NES) based device with a ports of a number of classic arcade games, some of them the original NES / Famicom releases, some newly ported for this system. Unfortunately this one does expose quite a few issues with MAME’s VT emulation, so remains in ‘non-working’ state for now, although the Scramble game is playable. Interestingly this collection was also released on the GameBoy Advance where the title makes a lot more sense.


Konami Arcade Advance Konami Arcade Advance Konami Arcade Advance
Konami Arcade Advance Konami Arcade Advance Konami Arcade Advance

I supposed it fits as well here as anywhere else, but Majesco also put out a Golden Nugget Casino unit around the same time, also running on VT based hardware, which suffers from many of the same issues. This one even still has a secret input test mode that shows 2 NES style pads instead of the actual controls used by the system (needless to say hooking the controls up as NES pads is wrong and doesn’t work) I have a feeling improving both this and the above Arcade Advance would not be too difficult, but I haven’t studied them in great detail yet.


Golden Nugget Casino Golden Nugget Casino Golden Nugget Casino
Golden Nugget Casino Golden Nugget Casino Golden Nugget Casino

I started this part with a game aimed firmly at children, and I’ll end it with one at the opposite end of the spectrum while flowing nicely from the above gambling game. “Jenna Jameson’s Strip Poker” is possibly the only ‘adult only by design’ Plug and Play device I can think of. It’s a SunPlus based device, and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a strip poker game where you get to see Jenna Jameson remove various items of clothing. This is a strange product, by this time broadband internet was readily available in most places, and even on dial-up you could get better images than 320×240 resolution stills. It exists, MAME emulates it, it’s fully playable.


Jenna Jameson's Strip Poker Jenna Jameson's Strip Poker Jenna Jameson's Strip Poker

So there you have it for part 4. Again a mix of things that are playable in MAME and things that aren’t, and what I feel are some good examples of how these plug and play devices could target very specific audiences as anybody with a TV could buy them and make use of them meaning they were often ‘low risk’ purchases with some of them actually turning out to be childhood favourites whereas others probably sat on a shelf never to be used after playing them once.

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