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Blimey, It’s 2021 and I haven’t made a post this year

September 14, 2021 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Blimey, It’s 2021 and I haven’t made a post this year

Ok, so the front page of this blog is looking rather neglected. There have been updates over on the 2021 page to the left but a lot of the general chit-chat now takes place on my streams https://www.youtube.com/mamehaze.

So far the pace of the year has been quite different to 2020, not necessarily slower, but in terms of what can be covered it ends up looking that way.

Some of the most important developments in MAME’s timeline have happened over the last year, such as Aaron’s rewrite of the Yamaha FM sound cores, finally putting them under a more obviously free license in the form of the BSD, rather than the GPL which required users to keep their source open, which was problem for a lot of commercial users, or the older license which didn’t allow any kind of commercial use at all. It’s difficult to cover such work, because while there have been improvements (such as the horn sound in the Micro Machines games on the Genesis) it’s not a case of me being able to put up screenshots and have the changes leap out at you.

There have been fewer Plug and Play devices dumped, this was expected as the majority of them that remain are incredibly difficult dump cases, many for which there are no solutions at present.

Elements of burnout are probably creeping in across the scene too. 2020 was a tough year, and at least for me meant I spent more time doing emulation work because real world options weren’t available. The start of 2021 wasn’t much better, but now it is possible to do things outside of sitting at a computer again, I’ve been making use of the time I have to do those things.

There have been plenty of dumps for educational systems such as the V.Smile, which haven’t really received any coverage anywhere, and a ton of work done on miscellaneous electronic toys that I need to look into giving some coverage on the write-up pages. Emulation of a variety of computers and consoles has also been taking big leap forwards from my own cursory glancing over the changelogs.

Some of these I have been covering on my livestreams, for example, the great work that has been done on improving the Sharp X68000 of late means I’ve been able to play many games that failed to run previously. It was great fun to look at ports of arcade games on the platform, seeing which ones were good, which not so good, while also browsing the massive library of original titles available.

Research from outside of MAME is also constantly being fed in to MAME, allowing the fine tuning the emulation of many classics, eg. the research done for FPGA implementations that led to fixes to the emulation of the 3D stages in Contra. Many outside developers have also made a big difference; I was especially impressed with the sound improvements to many of the Nichibutsu action games, but again not something easily covered in screenshots. MAME’s support for obscure unlicensed NES games has improved greatly too thanks to the contributions from one of the regulars on my streams adding support for a lot of the more recently documented ‘mapper’ chips.

Some less frequent MAME contributors have also made a huge mark this year, Ville for example who can be very quiet at times took the emulation of several Konami games forward by strides while Aaron has been back in the swing of things of late, improving and optimizing MAME’s VooDoo emulation. Happpy is another, presenting us with far more stable looking 3D graphics in the Hyper 64 Samurai Shodown games.

Even I was looking at some of the Namco drivers in recent months, fixing up many issues with the Final Lap and Suzuka 8 Hours games, so I’ve been busy too, just not always writing about it here; again many of those fixes and improvements have been talked about on the livestreams instead.

I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s been a busier year for everybody than my lack of updates here would suggest, and the deeper you dig into the changelogs from the year, the more you realise that.

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Looking Back at a List

December 7, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. 11 Comments on Looking Back at a List

(If you’re landing here from “The Video Game History Hour” Podcast I took part in be sure to check out the 2020 MAME Progress article linked on the left, as that is part of the discussion. Also the 2019, 2018 and 2017 writeups tie in quite well with it all. As for the older ones, everything from 2012 and onward has a fair bit of content, most of the ones from earlier years are just collections of screenshots)


Back in May of 2013 I wrote up a small article looking at some of the things MAME had not yet conquered. That page is at https://mamedev.emulab.it/haze/the-path-ahead-of-us/ although most of the embedded videos are now broken either due to then no longer being on YouTube, and the YouTube embedding code changing in that time.

The article was designed to provide a bit of background information on each platform (such as what was causing issues) as well as anything else I thought might be useful.

Here is the list of sub-topics from that article.

AMT Games – Beauty Block & IQ Pipe (Arcade)
Konami – GX Type 1 – Racin’ Force & Golfing Greats 2 (Arcade)
VM Labs – Nuon (Home)
Jaleco – Megasystem 32 Extended – F1 Super Battle (Arcade)
Atari – Playstation Hardware – Primal Rage 2 (Arcade)
Atari – Space Lords (Arcade)
Stern – Mazer Blazer & Great Guns (Arcade)
Konix Multisystem (Home)
Casio – Loopy (Home)
SNK – Hyper NeoGeo 64 – Fatal Fury Wild Ambition, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown Warriors Rage, Roads Edge, Xxtreme Rally, Buriki One, Beast Busters 2nd Nightmare
Kaneko – Gals Panic II (Arcade)
TCH – Wheels & Fire (Arcade)
Nichibutsu – Tatakae! Big Fighter / Sky Robo (Arcade)
Space – Quiz Punch / Quiz Punch 2 (Arcade)
Gaelco – 16-bit Era games – Thunder Hoop 2, Glass, World Rally 2 + more (Arcade)
Taito – Air System – Top Landing & Air Inferno (Arcade)
Bit Corporation / UMC – Gamate (Mobile / Handheld)
Sandisk – Sansa Fuze (2) (Mobile / Handheld)
Data East – Genesis based hardware – High Seas Havoc (Arcade)
Seibu – Cross Shooter / Air Raid (Arcade)
Seibu / Taito – Panic Road (Arcade)
Various – Fruit Machines
Various – Improving what we have

I figured as that was almost 7 years ago it would be a good time to look at what, if any, progress was made on these systems, and my thoughts on that.

AMT Games – Beauty Block & IQ Pipe (Arcade)

No progress

Konami – GX Type 1 – Racin’ Force & Golfing Greats 2 (Arcade)

No public progress shown. More is known about the chips involved now than was back then, but there’s nothing at all to show for it.

VM Labs – Nuon (Home)

No progress

Jaleco – Megasystem 32 Extended – F1 Super Battle (Arcade)
No progress

Atari – Playstation Hardware – Primal Rage 2 (Arcade)

Somebody outside of the project did come up with some hacks to get this in-game, but they were objectively wrong, and not friendly to other things on similar hardware, no attempt was made to improve them, so they were never merged.

Atari – Space Lords (Arcade)

Peter Wilhelmsen and the late Morten Kirkegaard figured out the protection on this one, and it now runs perfectly in MAME.

Stern – Mazer Blazer & Great Guns (Arcade)

There was some progress on these from Kale, they’re basically playable now, but still not perfect. Mazer Blazer still has the red flag due to significant issues, and we still haven’t seen a populated speech board for it.

Konix Multisystem (Home)

No progress, there are still no proper BIOS dumps to my knowledge, only looks software rips that will require heavy HLE, which isn’t a very MAME friendly approach.

Casio – Loopy (Home)

No progress

SNK – Hyper NeoGeo 64 – Fatal Fury Wild Ambition, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown Warriors Rage, Roads Edge, Xxtreme Rally, Buriki One, Beast Busters 2nd Nightmare

There was significant progress in this time period, including dumping of the I/O MCU and hooking it up (I wrote a CPU core to handle it) but not enough for any of the games to be considered ‘working’ The remaining tasks are very difficult and progress has entirely stalled.

Kaneko – Gals Panic II (Arcade)

No progress

TCH – Wheels & Fire (Arcade)

There were improvements in the time period, and it even got promoted to working, although I’d make a strong case for that being premature; the speed still seems all wrong, and the video glitches are severe.

Nichibutsu – Tatakae! Big Fighter / Sky Robo (Arcade)

The MCU was decapped for this one, and it is now a fully working game.

Space – Quiz Punch / Quiz Punch 2 (Arcade)

There was some progress, MCUs dumped etc. but there are still too many issues to mark them as working, and Quiz Punch doesn’t boot without a lot of hacks. One of the Quiz Punch 2 ROMs was also identified as being bad.

Gaelco – 16-bit Era games – Thunder Hoop 2, Glass, World Rally 2 + more (Arcade)

Again thanks to the work of Peter and the late Morten, these are fully playable; I actually thought this was the most difficult / unrealistic target on the entire list, something nobody wanted to tackle, so to see it actually get done really tells you a lot about the talent of those involved.

Taito – Air System – Top Landing & Air Inferno (Arcade)

There was significant progress on these from Kale, and Top Landing is considered playable, although Air Inferno still has a NOT WORKING flag

Bit Corporation / UMC – Gamate (Mobile / Handheld)

Again Peter and Morten worked on getting these dumped, while I worked on the emulation. MAME is the ‘best in class’ emulator for these at this point.

Sandisk – Sansa Fuze (2) (Mobile / Handheld)

No progress

Data East – Genesis based hardware – High Seas Havoc (Arcade)

The protection PIC was decapped and dumped, but the encryption problems remain, no progress has been made on those

Seibu – Cross Shooter / Air Raid (Arcade)

No progress

Seibu / Taito – Panic Road (Arcade)

I thought I’d got this working, but then some critical emulation bugs with the collision were found and it was demoted back down to not working. No solution to those issues has been found.

Various – Fruit Machines

Progress has been slow for the non-video ones, although breakthroughs on things like the MPU4 video systems have improved the stability of the non-video systems there too, and a lot of the improved device emulations have been slowly pushing things forward behind the scenes to the point it might be worth another stab at things. Likewise there have been a lot of improvements to MAME’s presentation layer that could help here.

Various – Improving what we have

There’s been an incredible amount of this, even fixes for things we didn’t realise needed fixing at the time, discrete sound in previously silent games. This is where an overwhelming amount of the work has been done, in terms of emulation quality and correctness the project is nearly unrecognizable from the one in 2013.

Conclusion

Even as somebody close to the project, what I wanted to see happen, and even thought would happen based on the difficult of the tasks etc. had no bearing on what actually ended up happening.

A lot of the things I thought we’d see progress on, no progress was made, while others, that I thought were maybe a bit unrealistic did end up happening. 3 of the items on that list that did end up seeing significant progress to the point of promotion to working state only did so due to the efforts of Morten Kirkegaard who is sadly no longer with us.

Really the only way to be sure that something you want to see done gets done is to do it yourself. Creating lists of things you’d like to see is basically pointless, as even here, where I’d created an educated list based on what I felt was likely to happen from my own experience with the project, most of it missed the mark entirely.

Maybe the thing that amazes me most however is how many things did happen that weren’t even on my radar at the time. MAME really is a project of discovery, a place to learn. To pluck one example from the air, at the time of writing the original article I had no idea what a SunPlus un’SP based CPU even was, yet in the past couple of years I’ve spent an extensive amount of time emulating things using that technology. We had no real idea that emulating Game & Watch units was even possible, it was widely believed at the time that they were entirely logic and didn’t use a CPU. Many of the improvements to existing drivers have also only come about because in those 7 years the quality of the resources available is so much better; the original videos (most of which are now gone) were typically 30fps 480p at best. These days there’s footage being recorded from original hardware at 4k resolutions and 60 frames per second as well as people analyzing the original hardware using tools of a capability not previously available to the public as well as people in professional industries making use of ones still not really available to the general public.

You might look at the number of ‘no progress’ entries in that list I made and think the last 7 years have been a failure, but that doesn’t tell the whole story at all. Some of those, maybe even most of those, still might not have seen meaningful progress in another 7 years because most of them are going to take somebody with a real interest in them, the required skills, and the time to do anything, in order to make any progress and the combination of those things is extremely uncommon. It is really up to people outside of the core team to take the initiative.

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End of September Update

September 30, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. 9 Comments on End of September Update

MAME 0.225 has been released over at mamedev.org

It contains a fair amount of work that I’ve done in the past month, as is usually the case.

Updates here have been a little on the quiet side as I’ve been main just uploading to YouTube and putting up links on Twitter

As you can see from those links, there’s been a fair amount of Plug and Play work, especially improvements to the VT based multigames and some SunPlus based Dance games for this release. At some point I would like to do a full write-up, but my priority will always be making progress when I’m on a roll with things.

I have been dropping various screenshots + brief text on the 2020 ‘write-up in progress page’ although that is also still only skimming the surface of things and will need a large amount of work at some point too.

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Emulating the Emulators

June 10, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. 6 Comments on Emulating the Emulators


Connect & Play Connect & Play

This Pac-Man plug and play unit goes by a number of names, and exists in a number of forms. The most common unit is the pixelated yellow Pac-Man shell, there’s a slightly less common Blinky (red ghost) model too. Most places refer to it as the Pac-Man Connect & Play unit to differentiate it from other Pac-Man / Namco machines, with ‘Connect & Play’ being the most prominent text on the box aside from Pac-Man. The unit was initially released in 2012, and re-issued in a modified box around 2015 for Pac-Man’s 35th Anniversary. It was released in multiple regions, PAL and NTSC, but best I can tell the software was never changed. Sometimes the unit is also called Pac-Man 256, because one of the features it advertises is the ability to access the now famous glitched final ‘Level 256’ of Pac-Man with ease.

Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

The test mode tells us it runs on GPL16250 hardware. This is the same hardware that JAKKS Pacific branded as GPAC800 and used for a variety of the more advanced Plug and Play units – typically those with lot of sprite scaling etc. The test mode also shows the build date, has a checksum screen, and even runs a demo of one of the included games, Rally-X, with a volume display, presumably used as part of development. The test mode gives it a further title ‘Bandai America Namco Classic Games’ which is likely the internal name, a little banal for advertising purposes. Sound is not yet emulated, but even in silence the volume meter moves, as the test mode demo runs which is curious.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

So.. what is it? The title of this post is of course the answer, it’s a collection of emulators. The reason it needs the newer GPL16250 hardware from GeneralPlus / SunPlus, as opposed to the older SPG2xx based hardware is that the GPL16250 era tech has a significantly faster CPU, clocked at about 4x the rate, with the unSP2.0 core also having a much lower ‘Cycles per Instruction’ meaning overall execution is faster too – it’s actually a major revision to the SunPlus unSP architecture with pipelining and many new opcodes. In terms of video features the only real giveaway that it’s the newer hardware type is the use of the smoother blend effects, which were not available on older hardware, it does also use one of the extra tile layers on occasion, but that isn’t as noticeable.

These things set this unit apart from the final JAKKS Pacific unit ‘Retro Arcade featuring Pac-Man’ from 2008. That one isn’t yet emulated, but appears to be running the ported versions of the games, as found in other JAKKS units, rather than these emulated versions.

In practice, this means that the versions found on this unit should be closer to ‘arcade perfect’ than those found on the JAKKS units; the original Pac-Man patterns will work, and secrets, such as the developer display in Xevious can be triggered.


Pac-Man Connect & Play

Xevious, along with Bosconian both highlight one of the major flaws of these Plug and Play units however, they have a 4-way stick. Without modification you cannot move in 8 directions. While with the JAKKS ones, sometimes you could if you forced into a corner or wore down the plastic enough, in this unit it doesn’t seem to be possible at all; it’s a 4-way stick, you can move in 4 directions. While I understand that Pac-Man controls much better with a 4-way stick, and these are primarily Pac-Man units, it makes me wonder why we saw both Xevious and Bosconian on these across multiple generations when you simply can’t play the games properly with a 4-way stick. The game code, in all cases, responds to 8 directions, but the physical controllers don’t allow this without modifications. The only exception to this is the ‘pocket’ version of the very first generation of JAKKS Namco units, but the port of Bosconian on there was much weaker than the SunPlus based ones in the first place. This doesn’t make this unit worse than the JAKKS ones, it’s just a common, frustrating design issue where some kind of swapable restriction plate would have been preferable.

By 2012 you might expect any emulation based Pac-Man unit being put on the market to have perfect emulation of Pac-Man and any other titles included in it. MAME had been around and emulating Pac-Man and many of those others for almost 15 years by this point, and while the emulation in MAME is always improving, there are certain things it has always got correct, and some of those things this unit falls down on.

One of the big reasons for this is MAME is software rendered, it allocated a bitmap, it draws, from the original graphic ROMs, to that bitmap. The target bitmap in MAME is the same size as the original screeen, every pixel is properly represented. This Pac-Man Plug and Play on the other hand is hardware accelerated, it uses native features of the GPL16250 video hardware to render the image, it is not software rendering to a bitmap, it’s likely the CPU core contained within doesn’t actually have enough power to do that. The other issue is that the video output of this Plug and Play has to work with CRT televisions, which means the 288 pixel high, vertical screen resolution of Pac-Man and many of these other games does not fit a non-interlace screen mode. Even if you chop the 5 rows of score etc. off the Pac-Man maze is still 248 pixels high, which is greater than the 240 lines you’re going to be able to display, and even then displaying anything near the borders is a problem as TVs aren’t guaranteed to render it which is why we have safe areas and all that.

The solution varies by game, some, where they can get away with it, do just crop part of the image. Scores are rendered at the side, Dig-Dug does the same as the JAKKS units and scrolls the display based on your position but squeezing that Pac-Man maze in requires a more drastic approach, actually squashing the display of the maze, dropping lines so that it fits. The sprites don’t get the same treatment, they simply have their positions altered so they appear on the same line for 2 frames sometimes, although this can make the movement look jittery at times, and produces some cases where the sprites no longer quite fit in the maze and instead overlap the edges.

Such problems require a solution, this was a compromise. With the JAKKS units the compromise instead was to change the physical size of the maze slightly, but in doing so, you do change the original game AI slightly, and thus break the patterns; doing that with an emulation based unit also isn’t possible so it was either squashing, or scrolling, and for Pac-Man and related titles the choice was made to squash. For many I guess this was the logical compromise here, maybe some would have liked the option to rotate the screen, but that would have presented other challenges with aspect ratio, and required stretching instead as 288 pixels isn’t a good match for a 320 pixels width either.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play
Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

Mappy goes with the scrolling option rather than the squashing option, which works because it’s a platform game, and the scroll isn’t too distracting. Dig-Dug also scrolls, which is a little more distracting due to the slower pace of the game, but not game breaking. The ground pattern textures would likely have suffered badly at the hands of squashing, so again the logical choice for this game.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

Bosconian is a horizontal game in the first place, so fares a bit better, but you have the attract mode taunting you with that diagonal shooting which is simply impossible on the stick this unit has. This also reminds me that current MAME versions have what is likely a bug with the left edge of the screen when emulating Bosconian, unless the original hardware actually does the same.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

New Rally X is also a horizontal game, so again holds up better. This one is perfectly playable, and an enjoyable port, although I always preferred the original Rally-X, yet after a certain point it seems only New Rally-X was included on these units – with the JAKKS ones the oldest Namco ones had a poor port of Rally-X, then there was a single GameKey with Rally-X on, and everything else just used New Rally-X. Given the multiple variations of Pac-Man here it would have been nice to see the original Rally-X as a hidden bonus, especially as it’s one of the most enjoyable games on these things.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

Galaxian and Xevious are best I can tell cropped. Both are worth mentions for the way they use the hardware tho. Xevious background tilemaps are too big for the usual GPL16250 layer size, so the raster interrupt is used to do a ‘split’ on the scroll, and swap between two different layers midscreen. Galaxian actually uses hardware rowscroll on the GPL16250 to scroll the player sprite and the invaders, just as the original used hardware scroll to do the same, it was interesting to see the feature so closely mapped, but in reality it makes sense, as otherwise it would have been necessary to render the tilemap as sprites.

Xevious, as already mentioned, is hardly worth playing without 8-way movement, which this stick doesn’t cater for, however it exposes another flaw in the design of that unit beyond that. A common strategy for playing Xevious is to just hold down both fire buttons, you’ll fire and bomb automatically, it’s basically built in auto-fire. This unit only has 2 buttons, and holding both down for over a second or 2 results in the ‘quit to menu’ prompt, which means you can’t just hold down the buttons while you play this. What’s worse is that at some point the unit was likely going to have a dedicated menu button like the JAKKS units, the code reads 2 extra inputs that aren’t externally mapped, one brings up the quit prompt, the other acts as a cheat to skip levels. A dedicated menu button would have been so much more preferable to this ‘hold 2 buttons to exit’ scheme.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

That leaves us with Pac-Man 256, which is literally just Pac-Man with a built in cheat to start on level 255, and Galaga. Galaga I think is just cropped, but maybe some sprite positions are altered. Either way Galaga is where things start to fall apart in more obvious ways.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

Even without delving into the code, one of the easiest proofs of how the games on this unit are emulated is with Galaga. You can crash the emulation of Galaga in the unit by taking control of the ship during the attract mode and causing the game to reset. Interestingly the Galaga emulation for this unit in MAME seems fragile in other ways as the attract demo does not properly follow the sequence, that could be a timing issue of a core bug, but the exploit to crash the game, which can be reproduced on the original unit by wiggling the joystick to evade capture in the demo, still works. When that happens it causes the game to reboot. This can sometimes even result in the corruption of the saved high score.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

Galaga has a further bug, suggesting it was the least tested game in this collection. This one I believe is caused by something I mentioned before, the unit doing hardware accelerated rendering of the games rather than rendering in software to a framebuffer. The bug is simple and again revolves around the capture mechanic. This time, allow your ship to be captured during play, then rescue it – an entire normal Galaga strategy, and you’ll notice the secondary ship shoots an invalid bullet sprite, the bullet fired from your left ship is slanted at an angle, the incorrect sprite tile is being used, presumably because some mapping table used to map the game sprites to the native GPL16250 sprites is incorrect (this is a guess, but appears to be the most logical explanation) There are videos (not mind) of this happening on the original unit that can be found on YouTube.


Pac-Man Connect & Play Pac-Man Connect & Play

Another thing you can see with this unit is the input latency. With the JAKKS units, which are ports, the response on all games appears to be immediate, on this unit, there seems to be a delay, likely due to how the emulated video is being processed and presented. This is noticeable on original hardware and emulation alike and is often a side-effect of emulation as you’re working with video buffers etc. For some this might be a deal-breaker also.

Overall I have to say that while this is an emulated collection of games, and should be superior, various things let it down. The emulation is dated, the hardware is under-powered for it, there are noticeable bugs, and compromises that have had to be made to get this running on the hardware and on a CRT, and while it’s true that the arcade patterns for the games will work, and the frontend is polished, it doesn’t feel like a product that had a lot of love put into it. The JAKKS ports on the other hand, done by HotGen, might not be arcade perfect, but they were instead more carefully crafted for the target market resulting in what felt, at least to me, like more solid and complete products, at least after the initial pre-SunPlus units. I’d rather play a well done port, with slight differences to the arcade, than a poor quality emulation and having things like the option to play Pac-Man from level 256 don’t make up for that. JAKKS also had a unit with Ms. Pac-Man, and while it wasn’t on their final collection unit, no doubt for the same licensing reasons as it isn’t included here, you do notice its absence. The lack of a dedicated menu button hurts this unit too, as mentioned before, having to hold down 2 buttons for a period of time in order to bring up the exit prompt isn’t intuitive, or convenient, the JAKKS units always had a dedicated menu button so this seems like unnecessary cost cutting.

In conclusion I’d say if you’re looking to purchase a Namco / Pac-Man Plug and Play, and don’t care about being able to use the exact level patterns from the arcades, you’re far better off buying the JAKKS Pacific “Retro Arcade Featuring Pac-Man” and the JAKKS “Ms. Pac-Man” GameKey Ready unit, along with the 3 game GameKey that contains the original Rally-X (which is more challenging than the ‘New’ version found here or on any of the other units) as a bonus. This thing might look nice in original packaging, on a shelf, but the overall experience is underwhelming.

I’m not sure when the emulation of this will be promoted to working, technically all games are playable, but it seems pointless to promote it until I’ve got the sound emulated at least, but it’s been an interesting one to study, and I felt it was worth writing a little about in the meantime.

Funds are still being collected to buy Plug and Play devices for MAME, so if you want to contribute then you can PayPal my “hazemamewip@hotmail.com” address (without the quotes) and anything sent there will be put towards picking up units and getting them where they need to go for studying.


Pac-Man Connect & Play

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Sega / Radica Plug & Play news.

June 5, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. 5 Comments on Sega / Radica Plug & Play news.

The 3rd of June was considered to be Sega’s 60th Anniversary.

Not too many months ago we were looking at it being the Dreamcast’s 20th Anniversary, Sega’s final console, and one that sadly followed what had become a pattern of poor choices, not least getting in bed with Microsoft – pretty much everything powered by Windows CE on the system made it look like a joke.

The 2000s therefore were an era where Sega was needing to license out the IP it already had and find other ways to make money. One such venture from 2004 was to partner with Radica in order to put out a series of cheap Plug and Play devices based on Genesis on a Chip technology. A number of those have been emulated in MAME for a while, with one being dumped all the way back when I developed HazeMD, but there didn’t seem to be much interest in getting the remaining ones dumped until now.

Over the course of the last few weeks, 3 more of these units were dumped; the Genesis Volume 2, the Genesis Street Fighter 2, and the Genesis Super Sonic Gold. These are all US versions, region locked to the US with ‘Sega Genesis’ logos.

Genesis Volume 2, released by Radica as part of their ‘Arcade Legends’ range of products contains 6 Genesis games with a custom menu. In this case there are some interesting choices, with the Ooze and Gain Ground featuring. The unit, like Volume 1, is a single pad hardwired to a ‘Mini Genesis’ box, with no way to add a 2nd controller. This sadly hurts a number of the games, for example the unit offers Sonic 2, even allows you to select 2 Player mode from the menu, but as there’s no 2nd pad you can’t play it that way.


Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2
Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2
Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2
Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2 Radica Volume 2

Super Sonic Gold was considered ‘Volume 3’ of the Radica Genesis Arcade Legends series, although took a different form factor, with everything built into the pad rather than having a ‘Mini Genesis’ box with the hardwired controller. This has 4 Sonic games, duplicating Sonic 1 from the Volume 1 and Sonic 2 from Volume 2, but continues to limits you to a single pad, so a good portion of the experience for Sonic 2 and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is missing if using this unit.


Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold
Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold
Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold Super Sonic Gold

Of all the Radica Genesis units, the Street Fighter 2 one was probably the most worthwhile as it used 2 6 button pads, for the proper gameplay experience. Sadly the pads are still hardwired, so if they fail you have no way to replace them, but simply allowing 2 players, and not cutting corners on the number of buttons either made this one a big step up from the others. Interestingly this one doesn’t credit Sega at all for the ‘Game Software’ on the startup screen, despite the Ghouls’n Ghosts port being programmed by Sega.


Radica Street Fighter 2 Radica Street Fighter 2 Radica Street Fighter 2
Radica Street Fighter 2 Radica Street Fighter 2 Radica Street Fighter 2 Radica Street Fighter 2

PAL ones have been sourced too but are not dumped yet. The previously dumped units were a PAL Street Fighter 2, Mega Drive Volume 1, and the PAL exclusive Sensible Soccer.

I guess at the end of the day these units, like so many Sega related things seems shrouded in poor design choices. The actual System on a Chip implementations here aren’t bad, they’re significantly better than the AtGames offerings from more recent years, and while the audio isn’t perfect on the hardware it isn’t too distracting and can be improved with a hardware hack. The hardwired single player nature of most of them really hurts however and while this was more likely Radica’s choosing I think Sega could have insisted on a better solution – even some knock off Famiclones of the era allowed you to use original pads.

Here are some pictures from my Mega Drive Volume 2, this isn’t the dumped unit, but contains the same games as the US Genesis Volume 2 (this one will be dumped at a later date)


Mega Drive Volume 2 Mega Drive Volume 2
Mega Drive Volume 2 Mega Drive Volume 2 Mega Drive Volume 2

Funds are still being collected to buy Plug and Play devices for MAME, so if you want to contribute then you can PayPal my “hazemamewip@hotmail.com” address (without the quotes) and anything sent there will be put towards picking up units and getting them where they need to go for studying.

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Denver emulation videos

April 26, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. Comments Off on Denver emulation videos

As promised, I’ve made some videos of the games that were not found on the already emulated collections running in MAME.

Part 1 – 66 games


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Part 2 – 43 games

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