I know a lot of people want to see the later PGM games working in MAME, but I still deem them to be basically impossible to emulate properly, however, Smitdogg & Tormod did just pick up a more interesting / viable emulation target, a Puzzli 2 board.
What’s interesting about the board he picked up is that it’s the original release, simply titled Puzzli 2, rather than the Puzzli 2 Super set we have in MAME. This version is from 1999, whereas the existing version was a 2001 release.
At a glance the protection appears the same, with the Super version in MAME just being a program ROM upgrade.
I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get the actual internal ROM out of this one, because while it is one of the earlier IGS027A chips without the execute-only protection it lacks an external ROM, which means there is no real way to run your own code on it, you have to rely on finding weak table functions in the protection routines, and if a game doesn’t use table functions, or doesn’t have any with insufficient bounds checking & the ability to read a negative position from the intended table then you can’t really extract the ROM.
However, when the functions are simple enough (unlike the later games, where most of the game runs on the ARM) you can attempt to simulate the device, which is a logical first step anyway. At first glance it would appear that the first protection commands are used to get Z80 pointers for the attract music because even with Demo Sounds ON it lacks any music in MAME. It probably also fetches data pointers for the level data.
One other interesting thing about the new set is that it has an actual Japanese title screen, so it’s likely that this non-super version was distributed in Japan whereas the super version might not have been. The cart we have is a Hong Kong region tho, so who knows. Also of note is that when set to Taiwan it doesn’t show ‘Super’ for either version which might suggest either the Super version was the only actual release there, so didn’t need the Super subtitle, or it was never updated for release there. Knights of Valor Plus is similar in that the Korean region (which we know exists because we have the cart) also doesn’t show the PLUS subtitle. Naturally it’s quite hard to know which regions were actually released because the actual region code is supplied by the protection device, not the game code.
Here is the Japanese title screen (only present in this version) for reference.
I can’t give a time estimate for getting this done (and currently this set crashes exactly like the existing set in MAME) but having a working cart does bump it up the priority list.
The original post on Mameworld with hardware pics and an original hardware video is here.