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MAME work and other stuff

Take Me Home…

March 17, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. 1 Comment on Take Me Home…

As mentioned in the previous update, we also picked up an “I Can Play Guitar” from Fisher Price. It’s a toy along the same lines as the “I Can Play Piano” which bridges the gap between a simple toy / game, and actually learning how to play an instrument. There are 44 note buttons, 4 directional buttons, Enter, Home, Pause and a Whammy bar that acts like 2 additional button inputs. Like the Piano it can also switch between a mode with TV out, and a mode where it just acts as a Guitar.


I Can Play Guitar

It runs on SunPlus hardware, it didn’t take much to get it booting once Sean had analyzed the hardware and figured out how to dump the cartridges.

I Can Play Guitar I Can Play Guitar

I spent yesterday working out how it reads the inputs (where they all map etc.) and now have a mostly playable game. Only thing really missing is the eeprom emulation, as ‘load game’ assumes you’ve completed everything right now.

I already posted some screens of the title, so here are some of the song selections.


I Can Play Guitar I Can Play Guitar
I Can Play Guitar I Can Play Guitar
I Can Play Guitar I Can Play Guitar
I Can Play Guitar I Can Play Guitar
I Can Play Guitar I Can Play Guitar

As you can see, this only offers 6 songs per cartridge. There’s also a single ‘game’ in the game mode, which usually teaches you to play different chords. There’s also a ‘Freestyle’ mode. In terms of content this means you do get a bit less per cartridge than with the Piano, although in terms of the games that isn’t a big loss due to all the duplication that was present there anyway. There are 3 ‘difficulty’ levels for each song, with the first level just requiring you to strum, the 2nd requiring you to press the notes, and the 3rd requiring you to do both. I was a little surprised there weren’t further levels because despite teaching you to play chords in the game mode, the songs don’t actually seem to require them.

Here is a video of the thing running in MAME. You’ll note there are still some sound emulation issues, especially with the crowd noises on level 3, hopefully this will lead to further improvements in the SunPlus audio emulation.


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There isn’t a huge amount to see in the other modes, so I’ll leave it to you to check them out if you’re interested.

Once I’ve added the eeprom support I’ll probably be promoting this one to working.

Thanks again to those who donated and made the initial purchase possible.

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More Tunes

March 15, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on More Tunes

One thing SunPlus hardware will be remembered for are the vast libraries of Kid’s toys it powered, especially those featuring popular licensed IP. Be it the VSmile systems, the JAKKS Pacific systems, or things more along the lines of what I’m covering here it was widely used by the industry.

Personally I view emulation of machines based on this kind of IP to be very important as typically, outside of the original release window, it becomes software trapped by licensing agreements, meaning there is no real chance of it being released in any official form again.

A Piano

One of the non-JAKKS units I picked up with the donations from the donations drive was another unit I was almost certain would be SunPlus based hardware and wanted to be able to study as I felt it would be useful to further improve the emulation of the SunPlus platforms by providing useful audio emulation test cases. The unit in question was a Fisher Price “I Can Play Piano” and it came with the basic ‘Piano Favorites’ starter cartridge.


I Can Play Piano

Sean took a look inside the unit, and confirmed that aside from the CPU glob there was nothing really of note, and while there are a lot of buttons etc. there was no evidence of an IO MCU or anything similar, meaning all multiplexing would be done by simple logic driven by the main CPU. It requires a cartridge to function in any capacity, even in the ‘Piano’ mode where there is no TV output, so it wasn’t too surprising that there wasn’t much more in the base unit, but it was good to have that verified.

Sean quickly established a pinout for the cartridge based on the study of the hardware, and was able to dump the included one with relative ease. As expected, it was indeed SunPlus hardware and it also booted in MAME without too much effort, although also, unsurprisingly, the sound was really bad at the time and inputs needed work as there was clearly some multiplexing of the keys going on.


Piano Favourites Piano Favourites Piano Favourites

Wanting to investigate some more of the software library for this thing, I picked up a number of cartridges for the system too, using my own money this time.


I Can Play Piano Cartridges

Jungle Boogie Jungle Boogie Jungle Boogie Jungle Boogie
Show Tunes Show Tunes Show Tunes Show Tunes
Scooby Doo Monster Madness Scooby Doo Monster Madness Scooby Doo Monster Madness Scooby Doo Monster Madness
Rockin Dance Party Rockin Dance Party Rockin Dance Party Rockin Dance Party
Jammin Jungle Safari Jammin Jungle Safari Jammin Jungle Safari Jammin Jungle Safari
Disney Princess Magical Melodies Disney Princess Magical Melodies Disney Princess Magical Melodies Disney Princess Magical Melodies


There are other cartridge in the library, which I also picked up (I believe we have a complete collection of them) but Sean is going to be busy for much of the year to come so they’ll be processed in due time. (Real life comes first, and Sean has dedicated a LOT of his time to our work over the past 5-6 months)

Anyway, I guess it might make sense to talk a bit more about what this thing is in the first place. The easiest way to sum it up would be to say it’s a training toy for learning to play the Piano / Electric Keyboard. It’s primarily aimed at a young audience, but does have a good set of features. Every cartridge contains 8 songs, 2 games, and a ‘freestyle’ mode, and can also be operated in a screenless ‘Piano’ mode where each cartridge has slightly different instruments and acts as a bare bones Piano.

In TV mode, which is the main mode pictured above the system offers a number of learning features. After selecting a song from the menu the unit lets you switch between several different ways of playing including the option of using your right hand or your left hand to learn different parts of the songs via a button toggle.

Right handed is mostly playing the main melody, while Left handed is playing the backing. Both as you’d expect expects you to use both hands to play the whole thing. There are usually some backing bits being played by the computer regardless, although much less so on the ‘Level 2’ difficulty setting where you are expected to play the majority of the notes. The ‘How to Play’ option in the Piano Favorites cartridge gives a quick tutorial on this and also explains that you can also adjust the tempo etc. to increase or decrease the difficulty (some songs, especially the classical ones are slower than you’d expect by default)


I Can Play Piano I Can Play Piano I Can Play Piano

One of the more interesting features of the unit is the ‘mode select’ which presents the screen in one of 4 different ways each taking the presentation a step closer to actual musical notation and stripping away helper features.

I Can Play Piano Mode 1 I Can Play Piano Mode 1
I Can Play Piano Mode 1 I Can Play Piano Mode 1

In no ‘song’ mode does the unit ever sound incorrect keypresses, so you can hammer away on the wrong keys as much as you want, which is a shame, because it would have been nice to see an assist free mode that simply acted as a piano but with the prompts, but I guess Fisher Price felt that would be a step too far.

As mentioned, every cartridge has a ‘freestyle’ mode, where you’re shown a range of suggested notes, and a backing track plays, often with notes triggering animations etc. This is alright, and would certainly have appeal to the target audience, but it would have been nice to be able to toggle off the background music and have it just act as a Piano with the visuals (the only way to get it to act as just a Piano is to take it out of TV mode)


I Can Play Piano Freestyle I Can Play Piano Freestyle
I Can Play Piano Freestyle I Can Play Piano Freestyle

There are also 2 games on each cartridge, and this is where maybe the product does disappoint a little; many of games on the cartridges are just obviously reskinning the basic 2 games from the Piano Favorites cartridge without changing how they play at all. Piano Favorites offers ‘Dodgeball’ and while the most of the others offer games with different names, for example ‘Food Fight’, in reality they’re the same game with different graphics.


I Can Play Piano Games
I Can Play Piano Games I Can Play Piano Games
I Can Play Piano Games I Can Play Piano Games

While the Dodgeball game can be fun, especially with 2 players, there is a huge amount of wasted potential here. For the Scooby-Doo cart BOTH games are actually just reskins, and where in Piano Favourites you press the colour of the car crossing the screen, in Scooby-Doo you press the colour of the ghosts.

I Can Play Piano Games I Can Play Piano Games

The other cartridges do mix things up a bit more, but never really get too creative, often being simple ‘copy the pattern you see’ type things. Maybe I should add screenshots of them too, but it’s probably better you just check them out.

Anyway, that’s “I Can Play Piano” and overall, despite the wasted potential I actually really like this product, and for what was basically a novelty Game Console in the form of an educational toy it does actually plug a gap in the market. I can see the potential for encouraging somebody to learn how to play using software like this, even if it does heap far too much praise on you for doing nothing at all. It is a shame that the software wasn’t more fully developed, because as mentioned there is a fair amount of wasted potential here, be it obvious options missing, the lack of balance in the praise it gives you, or the reuse of the same game concepts with different skins rather than presenting something unique for each cartridge. It’s good, but it could have been so much more.

This is one of those systems where I really think it would be interesting if somebody had the interest in developing new software for it; you’ve got a SunPlus CPU, a full keyboard worth of buttons (+ some extras) that’s actually pretty well built, and a handy cartridge slot. It would be an ideal pet project for somebody to take this and realize a bit more of the potential that was there.

Emulation of this has also contributed towards improving the SunPlus audio emulation, MooglyGuy has been working hard on improving the SunPlus audio over the past month and we’ve already seen huge improvements in how both this and the various JAKKS Pacific games sound.

I’ve recorded a video of the current state of I Can Play Piano when used with the Scooby-Doo cartridge (as of this morning, another audio fix has been pushed since). You’ll have to excuse my lack of ability to actually play the game (it would probably be easier with a real keyboard, not a PC keyboard where I can’t remember the key mappings) but you can get the general idea, and imagine what it might sound like if I actually pressed the correct keys. I’ve enjoyed working on the emulation of this, because until a month ago nobody had really even documented the tech it was running on, or considered it a valid emulation target, yet now I can sit here and see it running in MAME, knowing it won’t just be lost to time.


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*edit* a new video where you can hear the metronome sound in the background of the songs thanks to some fixes by MooglyGuy. (this can be turned off with a button, but previously didn’t work at all in MAME) Some instruments in ‘Piano only’ mode were also fixed by this (previously one of them was entirely silent in Piano Favourites and Show Tunes)

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A Guitar Too

I Can Play Piano wasn’t the only music game / console in the Fisher Price I Can Play range however, there was another, I Can Play Guitar.

I Can Play Guitar actually caught my eye before the Piano unit. There are a lot of Plug and Play Guitar Hero rip-offs on the market, many of them terrible (and one day we’ll hopefully emulate all of them) but the Fisher Price unit was a little different. Unlike the Guitar Hero clones this one aims for a slightly more serious chunk of the market. Not ‘Rocksmith’ level serious, where you’re using a real guitar, but the ‘in excess of 50 buttons’ kind of serious, where hand positions etc. matter. For a toy primarily aimed at children I thought this really set it aside from other products that were simply trying to cash in on the Guitar Hero craze, and made it a potentially interesting target to study. Again this one is SunPlus hardware, and again it boots, but in this case I haven’t yet mapped the inputs properly, so for now you’ll have to make do of some screenshots of the main menus.


Guitar Favourites Guitar Favourites Guitar Favourites
Guitar Greats Guitar Greats Guitar Greats
Surf's Up Surf's Up Surf's Up
Road Tunes Road Tunes Road Tunes
Nashville Hits Nashville Hits Nashville Hits

(again we have a complete set of cartridges for this, just Sean ran out of time before dumping the final 2, so they’ll be done at some date in the future)

Look out for more progress on this, and some other titles in a future update.

(I am still lagging behind on the coverage here, sorry about that)

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XaviX Colour Space

March 7, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. 5 Comments on XaviX Colour Space

Olivier Galibert made some improvements to the colour decoding in XaviX. This improves the blues and stops everything having such a washed out look.


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Several key features now closely match real hardware videos, including the more visible blues on the XaviX logo and in the background of Gaplus Phalanx

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Geigeki Go Go Shooting

March 5, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. 4 Comments on Geigeki Go Go Shooting

While I do still have plenty to write about regarding JAKKS material that was purchased during my previous donation drive (much of it is supported in MAME 0.207) I haven’t found time between actually emulating stuff to do a comprehensive writeup for all of it yet (and for many of the items we still have to hope that Sean can find a way to dump them, but that’s the research side of things) Meanwhile another box of things that Peter Wilhelmsen purchased and ShouTime helped get shipped out of Japan arrived with Sean for dumping, one of those games being Geigeki Go Go Shooting. Sean dumped it (it was one of the easier cases) and it runs pretty much correctly without any modifications to the existing emulation.

There’s a warm feeling being able to emulate this kind of platform exclusive as the game wasn’t ported anywhere, so outside of the real hardware, emulation in MAME is the only way you can experience it. This will be supported in MAME 0.208.

This one could actually be interesting for other reasons too. According to the ‘Game Developer Research Institute’ hosted on smspower this game was programmed by Fupac, a company headed by a former employee of Compile, so could easily be in some ways influenced by earlier Compile material.

The game plays very well, and offers a range of difficulty options (including a ‘Super Hard’ mode where the bullets are very fast) The hitbox is of reasonable size for your ship (not too big, not too small) and everything is very responsive. It feels like a game developed by somebody with a liking for shmups. It even gets things like resetting your score on continue correct. Here are some screenshots.

Opening screens, menus etc.


Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting

Stage 1

Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting

Stage 2

Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting

Stage 3

Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting

Stage 4

Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting

Stage 5

Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting

The screenshots are all stills from an emulation video I made, that can be seen here. The sound emulation isn’t perfect, but it holds up fairly well.


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The game supports 1 or 2 players, each player having a dedicated Joystick, they looked like this.

Geigeki Go Go Shooting

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Tunes

February 24, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. Comments Off on Tunes

One of my favorite things about digging into the XaviX emulation was discovering the e-kara and related systems. While we don’t yet emulate the microphone on e-kara (something MAME will have to consider in the future) the majority of the library still lets you give the songs a listen. In doing so you can hear a lot of the flaws in our XaviX sound emulation, so the e-kara collection acts as a good marker for future audio improvements, but at the same time the renditions included have a lot of charm, and while I don’t really know much of the original Japanese music many are pleasant to listen to.

Then were other things, games like Popira which used a subset of the e-kara library to present an actual game. I’ve never been good at rhythm games, but again, on the lower difficulty levels these things can actually be relaxing, a nice bit of stress relief, so documenting them and emulating them has been an interesting adventure.

While the original Popira had been dumped, the sequel, Popira 2 had not. One of the units we picked up in a recent haul from Japan was a Popira 2. I put some of my own money towards this batch, with Peter covering the majority of the costs, and ShouTime handling the logistics of getting it all shipped out of Japan for us. It was an expensive haul, but got us a lot of items, that hopefully you’ll see some coverage of on here. Sean Riddle is, as always, taking care of the hardware side, dumping etc.

Anyway Popira 2 was released 2 years after the original Popira. The unit has the same basic design as Popira, but instead of a single Yellow unit it consists of 2 units, a Blue ‘1P’ main unit, and a Green ‘2P’ secondary controller. This lends to one of the main features of Popira 2, which is 2 player support.


Popira 2

Emulation, well, it runs, and didn’t take much to get to a title screen.


Popira 2

After which it offers 4 modes of gameplay (or 3 if you don’t have the 2nd controller attached)


Popira 2 Popira 2
Popira 2 Popira 2

The first mode is some kind of practice mode, it’s a little pointless. You get to play with either a single on-screen pad, 2 onscreen pads, or the usual 4 onscreen pads with a very slow-paced game where only one ball will ever drop at a time. You don’t even get to pick the song in this mode. That’s fine tho, if you’ve never played Popira before it’s a decent introduction but I prefer to be thrown in a bit deeper.

Popira 2 Popira 2 Popira 2
Popira 2 Popira 2 Popira 2

The second mode is your regular Popira style game, plays just like the original.


Popira 2
Popira 2 Popira 2

The third mode is a variation on the original Popira, but it adds bombs, which you must avoid hitting; the same concept as the ‘red balls’ in Opus, as well as green icons which will grant you an extra life.


Popira 2 Popira 2

The forth mode is the main reason to have a Popira 2 over an original, and that is the 2 player versus and co-operative modes. Unfortunately it’s also where the emulation falls apart at the moment because the 2nd player has a very noticeable input latency for some reason, I suspect because the 2nd player inputs are being read through the ADC with timers, but changing my timer speeds doesn’t seem to change the latency; this needs investigation before the game actually gets marked as working.


Popira 2 Popira 2
Popira 2 Popira 2

Let’s have a look at some of the other music cartridges for now.

One slightly odd thing to see with the e-kara stuff is the degree to which the non-Japanese market was ripped off. All the US and European carts contain at most 10 songs, with the sampler carts having five. Many of the Japanese carts have more, up to 50 in some cases. This could be a licensing thing, but then we have the case of The Beatles cartridges. In the US, and Europe (the European ones haven’t been dumeped, but contain the same songs) there were 2 cartridges for songs by The Beatles, each containing 10 songs. These are ‘us_vol4’ and ‘us_vol5’ in the Software List for reference. That’s a total of 20 songs across 2 cartridges.


e-kara The Beatles e-kara The Beatles
e-kara The Beatles e-kara The Beatles

Japan on the other hand got a single ‘The Beatles’ cartridge as part of the main e-kara series over there, it’s cartridge ’50’ so ‘ec0050’ in the Software Lists, and it contains a total of 40 songs, twice as many as were available outside of Japan, on a single cartridge, and, best I can tell with full English lyrics, no translations.


e-kara The Beatles e-kara The Beatles
e-kara The Beatles e-kara The Beatles e-kara The Beatles
e-kara The Beatles e-kara The Beatles

Japan did NOT get the songs ‘Drive My Car’ or ‘We Can Work It Out’ so you’ll need the US cart for those, but otherwise Japan got 22 more English language songs from a popular British artist that the rest of the world did not get, and all of them were on a single cartridge.

We also got the missing ‘P-2’ cartridge that works with the DDR Family Mat (and dumped another P-4 to confirm that the weird palette behavior when using that with Family Mat was nothing to do with the dump)


DDR Family Mat P2 cartridge DDR Family Mat P2 cartridge
DDR Family Mat P2 cartridge DDR Family Mat P2 cartridge

The P-2 cartridge turned out to be interesting for different reasons however. When we’re buying these batches of cartridges we often end up with duplicates, that was the case for P-2, where at the time we bought 2 different batches of cartridges, both with P-2 (and had we located the 2nd batch first, we might not have even bothered with the first batch) In the vast majority of cases the duplicate cartridges have been 100% matches, aside one case where it showed that our original dump suffered from bitrot. P-2 was different however, despite the cartridges and case being marked in exactly the same way, the ROM inside was genuinely different. Why? Well it actually confirms an earlier theory I had with the US / European starter cartridges; post 9-11 censorship. The song ‘Run Run Run’ contains a picture of the Twin Towers in one revision of the cartridge, which has been replaced entirely in the other. There is no indication of this on the packaging as mentioned, so it was likely a silent change on the part of Takara for carts issued after 9/11.


DDR Family Mat P2 cartridge with e-Kara
DDR Family Mat P2 cartridge with e-Kara DDR Family Mat P2 cartridge with e-Kara

Some of the A-series Pichi Pichi Pitch cartridges were dumped too, as was the e-pitch base unit for them. The base unit ROM turned out to be the same as a regular Japanese e-kara ROM, which is curious. The actual e-pitch base unit has less buttons than a regular e-kara, so presumably some features are unavailable. However, what I have noticed, which I need to dig into more, is that when running these ‘A’ series games, the control mapping ends up different even for existing buttons (but when running A-5 which is a plain karaoke cart in the series, they act the same as expected) I need to see if that’s an emulation bug or not. Also A-1 hangs after the first few dialog pages (assuming that’s an emulation problem not a bad dump) and A-4 gets stuck on the XaviX logo. I have a feeling these might be SEEPROM related, with the games reading back bad data, as plenty of other things struggle with the SEEPROM hookup I have.

Cartridge A-1 before it hangs


e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch
e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch

Cartridge A-5 which is just a regular Karaoke style thing

e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch

Cartridge A-7 which seems to run better than the other story based ones, and you can even get to the breakout minigame in it.

e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch
e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch
e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch
e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch e-kara Pichi Pichi Pitch

Some of the new G-series dumps provided a surprise too. For the most part these are regular cartridges with no custom presentation etc. They’re designed to work with e-kara and the Popira units, provided extra songs for both games. Later ones also recognize Popira 2 and allow 2 player support (earlier ones will run as Popira on a Popira 2)

The cartridges G-8 and G-14 are both ‘Mini Moni’ themed ones, and I was simply expecting a bunch of songs related to that theme, as with the others. However, instead what we get is entirely custom presentation when used with either e-kara or Popira, complete with minigames etc. There are no other cartridges to my knowledge that provide custom presentation even with Popira.

Obviously when used with e-kara the games aren’t very playable as they require a microphone input, which isn’t mapped, to trigger events. Here are some shots from G-8 with e-kara.


e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8
e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8
e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8
e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8

However with Popira you get games that use the buttons, so you can actually play them, for example in the G-8 cartridge there is a flag raising game. There are probably others too, because in G-14 once you complete the first game you progress onto another. Here are some shots from G-8 with Popira.


e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8
e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8
e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8
e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8 e-kara with G-8

G-14 does give you more games from the off, including a slot machine type thing where you must match symbols, a Whac-a-Mole style game, and a Simon style game.

Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14
Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14
Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14
Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14 Popira with G-14

I was very surprised to see this customized theme.

There’s more to write about regarding all this e-kara stuff, but for now that will do. Thanks to Peter for helping fund these, ShouTime for helping with the logistics, and also thanks to the people who donated towards the other stuff I’ve been buying, as it meant Peter was able to allocate his own funds to getting some of this stuff out of Japan rather than having to buy the JAKKS stuff himself. Finally of course, thanks to Sean for having the patience to go through these and dump them.

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More Toons

February 21, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. Comments Off on More Toons

One of the 3 GameKeys that was released for JAKKS Pacific ‘NK’ based systems was one containing Nicktoons Volleyball and Birdie Putt. We picked this one up along with the Nicktoons base unit, again thanks to those who donated money to make this possible.


Nicktoons Gamekey

The GameKey boots with your typical logos to the title page, where you can select either game.


Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey

I’ll start by looking at the Birdie Putt golf game, which offers a selection of options, including a ‘Hard’ difficulty mode (which presumably sets the par on each hole lower) There are 3 themes to choose from, each offering 6 holes, and a variety of Nicktoons characters each player can choose from. Up to 4 players are supported.

Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey

The Spongebob themed world contains objects you’d expect to find in the Spongebob universe.

Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey
Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey

Fairly Odd Parents! likewise contains things associated with that cartoon. There are mini Windmills on this set of courses where your timing must be correct in addition to your aim.

Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey

Danny Phantom is as you’d expect themed around that one, including warp portals etc.

Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey

So you get 18 total holes of Mini Golf, every hole is different and mastering each one could take some time. There’s no AI so this is strictly to play against your friends, or yourself for the best score.

It’s a solid, if unspectacular Mini-golf game that I could see being fun with a few friends; it’s not going to occupy too much of your time, and as an adult you could probably turn it into some kind of drinking game if you were so inclined.

The other game is Volleyball. It offers a similar selection of options to Birdie Putt, although instead of a selection of themes you just get the choice of an exhibition match or tournament.


Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey

I also seem to be terrible at this game, haven’t quite figured out the timing / positioning of the characters, so I don’t really have much to show from it.

Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey Nicktoons Gamekey

The biggest drawback I can see to this is that it’s single player only, as the Nicktoons controllers don’t provide any kind of link ability. I’ve never really been a fan of volleyball games, not even the good ones, so there isn’t much more to say about this except it definitely seems better than the awful Dora the Explorer Soccer game on the other Nicktoons GameKey.

So two games, they’re alright, could have maybe done with a bit more content but what’s there is playable and presents some level of challenge.

Again I’ll put a reminder that the GameKeys end up being part of the Software Lists, so to launch this you’d use “mame64 jak_nick volbird” (you can use any of the NK games as a base, the internal system ROM is ignored when the GameKey is in use)

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